As part of a larger rumination about religion, Barney Quick looked at the Christian notion of a woman’s submission within her marriage, since the media is going after Michele Bachmann on that point:
The recent dust-up over Michelle Bachmann’s statements on record that she feels Biblically commanded to be submissive in her marriage is another example of the kind of thing that hangs me up. She’s not alone. There is even a network of blogs maintained by women who are proud to be submissive.
I know, I know. The Christian view of marriage is that the man and woman become one, and the the man loves his wife like Christ loves the church, and therefore there is mutual respect, but ultimately there is no doubt that what is being asserted is that the man is the captain, the leader, the one in the family who makes the decisions to which the wife and children will defer. I like Michelle Bachmann a lot; she’s one of my top three or four Pub presidential candidates. But let’s be candid; she’s been dancing around the theological point since it resurfaced last week.
I’ve been thinking about the subject a lot myself, for years actually. Twenty-five years to be precise. Twenty-five years ago, in a single weekend, I went to two weddings. The first wedding was a yuppie New Age ceremony with a mail-order minister who waffled on about universal harmonies, shakras, karma, the joining of souls, etc. I found the ceremony peculiarly un-compelling. I couldn’t figure out if the bride and groom had committed to each other for life, or were taking some sort of oath before embarking on a spaceship for galaxies unknown.
The next day, I went to the wedding of two people who belonged to a small, deeply fundamentalist church. It was my first exposure to an evangelical wedding, which meant it was also the first time I’d heard a minister give voice to the notion that, just as Christ is the head of the Church, so too is the man the head of the married couple. The minister said that, for the man, this position carries with it tremendous responsibility to love, honor, protect and respect the wife, but that the man still has the dominant position. I was shocked to the core of my feminist soul . . . yet, even then, I had this sense that I had attended a real wedding, with the bride and groom committing themselves to each other and to God. I also had a sense of order.
Fast forward to today. I have a friend who has what is, without question, the most successful marriage I’ve ever seen. He would say that it’s because he’s married to the most wonderful woman in the world which is, of course, true. But she would say (I’m pretty sure), that it’s because she is married to the most wonderful man in the world, which also happens to be true. These two like and respect each other at a level that I’ve only seen a few other times. But here’s the kicker: on the rare occasions when they have disputes that reach an impasse, he casts the deciding vote. Because he loves, likes and respects her so much, he never casts a vote that is intended to hurt or demean her. Nevertheless, he is the tie-breaker.
Frankly, this strikes me as a good thing. When he finally makes a decision, she hasn’t lost, nor as he won. He’s simply exercised his position within the relationship to resolve stalemates. If you don’t have someone in the marriage who occupies that role, you end up with each dispute becoming a fight to the death. Neither party can afford to give ground, lest they be seen as taking a subordinate place in the relationship. Rather than tie-breakers, there are only winners (smug) and losers (demoralized).
If the Christian model is how Michele Bachmann’s marriage functions, fine. In every marriage there are disputes, and every married couple has to figure out how to resolve those disputes. It could be through a bloody emotional battle to the death (yeah, I know: crazy metaphors), or it could be by designating one partner as the tie breaker. Presidents always have their spouses at their side (or at their backs), and the spouse will always be part of the equation, regardless of the method they use for resolving their own disputes.
What do you think?
UPDATE: Obama recently offered an insight into his own marriage, which James Taranto examined in the second entry in his BOTW column. One gets the feeling that Michelle scares him, just a little bit.