PODCAST: The Slippery Slope of Giving Men Power over Women

by | Jun 24, 2021 | Faith, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 20 comments

Podcast: The Slippery Slope of Male Only Leadership in Church

It’s time for our next Start Your Engines podcast–the one where we talk more specifically to the guys!

Of course it’s always interesting for women, too, but we tend to bring Keith and Connor on more and we save up our guys’ reader questions!

Today on the podcast, Keith summarizes yesterday’s post on the slippery slope of believing in men’s hierarchy over women, and we address mental load and more.

Listen in!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Main Segment: The Slippery Slope Can go in the Other Direction, too!

Ever heard someone say, “once you stop believing that men should be in leadership or power over women, you’ll throw out the Bible and then all these terrible things will happen!”

Well, Keith’s point in yesterday’s post is that there’s a slippery slope that goes in the other direction, too. Once you believe that men should be in power over women, it can warp your sense of reality, warp your theology, and warp your sense of justice.

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, it’s great! And here we summarize the arguments.

Reader Question: How do we move forward when I’ve run roughshod over my wife?

A man chimes in and asks, “I’ve made some really bad mistakes because of both porn and theology and I’ve driven my wife away. How do we repair?”

My wife participated in the survey for your book The Great Sex Rescue. We pre-ordered it on Amazon and are getting through John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

We were converted right about the time we were married and went to conservative fundamental like churches and homeschooled their kids and believe the purity culture and all that. We recently changed churches so I think we’re away from the “wives submit to your husband…” dogma.

In listening to your podcasts I have realized I’ve run roughshod over my wife for decades. I quit porn about 5 years ago and went through David White’s book, sexual sanity for men. We want to fix our marriage, rebuild trust, etc., etc. I’m wondering if going through Gottman’s book and your book now and then do LMFT counseling or skip the books and go straight to counseling. Do you know of resources for men in my state. I realize I’ve sinned horribly against God and my wife.

But, before we can be restored there needs to be trust, grieving, PTSD counseling for my wife and likely more. Any advice and help would be appreciated. We’ve been married 31 years and I’m looking forward to the next 31, Lord willing, being much better. Thank you!

Great question! We gave our thoughts, but I’ll leave you with one observation (that I also made in the podcast!): When a spouse has felt unsafe in marriage, often he or she doesn’t really process that feeling or admit how damaging that feeling is as a protective measure. But when they’re finally safe, then all of those feelings of anger and sadness and hurt can come to the surface. Once they’re safe, often the grief bubbles up and needs to be processed. So give her time to process this (and a licensed therapist with trauma-based treatments is a great idea), and don’t be surprised if things are quite rough for a while before they’re better.

The Two Guys Go to the Beach

Finally, we’ve had a lot of talk about the “Let’s go to the beach” post and phenomenon on the blog, but not necessarily on the podcast. So Connor and Keith took this one themselves, and discussed how to divide mental load and figure out how to make things more equitable in your marriage. 

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:



Slippery Slope of Male Only Leadership in Churches
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Something interesting happened this Father's Day. I had so much fodder for a podcast--a terrible post by Focus on the Family telling women to "frame" their husbands as heroes, rather than telling men to act like heroes; a terrible postcard sent out by a Baptist church...


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  1. Kelly Ann

    Watched it! Loved it! Always good to hear Keith & Connor!
    Enjoy your camping trip!

