It was some time ago that I was asked to write a post on this topic, but since my head was full of other things I couldn't really find time to do it.
I was asked to address some new teachings on (Christian) marriage. It's a difficult subject as I don't want to point fingers, so I won't name any names. Those familiar with the subject will know what I'm talking about.
Internet expanded our horizons. It pretty much substituted MSM at least to a certain degree, for many people. I, for instance, seldom read newspapers and practically never watch TV, though we have one. I get all my news from various blogs and sites, and I bet that I'm not the only one. Thanks to Internet, each of us can become his own newspaper by simply starting a blog.
Some of the bloggers lack all formal education but are highly successful and popular and even earn lots of money with their blog activities. So far so good, but herein also lies the danger. People nowadays tend to turn to online experts for advice on how to live their daily life. We have relationships blogs, marital problems blogs and how-to-raise your children blogs.
Conservative Christians especially feel more and more alienated by the mainstream culture and flock to the online ministries where they can communicate with like-minded people. Progressives have overall done a pretty good job destroyng traditional marriage and MSM keeps vilifying Western family values which were largely based on Christianity, so it's only logical that people interested in reviving the institution turn to the internet for advice.
Unfortunately, not all of the advice they get is wholesome. When you read old books, like Jane Austen novels or just anything written before the sexual revolution of the 1960s, you'll see that male-female relationships were pretty balanced. Each sex had its own responsibilities and its own rights. Contrary to what feminists claim, women in the West were never treated like slaves.
It's true that under the coverture laws the husband was officially the head of the family and had the power to control family finances, on the other hand, he was legally obliged to provide for his wife.
The other side of coverture beyond the husband controlling and owning
all the property was the “law of agency” or the “law of necessaries”
where the wife was presumed to be acting on the husband’s behalf
whenever she bought “necessaries;” clothing, food, lodging, and medicine
for domestic use. The law of agency defined “necessaries” according to
the husband’s status, occupation, and wealth. As the great English
jurist William Blackstone (1723 to 1780) said
“The husband is bound to provide his wife with the necessaries by law,
as much as himself; and, if she contracts debts for them, he is obliged
to pay them.”
(Quoted from an article by Jesse Powell called Marriage is Masculinity and Coverture) While getting a divorce was difficult, the wife could get legal separation on the grounds of abuse, called divorce from table and bed (a mensa et thoro). Moreso, the wife's family was always there to interfere and to defend the interests of their daughter or sister. The extreme patriarchy promoted by some new teachers was never the norm in the West.
It's true that the Bible teaches wifely submission, but do we need 1001 article on what the submission really means and whether it's OK to ever contradict your husband? When did common sense get out of the window? Why do we even need online ministries for this sort of things, is God's Word not enough?
Nowadays we have teachers who will want to make us believe that we are ultimately responsible for the spiritual state of the spouse. For instance, if the wife commits adultery some will want you to believe it was her husband's fault. On the other hand, if the husband spends all his time surfing adult sites on the net, it's supposedly the wife's fault. It's true that one spouse's behaviour can present the stumbling block for another spouse and even encourage him/her to sin, but the ultimate decision to do wrong belongs to the one who does it. It's not OK to sin even if you had been treated unfairly.
Some behaviours within marriage are truly destructive and are grounds for divorce, but that's not what I'm talking about over here. I don't want to debate extreme cases of abusive manipulative alcoholic husbands and obese wives who refuse to do basic housekeeping and have denied marital rights to their husbands for 20+ years. Such families no doubt, exist, but I'm talking about your average, run-of-the mill family where both spouses will have to learn to compromise to get along.
So no, in the case of your average boring middle-age accountant husband who faithfully worked to support his family, it wasn't his fault that his wife ran away with the milkman. Boredom is not the reason to destroy the family, it's simply that he had married a trashy woman. On the other hand, the wife willing to perform her wifely duties who simply doesn't have a model body now that she is in her forties and got three children, doesn't justify her husband getting mistresses even though she may have a headache a couple of times in the week.
Another strange teaching which sounds pretty much like repackaged feminism is one which suggests that being a help meet basically means that the wife must share all the husband's duties. Of course, it's hardly possible if the husband works a regular job so the couples are taught that the only proper way of functioning is to set up a family business, which may work for some families, but certainly not for all.
When the husband is self-employed/ runs a business, there are certainly things which his wife can do to help him. She can give him ideas, help him with the paperwork, do the taxes etc but ultimately, she will help him much more by simply keeping the home fires burning, cooking delicious meals and taking care of the children. This was the whole point of When Queens Ride By story (can be read over here ).
When we look at the famous Proverbs 31 lady we'll see that it's her husband who is known in the gates not herself. She is the whole day busy around the house, while he goes out to sit with the elders of the land. Each has his own sphere of the responsibility and that's how it should be.
The last thing I'd like to talk about is the idea that every family should strive to have as many children as possible because children are a blessing. Personally I would never presume to put my nose into someone else's bedroom and tell people how many children they are supposed to have. Yes, children are a blessing, but it doesn't mean that the couple can have no reason to restrict their number. It's simply unreasonable to expect that an average lower middle class husband will be able to support 10+ kids on his salary alone and many women simply don't have enough health and energy to cope with so many.
If they can do it, more power to them, but that doesn't give them the right to look down at their fellow Christians who chose otherwise. The Scriptures are strangely silent on the correct amount of children necessary for salvation, though they are quite vocal about things like modest clothes, male-female roles etc.
Well, I hope it was helpful. Have a blessed Lord's day!