Fact Check, Examining Complementarian Claims in “Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, 3rd Edition”

Numerous New Testament scholars encourage us to interpret the Apostle Paul’s letters in light of their historical and cultural context.  The authors of the complementarian text entitled, “Women in the Church, 3rd Edition,” have a very straightforward response; according to them, this context simply did not exist.  In their minds, Paul is not warning the early church about idol worship, mythology, false teaching, asceticism, prostitution, mandatory circumcision or other forms of ritual violence against men.  He is mainly, if not exclusively, concerned with protecting the church from “female authority.”

To see if these complementarians are correct, I’d like to check some of their claims against available historical evidence:

Claim #1, No cult prostitution in the Greco-Roman World

S.M. Baugh: “…there was no sacred prostitution in the Greco-Roman world” (Women in the Church, 3rd edition, p. 46).

The Evidence,

Pompeius Trogus, 1st century B.C. historian:“The Cypriots send their young women before marriage to the seashore to get money by prostitution.”  This is a reference to the prostitution associated with sanctuary of Aphrodite at Paleopaphos. (as cited in Justin, Epitome of History 18.5)

Strabo, 1st century A.D. historian:“Now the sacred rites of the Persians, one and all, are held in honour by both the Medes and the Armenians; but those of Anaïtis are held in exceptional honour by the Armenians, who have built temples in her honour in different places, and especially in Acilisene. Here they dedicate to her service male and female slaves. This, indeed, is not a remarkable thing; but the most illustrious men of the tribe actually consecrate to her their daughters while maidens; and it is the custom for these first to be prostituted in the temple of the goddess for a long time and after this to be given in marriage; and no one disdains to live in wedlock with such a woman. Something of this kind is told also by Herodotus in his account of the Lydian women, who, one and all, he says, prostitute themselves.” (11.14.16)

At Corinth there were “more than 1000 sacred prostitutes whom both men and women dedicated to the goddess.” (8.6.20)

In Phrygia, where Rhea became identified with Cybele, she is said to have purified Dionysus, and to have taught him the mysteries (Apollod. iii. 5. § 1), and thus a Dionysiac element became amalgamated with the worship of Rhea. Demeter, moreover, the daughter of Rhea, is sometimes mentioned with all the attributes belonging to Rhea. (Eurip. Helen. 1304.) The confusion then became so great that the worship of the Cretan Rhea was confounded with that of the Phrygian mother of the gods, and that the orgies of Dionysus became interwoven with those of Cybele.” (Athen. xii. p. 553 ; Demosth. de Coron. p. 313)

“And again, ‘happy he who, blest man, initiated in the mystic rites, is pure in his life, ((lacuna)) who, preserving the righteous Orgia (Orgies) of the great mother Kybele (Cybele), and brandishing the thyrsos on high, and wreathed with ivy, doth worship Dionysos. Come, ye Bakkhai, come, ye Bakkhai, bringing down Bromios, god the child of god, out of the Phrygian mountains into the broad highways of Greece.’ And again . . . ‘the triple-crested Korybantes in their caverns invented this hide-stretched circlet [the tambourine], and blent its Bacchic revelry with the high-pitched, sweet-sounding breath of Phrygian flutes, and in Rhea’s hands placed its resounding noise, to accompany the shouts of the Bakkhai, and from Meter (Mother) Rhea frenzied Satyroi (Satyrs) obtained it and joined it to the choral dances of the Trieterides, in whom Dionysos takes delight.’” (Geography 10. 3. 13)

“But the Berecyntes, a tribe of Phrygians, the Phrygians in general, and the Trojans, who live about Mount Ida, themselves also worship Rhe, and perform orgies in her honour; they call her mother of gods, Agdistis, and Phrygia, the Great Goddess; from the places also where she is worshipped, Idaea, and Dindymene, sipylene, Pessinuntis, and Cybele.  The Greeks call her ministers by the same name…  These same ministers are also called by them Corybantes.” (B. X. C. III. S 12.)

