I noticed today that Boundless has a new male blogger this summer named James. According to his bio on the site, he will be entering his senior year at Liberty University this coming fall and plans to get a Master’s degree for marriage and family counseling. Now, obviously James is just one person, but being that he seems to be following a very stereotypical Christian path to a profession that will specifically engage Christians, his views are very likely to be widely held by people like him. So it’s worth paying attention to his viewpoints, because those are the viewpoints that Christians with marital troubles are going to hear.
Based on his most recent (and introductory) post, those viewpoints are pretty standard churchian stuff. In “One of the Boys,” he relates an email conversation he had with a reader named Jeff. Jeff was venting about standard church-manosphere complaints: churches blame the men for everything and don’t support them with camaraderie or encouragement.
I wish I could sit down and have a conversation with Jeff. “Jeff”, I’d say, “I completely understand where you are coming from.” I grew up in a church culture where the mindset seemed to be that men were the animals with the problems and all women had to do was not feed the beast inside the man. The women were the innocent victims of man’s inability to “live right.”
I, however, don’t want to deny the truth that God created men to lead and take responsibility of their families. Therefore, changing men’s hearts and lives is the most effective way to shot block our culture’s high divorce rate. Here at Boundless, our passion and dream is to see men rise up to their full potential as leaders, filled with the Spirit, putting aside their own desires, and passionately sacrificing for their families. If men will lead well, women will follow. In trying to communicate this to our readers, however, some guys seem to receive a nagging and condemning rant, rather than an inspiring and encouraging call to arms.
This is where Boundless, and the whole churchosphere of gender relations, just completely misses the boat.
One, if “changing men’s hearts and lives” is the most effective way to reduce divorce, then that effectively means that women are not responsible for their own actions and will justify divorcing their husbands because they don’t have the correct “heart” and “life.” So James has some sort of cognitive dissonance that he can recognize his own church’s special snowflake stance, yet buys into it at the same time. This stance ignores or at best downplays the possibility that women have depraved hearts as well, and may choose rebellion against their husbands regardless of the husband’s actions. Furthermore, look at how many women remain married to awful men, or who won’t leave adulterous or abusive husbands. It’s pretty obvious that “changing men’s hearts and lives” is not necessarily an effective method of reducing divorce. Sure, in some cases it will work, but it won’t work as often or as well as Boundless thinks it will.
Second, James’s assertion seems to be that leading well is equivalent to more self-denial, more self-sacrifice, and more appeasement, with no room to say enough. I feel like the churchosphere’s idea of manly leadership is running yourself ragged for your wife and kids to get them the things they need to feel loved, and if you’re not doing that, you’re an inadequate man whose wife will probably divorce you on account of bad leadership. In reality, real leadership often boils down to judiciously and firmly saying no, and holding others accountable for their actions.
Third, and this is really mind-boggling – if the readership is continually saying it feels nagged and condemned by all the exhortations to man up, THEN MAYBE YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Maybe you are scolding them like a woman, and as a man you should recognize that MEN HATE THAT. If your “inspiring and encouraging call to arms” comes across like finger-wagging scolding, then maybe you need to change your approach and stop blaming everyone else for being too sensitive or not being submitted to God enough to hear His special message for you or whatever.
Any effective campaign to reduce divorce needs to address BOTH women and men. You can’t just tell the men to lead and expect the women to follow when there is no concurrent expectation for women to change their behavior and mindsets. Every time you tell men to man up and lead, you have to tell women to simmer down and submit. Otherwise, the implicit message is just “you only need to submit if he’s doing an adequate job of leading.” Which is precisely the attitude that landed us in this too-much-divorce culture in the first place!
I mean, you just can’t have a church culture where the men are constantly called on to be more humble, more sacrificial, more manly, yet the women’s heads are filled with messages that they are Daughters of the King! and special and anointed and powerful and beautiful and shouldn’t settle for less than God’s best. Can anyone honestly say that this is a recipe for reducing divorces?