A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The Teaching that a Husband/Father is Priest to his Family is Unbiblical and Promotes Abuse (Part 3)

We will continue in part four of this series with our critique of Sam Waldron’s book and his doctrine that a husband/father is priest in his home. But I just have to share with you (i.e., dump this mess on you) the following and it takes up this whole post to do it.  I am not claiming that Waldron believes what Douglas Wilson writes here.  But Waldron’s thesis that the husband/father is priest to his wife and children would surely encourage this kind of nonsense.
Here then is a typical example of the patriarchal teaching that the husband/father is priest of his wife and children?  It  is a doozy from the pen of Douglas Wilson. As you read, you will notice that the role of “priest” bleeds over heavily into the role of “king!” — (you can check out the whole article, Not Where She Should Be, here OR go directly to it in Credenda Agenda itself here).
First, the husband in his capacity as a private person should confess to God his own individual sins as an individual which have contributed to the situation. For the typical husband, such sins will be numerous, and may even include the initial decision to marry her. In other words, to take an example at random, if his name is Jay, he begins by confessing Jay’s sins.
Second, the husband as a “public person” should begin confessing the sinful state of his household before God, assuming full and complete responsibility for the way things are. But what is meant by this phrase “public person”? A husband is an individual, but he is also an officer–he is invested with the office of husband. In this status, he is not his own man; he is a public person–he represents others. The responsibilities of a public person are not the same thing as the guilt of a private person. When a wife neglects her duties, the guilt of the sin is hers. The responsibility for her negligence is her husband’s.
The husband should confess, on a daily basis, the sinful status of his household before God, and his responsibility for it, until it changes. A “problem wife” cannot be worked on like a car that has broken down. Because of the organic and covenantal nature of marriage, the problem is never “over there, with her,” but rather here “with us.” And who is the spokesman for “us,” the spokesman for this particular household before God? The husband is, and he must learn the importance of such corporate confession. If his name is Jay Smith, he must learn to confess the Smiths’ sins, and he must do so as the covenant representative of that household.
Third, when he has learned to assume full responsibility before God for the spiritual condition of the household (and not before then), and the ramifications of this lesson have settled in his marrow, the husband should then sit down and have a talk with his wife. In this talk, he must assume the complete responsibility for the way things are. The chances are that he has previously blamed her many times, both in his heart and out loud. This is not to be a sanctimonious version of the same thing. While granting the reality of her negligence and her individual guilt before the Lord, his talk should not be accusing. After he has acknowledged his responsibility, and his failures to exercise it properly, he should then make clear what his expectations are for her in the future. He should also make clear his complete unwillingness to step in to do for her what she neglected to do, or to tolerate a lapse into the old way of doing things.
Fourth, his expectations for change should not be exhaustive, but rather representative. He should want to address the problem in principle, not in toto. The purpose of this discussion is not to present a twenty-year-old list of grievances–love does not keep a record of wrongs–but rather to help her learn to do her duty, and to lead her as she learns what is, for her, a difficult lesson. She can learn on a representative problem. She would be overwhelmed with a requirement that she change everywhere, all at once. If, for example, the problem is one of poor housekeeping, he should require something very simple, i.e. that the dishes be done after every meal before anything else is done.
The first time the dishes are not done, he must sit down with his wife immediately, and gently remind her that this is something which has to be done. At no time may he lose his temper, badger her, call her names, etc. He must constantly remember and confess that she is not the problem, he is. By bringing this gently to her attention, he is not to be primarily pointing to her need to repent; rather, he is exhibiting the fruit of his repentance.
He does this, without rancour and without an accusative spirit, until she complies or rebels. If she complies, he must move up one step, now requiring that another of her duties be done. If she rebels, he must call the elders of the church and ask them for a pastoral visit. When the government of the home has failed to such an extent, and a godly and consistent attempt by the husband to restore the situation has broken down, then the involvement of the elders is fully appropriate.
How would you like to be married to that! This is sickening and it is wicked. Oh it sounds so pious, doesn’t it. The husband/king/priest so gently and kindly exercises all of these steps. “Now honey, I told you and yet you still disobeyed my order to get the dishes done. Now I am going to have to call the elders over and we are all going to sit down with you (you can be in a chair in the middle under the light bulb) and show you the error of your ways.” BULLIES! That is all that this is. And I have had abuse victims relate their stories to me of how these kinds of cult churches did this very thing to them.
So, Mr. Wilson, don’t dress up your bullying in Scripture or behind the name Christian. I can think of a lot of other names for this wickedness, and none of them are holy. Do the dishes? She didn’t do the DISHES! And you are going to call the elders over like she is some rebellious child because she didn’t do the dishes?
Oh, and readers, how many of you think this is actually going to work? I mean, that the wife will see the sinful error of her ways and get right back in there and do up the kitchen? And don’t miss the fact that Wilson says this isn’t over. Once the kitchen is spotless, the king/priest of the home has some other bones to pick with her!
This clip is for all victims of Wilsonian patriarchy.  Here’s one for you, Doug-  THE DISHES ARE DONE!
(Go back to Part 2 of this series)
(Go ahead to Part 4 of this series)