Pausanias, 2nd century A.D. Historian: “The people of Dyme have a temple of Athena with an extremely ancient image; they have as well a sanctuary built for the Dindymenian mother and Attis. As to Attis, I could learn no secret about him, but Hermesianax, the elegiac poet, says in a poem that he was the son of Galaus the Phrygian, and that he was a eunuch from birth. The account of Hermesianax goes on to say that, on growing up, Attis migrated to Lydia and celebrated for the Lydians the orgies of the Mother.” (7.17.9-12)

“These are those whom nowadays at Rome they call galli—they serve the mother not of the gods but of demons—because the Romas freed som priests of this race who were deprived of their sex-drive in honor of Atys, whom the harlot goddess made a eunuch.  On this account therefore men of the Gallic rae are made effeminate, that those who seized the city of Rome might be struck by this disgrace.” (St. Jerome, 4th century A.D.; as cited in N. Lane’s “Cybele, Attis and related cults,” p. 123)

Justin Martyr, in his 2nd century A.D. Apology refers to male and female prostitutes in the service of “the Mother of the Gods.”  The male prostitutes had been “openly mutilated for the purpose of sodomy.” According to Justin this practice was subject to taxation by the Roman Senate. (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm)

Apostle Paul’s 1st letter to Corinth: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”  But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)

Was their cult prostitution in the Greco-Roman world?  Yes, prostitution and sexual orgies often accompanied the worship of fertility goddesses throughout the Roman Empire.

Claim #2, No Eunuch Priests in Ephesus

S.M. Baugh:  “The whole notion of a Megabyzos eunuch priest is irrelevant for Pauline Ephesus and will accordingly draw no more notice” (Women in the Church, 3rd Edition, p. 41).

Citing Strabo and Pausanias, Florence Mary Bennet describes both the eunuch priests of Artemis Ephesos, and the eunuch priests of Cybele:

She [Artemis Ephesos] was served by eunuch priests, called Megabyzi, and by maidens. Presumably these priests are the same as the Essenes, whom Pausanias mentions as servitors for one year, who were bound by strict rules of chastity and required to submit to ascetic regulations of dietary and ablution. 160 The virgins associated with them passed through three stages: Postulant, Priestess, Past-Priestess. 161 There is nothing to indicate the length of their term of service. The Megabyzi were held in the highest possible honour, 162 as were the Galli at Pessinus. (http://www.sacred-texts.com/wmn/rca/rca04.htm)  Though the castration of Artemis’ priests may have been replaced with strict rules of celibacy and fasting during the 1st or 2nd century A.D., the castration of Cybele’s Galli continued through to the 4th century A.D., when the Emperor Julian celebrated the ritual as a “holy and inexpressible harvest.” (Oratio V, 168 D)

Strabo: The Galli, [priests of Cybele] who are eunuchs, enter the enclosure with impunity, approach even the opening or mouth, bend down over it, and descend into it to a certain depth, restraining their breath during the time, for we perceived by their countenance signs of some suffocating feeling.  This exemption may be common to all eunuchs, or it may be confined to the eunuchs employed about the temple, or it may be the effect of divine care, as is probable in the case of persons inspired by the deity, or it may perhaps be procured by those who are in possession of certain antidotes.”  (B. XIII. C. IV. S 15-17)

Encyclopedia Brittanica, concerning the eunuch priests of Cybele: “Galli, singular Gallus, priests, often temple attendants or wandering mendicants, of the ancient Asiatic deity, the Great Mother of the Gods, known as Cybele, or Agdistis, in Greek and Latin literature. The Galli were eunuchs attired in female garb, with long hair fragrant with ointment. Together with priestesses, they celebrated the Great Mother’s rites with wild music and dancing until their frenzied excitement found its culmination in self-scourging, self-laceration, or exhaustion. Self-emasculation by candidates for the priesthood sometimes accompanied this delirium of worship.” (http://www.britannica.com/topic/Galli-ancient-priests)

Though Cybele was indeed worshiped through the New Testament period, and though her mysteries were indeed associated with orgies and fertility offerings (male genitals), some complementarians question whether or not Cybele’s cult could properly be associated with 1st century Ephesus.

According to the notes attached to the following archaeological photograph of Cybele in Ephesus, the goddess was indeed worshiped here, “from Classical through Roman times.”  Votive offerings to the goddess in Ephesus were dated to the New Testament period.

