Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jon minus 9 and Gender roles

Since I don't have cable, I have not seen this show very much. In case you don't know, Jon meets Kate. Kate has PCOS. Jon and Kate gets fertility treatment. Jon and Kate have a set of twins and a set of six. (Go to Stuff Christians Like for a good funny recap EDIT: and the Soup for the new show title - HT to my Twin).

The first time I saw it, I didn't like it. I thought Jon was bullied by Kate, Jon was passive and it was just about Jon and Kate get this thing or that thing. Also, when I found out they were Christians, I got even more upset because it hit too close to home (meaning it is a good look at how Christians families are run today- too focused on the kids). Being a multiple from a divorced family, I can understand the stress being parents of multiples can cause on a marriage.

What I find curious is that Christians didn't start questioning the show until the questions of cheating arose. Christianity Today points out: "We evangelicals tend to be easily impressed. We cheered on Jon and Kate's decision to carry all six babies to term but rarely considered the prior question: Was it right for them to undergo risky fertility treatments in the first place?" (see CT for whole article). We don't like looking at things critically through the lens of the Bible as it is (especially when we slap the word s christian on it. Matt Johnson offered a good guide today at the Resurgence).

My first thoughts was that the reasons for much of the problems in the home today are Men just aren't leading their homes. We have been seduced by the myth of egalitarianism that says that men and women are 100% equal and should share in the decision making process.

In every organization, someone practically rises to the top to make decision and be the major influencer (see any leadership book). Usually, it is the more charismatic or the one that has the asset that is most demanded. Charisma could be found in either sex, so there is no "natural" advantage but does one have a resource advantage by nature (if we assume men aren't head by birth)?

When money and sex are concern, is there really equality? We are sinful and like to rule our own roost. That CAN'T be denied by anyone.

In most homes today, it is joked about that the woman is really in charge. Why? They'll jokingly say in most homes that she will "turn off the faucet" as I've heard it put. In the past, men been able to counter balance it because they were the "bread-winners" but now that is not the case. Women are working and don't need men to bring home the bacon. Men don't want to either because we have simple needs. All we want is sex and something to excel in (like video games, sports, business, etc.). We have then have no need to be at home for fulfillment. Because 99% of sex will beat money, women by nature (as in past) can and will always have an advantage in the home if A) Men aren't using their brute force to intimidate (historic way) or B) if it is a same sex couple. Plus, the children are always closers to Mom (since she birth them) so there is another check on the power side for the XXs. It is a nice though but in reality egalitarian though is a just fancy way of saying that the wife rules the home practically.

Why do I say all of this in relation to Jon and Kate? I think Luke MacDonald says it best:
The show became more about the parents and the kids having these great adventures than about pure survival. It didn’t take a pop-culture genius to see the problems in the Gosslein’s marriage slowly seeping in. It was obvious that John didn’t like having to take a backseat and let his wife be (in essence) the sole provider. I could write in-depth about a myriad of different problems that were predictors of future problems. It is interesting to note that as tensions rose in the home, the public pushing of the family as Christian role models increased. (Ht to Harvest)
But the problem arises when two parties are fighting over this role because they can't agree who has the final word. So unless both agree (or some outside force like the Bible) appoints one, it will be at best unhealthy and at worst a failure (see current marriage stats). The Bible appoints men simply because it does even the playing field more and it reflects Christ's love for his Church.

I have argued before that "egalitarian" relationship/marriage are more like joint ventures then a covenantal relationship Ephesians 5 talks about. Seth Godin today describes why they fail. He writes "Because there isn’t one boss, one deliverable, one person pushing the project relentlessly, [the venture] stalls" (HT to Seth). Not only are they not clear on success (what the venture hopes to obtain - which is another reason why marriage fail/unclear goals) but they have not one to drive the relation towards that goal.

While talking about businesses, he says the answer is "One side buys the right to use an asset that belongs to the other." The two remain separate but the venture "belongs to one party" for the use they determine. The man agrees to a venture involving low commitment and sex and the woman allows the man his freedom to whatever he wants. He then works "hard" to make sure that this venture is a success. When time to upgrade, he will then move on to find another asset to meet his business model. Woman will do this with the idea of having kids. Enter into a relationship with guy in order to get a father and then when kids come, forget about him. Oversimplification? Maybe.

When two people who aren't married live together (especially for financial reason), aren't they just doing the same thing? Isn't that the scenario that just play out above and in most homes today. Man wants sex so man gives money to an apartment/home for use of woman (asset). He will let woman do whatever she wants if he A) still gets sex and B) has success outlet. Take away one, partnership dissolves and the woman is hurt. However, if man is told he is responsible for the marriage and the home, watch him laid down his life and watch it succeed.

Objectors will say, "marriage isn't a business and shouldn't be run like one." But who says marriage is a democracy? Obviously, we can see how good some democracies work. My response, if it is good enough for a healthy business how much more should it be in a marriage/family which is FAR more important. This may sound cold and harsh but when people talk about the marriage/dating decisions in terms of money/sex/children/job alone, aren't they ignoring the spiritual/relational/social consequences of these decisions? When people reduce marriage to simply sex (of which I was guilty as a single man) or something else and call it love, we are ignoring the ramifications of any poor decision could have on other aspects of a relationship or life. At that point, we are simply using others for our "business" needs rather than using the Gospel example to transform relationships.

