My wife and I were on the edge. The last time I wrote about our relationship for The Witness, I was blissfully unaware of how close I was to dismantling our marriage. My sin is my sin and I blame nobody else for it but me. But with the provision of hindsight, I now see what I allowed to influence the devaluing of my wife: evangelical culture, more specifically the white kind of evangelicalism.

Providentially, God also used the white evangelical church to support us through counseling and help me see how their culture was damaging our marriage. As a result of this and some gray areas regarding racial justice, we knew it was time for us to divorce white evangelical culture and rediscover marriage outside of its purview.

Before We Begin…

I feel it’s important to note that my intention is not to paint with broad brushstrokes of white evangelical cultures. I also do not unfairly assume everyone who identifies with said cultures are intentionally harming marriages, although that should go without saying.

There are people in my life who know that I don’t use the term descriptively of skin color as I do categorically of a way of thinking and an ideal of life. Black and white aren’t terms that I made up. They are codes of caste that unnecessarily divide us (which is why CRT is an important discipline to study, but I digress). I know no matter what I say and no matter how I try to explain what “white evangelical culture” is, some will be offended. If that is the case, there may be a shoe in this narrative that fits for you.

My best advice is to sit with it, repent, and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is me and my wife’s experience with white evangelical culture, not a specific skin tone nor any specific church. For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Through Her Eyes

My wife has a very strong gift of discernment that I for too long tried to stifle in the name of “male headship.” She can see things and people for what and who they are, and what and who they will become. She perceived things that needed to be addressed in our church culture that I muffled her from saying in the false humility of not trying to stoke division. There were things we both felt were problematic about the white evangelical culture. But I didn’t feel equipped to call out because I felt we didn’t have the right or power to say because of who we represented as minorities in the midst of a predominantly white social structure.

Even prior to that, in college I was heavily influenced by leaders who highly discouraged any sort of female leadership. I remember listening to a sermon that insisted that any time women led in the Bible, it was God’s curse on that nation or community. From what I gathered, women were encouraged to stay home and raise children while men alone provided financially for the family. So when we were engaged, I tried to convince my wife to drop out of college and just be my stay-at-home wife.

My wife (God bless her) wasn’t hearing any of that. At this point, you’re probably asking why she stayed with me. It’s a question both of us are still scratching our heads trying to figure out. Eventually, I relented on my insistence that she drop out of school, but when she felt called to go to nursing school and pursue her calling to care for the vulnerable, I caused unnecessary contention in our second year of marriage and onward.

Gospel Rights

At this time, I attempted to lead us both deeper into white evangelical culture, and she was by my side prophetically calling out everything problematic with our surroundings. I grew frustrated that she was not like most other women in our evangelical social circles—calm, quiet, and deferentially submissive. She was the opposite—authentic, expressive, and vociferously forthright. “It’s like a boys’ club,” she would tell me whenever leaders in the church would address me before her or would skip over her to pass me information about family activities. The subtleties that she picked up were not merely trivial annoyances, but leaks of toxicity that would only become more clear to me later when issues of racial justice and reconciliation would affect me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Our sex life also suffered because of how I allowed white evangelical culture to influence me. The strictest sects of the subculture taught me that my wife was to remain submissive to me, even if she felt devalued by me. The more “liberal” complementarian views taught me that I should love and do things for her so that she would feel okay submitting sex to me on my terms. Either way, I learned marital sex was my right, whether I demanded it or manipulated it.

I never wondered why when the married men in our home groups would gather together to confess our sins, “lust” and “pride” were always the two main topics we struggled with. Now I see the pervasive feeling of failure was prominent when our wives wouldn’t allow themselves to be objectified by us. As a result, we felt like we were not walking in “the will of God” as leaders of our homes, which left us wanting to find other ways to master the perceived control we were called to have.

But thank God for a wife who wasn’t putting up with my bull. With help from counseling, we were both able to see and confess our struggles with control. My boyish desires and selfish rationalization pushed us both to the edge of destruction. My wife doesn’t owe me anything simply because I am a man and she is a woman, nor does she need me to validate her. She is strong, capable, intelligent, and spiritually gifted in her own right. God made her this way, for this time, place, and generation, for his glory. I’m convinced he will not allow any subcultural influence, nor I to stand in the way for how he is going to use her. Just as Jesus has freely given us himself, we likewise give ourselves—our time, talents, energy, bodies, and unique giftedness—freely to one another.

Read Part 2 Here!


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