  2. Jo

    One problem with comparing ***in absolute terms*** human marriage either to Christ and the Church (the universal church in all of time and space) or to God the Father and God the Son (both in His deity and during His incarnation) is that the husband IS NOT GOD. So therefore any comparison of marriage to the relationships of God with the Church and within the Godhead can only be taken so far. Marriage is between two humans and, because of the Fall, two sinful, imperfect humans.
    What Keith said is absolutely right. The submission, well, let’s be honest and call it subservience, of wives to husbands has most definitely bled over to subservience of all women to all men in too many churches (local manifestations of the eternal Church) and to general subservience of all women to all men in society at large.
    Men like Wayne Grudem and John MacArthur would probably never read, let alone take seriously, the arguments and analysis of someone like Marg Mowczko, because as men they don’t think they’re obliged to be taught by a woman.
    Yep, the last good, and godly, decision a woman makes is to get married. That action, to all intents and purposes, causes a lobotomy such that she is no longer able to think, make decisions, or otherwise operate as an ordinary human being.
    There’s lots of talk about MGTOW. That shoe can be worn on the other foot as well.
    As for husbands who have spent years or even decades treating their wives this way and thinking that a single apology and a day or two of niceness will suffice to undo the damage… That kind of emotional hurt simply cannot be fixed that quickly. And yes, she’s going to explode now that she finally feels free to actually express her feelings, because she’s undoubtedly shut up to “follow his lead” and “do what he wants.” She’s going to explode repeatedly, until all that hurt gets released, because she’s been “stuffing” for her whole marriage. AMHIK!!! (And my DH wasn’t mean or authoritative in any way at all, just oblivious.)

  3. Kelly

    Thank you so much for this! You have put into words the confusion, frustration and exhaustion I have felt over the years. I never realized ALL the things that it is assumed women should do in a family until I got married, and my load has only increased as the years have passed, especially as a homeschooling parent to a learning challenged child who also has chronic illness. I am EXHAUSTED mentally and emotionally. There is so much pressure on women to manage the mental load, and the church seems to emphasize that we should LOVE doing that, and if we don’t, we need to examine our hearts.
    Meanwhile the whole male leadership thing has been so confusing where – in my personal experience – it seems that most men are far more concerned that women DON’T lead then that they themselves take initiative. So women find themselves with this huge load and feeling in charge all the time all the while trying to make it appear that it is not so. Early in marriage I had the sense that the man was like the Queen of England while the wife is the parliament.
    These things have done so much damage to me, and now I see them affecting my daughter. I am trying to speak truth into her life, but in these things, I feel like a lone voice.

    • Noel

      Haha! I love that- I frequently feel Parliament to my husband’s Queen of England! The Russian saying is that the man is the head but the woman is the neck that turns it.

      • Laura

        I remember that quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Hilarious! I didn’t know it was a Russian quote.

  4. Katydid

    In the churches that believe women are under men, or wives under husbands, they are sometimes given advice to listen to their wives. She isn’t without wisdom, after all. BUT, the men are also taught that husbands are the heads of wives AND, like Eve and Jezebel, they will want to usurp your authority over them, so don’t let them.
    This creates a marriage where a wife is automatically “guilty” and the husband is suspicious of her. She may offer a little suggestion in a spirit of helpfulness, and he pulls the “she’s trying to usurp me” card. It’s a recipe for abuse.

  5. Maria Bernadette

    The idea that marriage should be a partnership is a slippery slope to accepting that God made women and men equal…is a slippery slope to accepting other Christian teachings… is a slippery slope to genuinely seeking God’s Will… a slippery slope to respecting the Bible enough to try and correctly understand it…
    The horrors. /end sarcasm

  6. Nathan

    Interesting thing: In 1 Timothy 2
    > > I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man
    Paul didn’t say “God does not permit this”. He said that he himself didn’t permit it.
    Also, such beliefs lead to ridiculous things like that father who was hideously offended that his kids didn’t like the same breakfast cereal that he did when he was a kid.

  7. Barbara Stephan

    I replied via email to this blog. Gregoire doesn’t validate or explain his claims that the theology of male authority is “misinterpreted” Yes there are poor husbands and father’s out there. That is due to the mishandling and exploitation of the authority that God has given them. Yes some fundamentalist churches exploit Scripture to mean that women never have a say and that they should always be home with the kids etc.
    Quite frankly I believe the biggest problem the family and church face is LACK of good male authority. Too many husbands and/or fathers abdicate their responsibilities in the family leaving everything up to the wife or mother. God’s Word says that the man is head over the wife as Christ is head over the church. And to love her AS CHRIST LOVES THE CHURCH. Gregoire insinuates the verses about Christ’s subjugation to the Father are misinterpreted but never gives a very good explanation in my view.
    I appreciate Sheila’s refreshing views on marriage relations but lately it sounds like she is injecting her own theology and opinions without giving solid support in Scripture for it.
    Finally I do not appreciate their insinuation that conservatives who take God at His Word (IN CONTEXT!!!!) are a bunch of narrow minded Biblically ignorant fuddy duddies who don’t know what they are talking about. There are hard truths in Scripture to be sure. Not everything in God’s Word is meant to be palatable.

