Divorcing (White) Evangelicalism, Remarrying My Wife — Part 2
I write and share these words because I know there are others who are allowing white evangelical culture to influence their relationships and it is subsequently damaging their marriages. I know there are couples who feel the pressure to have children because their subculture preaches that they should (implicitly or explicitly) even though they may not have the resources to start a family yet, don’t have the desire to start a family yet, or are unable at the moment.
I know there are wives who are suffering silently, trying to find ways to stop their husbands from objectifying them and instead start treating them as sisters of our Lord Jesus and queens deserving of respect. And likewise, there are husbands who are feeling like failures, because they are listening to the men in their small groups brag about how much sex they’re having with their wives on a weekly basis, believing that is the mark of a healthy Christian marriage.
As a result, I know there are men who feel they aren’t fitting the mold of what a “godly” husband looks like when in reality, they just aren’t fitting the mold of what a white evangelical husband looks like. There may even be those who’ve left the white evangelical culture, but are still influenced by it in the ways they try to lead their families.
More, more, more
From my observations, marriages steeped in white evangelical culture leaves most wanting for more: more love, more control, more understanding, more power, more freedom. I’m not just referring to ethnically non-white people. White evangelical culture is a detriment to everyone who succumbs to its demands, because it preaches a gospel of behavioral change, male dominance, and female silence (except in limited capacities if the setting is perceptibly more “progressive”), instead of a gospel of freedom and salvation (spiritually and culturally) for all who repent and call on Jesus.
When we understand the nuance of white evangelicalism as an arm, not of Christianity, but of western dominance and power, we will also see how much of it is antithetical to the person and mission of Jesus. Yeshua came, not to be served, but to serve. He held all power on earth but did not wield it, demanding submission to Him. Nor did he use his power to manipulate us to follow him. He simply spoke the truth (which was power enough in itself) in love and submitted himself to the world, who in turn crucified him. He is our example for righteous living. So what do we do with that? We lay aside and strip off every weight of sin that so easily ensnares us—even the ones that look pious and saintly.
Work After The Divorce
With the person of Yeshua at the helm, our marriage looks much different today. It’s almost like we’re starting over and rediscovering one another. It’s weird to think that our marriage became healthier only after we left the culture that was pervasive in our church. But that’s how white evangelical culture works. It makes you believe you are incapable of walking in any kind of dignity, that you’re not worth any significance outside of its walls.
My wife and I are retracing our steps in Christ’s freedom together. We are learning to give each other the space necessary to move about in freedom, and the grace to forgive one another, and the respect to listen to correction from one another without feeling the weight of dominance, manipulation, or objectification that often accompanies white evangelical culture. It’s almost as if I rediscovered a new best friend and remarried my wife all over again. All it took was a divorce from white evangelical culture.
12 thoughts on “Divorcing (White) Evangelicalism, Remarrying My Wife — Part 2”
Phew, I’m so glad I live in the UK. I’ve never encountered these problems in our church. I even had to google the definition of ‘complementarian’. My husband had never heard of this concept either.
Timothy, I saw you on Sheila Wray Gregoire’s podcast last week and she posted the link to your blog. Thank you for sharing your story about your marriage. I didn’t realize how damaging this doctrine could be to men as well as women. I believe what makes a marriage work is putting God first and letting Him be in charge. Keep it up and continue to grow in your relationship with God and your wife.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so thankful you and your wife are following Jesus and not white men.
Thanks for this…
I am in the decolonizing stage of development. This further confirms what God spoke to me when I asked Her why I couldn’t have a marriage like I saw in the church.
“You have a different walk”.
Some caution too. It’s very easy to fall into the world’s definition of value by which one avenue is that it tells women they can only be of equality with men, by being the same and doing the same as men. This worldview leads to the actual devaluation of women, because they’ve strived after an equality they can’t achieve except at the expense of their own nature. Abortion being a prime end result of this.
That worldview creeps into the church as much as domineering men do, who think they are valued because of their “authority”. But regardless of one’s opinion on roles at home or in the church, the gospel does not declare value on the basis of roll, responsibilities, or works. If you are not starting there, you will be led astray.
