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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Husbands, Love Your Wives

 This is in response to an article, published about a month ago, On biblicalgenderroles.com entitled "Christian Husbands – You don’t pay for the milk when you own the cow!" It wasn't one I particularly loved; in fact, I had to read it by turns, letting myself cool off between cycles of being my gender being called either a 'cow' or 'property.'  Tact is not this author's strong suit, and I can understand why it might be published under the name of the site alone, bereft of claim by author: The women of his neighborhood, Christian and non-affliliated alike, might lynch him for espousing falsely pious views that couldn't have wormed their way into a religious brain without the tender gardening and watering from our dear friend Screwtape.
I don't mean to insinuate that this man is not pious, or that he doesn't love God and his wife, just that these views don't fit within the realm of those loves: They are a contradiction of Love, and I'm sorry because they must strain things for him heavily.
The article begins with enough orthodoxy to thrill traditional Christians and arouse the ire of our culture:
"As Christians who embrace God’s Word as the guide for our lives, we know that the Bible condones sex ONLY within the bounds of marriage. But unfortunately, since the sexual revolution of the 1960’s our culture has embraced the idea that pre-marital sex is the norm, and that we actually need to try out the person sexually before we are married to make sure that we are sexually compatible." [underline my own]
I couldn't help but smile here, despite the doubtful title he chose. You go, man, hit our sexually dysfunctional culture where it hurts: Consumer mentality! Marriage is many things, but it begins as a bond of love. Our genuine value of our future spouse, willingness to build life together, dedication towards mutually and separately growing towards God: these are what we should value when considering who we enter into this insoluble bond with. Sex is for within marriage, and it bonds us, yes. How can we cherish them on love alone if sexual ability is a deal-breaker? How much actual cherishing would there be going on?
"Our culture’s acceptance of pre-marital sex has been one of the major contributing factors to the decline in marriage, and the rise in cohabitation rates.
Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?"
Don't love the sayin', man, but psychologically, I get your point.
"This phrase was coined to reflect the reality that when you make sex outside of marriage culturally acceptable, less people will marry, and the statistics today prove it. The most literal and historical meaning of this phrase meant “why marry a girl, when she will give you sex without marriage?”
I remember growing up in my Church youth group, hearing speakers sometimes say this phrase about the milk and the cow. Obviously they would always start with the Scriptures that forbid fornication – which includes (but is not limited to) sex outside of marriage. But then they would follow up the Scriptural commands, with some practical reasoning, especially to the young ladies, exhorting them to “make these crazy hormone driven boys to wait for marriage” before giving up “the milk,”"[underline still mine]
Manipulation, in essence. I don't love it, but I understand this is a raw analogy. It saddens me that through the course of his, and these girls', upbringings, manipulation was emphasized over God-given worth.This is not the beginning of love! Calling those around us to greater virtue is the job of all Christians, but that calling is a summons to an act of love for our neighbor, not to a gleeful exercise of power over the weak.
"I can hear it now – “What about those boys! This is not fair that all the pressure is on the women”. Yes the Scriptures command BOTH men and women to not engage in sex before marriage, and yes they did speak to us as young men about being godly men of integrity, about being gentlemen. However, if you examine the Scriptures closely, you will see that God places the greater burden on the woman to refuse the man. In the Old Testament law, a woman could be executed for not being a virgin when she was married, whereas there was no such punishment for a man that was not a virgin. I realize this goes against our modern “gender equality” ideas, but the Bible supports no such notion."
The question of execution for women who erred here is a hard one. The author himself doesn't touch it, despite the fact that he likely doesn't feel that these particular old laws must come down and end the lives of today's women. No one in our modern, western culture today would claim this imbalance of punishment as just. I don't know why he would raise this 'particular' point if he himself doesn't even feel that it applies!
"But once you have bought the cow [please, stop], you ARE supposed to get the milk for free
One of the problems we face today in the Christian community (but it certainly is not limited to Christians) is that often times, even after we have waited, and “bought the cow” (married our wives), our wives expect us to “buy the milk” as well. I recently wrote a post responding to a Christian teacher’s false belief, that in marriage men do in fact have to “buy the milk”(earn sex), even after “buying the cow”(marrying a woman).[you're still using that word. Don't pretend you don't know how offensive this is...]
A quick word on the “cow analogy” before we continue – in no way am I meaning disrespect toward women, or saying that cows are somehow equal to women, or that women are less human than men. But Biblically speaking, a wife does belong to her husband (men paid a “bride price” and one the terms for husband in the original languages of the Bible is “baal” which means “owner or master” (e.g. Proverbs 31). I Peter 3 says Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord[master]
The sinful sexual pattern of modern women
Husbands listen to me, engaged men please hear me. There is a pattern that takes place in a lot of Christian marriages (and non-Christian marriages). At the beginning of the sexual relationship between a man and woman (which should begin after marriage, but sometimes it sinfully starts before marriage), women will give their husbands all the “free milk” they want. She lets him “taste the goods” so to speak.
But not long into the marriage, the milk is no longer free of charge, it now comes at a cost. That cost looks very different from woman to woman, but there is a cost of some sort. For some Christian men, it might simply be household chores, for others it is buying jewelry or other gifts. For other husbands, it is making a decision the way their wife wants it, but they do not think is best.
What all these different prerequisites have in common is, they require a man to transfer his God given authority over his home, his children, and his wife and yes even his wife’s body to his wife. Only if they do the bidding of their wife, will she give them “the goods”."

 You can read the rest here and I wouldn't blame you if you don't.