Cybele grotto in EphesusFurther evidence of the persistence of Cybele worship in Ephesus can be found in the 4th century A.D., when the Emperor Julian was initiated into “the mysteries” in “the caverns of Ephesus.”  He composed the now famous, “Hymn to the Mother of the Gods”; namely, Cybele.

 

Ephesus mysteries Caverns Eleusis

 

The following quotation provides a summary of Cybele worship as it existed throughout the Roman Empire, and throughout the New Testament era.  Note the references to “orgies,” “castration,” and the connection of the goddess with childbirth:

“Around 200 BC the holy black rock of the goddess [Cybele] was moved from the Phrygian city of Pessinos, which had been the previous centre of her worship. Rome became the new centre, and her cult grew. The Romans identified Cybele with the Greek Rhea, and called her Magna Mater, the Great Mother. The priests of the cult were men who had castrated themselves in front of her image, but most of the followers were women. The cult was a tumultuous, noisy and ecstatic affair which attracted many people. Only women (and castrated men) were allowed to attend the main celebrations of the goddess, which quickly got the reputation of being less religious ritual and more wild orgies. Much gossip went around about the indecencies and depravities of the cult, but due to the protection of influential people it avoided persecution. The cult was led by the female priestesses and the Archigalli, the high priest of the subordinate Galli; castrated male priests who were responsible for most of the dance, divination and healing of the cult. Many of the worshipers were organised into fraternities, most notably the Dendrophori (“Tree-bearers”) and Cannophori (“Reed-bearers”). Members of these fraternities enjoyed a bit of social status and influence, and many important people flocked to them. The liturgy of the cult was in Greek. Many of the ceremonies commemorated the deeds of Magna Mater and her love to Attis, who represented the fertility and plants of the land. By his castration and death the land was given new life. Many festivals were held, called ludi (“plays”) which were enthusiastic carnivals with banquets and comedic performances.

One of the major festivals was Megalesia the 4-10 April. At the height of the celebrations the taurobolium was performed, as a bull was castrated and sacrificed, and new initiates were baptised in its blood. Another major festival was celebrated the 25th March to commemorate the castration and death of Attis. The Cannophori carried reeds and stalks to the temple together with the idol of Attis. The taurobolium was performed, and the genitals of the bull was thrown into a cave or well consecrated to Magna Mater. After three days of sorrow and grief for Attis, the carnival returned with Hilaria, the Day of Joy as Attis was resurrected and fertility yet again reigned thanks to the power of Magna Mater. Mountains and caves were sacred to Magna Mater, and her temples were often built near them. By sleeping in a temple many women hoped to get help from the goddess, who was said to help mothers and children. Midwifes were tied to the cult, and many priests were healers. The priestesses were more involved with her ecstatic side, celebrating her secret mysteries behind locked doors. Practically nothing is known about them, except that they were exclusively women only.” (http://faculty.cua.edu/pennington/churchhistory220/lectureone/MagnaMater.htm)

Contrary to complementarian claims, was there cult prostitution in the “Greco-Roman world”?  Yes, prostitution was well-known in throughout the Roman Empire from Corinth and Cyprus to Lydia and Phrygia, and it was commonly associated with various cults.  “Orgia” (orgies) were also connected with the “mystery rites” of the Lydian/Phrygian goddess known as Cybele.

Were there “eunuch priests”?  Yes, the priests of the goddess Cybele castrated themselves in her honor.  This practice continued in the Roman Empire through the New Testament era, and into the reign of Emperor Julian, who became an initiate of Cybele’s mysteries, in the caverns of Ephesus.

Was Cybele worship connected to Ephesus?  Yes, one of her most ancient sanctuaries was found there (http://www.sacred-texts.com/wmn/rca/rca03.htm#fn_65).  Archaeologists report that she was worshiped there “from Classical through Roman times.”  Julian was reported to have become an initiate in the caverns of Ephesus, as late as the 4th century A.D..  An excellent history of Cybele worship through the New Testament period can be found in Philip Borgeaud’s book entitled, “Mother of the Gods: From Cybele to the Virgin Mary” (https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/mother-gods)

Why is this information significant for understanding Paul?