I don't want to vilify Jon and Kate. My heart breaks for them. I wish they would stop the show, travel to CCEF in Philly and get help. I wish Jon would man up and fall on the sword and stop bar hopping. I think they forgot what is true success.

As a whole, regarding all of this, I would rather see two people be honest about their decisions then try to vale it in "Christianize" or politeness to downplay the other possible effects it could have. While living together before you get married might lead to higher divorce rates, could the reason for that be because bad habits are being set up where money and sex dominate decision making rather than Christ's glory in the home? While women working outside of the home is good, could it be a problem because man/woman still see each other as man + woman rather than one unit? Finally, while equality is good, could the reason for pushing a certain theology be due to our desire to take an easier road than what the Bible has called for?

The Bible says that one man gave up his life, took the responsibility for his bride (the church) so that the two could be joined as one forever. Why don't our families look like this.

(Sorry if this seems unorganized: i had to get a lot off my chest).


Jeanne-Marie said...

Thank you for writing this, Dan! I can honestly say that my opinions on this subject have changed drastically from when I was single, to when I was married, to now having children. The whole "women and men as equals" thing sounds positive, but on a practical basis it simply does not work. God didn't design us that way.

What he DID design was a system in which two people join under God's direction, but with very different responsibilities and strengths. If a woman is left to run everything, she feels frustrated, overwhelmed, angry, and ultimately alone (no matter how much she may say she loves the independence and power). It's a horrible facade to hide behind and only breeds resentment and hurt.

If a man doesn't lead (or isn't allowed to), he feels defeated, unimportant, and has no motivation to stay in the relationship or live up to what God calls him.

Ultimately, I think men and women have forgotten that being head of the household isn't about power (a selfish reason to crave the position), but it's about sacrifice. A male lion may eat the best of the female lion's killing efforts, but when the pride is threatened, he is expected (and does) fight to the death to defend what's his. It's a trade off, sometimes with a high price. And whoever takes on that role has to be ready to live up to that level of sacrifice, which can be sweeping a floor while your wife herds the kids off to bed, walking the halls at 2 am with a screaming baby, or just doing your best at work to ensure your family has a steady income, whether the wife works or not.

I think if women understood the demanded level of sacrifice involved with leading the household, they'd gladly hand it off. :) And I think many learn about it way too late after denying their husband that role that God intended for him, usually when they want him to take it up, but he's too used to not doing it. Then the woman is stuck and you see a 35 year marriage end in divorce (or supreme bitterness, like my parents who are just too stubborn to ever leave each other).

At this point in my life, after being the woman who wanted to be equals with her spouse, I can say that I am eternally grateful to have a husband who is willing to lead our household and follow Christ as his example. He's a better husband, father, and man for it. And I'm a better woman for humbling myself enough to stay out of his way. :) It was no small task for God to get me to this place, and he is still working on me in many ways, but you quickly learn with children how vital it is to have a strong male role model for them. I literally could not be the woman, wife, or mother I am without Daniel's strength and leadership. There are so many times he steps in and takes over when I'm at a breaking point. I don't resent him for taking over in those moments, but rather it makes him that much more my hero. :) Likewise, when he gets to a breaking point, I am able to step in and be the loving, calm, supportive role I'm supposed to be to mother our children when they need it and support his discipline when called for. It's a delicate, but incredibly important balance.

And of course, neither of us would be able to hold any of this life together without our dependence on God. He is our grounding rod and sanity check. He's our father, comforter, and when we need it, admonisher.

Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to offer a female voice of support for your thoughts. Way to go! :)


Dan said...

Thanks JM. Good word because the logical come back is that I am belong to NO MA'AM (see married with children).

Anonymous said...

Oh, Daniel, I don’t really even know where to begin. I will say that I have disagreed with your thoughts/beliefs before, but I haven't said anything because they are your thoughts, and I respect that. But this time, it’s a little more personal to me, so I can’t just stay quiet. I think you are definitely guilty of grossly oversimplifying lots of things here.

First, on the topic of Jon and Kate, I think what they do is their business. I realize that it sort of became other people’s business when they started the show, but they did what they had to do for their family, so who am I to judge regardless of whether or not they are Christians?

Second, I find it very hard to believe that all men want in life are sex and video games (or sports or a job to be good at). I think that’s an incredibly sexist remark against your own gender, or at a minimum incredibly stereotypical. There are lots of other things that are important to a well rounded man. I think as a joke, most men would laugh about this, but if they were being serious, it is actually quite offensive.

Third, I don’t personally know of anyone in a healthy marriage who has ever “turned off the faucet” to get what they want. I can’t imagine ever doing that, and my husband having a job that pays more than mine isn’t the reason I wouldn’t do it. I have a job that brings in a decent paycheck and great benefits for my family, and I went to college and worked hard to have that, but I didn’t do that to put me on an equal playing field with my husband either. I did it for myself. But I don’t think that my husband has no need to be at home for fulfillment just because I have a job that pays decent money.