39 Comments

  1. Laurie

    Now, honey, you didn’t get the dishes done and we are going to call the elders over to deal with your sinfulness…but just don’t mention how I called you from work as you sat down with the children over their schoolbooks and told you to lay everything aside and travel sixty miles in a day, all over the county, picking up all the deals I wanted and paying the bills at the collector’s offices because I didn’t make enough money to get them paid on time by mail…you know, it really is your sinfulness that is the root of the problem. Other women can do all this and more…

  2. ooh ooh! I’ll take patriarchal cults for $500, Alex!
    It sounds exactly like those videos of Muslim imams, instructing the man on the proper way to discipline his wife (don’t beat her too hard, you know, let’s be a man about this) – I cannot believe they take this stuff seriously.

    • Laurie

      LOL…patriarchal cults for $500…thanks for the laugh!

  3. Kay

    that video clip just made my day

  4. K

    “For the typical husband, such sins will be numerous, and may even include the initial decision to marry her.”

    What the?….

  5. K

    Everything is always our fault. If your husband is abusive, it’s your fault; you haven’t been submissive enough. If your wife doesn’t do the dishes, it’s because of your failing as a husband. Repent for your spouse’s sins; it’s never their fault, always yours.

    Ugh.

    Whatever happened to free will? I thought that human free will was kind of important to God.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yep. Very convenient for those “in charge”

  6. Saved By Grace

    How is not doing dishes a sin? Can anyone please direct me to chapter and verse in the Bible where God says this??? (ok, tongue in cheek). This is ridiculous.

  7. Wilson’s description of how a husband is to “teach” his wife sounds very much like chore training for kids. “Susie, if you don’t do the dishes, you’re not gonna be allowed to _______ (watch a movie with mom and dad, play Xbox, etc.).” This implies wives aren’t really adults but just overgrown children in the husband’s charge. And of course Wilson’s advice is here is just as condescending and demeaning as most “Christian” child-rearing methods, which don’t confer full person status on the child and just treat them like their parents’ property, a little annoyance that needs to be controlled, or evil selfish manipulative brats who need to have their sins thwacked out of them (even if they’re 2mo old and the “manipulation” in question is them screaming because they can’t yet understand that mom still exists when they can’t see her).

    And okay, I have a personal issue about the housekeeping thing because my grandfather is a clinical hoarder who hasn’t finished a project in decades. What if the husband, by tearing out all the storage in the house, has essentially forced the wife to be a “bad housekeeper” because she literally cannot put the clothes away, and then still tells her it’s all her fault? What if he’s literally built additions onto the house and purchased other buildings, only to fill them up with his crap? (And yes, my grandfather really did buy a small elementary school when the next town over consolidated their school district, and it really is full of stuff. There’s an airplane parked in the gymnasium.) This has to be some species of abuse by neglect like Jeff S. wrote about. I’ve been trying to figure it out for years and it’s only now that I’m reading material here that it’s starting to make sense.

    • Hester I know several victims of abuse who have stories like that. Their abusers collected/hoarded junk. Broken down machines, part of machines, stuff that they found in garbage tips, garage sales, furniture and lumber they picked up from nature strips (sidewalks) that the people had put out because the had no use for. I heard stories of these men renting or even buying sheds or houses just to store the junk in. It was an obsession. And the man I most remember also rarely washed; the odour in that house was something else! And he ‘did renovations’ on the rented substandard house he and his family lived in, by getting out the chain saw and cutting internal walls down. Yep.

