Time we act like Christians

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.

About bwebaptistwomenforequality

Shirley Taylor writes with humor and common sense, challenging the church body to reclaim equality for Christian women.
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4 Responses to Time we act like Christians

  1. Don Johnson says:

    Moore is trying to address some of the many contradictions in his understanding of Scripture. What to do about an abusive leader/husband? His answer is to claim that such has disqualified himself from his role, but this claim is without Scriptural warrant, Moore just makes it up.


  2. pnissila says:

    I have often wanted to insert this anecdote about how easy it is for a person (in this case, a man/husband) who assumes some kind of headship/leadership/lordship/superior position over another person (in this case, woman/wife) to begin to feel entitled. The fruit of this assumption is not good and leaves the door open for abuse because humans were designed to submit only to one Head, that being God. A “helper, meet” as in “suitable” and much more (used 24 times in Scripture, twice only for Eve, and 16 times describing God. For more see http://drwalterbramson.com/what-is-an-azer/ for original meanings) is NOT the assumed “helpmate” as in assistant or simply helper or subordinate as male-headship proponants would have us believe.

    Back to the anecdote: if you watched the BBC program “The 1900 House” (aired in 2000), a “reality” television program about life back then in a typical middle class English household, there was one very compelling episode.

    First, brief back story. In each episode the family on the show lived the life of a family of one hundred years prior in all ways including adopting the century-old social and cultural roles featuring, of course, cultural-specific deferences made to the father because of his status as the family superior back in those days. The modern day family picked to adopt the roles started out as a fairly typical, modern-day egalitarian family. Pleasant people, functional family system. After several months into the series, however, things changed.

    This became apparent to viewers, as the normally (modern day) respectful man of the house began to assume the air of entitlement of his 100 years-past persona. A tinge of arrogance began to appear and his behavior toward his wife and children gradually if subtly, changed, not to the good. Unless he was told by producers to change his normal personality and behaviors to match the old days, the role itself had apparently affected him over time in this negative way.

    Eventually, other actors noted this, one “scullery maid” in particular who lasted only two episodes, as I recall. During one “candid cam,” the feature on many such shows where the actors or participants express what they’re really thinking aside from the others, she was at her wit’s end. “He is such a chauvanist!” she exclaimed, exasperated and angry, and she quit the series because of this.

    Of course, one also thinks of the expression “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    The heart of man is, was, and will always be evil, as Scripture notes, and if we give one class of person privilege over another–or if they just assume it–they will eventually fall into ungodly power if not corrected, just as the egalitarian-minded modern man of the 1900 House succumbed to his dated authoritarian persona not only in dress and social roles, but eventually in attitude and treatment of others in his household as well.

    The primary message Jesus brought about human relationships, on the other hand, was to adopt a servant’s heart–indeed, He gave His life for us–those in leadership positions having the greater responsibility in this regard.

    It’s no wonder Moore and other male headship apologists get further and further from the truth of God’s Word when they try to justify the man-as-the-superior position when dealing with the reality of domestic abuse. They’ve adopted an entitled attitude–which is easily done if one assumes he is entitled and/or is taught that–but the justification for it gets thinner and thinner in the face of “fruit” such as battered women and traumatized children.

    Thank God for the clarity of the Word of God.


  3. Mabel says:

    good points, Pnissila!


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