Monday, September 18, 2023

Anonymous Asks (267)

“Can a Christian be a stay-at-home dad?”

All “Can I” questions from Christians provoke much the same reaction in me, which is something along the lines of “Why do you want to do something you already suspect is questionable?”

In this case, really questionable.

A New Masculine Stereotype

I wrote a post a while back about Jay Deitcher, a man trying (with limited success) to live out a “new masculine stereotype” in which he is the best nurturing father possible, including quitting his job and devoting himself to raising his infant son full time. Deitcher came from a family in which his father nominally wore the pants, but mom actually made all the important decisions while dad buffed his nails and watched Hallmark movies. The irony, of course, is that this stay-at-home dad isn’t actually “creating” anything new, he is simply falling into another well-established stereotype, playing the good housewife, which then obliges his partner to take on the more traditionally masculine role of provider and decision-maker for the family.

Men like Jay Deitcher are at war with their own biology, coveting a role for which God did not design them and encouraging their wives to attempt the same. They find manliness distasteful and responsibility a burden, so they opt for something less emotionally challenging and physically daunting. They are refusing to grow up and become what God made them to be.

From the Beginning It Was Not So

Now of course, not all stay-at-home dads are Jay Deitcher. Some end up stuck in the role by (apparent) necessity. They would be perfectly fine with working full time if only they could find work, or maybe they have some kind of illness, injury or disability that makes it impossible for them to do so.

In some cases, they may have bound themselves by lifelong vows to a wife who simply refuses to take a “back seat”, a driven career woman with no interest in raising children who would happily pack off her offspring to daycare if she were unable to coerce her husband to step into her shoes. In situations like these, a Christian man staying home full time feels he is making the best he can of a bad deal, filling a role for which he is less than perfectly qualified because he feels there is no other option available to him.

As the Lord Jesus put it in another context, “From the beginning it was not so.

The Genesis Pattern

In the book of Genesis, God created Adam first. Eve was nowhere to be seen. Next, God gave him a job and instructions about what to do and what not to do. After putting Adam through the exercise of ruling this new world as a solo act so he would come to recognize his need of a partner, God finally gave Adam an appropriate helper, one who corresponded to his need in the role for which God had designed him. Eve was not created to do a different job from Adam, or to “self-actualize” in the world. She was created to help him do his God-given job better than he could’ve done it by himself.

Now, there is no suggestion in the text that Eve was a mere afterthought in creation. Her role was absolutely necessary to the completion of humanity as God envisioned it. But it is also evident man’s role in the world came first and that woman was created to better enable him to fill it. So long as Eve did what God had designed her to do — helping Adam do his job — all was well with our world. The moment she began to act independently of Adam and in defiance of God’s will and design, things went horribly south.

That didn’t take long.

The Teaching of the New Testament

I’m not reading something esoteric or novel into the Genesis account. The pattern established in God’s design for humanity at the very beginning — a husband acting and working at the direction of God and his wife acting and working at the direction of her husband in order to help him fulfil his role — is reinforced repeatedly for the Christian in the New Testament teaching of the apostles. Paul writes Titus, “… train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands.” The apostle counseled young widows to marry, bear children and manage their households.

The NT wife was not a doormat. She had genuine agency and full control of the home environment, but her role in life was to manage home and children in order to free up her husband to do the job of serving God by providing and caring for his family.

The Pattern of the Old Testament

This pattern is also replicated in the godly couples of OT history. “This is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” As master of that famous household, it is a matter of record that Abraham made the occasional poor decision. But he was a devout man trying to walk before God to the best of his ability at the outer limits of his faith, so God consistently stepped in to bail him out. However, when Abraham allowed Sarah to usurp his role and interpret God’s will for them, his unwillingness to lead her resulted in consequences that still plague their offspring today. Ishmael would never be the heir of promise. His descendants would give the world the religion of Islam and 1,500 years of bloody, imperialistic wars.

But when Sarah called Abraham “lord” out of a truly submissive spirit and not just as a formality, apparently things went pretty well. God considered her submissive conduct an “adornment” to her natural beauty, and encouraged others to emulate it.

All Fun and Games? Not So Much

Now, nobody is saying that living out either the biblical role of a husband or the biblical role of a wife is an easy task.

Leading is not always fun. Walking before God in a position of authority is a grave responsibility for which men will be judged more strictly. Decision-making can be terrifying, especially when you love your wife and family and recognize the potential negative impact of a suboptimal decision you make on them. Further, there is always the temptation for weak men to misuse the authority God gave them and become little Hitlers in the home. On the wife’s part, submission can be equally terrifying. Your husband might make mistakes and you might have to pay the price. There is always the temptation for weak women to grab the wheel and try to steer the family where they think it should be going.

But this domestic division of labor is not only God’s design for the family, when lived out consistently by both spouses, it is a tremendous testimony to the unsaved, a blessing to all and a living illustration of Christ’s relationship to his church.

Why Do Something Questionable?

So I ask again, given all that, why would a man want to take on a role he thinks is questionable for him, even for a short period? Why take from his wife a role that will be most fulfilling for her, and for which she was perfectly designed? If you have been equipped to provide, get out there and do it. So says the apostle Paul.

Sure, lots of Christian relationships are nominally egalitarian and practically feminized. In every one I have ever witnessed up close, both parties are miserable. The man is indulging his fleshly inclination toward laziness and accommodation, going along to get along. He is failing to love his wife. Being a house husband will never help him become what God intended him to be or accomplish that for which he was designed. The woman is indulging her fleshly inclination to dominate her husband, but reliably finds herself at sea trying to play a role for which she is ill equipped, and which God will steadfastly refuse to bless.

Don’t go that route. The world is preaching it. That’s your first clue it doesn’t work.

No comments :

Post a Comment