In 1 Timothy, he warns against an ascetic false teaching based on myths that threatened to corrupt the gospel.  He addresses concerns about women being “saved in childbearing.”  He prohibits “authentein andros.”  In the Greek Septuagint, “authentas” were those who sacrificed their young to the fertility gods and goddesses of the Canaanites, in connection with sexual orgies.

The mythology of Cybele did in fact influence the emergence of numerous ascetic movements throughout Asia Minor:

The Essenes, whom Philo Judaeus compares to Cybele’s attendants, the “Corybantes.”

Essenes Corybantes

 

One sub-sect of the Essenes insisted upon the circumcision of Gentiles who wished to speak of the Jewish God or his law.  If the Gentiles refused, they were “slaughtered.” (c.f. Hippolytus, Against All Heresies, Book 9)

The Naassenes, A Gnostic cult that based their denial of the body upon the castration of Cybele’s priests.  (Hippolytus, Against All Heresies, Book 5)

The Valesians, An ascetic cult in the early church that literally imitated Cybele’s priests by castrating themselves. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/1583869?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents)

Neoplatonism, The Emperor Julian compares the ascetic philosophy of Neoplatonism to the mythology of Cybele and her eunuch consort Attis. (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Hymn_to_the_mother_of_the_gods)

Christians Throughout Asia Minor, St. Basil of Ancyra petitioned the church to take action against the growing number of clergy and laity who were imitating the priests of the goddess Cybele and literally castrating themselves in pursuit of ascetic purity. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/1583869?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents)

Did the Apostle Paul really write to Timothy to protect the church from female authority, as complementarians suggest?

OR

Did Paul write to Timothy to protect the gospel from a false teaching rooted in mythology that had already affected Judaism and would later form the basis of Gnosticism in the early church?

When the evidence is not denied, I believe the answer to this question becomes readily apparent.  Perhaps that is why some complementarians work so hard to deny it.

Appendix

S.M. Baugh claims there is no evidence of cult prostitution or eunuch priests in New Testament Ephesus.

Where does he look for this evidence?

“Civic institutions” of “Hellenic city States.” (Women in the Church, 3rd Edition, p. 32)

Cybele worship was a “mystery cult.”  Information about its beliefs and practices would not be found through an examination of the civic institutions of Hellenic city States.  As Lynn Roller states, ”Her cults most often were funded privately, rather than by the polis, and her ‘vivid and forceful character’ and association with the wild set her apart from the Olympian gods” (Roller, L., in Lane, E. (ed), 1996, p. 306).

Also, Cybele was not to be found in the state-sponsored “Temple of Artemis Ephesos.”  Rather, she was found in the grottos and caverns under Ephesus.  Actually, using that kind of language does the ancient mythology a disservice.  Cybele was the grottos and caverns under Ephesus.  The “mother of the gods,” according to this belief system was “the Earth.”

When complementarians deny evidence of Cybele in Ephesus during the New Testament era, they seem to look for evidence where it likely will not be found, and simultaneously ignore those places where it does in fact exist.

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Tipping Point

Did you know that 3rd and 4th century Christian leaders decided that women were responsible for the downfall of humanity?

I didn’t…

Did you know that these men believed women were less intelligent than men, by nature?

I didn’t…

Did you know that these men believed that wives must be ruled over by husbands as punishment for sin, and to keep them safe from further deception by the devil?

I didn’t…

Did you know that in the middle ages women were accused of being in league with the devil when men felt “irresistibly” attracted to them? Did you know they were then blamed for men’s sins, and sometimes even put to death as punishment?

I didn’t…

Did you know that some of the men responsible for the demonization of women worked to translate the Latin Bible that became known as the “word of God” for centuries to come?

I didn’t…

Did you know that some of their errors were carried over into some of today’s English translations?

I didn’t…

Now I do.

As a result, I cannot accept that “authority” is simply a “role” that God lovingly created men to fulfill. Similarly, I cannot accept that “submission” is simply a “role” that God lovingly created women to fulfill.

It’s a prejudice,
It’s arrogant,
It’s abusive,
And it’s wrong.