      • At least my grandfather doesn’t hoard rotten food, and the ground floor of the house is (mostly) clear so they can have the children and grandchildren over to visit. But you still have to literally walk through a tunnel of floor-to-ceiling stuff in the breezeway to get to the kitchen. I hate going there. I had to stay there for two days this summer and that was far too much. (Not a single book in that entire hoard of crap so I can’t even keep myself distracted.) Glad they live 2000+ miles away.

        I suspect my grandmother has no idea he’s anything except “quirky.” She makes light of the unfinished projects and the constant stuff-buying; honestly she doesn’t seem to think of it as a problem, or doesn’t want to. This summer she actually joked that “real Joneses [family name changed] don’t have trim on their windows.” Whether it’s a coping mechanism or a delusion or what, I don’t know.

        (This is my paternal grandparents I’m talking about – it’s funny because there couldn’t be more of a contrast between the maternal and paternal sides of my family. My maternal great-grandmother actually left her abuser in the 1920s after he hit her once. Her parents, born in the 1860s, told her to leave immediately after one hit and promised to take her in. It happened, and she did. All her children were by her second husband. That’s amazingly progressive for people born in the 1860s, and very unusual for the 1920s. And then her second husband’s mother [my great-great-grandmother] helped her sister escape an arranged marriage and threw her Nazi-sympathizing brother-in-law out of her house. Pesky gutsy women, I suppose.)

        The insidious part is that, on the rare occasion he does finish a project, it’s done excellently because he’s a carpentry/construction genius. Which is probably why people put up with him, because if he were to finish it, it would be a far superior product. Emphasis on “if,” of course. As it is the second floor addition has a big hole in the outside wall now that’s only covered by a ripped tarp. He only gets away with it because they live way out in the country and have few or no neighbors. If he lived in town he would have been fined to death via a blight ordinance years ago.

        If my grandmother goes first, I’m convinced he’ll fill the whole house. What will happen if he dies alone in that mess, I don’t even want to think about.

        The stupid/sad part, is that it’s through this person that I’m descended from Puritans and Baptists who helped found New England. Clearly something went really, really wrong somewhere in the intervening 350 years. And of course they won’t allow me to mention my family history research.

  8. joepote01

    “He must constantly remember and confess that she is not the problem, he is. By bringing this gently to her attention, he is not to be primarily pointing to her need to repent; rather, he is exhibiting the fruit of his repentance.”

    What? What is this gibberish supposed to mean to real people living in a real world?

    I’m hearing something like, “Honey, you didn’t do the dishes like I asked you to and that’s an issue. It’s not your issue. It’s my issue. But even though it’s my issue and I’m the problem, you’re the one whose behavior must change…as an exhibition of the fruit of my repentance. And if you don’t change your behavior, then I will have to call the church elders to report your disobedience so they can discipline you….even though it’s all my fault…”

    This is ludicrous! Do they even listen to what they’re saying? Do they really see any of this playing out as they’ve described? Have they completely lost possession of their intellect?

    You couldn’t make that work even as a poorly scripted movie clip…

    What rubbish!

    • “Honey, you didn’t do the dishes like I asked you to and that’s an issue. It’s not your issue. It’s my issue. But even though it’s my issue and I’m the problem, you’re the one whose behavior must change…as an exhibition of the fruit of my repentance. And if you don’t change your behavior, then I will have to call the church elders to report your disobedience so they can discipline you….even though it’s all my fault…”

      Viva la insanity!

    • Almost myself again

      amen,… since when does “it’s my fault” mean, “you have to change”?

      • Almost myself again — I love your screen name 🙂

    • Good point Joe! I was just seeing that part as kind of a lie to get the ball rolling to the real goal of control, but you’re right. It totally fails the logic test.

  9. First, the husband in his capacity as a private person should confess to God his own individual sins as an individual which have contributed to the situation.

    If he had stopped right there he would have been fine.

    The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. Ezekiel 18:20

    What does God say about this thing of Wilson’s?

