Male headship is a flawed theology that perpetuates violence against women
Seeking to speak out against violence toward women, Russell Moore has succeeded only in reaffirming the Southern Baptist Convention’s denigration of women. Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and he wrote an article titled “The Church and Violence Against Women.” Below is one paragraph from his article. Numbering within the paragraph is mine.
We must teach from our pulpits, our Sunday school classes, and our Vacation Bible Schools that women are to be cherished, honored, and (1) protected by men. This means we teach men to reject American playboy consumerism in light of a Judgment Seat at which they will (2) give account for their care for their families. It means we explicitly tell the women in our congregations, “A man who hits you has (3) surrendered his headship, and that is the business both of the civil state in enacting public justice and of this church in enacting (4) church discipline.”
There are four major theological points in this one paragraph that elevates men and diminishes women. Moore wants it taught in pulpits, Sunday school classes and in Vacation Bible Schools. Be warned. This is a dangerous theology and has no place in any pulpit or church.
Number 1: Protected by men. Women are not children who need constant protection. In fact, mothers protect their little boys and girls, and later in life, wives protect their husbands. So first off, we see that Moore diminishes women’s contribution to the safety and welfare of their homes and families.
Instead of being protected by men, women may need protection from male family members, and other males. In the home it is often the husband, or the father, who abuses the mother and girls. The so-called protector becomes the abuser. As Moore knows, you can cherish a woman and also beat the hell out of her.
Male religious leaders make laws against women, and women need protection from them. Most men and religious leaders will not stand up for women. Pointedly, Moore did not stand up for women in this article. Instead, he quoted male headship theology which perpetuates abuse and misuse of women.
Number 2. Give account for their care for their families. There is NO scripture that says that husbands will give account for their care for their families at the judgment seat.
Moore phrases this in such a way to indicate that husbands are responsible for their families. Moore believes this because the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 says it is so. “He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family.”
To justify the statement that Russell Moore made, you must believe that men are responsible for women and children, a condition that takes away individual personhood. In addition to taking away a woman’s personhood, it elevates man to a savior-type.
Jesus is our standard, and since Jesus did not commit women’s care to husbands, or to males, and because Jesus did not give males authority over women, then we cannot in good stewardship of the gospel, do so either.
Number 3. Surrendered his headship. Why does a man have automatic headship over his wife when he says “I Do?” And if he has automatic headship, then how on earth can he surrender it? The answer is that he cannot. If male headship is something that God gives all men during the marriage ceremony, then they cannot give it up. There is nothing in the Bible that says a man surrenders his headship if he hits his wife. Nothing. Male headship gives autocratic rule to husbands, and if he wants to hit his wife, then he does it.
In fact, a commandment for male headship over a wife is not in the Bible. It is contrary to everything that Jesus said and did, and it even contradicts what the Apostle Paul said. Paul told the Corinthians that Christ is the head of every man, and that man was head of woman, which actually removes Christ from being the head of women; but then he told the Ephesians that Christ was head of the church, which is comprised of both men and women. As written, it takes a divine God and an earthly god (husband) to be the head of one woman! Surely, we have misunderstood these writings of Paul, because the words of Jesus do not give credence to this male headship teaching, and we cannot call ourselves Christians and ignore the words and actions of Christ.
Number 4. Church discipline. This really opens a can of worms. The church has no discipline for abusive males. There is nothing in church by-laws that gives churches ANY authority over men or women who are not on church staff.
However, if churches begin making such rules that apply to Christians inside and outside the church, then women will be the ones who will suffer. Jesus showed us how men react to rules and laws: remember the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned by a group of self-righteous men. We also see that with other religions. There will not be any church rules or regulations enforced against men. It won’t happen. You can count on it.
So what should the church say about violence against women? The church should do as Jesus did and elevate women. The church must speak up for the equality of women in the church and home. Moore’s article reinforces male headship which is destructive to women and children. What is taught in churches, bleeds out into society, and men who do not even go to church, will use this excuse to beat their wives. In spite of Moore’s statements, the church is responsible for continued violence against women. The only way the church can make it unacceptable to beat, kill, or maim women and children, is to stop teaching the flawed theology of male headship.
We are the New Creation. We are Christians. It is time we act like it.