    • Noel

      Of course, the problem is that everyone interprets those words differently. Many of us want to take God at His word- and feel the responsibility of looking for the correct interpretation. It is not always as simple as we might like it to be.

    • Maria Bernadette

      The more St. Paul’s passages are taken in context the better the case for equality in marriage.
      Case in point: if the people who he sent his letters to followed his instructions it would have REDUCED male power. So why should we apply those instructions in a different context (modern day societies) knowing it will get us the opposite result?
      Keith made a good sense arguments for his case. It is not possible for women and men to be equal and for one sex to be subjugated to the other at the same time. (Paraphrased). He said a lot more, but let’s focus on that.
      I have yet to see this cognitive dissonance adequately addressed by those who would argue that husbands should have authority over wives. Instead, people either redefine authority until it isn’t authority anymore or else redefine equality until it isn’t.
      If an ideology consistently bears bad fruit then it’s ok to question that ideology. Even if it means wondering if one has been misreading the Bible.
      Finally, I don’t think they were insulting Conservatives. If “conservative” means to keep what is good… We can throw out faulty ways of reading the Bible and still keep the Bible.
      It’s obvious that people can disagree on what constitutes faulty reading, though.

    • Keith

      For the record, I do not believe you are a narrow minded Biblically ignorant fuddy duddy. I just think we disagree about an issue.
      That said, the point of the article is not to make the case for my beliefs but to dispute the “slippery slope” argument that people who believe in hierarchy often use. It is not to rehash the whole debate again. The case for male and female equality has been made very well in many places which have been mentioned in some of the other comments.
      People who believe in hierarchy often assert that theirs is the only Christian viewpoint and they alone are interpreting the Bible accurately, which is simply not true. That is the point of the article.
      With respect, your comment is an excellent case in point.
      You clearly believe women are meant to be under male authority so you quote the Bible saying the man is the head OVER the wife. But it doesn’t say that. The Greek is κεφαλή της γυναικός which is “head OF the wife” or “the wife’s head”. It doesn’t say “over”. Plus the word head doesn’t mean authority. It is the same word used earlier in Ephesians 1:22-23. The metaphor of head is meant to convey mutuality not hierarchy. The verse can be interpreted differently than an authoritarian relationship. And I think it should be.
      As to your other point – Yes, some men have abdicated being actively involved in their families in many cases and that is a tragedy. It shows great immaturity on the part of those men. But men who won’t participate in marriage unless they are in charge are not the kind of people I would ever recommend marrying. A better solution is to come along side these men and help them mature enough to be equal partners in a healthy relationship.

      • Katydid

        I read a commentary that “head” doesn’t imply authority, but rather source, like the head of a river. Adam came from God, Eve came from Adam’s rib. However, after that man came from woman’s womb.

    • Wild Honey

      “ Too many husbands and/or fathers abdicate their responsibilities in the family leaving everything up to the wife or mother. ”
      So, what’s a wife in this situation supposed to do?
      I have personally seen a number of women try the “submit more” role (and tried it myself), and it quite frankly didn’t work.
      And the “take it to the elders” response has a bad track record, also. I have heard of (from my sister’s church) ONE instance where this worked. (The elders eventually ended up supporting the wife’s decision for a divorce, so, you decide whether or not it “worked.”) Every single other instance of “take it to the elders” incident I personally know of either produced no lasting change or backfired, with the wife in a worse situation than before. One of the elders who it was taken to actually turned out to himself be abusing his wife.
      So, again, what is a wife supposed to do, in your opinion?