    O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?
    Ezekiel 18:29b

    • joepote01

      Amen! Preach it BIT! 🙂

      • lol, this “Wash the dishes or I’ll call the elders, wench” always makes blood pressure dance. It’s right up there with Piper’s writing on the sin of muscular women.
        Sometimes I don’t want these guys to stop because it’s too hilarious – like a parody off The Onion.
        I do recognize that it’s only funny because I’m not a woman living under this sort of control though. 😦

  10. I am refraining from comment on Doug Wilson’s words… the only responses that come to mind are too ribald to put on the blog.

  11. Another gem from that article includes this:

    Most married Christian men are not in this position, but at the same time we cannot say the problem is extremely rare.
    The symptoms can of course vary. He may be distressed over her spending habits, television viewing habits, weight, rejection of his leadership, laziness in cleaning the house, lack of responsiveness to sexual advances, whatever. But however the problem is manifested, what should a husband do?

    To which I reply: Where in Scripture does a husband have any right to tell his wife how much she should weigh? I don’t want to imagine that conversation. “Honey, I realize that it’s my fault for buying the ice cream, but your current weight isn’t attractive enough to me. You need to lose a good 15 lbs, and if you aren’t willing to submit to my authority on this matter then I’ll need to call the pastor and elders in.” It sounds ridiculous and extreme, but that is the sad reality of many men and women caught in the lies of Biblical Patriarchy.

    • imagine if wives could haul their husbands off to the elders because the husbands were overweight!

      It’s one thing for concerned relatives in conjunction with a medical doctor or dietician to stage an intervention with a morbidly obese family member. But that’s different from feeling miffed because your spouse is a bit overweight.

    • I find that fascinating because I have several female friends who work full time and can never retire, because they are married to lazy, entitled drunks. And yet… what is a wife to do!? If only the “office of wife” were available to her, that she may haul her good-for-nothing beast before the board of elders and demand an intervention!

      • Jeff Crippen

        If a man won’t work, neither let him eat. She keeps her own paycheck and buys food only for herself if at all possible. Unfortunately such a course of action is not always possible for many of these women in these spots.

  12. Jeff, can you please comment on this?

    Second, the husband as a “public person” should begin confessing the sinful state of his household before God, assuming full and complete responsibility for the way things are. But what is meant by this phrase “public person”? A husband is an individual, but he is also an officer–he is invested with the office of husband. In this status, he is not his own man; he is a public person–he represents others.

    • Jeff Crippen

      BIT- Well, it certainly is not Bible, is it? Waldron makes much (I will deal with this in my next instalment of this series) out of Job and some of the early pre-Mosaic biblical patriarchs who offered sacrifices, as Job did, to God and prayed for their children. But then Waldron just leaps and says “thus it is the same today.” Now, this business of a husband being an “officer” is nowhere found in Scripture that I know of. They would have to be coming up with it by “logic” and inference and so on. It is like the family is a corporate entity like a church, and the father is the “officer” who ministers the Word to its members and prays for them like pastors and elders do.

      Wilson has what I believe to be a skewed view of “covenant.” I am reformed (Baptist), but I have yet to sort out just what so many of these reformed guys are talking about when they talk about “the covenant family,” or “covenant children” or “covenant dishwashing” or whatever. There is only ONE covenant in force now – the New Covenant instituted by Jesus. Jeremiah 31 as expounded by the Author of Hebrews makes it clear that every person in the New Covenant is a priest, and that there is equal standing before Christ in this Covenant. I don’t know – it seems to me that Wilson is still back in eras of the Old Testament when he talks about the family in these terms and says the husband/father is an “officer” who, like the President of the U.S. (or Australia Barbara! Whew!) represents all the citizens of that federal republic, if that is the right term. But Jesus Christ is our federal head now. He is the last Adam and His obedience and His priesthood represents us. There is no other priesthood.

      • bluesinaminor

        why is the wife not also a ‘public person’? she’s an ‘individual…invested with the office of wife.’ when she’s out and about she represents her family too – or these patriarchs wouldn’t be getting so miffed by the way she represents her family. and they seem more concerned about the way she represents the family than the way the husband does. As Barbara says, no one is bothered by his weight, his spending habits, his tv viewing. Its as if they have assumed that because he is ‘husband’ (or dare I say it ‘male’) he will automatically know how to control his weight, his spending, his tv viewing. only those inferior, naughty females are capable of going astray in these areas.