From the beginning, his cow and milk analogy was a broken metaphor, but he sticks to it like glue. He is, very honestly, and is afraid  the of buying and selling of sex becoming a dynamic in marital relationships. And that is dangerous. Its easy to ask for signs of affection not so that you can share love, but as matter of course, as turn-for-turn. But where most Christians see it as wrong because it is in effect prostitution, to this Biblical Gender Roles writer, it is wrong because men are in charge and women, subservient. But he, more than to rule, is called to love.

 I'm not saying that a husband and wife can't sit down and decide like adults who has which responsibilities in the relationship, nor that mature conversation could never result in the two deciding that one lead and the other follow. But in regards to marital relations, if the bodies and integrity of both are not treated as revered, if 'making love' comes as a matter of will v. obedience rather than an act of free self-giving to someone who only longs to give themselves, then it's already prostitution.

We are told, in 1 Cor, chapter seven, (which he does so well to quote) that our bodies our not our own, that we have obligations to our husbands and wives.
 4A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. 5Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control. 6(NAB. 1 Cor 7:4-6)
What he fails to note is that this is a two-way street for married couples, and what this two way means. They have given themselves to each other, and each must be dedicated to the good of the other. For a woman to try and coerce her husband to her will by holding his desires as bait, whether they be sexual or not, is abuseful.
This means, though, that for a man to hold the needs of his body above the his wife's need for personal peace and quietude, conversation or time, other types of affection or support, to hold his physical and bodily wants over her emotional or relational needs is the same usurous abuse. A husband may not treat his own physical desires as prime because his body, as Paul clearly admonishes, is not his own.

For him to try and impress upon her for the desires of his body is to deny that this body is for her. It is not unreasonable for a wife, with the rights due to her as wife, to plead that his body lend an arm to just hold her peacefully that night, or sit up beside her for the evening, or that his ears and voice and (who knows?) his brain be instruments of communication, stability, and comfort between them. Denying her this would likewise be an act of injurious withholding.
This is tyranny, not love. Love guards against injury to the beloved, it does not dream inflict it! However their respective roles as two married adults end up being hashed out, they are still both called to fill out the role of patience, of kindness, that we are told Love is. 

I would like to note that the author goes on to add to his argument by insisting that the bible says that "the only mutual agreement a couple is called to is, when they STOP having sex for a given period," to which I'd like to answer
This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. 7(NAB. 1 Cor 7:7)
His discourse on husbands and wives was advice. When Paul advised men and woman that it was better to marry than fall to sinful passion, and better to support each other within marriage so that temptation would not be an issue, this way of doing it was a suggestion, not a command. That they belong to each other is true, and that the giving of themselves to each other must be a giving-in rather than a matter of control is true, but how this must be done is advice on his part. Directly after, within the same chapter, Paul even makes it clear when he is no longer merely giving pastoral advice and has turned to departing the edicts of God, to differentiate between some suggestions for couples together and God's commands forbidding divorce.

Either one, it would hardly matter which, could ask the other as spouse to set the sexual side of their relationship down for the time in favor of another part, and they would have to. Their bodies are not their own. Clearly, if a woman has authority over her husband, and the husband, over his wife, then 'when they stop' is not the only time they are called to mutual agreement, but always. Unless they agree, unless they act in mutual love, nothing in their relationship could flourish.

To the crude metaphor of dairy and cows, you can only look to a the farmer and ask,
"do you pay for the milk?" Probably not, but he never stops paying for the cow.  As long as they both shall live, he cares for her, feeds her, sees them sheltered and nurtured, and this takes time and effort and money. He can never own Bessie to the point where he has complete command. He cannot say, "be not hungry," without giving her food or ever letting her go to pasture, nor "give plenty and good milk" when she hasn't been very well watered for days. Her presences demands his care, and he must submit to giving it to her, not because she is his master, but because she has needs just like he does. They are merely, by their nature of farmer and cow, different.

There is too much that is heartbreaking in his article, I wish I had time to tackle them all. But it saddens me that, when it come to marriage, he thinks in terms of commodity. The fact is, individuals express and perceive love in different ways. Stereotypically, men feel love through sex, and express love through sex, but that's not the only way to say "I love you." We all crave love, and if the way our beloved is communicating it to us is not in our own 'language' it's hard to recognize. The things that this author mentions, gifts or chores, are two of the ways that some people are able to feel love (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.)

Its not that its literally an exchange of commodities, (ie "You give me some Physical Touch and I give you some Quality Time, okie dokie?") but that while you feel fulfilled and renewed and special by her touch, she only experiences a little of the same from yours. Its not that she doesn't love you, it's just that it isn't her primary language. Many a husband would sleep with his wife to feel loved, but it becomes hard to engage in when she doesn't have the 'energy' or the feeling of being loved when the two enter in. If you try and speak her language, you'll find that later she can engage in and return physical love so much better. It's not payment, it's the lens they need to read what you've been saying. Your wife is asking for the same thing you are asking, just a little differently.

Towards the end, he waxes on about discipline: Discipline that wicked characteristic of desiring their husband out of wives. Again, my heart grows sad. That feels that women must be disciplined into obedience to the needs of their spouse in matters of sex, where men may  ignore women because what they ask for is non-sexual is an example of uncountable hardness of heart. I wondered why he would bring up the severity of a woman's punishment for not being virgin on her marriage bed against the unbelievable leniency towards men if he could not explain thoroughly what it meant in the bible. Here is a purpose, at least, in his article: to illuminate the fact that though he doesn't want woman killed, he still sees women as things to be verbally whipped by men who cannot be touched.

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