And I won’t be silent when I see this injustice carried out in the name of God,
Who made us—male and female—in the divine image,
So that we might know and share his love,
In our homes,
In our churches,
In this world,
And in the world to come.

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A Case for Male Authority? The Fly in the Ointment

“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:1-4, NKJV).

“Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well” (1 Timothy 3:12, NKJV).

“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17, NKJV).

The verses I have quoted above are sometimes used to support the view that only men should hold positions of leadership in the church. “Leadership” is defined in various ways, depending upon one’s particular faith community or denomination. Some churches bar women from all of the roles listed. Others allow women to be deacons, but not elders or bishops. Some equate the term “elder” with pastor, and say that this is an office a woman may not hold. Still others only insist that the “senior pastor” be male.

Despite often insisting that the Bible is “crystal clear” with regard to its teaching on the role of women, patriarchal traditions seem unable to come to an agreement on the extent to which a woman’s authority should be limited.

The view that only men should hold positions of authority becomes even more tenuous if we examine what the New Testament has to say about bishops, deacons and elders in its original language. In the New King James Version of the Bible, bishops, deacons and elders are all described as fulfilling the function of “ruling.” Other English translations may render this term as “leading.” In each case, the word translated as ruling or leading is a form of the Greek verb “proistemi.” Many complementarians seem unaware that the noun form of this word is used to describe the church ministry of a woman named Phoebe. According to the apostle Paul she was a “prostatis” in the church at Cenchrea (Romans 16:2). If we translate proistemi and prostatis consistently for men and women,  Phoebe is described as a “ruler” or “leader” there.

So, just as male bishops, deacons and elders fulfilled the role of ruling or leading in the church, so did Phoebe—a woman.

Some complementarians have told me that because deacons must be “the husband of one wife,” they cannot possibly be women.  Women may indeed not be husbands, but I don’t believe the apostle Paul is writing to address questions about women in ministry here. Judging from the evident context of his letter, he is actually prohibiting male polygamy. What does this say about women in ministry? Actually nothing at all.

And Phoebe may also have been a “deacon.”

The same Greek word used to describe husbands who are deacons is also used to describe Phoebe. In addition to calling her a “prostatis,” the apostle Paul refers to her as a “diakonos” in Romans 16 verse 1.

But, some have told me, it is clear that the men who were bishops or deacons were told to “rule their houses well,” to demonstrate that they were fit leaders for the church. Surely this must include authority over wives? On the contrary, all of the verses dealing with a man “ruling his house” specifically indicate that his authority pertains to “his children.” Nowhere in the New Testament is a Christian man commanded to rule his wife.

Children, of course, require adult care and supervision because of their level of developmental maturity. Women, on the other hand, are developmentally equal to men; they do not require adult supervision.

So, the next time someone takes Bible verses about bishops, deacons and elders out of context in an attempt to rationalize a tradition of male authority in the church, you may want to remind them of Phoebe—the proverbial fly in the ointment.1

1 “In English, the phrase fly in the ointment is an idiomatic expression for a drawback, especially one that was not at first apparent” (Wikipedia).

 

 

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Where did things go wrong? An in-depth exploration of the emergence of male authority in the church

Why do some Christian leaders see a male-dominated hierarchy in the creation story?

Why have some Bible translators added commands to the Bible that cannot be found in the oldest Greek manuscripts?

Why have some translators referred to men as “leaders” and women as “servants” even when the same Greek word is used to describe both?

Why do English translations of the Bible say that women may not “teach or have authority” over men?

All of these questions, and other related issues, are addressed in the following video presentation:

Please feel free to share with friends, family, church leaders, and groups for discussion. May the Lord use it to inform and to encourage prayerful reflection.

 

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Why Complementarians “See” Male Leadership as God’s Design: The Psychology of Perception (Seeing What We Already Believe)

All of us have blind spots. I think every one of us, as human beings, can safely conclude that we don’t know everything. Some of the things we do not understand today, we may understand tomorrow. Some of the things we do understand today, we may understand better (i.e. differently) tomorrow.