I always appreciate your articles. My wife grew up around men just like the one’s you mentioned. It does some damage. I’ve learned a lot of what the gospel calls a husband too, and no where am I finding an authoritarian excuse to subjugate her. But I think you misunderstand as many even in evangelical circles who toss the word around complementarianism and what it means. Here’s a good article summing up the very same issues that you found and are addressing. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/complementarianism-for-dummies/
1. Complementarianism isn’t defined as nor is it the license to abuse, dominate, or subjugate a wife. It isn’t complementarianism that leads to this, but the ignoring of Scripture and our own selfish sins. And such abuses are not limited to white evangelicalism or any other stereotyped grouping. Go spend time in another church and you’ll find men who do the same thing and do so under egalitarianism at that too.
2. Complementarianism is built on 2 primary, Biblical principles for me: a. God established our value as human beings in the first place and is further reinforced by Christ’s offer of salvation. This means our value is not dependent upon our gender, our roles, our works, jobs, color, intelligence, or any other extra criteria. Adam, given a responsibility over Eve does not and cannot make him greater or her less. Women not being Levitical priests did not make them less or Levitical men greater. The Son is not less than the Father or the Holy Spirit because their roles differ, while they are a complement to their Oneness. But we, and especially women often feel this way as in our brokenness and sin nature we keep trying to earn our value. b. This means true leadership for a husband is sacrificial service to his wife and family as Ephesians 5 calls a husband to be as Christ is to the church. It is not authoritarian in practice or the excuse to be so. It does not tell husbands to tell their wives to submit.
Likewise wives who disrespect and devalue their husbands result in marriages that crumble just the same. When spouses do not live toward each other as we ought, the measuring sticks come out, the insecurities abound, and we blame others. It’s wonderful to see you and your wife begin living toward each other. May the Lord continue to bless your marriage, and through yours, others.
Keith James III
How can I get in contact with you Timothy?
The articles are too brief to exegete scripture in, and any fool can see they are a personal story anyway.
Interesting to see that the first two commenters completely and utterly missed the point: especially the first one (white guy, of course).
As an Australian I don’t see or fully understand the pressures of white evangelical culture and how it intersects with race issues in America, however we do have a our parallels and we have pockets of the sort of complementarianism described. In those circles white evangelical male leaders who hail from America are widely read (surprise, surprise!). This does seep into broader church culture here in Australia, so even if no one would actually SAY to the guys at church ‘you’re the spiritual ‘head’ of the home (or something like that ) people come to believe it anyway as they’ve picked up the idea by osmosis.
When hubby and I married neither of us were what we would call ‘complementarian’ yet he still had some fuzzy notion that he was solely in charge of our spiritual development that he’d picked up within weeks of coming to church with me (prior to that he was not a Christian). We had to discuss that, at length and repeatedly, sometimes not without angst or tears, but we worked through it.
In a way this is even harder to counter than blatant complementarianism because there are less outspoken ‘rules’ to address. Everything is about underlying long-held assumption (although that’s true of all patriarchal thought).
Thanks for these excellent articles.
I am sorry but that is an incorrect statement to attribute, what you have discussed in the above articles, to a western minded view (“white” or “white caste”). Those issues are pervasive sin issues that permeate most if not all religions in the world and their many cultures and colors. Christ Centric approach is spot on and I do not disagree with the issues. But to tag it the way that you have is misleading if not wholly inaccurate.
Lisa, I’m happy our experience resonates with you and your husband. Like I mentioned in part 1, I don’t think it’s a skin color problem as much as it is a construct of western male dominance we’ve adapted from the world and incorporated in our church communities. We’re all better without it and marriages are definitely better with a Christ-centric approach.
I’m the classic white evangelical church lady… and much of your post could have been my marriage of 35 years. It’s taken me decades to slowly get my husband to deconstruct the white ev. marriage norms that almost destroyed us (and me). I doubt he’ll ever get to a place where we can leave our church community (it’s huge, super-white, well-led but all that complementarian evangelical churches can be, for better or worse) but he’s no longer living in the burdensome toxicity you’ve written about… and stepping into the fullness of his role as a respectful and respected husband. I’m so glad to be able to share your words with him – thank you for this heartfelt, humble and true post.