I have never boasted in my home that I am in charge, and I have never boasted (nor has my husband) that he is in charge. I’m not sure why someone has to be the boss of everything. For us, it works best if we talk about things and find a way that both our needs can be met, or if it’s an issue that’s just not as important to one of us, then we let the other one make the decision. I don’t think that this is either unhealthy or a failure as you stated in your post.

I would also have to disagree whole-heartedly with your notion that the children are always closest to their mother just because she birthed them. Children are very innocent and will love and be closest to anyone who invests in them emotionally and otherwise. A parent who nurtures their child and spends time with them will be closest to their child. And it is possible for both parents to be equally close to their child. I don’t think it should be a competition, and the child shouldn’t be used as a pawn or for leverage.

When you refer to running a marriage like a business, I think most successful businesses have many people who take part in the decision making process based on their abilities and expertise. Marriage to me is about so much more than sex, money, and who gets to be the boss. I absolutely do not agree with you on any of this! These are my beliefs as a Christian woman with a close relationship with God.

~Chrissy Staifer

Dan said...

Chrissy, thanks for you input. Whether you know it of not, I agree with almost all of what your wrote.

On Jon and Kate, I applaud them for trying to do what they have to do to survive. Like with Carrie Prejean, I was reacting more against Christian making celebrities out of people simply because someone says they are a Christian. I then used it to discuss why the idea of equality of every voice within every decision making is a myth speaking and true equality in opinions are myth outside of a Biblical worldview.

The Bible says only a fool will make a decision by himself and that we all have a tendency to believe the lie that we are all knowing. Also, the Bible says that we should be humble enough to learn from all people. But do really practice this apart from the help of Jesus? In reality some people's opinions have more weight than others.

I was discussing how this might work out in marriage for two people to who believe that every decision is made 50/50 all the time. I was trying to say it is an argument used by men that don't want to live up to large responsible place on them by Jesus (see below). This agrees to your point about men better more than just sex/video games addicts.

Even now, you are probably writing off my opinion as non authoritative. Why? You have made up your mind on the issue already and you don't need to listen to what I say because you don't think I know what I'm talking about. But if you read some one who had a similar opinion, you would lend it more weight. Just like you would listen to a doctor about health issues more than a bum off the street (or your husband about welding/robots more than me).

That's fine. But as a Christian Woman, I don't want you to listen to what I have to say any way. What does the Bible (God's Word) say on these matters should be the only thing that matters. I can make a case for gender roles from the Bible, what is from the Bible leads you to your position?

I agree with college for women and men. On Colbert the other night, the author of Womanomics was on and she said something many things I agree with the biggest being that woman today have to know when to focus on career and when not to and they can't do it like they have for the last 30 years (trying to be like Men). I 100% agree.

Dan said...

Men that say otherwise are foolish. The Bible says that men and women are both created in the image of God and both should be few as co-heirs of the Kingdom of God as it says in Galatians 3 and 4.

And I said marriage isn't a business and we shouldn't treat it like one but many today practically live out marriage like out rather (like we live out our relationship with God). Much of what I wrote was trying to deal with how people think that don't have any biblical understanding. Things that I have read and heard form atheists and others over the year ad trying to show the logical end of their actions., for instance, ( and talks about living together in the terms of business minded/me-first/profit first attitude that I was writing against. Can you agree that many talk in these terms? What all ask what is in it for me. I agree it isn't healthy especially so in marriage.

But if we are honest with ourselves, is the real reason we obey is because we are afraid of punishment? While it may not be "turning off the faucet", it may be to keep from getting fire, going to Hell, getting divorce, losing a friend, etc.? We obey to be accepted/not punished. That was the point I was making. The Bible says that in 1 John 4 that punishment based love is not love at all and the work of Jesus saves us TO something more than it simply saves us FROM something.

Also, I agree that marriage is "more than sex, money, and who gets to be the boss." Marriage is about, as Ephesians 5 says,is to reflect the Glory of what Jesus did for us. A husband should lay down his life for his wife like Christ laid down his life for his bride, Church. Jesus is the ultimate authority and all have to answer to him. It reflects his relationship with his church. Any person that says pulls the I'm in charge card really isn't as this passage says.

If this is the case, Men should lead/be head by being the first to forgive, first to give up their pleasure, first to serve, first to take on the responsiblity of the home, first to suggest what is best and sacrifice. If there is problem (like not enough money), he should be willing to do what is necessary to solve it (i.e. pick up the second job). Because that is the model of Christ on the cross. Hebrews 13 says authority will be judged for how they rule.

Unfortunately, when we hear authority we hear power, not responsibility. In today's world, isn't always someone else's fault? In failed marriages, isn't it all always the other person's problem? To avoid that, the Bible places people in authority to keep that from happening (Romans 13).

The Bible agrees that "I don’t think it should be a competition, and the child shouldn’t be used as a pawn or for leverage." That went horribly for Jacob in Genesis 38.

Thanks for helping me clarify my position. I had forgotten to take some of these things into account.