One of the reasons we all have blind spots is a result of something called “top-down processing.” Top-down processing refers to the way we experience the world around us. We do not, in fact, see the world as it is. We see it as it is meaningful to us. In other words, we see the world through the lenses of our past experience, previous learning, deeply held beliefs, assumptions and expectations.

Details in the environment that do not align with our assumptions can be missed altogether – due to top-down processing.

Details in the environment that do not align with our deeply held beliefs can be misinterpreted so that our beliefs are not shaken – due to top-down processing.

What complementarians do not seem to recognize is that top-down processing impacts how people read the Bible. Please allow me to explain.

Before a word can be translated it must be interpreted. In my grammar text for New Testament Greek, for example, one verb (ago) can have multiple meanings: “lead,” “go,” “depart,” “guide” or even “celebrate a feast.” What determines our interpretation? The immediate context of the word and top-down processing. In other words, our interpretation consists of what we expect the word to mean given its immediate context. Our expectations come from our own previous learning and experience.

Imagine being a Bible translator in a culture that assumes women to be morally and intellectually inferior to men. (This would be true, for example, of all the men who helped translate the King James Version of the Bible.) Then imagine coming across a particular Greek word in the Bible that refers to a woman. The word is “prostatis.” This is the noun form of the verb “proistemi.” You can translate this word to mean “someone who presides over others,” “a woman set over others,” or simply “someone who gives aid to others” (i.e. a helper). Because of your previous learning and past experience in a deeply patriarchal culture, any interpretation assigning authority to a woman would simply not be cognitively available to you. In other words, the possibility may never enter your mind.  It would be unthinkable, literally.

Interpretation leads to translation, and now henceforth, Phoebe shall be known as a “helper” in the Church at Cenchrea, rather than a “leader” (Romans 16:2 NKJV).

Another Greek word used to describe the role of Phoebe in Romans 16 is “diakonos.”  It could be translated “servant, deacon, or minister.” Equipped with an understanding of top-down processing, I’d be willing to bet you can accurately guess which word was selected for the King James Version of the Bible.

Complementarians have told me that contextual factors in Romans 16 dictate that Phoebe must have simply been a “servant” and “helper” rather than a “leader,” “deacon” or “minister.” I wonder what those contextual factors are, since the passage is simply an introduction of Phoebe and a commendation of her work in the church.

I was reading a complementarian blog earlier today. In it, the author explains that egalitarians go awry because we rely on a subjective understanding of the Bible’s original context. What we should be doing, he says, is relying on “the written word of God” because its meaning is “concrete.”i Apparently, this blogger doesn’t recognize that the “written word of God” is also subject to human interpretation, which is determined in part by top-down processing.

Similarly, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood states that a Christian’s subjective interpretation of God’s call to ministry should never contradict the clear instruction of God’s written word.ii Does this statement presume that God’s written word is not subjectively interpreted? Apparently so, and that is a significant blind spot.

Wayne Grudem, well-known complementarian, says that Christian egalitarians undermine the inerrancy of the word of God.iii I don’t believe that’s an accurate accusation. What we are questioning is not the inerrancy of God or his word, but rather the subjective interpretation of complementarian believers, who are human beings, with blind spots that exist due to top-down processing.

i http://jacoballee.com/1/archives/09-2012/1.html

ii http://cbmw.org/core-beliefs/

iii http://jacoballee.com/1/archives/09-2012/1.html

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“What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You”: Is this book telling women the truth about men?

In his book entitled, “What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You,” David Murrow makes a number generalizations about men.  He seems to believe that his view of what it means to be a man is normative, healthy and Christian.  He writes as if men are simply “wired this way” by God.

Here are some of his assertions, followed by my responses:

Murrow:

If a man is not allowed to be the spiritual leader in his home, he won’t know what role to play because “men are hierarchical thinkers” (p. 152).

Response:

This is only true if a man has been exposed to a patriarchal social environment, and has internalized this culture as normative.  He may even believe that “his” normal is “God’s” normal.  Simply put, this comes across as an egocentric perspective that seems unaware of the dynamics of gender-socialization.  Some men are socialized to be hierarchical; others to be egalitarian.  Even men who internalize hierarchical norms can learn to be more collaborative.  This has more to do with nurture than nature, and it has nothing to do with God’s design.