      • But Jesus Christ is our federal head now. He is the last Adam and His obedience and His priesthood represents us. There is no other priesthood.

        That’s what I was thinking too. Wilson looses it before he even gets started.

        Waldron makes much…out of Job and some of the early pre-Mosaic biblical patriarchs who offered sacrifices, as Job did, to God and prayed for their children.

        Why is Waldron going to Job and not Christ?! I find that alarming. If he’s doing that because he can’t go to Christ for lack of support there for his position…you know…dude….

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Yes. So, Wilson is living under the Old Covenant, as are many of these followers of the patriarchy group. What does that mean for all of them? Bad news. If the root of the Gospel you preach is wrong, then the whole Gospel you preach is wrong. It is false and this stuff is false. His books are so often promoted, but truly, they should be removed from all Bible believing Churches.

        I tell you, I rolled on the floor laughing when I read that, Katy!

  13. Just Me

    Do you ever notice that when the patriarchy people talk about a woman’s responsibilities, they usually mention something trivial? In this case, it’s dishes. I remember reading a book review once for a “being a better wife” type of book, that said that the author said a wife’s only responsibilities are those that her husband delegates to her. So if her husband asks her to choose the drapes, she would then be responsible for that. It’s as if their minds can’t comprehend that women can do anything more than mundane or simple tasks. And apparently we need our hands held in order to understand how to do those tasks.

    And why would a man even want a marriage like that? I can’t imagine ever wanting a life partner who I needed to micro-manage like that.

    Can you imagine if an article was written suggesting a wife call the elders because her husband leaves his dirty socks on the floor? How absurd! I wonder what kind of response these elders who come to the house to scold a wife for lazy dish doing would have when a wife came to them to tell them that her husband was beating her or molesting their children……

    • bluesinaminor

      “Do you ever notice that when the patriarchy people talk about a woman’s responsibilities, they usually mention something trivial? In this case, it’s dishes.”

      sigh. really if this is the worst his wife does….

  14. Laurie

    Sorry folks, we did this one regularly. Morning devotions were such that at the end of reading scripture dad would look around the room and tell us all that the reason God couldn’t bless us was because we failed to live up to what we just read…not HIM, US, OUR fault.

    Now, the children want nothing to do with God’s word…and I can say that most times, neither do I. Not saying I don’t love God or His word, not saying I am recanting my faith, not saying that the children don’t have faith either…but every time we sit to read the Bible, all we hear is ex’s voice of condemnation.

    Like that song from the group, “Mainstay”…”words that You didn’t say were haunting these pages, faces You didn’t make were all I was seeing, ways that they painted You, it wasn’t a picture of One in control, and I don’t think they know Who You are!”

    • Estelle

      I’m sorry you and your children had that experience.

  15. Estelle

    LOL I get ‘scolded’ sometimes for doing the dishes. Hubby considers that his chore and enjoys doing it, though our timeline for when dishes should be done doesn’t always coincide!

  16. bluesinaminor

    I have a problem with them using Job as a role model apart from him being old covenant. Yes, Job, prayed and sacrificed daily for his family in case they had sinned. But it doesn’t say he had to. I think he was just such a lovely, Godly man that he did this because he cared about his family. Not because his role as father meant he had to. not because God wouldn’t forgive them if he didn’t. not because he was responsible for their sins. He just asked that God look out for his kids. Don’t we all (well, those of us who are well adjusted enough to care about our kids!) do this in our own ways, our own words, our own cultural setting?

    • Estelle

      Job was also an unusual man of his era (and of many other eras) in that his daughters inherited along with their brothers.

  17. Wow. My husband does the dishes with me every night after dinner. I remember being surprised at this when we were first married, because in my first abusive marriage I was the only one who did dishes! Dishes were small potatoes compared to all the rest of the marital issues for me back then, of course. It is pretty chilling to think of being a “project” like that instead of loved. It’s like he is aiming for a cold, calculated type of abuse rather than the violent kind many have endured. I wonder if teaching this attitude leads to the other kind of abuse?

Trackbacks

  1. The Teaching that a Husband/Father is Priest to his Family is Unbiblical and Promotes Abuse (Part 4) | A Cry For Justice
  2. The Teaching that a Husband/Father is Priest to His Family is Unbiblical and Promotes Abuse (Part 2) | A Cry For Justice

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