  8. Anonymous305

    In this episode, Keith admitted to being insensitive at the beginning of their marriage, while Sheila said in a different episode that his love helped her heal. How did that work (insensitive and loving)????
    I love that in the original beach story the poor woman was both breastfeeding and on her period because it made a good point about all the supplies she’d need to remember, but I felt so bad for her. I bet she would love to take a nap in the air conditioning, but she can’t ☹️☹️☹️. Please don’t make me go to the beach while breastfeeding and menstruating!!!!
    I get so mad when guys don’t notice that wives pay the price for the husband’s laziness, such as when the wife has to care for the sunburned baby, and I get even more furious when they punish their wives for helping 😡😡😡!!!! By “punish for helping” I mean a bunch of commenters said that their husbands would complain in front of the kids that the wife was “taking to long” when she was gathering things that benefit him (and the kids). Feels like punishment to me because it feels like he’s telling the kids that she’s a worthless piece of trash while she’s working for their benefit 🤬🤬‼️!!!!
    I can see both sides of the issue about women micromanaging husbands because I’d hate to be on the receiving end, so I should respect that my husband doesn’t want to be either. At the same time, I know things about the dishwasher. I know that the middle row can’t have a tall plate because that’s where the center of the blade hangs lowest, and I know which things only go on bottom, which only on top, and which can go either place. When I switch the “either” dishes from bottom to top, it doesn’t mean “someone did it wrong”, it means we never know which level will fill up first. I decided to explain those things a little bit at a time.
    Finally, I feel bad for women in patriarchal churches who have lazy husbands because they end up leading out of NECESSITY with the added burden of trying to prove they’re not “usurping his authority”. ☹️❤️☹️

  9. Bethany#2

    So if that verse in 1 cor. (or 2nd?) Was using the context of he’s the “mouth of the river kinda head” of his wife, how does that change the entire passage? I remember that it was about the “headship order”(God, man, woman) and the head covering. I’d be curious how that little interpretation of “the head” changes the idea of all that.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’d really suggest checking out Marg Mowczko’s site. She is a Greek scholar and knows this well. When you go there, you can look up all the “problematic” verses and she has multiple posts on all of them!

  10. Anonymous305

    I just thought-I wonder how many people outside of the evangelical world wonder why women even get married under these teachings, or wonder if they have a choice. I wonder that about women in other countries!! In my case, it was my choice to get married, but I was dreaming of feeling so much love that I didn’t notice the authority. Reality hit after marriage. My husband never said anything about being in authority, but any hurt I felt was multiplied by the idea that God put him in authority, even if my husband didn’t notice. And if I was worried about financial decisions, I would only nicely, gently ask him to please be responsible because I “didn’t have authority” to say be an adult or I’m hiding my paycheck from you. In some places, the wife doesn’t have to co-sign to be responsible for the husband’s debts, but where I live, I’m only responsible for what I agree to (and thankfully, that’s nothing recently).
    I’m also analyzing how my parents didn’t promote the bad stuff, but didn’t refute it. My mom definitely questioned my dad when she wanted to, but didn’t explain how that was acceptable to the God of wifely submission. My parents thought purity culture was good because it gave more information than they had, when their only lesson was “don’t do it”. They didn’t notice the amount of shame involved. They modeled mutual discussion, but didn’t notice the abuse in popular books. They didn’t equate immodesty with immortality, but didn’t notice when the church did. They saw premarital sex as a mistake rather than furious wrath of God, but didn’t know that I’d feel the “wrath of God” for THINKING about sex.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I can understand completely how hurt that authority piece felt. It’s never made sense to me, ever, even as a girl. It’s not in line with the rest of the Bible about how Jesus tells us to listen to God and the Holy Spirit and cooperate. I’m glad you’ve found new ways of thinking now.

      • Anonymous305

        Thank you for offering the new ways of thinking, and thank God for the friend who shared podcast 86 that started my re-thinking. I can’t say that I feel completely free, but I tell myself that slow change is sustainable change.


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