Murrow:

“Modern Christianity has begun morphing into a ‘woman thing’” (p. 134).  “Today’s church offers the things women crave: safety, relationships, nurturing and close-knit community.”  Men “feel unneeded, so they go passive or leave the church altogether” (p. 138).

Response:

If men do not recognize their emotional and relational needs (for safety, relationships, nurturance and community) and seek to have them met in healthy ways, they are prone to try to get them met in unhealthy ways (e.g. through addiction).

Murrow (makes a number of comments about sex):

Men are like “chocoholics” when it comes to sex.  If a man is unable to come home after work and “indulge [his] fantasy,” he will believe his wife is saying, “get your ya-yas somewhere else, buddy.”  Wives shouldn’t be surprised to later find their husbands “engaged in masturbation, porn, or an extramarital affair.”  Men, according to Murrow, need wives to be “generous with the chocolate” (p. 118).

“Men actually get a cocaine-like shot of pleasure from looking at a beautiful woman.  So here’s your assignment: Give your husband as many cocaine shots as possible.  Satisfy his addiction by looking your best” (pp. 163-164).

“And why are looks so important to men?”  “Men compare. Men compete. Men size each other up by their spouses” (p. 164).  “Having a knockout wife raises your social standing at work, among your relatives, and even a bit at church” (p. 165).

“First realize that sex is one of the cornerstones of the male psyche.  If a man has a satisfying sex life, everything is right with the world.”  “Here’s something else your husband hasn’t told you: It’s his greatest source of comfort.  Sometimes it’s the only way he can access the emotions trapped deep in his heart” (p. 167).

“You are competing for your husband’s body.  It’s you versus a thousand foes—food, drink, drugs, illicit sex.  Fight for his body and you’ll win his heart” (p. 171).

Response:

Women are not responsible for their husbands’ behaviour.  They are not responsible to give him enough sex so that he won’t fall prey to gluttony, alcoholism, drug abuse or sexual immorality.  Men are responsible to regulate their own impulses and manage their own appetites.  We are encouraged to “walk in the Spirit” so that we will not fulfill the “lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

If sex is the cornerstone of a man’s psyche, if it is his greatest source of comfort, if it is the only way for him to access his emotions, he may have a sexual addiction.  He should be assessed by a qualified psychotherapist.

If he has married his wife because he believes her beauty enhances his social standing at church (or anywhere else), he should seek to understand his worth as a loved child of God and friend of Jesus Christ.  If he measures his status by comparing his wife to someone else’s, I believe he should prayerfully consider the words of Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (NIV).

Murrow:

“Since the beginning men have brought home the bacon; women have fried it up in the pan” (p. 162).  “Your husband wants you to take charge of the menu” (p. 163).

Response:

This is a gender-stereotype.  Some men enjoy cooking.  Some men do not.  In some societies, men and women have equally been responsible for hunting and gathering.  In others, men have hunted while women have prepared food.  In still others, women hunted while men prepared food.  Again, this has more to do with nurture than nature.  There has never been a universal pattern for all humanity regarding cooking based on gender lines.  Murrow’s comment seems to be an expression of his personal preference, and he seems to believe wrongly that it is universally true and part of God’s design.

Murrow:

“If your husband is a follower of Jesus and an enthusiastic church-goer, these chapters may not have a lot to say to you.  But read them anyway.  You need to know what he’s not telling you—about God, about church, and about the role of faith in your marriage” (p. 134).

Response:

Your husband may not be telling you these things, simply because he may not be thinking them.  Many men are very comfortable in collaborative, non-hierarchical relationships.  Many are aware of their emotional needs and seek to meet them in healthy, non-sexual ways.  Many are not sex addicts.  Many do not struggle with sexual immorality or substance abuse and blame their wives.  Many do not measure their personal worth by their wife’s outward appearance.  Many do not compare their wives to the wives of other men.  Many Christian men attribute their worth to being a loved child of God, created in God’s image, and redeemed by the life Jesus gave for us on the cross.

In my opinion, Murrow’s book does not present an accurate picture of Christian men.

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