Last week, a video of Steven Crowder berating his wife Hilary went viral.
Hilary was eight months pregnant with twins at the time, and video showed her trying to de-escalate while Steven Crowder yelled at her, swore at her, threatened her (“Watch it!”), and accused her of not respecting him.
In listening to Steven Crowder’s tirade, I felt that it bore an incredible resemblance to the theology in Love & Respect. This is the natural outcome of following Love & Respect’s principles.
Baptist News invited me to write an opinion piece for them about this, and it landed on Wednesday.
I’d like to share some of it here, but I invite you to read the whole thing! (The more clicks it gets, the more I can write for them later!).
Let’s dissect Steven Crowder’s main argument to understand why many may not recognize the abuse. His main concern was her lack of respect, which was odd, because she actually was being exceedingly respectful. She did not raise her voice, insult him or belittle him. She was not passive aggressive. She stated her boundaries clearly but also repeatedly declared she loved him and was committed to him. She volunteered to pick up the shopping items he was concerned about.
How, then, could Crowder accuse his wife of being disrespectful?
Likely because he was defining respect the way far too many in the conservative evangelical community do. While most of us consider speaking respectfully as the dictionary defines it — with “due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others” — Christian marriage resources often mean something entirely different.
Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs, is one of the most commonly used marriage curricula in North American churches and has popularized the idea that men desperately need respect while women desire love. This book, which has sold more than 2 million copies, defines the respect husbands are owed using the acronym CHAIRS: (my summary in italics):
C — Conquest: I recognize and thank him for his desire to work — because men’s natural place is in the workforce; women’s natural place is at home.
H — Hierarchy: I thank him for his motivation to protect and provide for me — because marriage is a hierarchical relationship.
A — Authority: I acknowledge his desire to lead and don’t subvert his leadership —because the husband is in charge.
I — Insight: I listen appreciatively to his ideas and the advice he wishes to offer — because women are susceptible to deception, so should trust their husbands instead of themselves.
R — Relationship: I value his desire for me to be his friend and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him — because a woman can’t expect her husband to enjoy just talking to her.
S — Sexuality: I respond to his needs sexually; I don’t deprive him — because men need “physical release” while women do not.
Reading Eggerichs’ sex chapter in Love and Respect was the impetus for our book The Great Sex Rescue, based on our survey of 20,000 predominantly evangelical women. In that chapter, he framed sex as about a husband’s physical release; left intimacy out of the equation; and never mentioned that a wife could and should feel pleasure too. (See our scorecard that breaks down why Love and Respect scored 0/48 on our healthy sexuality rubric).
But let’s leave sex and focus instead on what Hilary Crowder would learn if she read Love and Respect about hierarchy, authority and insight. She would hear that her good-willed husband’s deepest desire is to protect her, even if she doesn’t always see it. When she questions his decisions, she disrespects him and dishonors his place in the family. When she expresses an opinion, objection or even disappointment, she can violate the structure of the marriage. He, on the other hand, has the ability and right to label anything he doesn’t like as disrespectful.
That’s exactly what Eggerichs does in Love and Respect. His wife reminding him to stop leaving wet towels on the bed and candy wrappers on the floor? Disrespectful. (p. 243). His wife feeling upset because he forgot her birthday? Disrespectful. (p. 12).
It’s not much of a leap to: An eight-months-pregnant-with-twins wife not wanting to give the dog medicine in case it endangers the babies? Disrespectful.
So what is Hilary to do? Basically nothing.
Over and over again, instead of showing how wives can make their needs or opinions known, Eggerichs quotes 1 Peter 3:1-4, encouraging women to be gentle and quiet and “win him without words.”
Her words are a problem. Her opinions are a problem. Her expectations that they achieve real intimacy are a problem.
She is a problem.
Read the whole thing here! And please share it on your social media, because we need to help people see how problematic Love & Respect is. And don’t forget to share our downloadable one sheet summarizing all the problems with the book too!
On Wednesday, when I began sharing that article, I started hearing from so many women in abusive situations. I wish I could do more. But I want you all to know that I do see.
One woman messaged me on the sly. She was sitting in the parking lot at a McDonald’s restaurant while her husband went to order an ice cream she didn’t want. They were out for their anniversary. If she said no, it would ruin the night. He would accuse her of acting impossible. Snooty. Judgmental.
I want to be her witness.
I don’t know the vast majority of those who come to my page. But many of you have husbands whose whispers in the night are poison; whose steely stares in public are daggers; whose kisses are weapon.
And all along, you are told, “just make yourself smaller.”
I can’t see into your living room, your bedroom, your car on the way to church.
I can’t see the text messages.
But what I can do is see the words in the books you likely read. I can listen to the preachers who have told you to try harder, speak more softly, submit more. I can listen to the women who told you just to pray.
I can read the words that were said over you–and I can feel viscerally how those words made your situation worse.
I can see how “just pray more” was used to tell you that if your husband treats you badly, it’s because there’s sin in your life that is blocking your prayers.
I can see how “God designed the husband to lead” has been used to tell you that God rejoices when your husband makes the final decision–even if it’s a decision that puts your family in financial jeopardy or moves you far from your support system.
I can see how, little by little, not only were your dreams of a good marriage dashed, but your safety with God was dashed too.
I can see how the church stole Jesus right out from under you.
And I want to tell you: I see it. I see it everyday how terrible this advice is. Thousands of years later, the voice of Jeremiah echoes: “Woe to those who call good, evil, and evil, good.” “Woe to those who say, peace, peace, when there is no peace.”
Whether you are trying to put a happy face on as you pray your husband doesn’t ruin another anniversary; trying to placate him so he doesn’t explode; trying to submit enough so he doesn’t berate you–I see you.
I will witness this.
God is raising a new generation who will witness this.
God is not closing His eyes, and neither will we.
He is on the move to rescue–to dash down the teaching that has destroyed his people, and to show you the real Jesus once again.
For Jesus sees. Jesus witnesses. And Jesus weeps.
He does not tell you to try harder. He tells you that you matter.
My hope and prayer is that we will all witness that.
Do you feel like things are changing? Have you had people in your circle speaking up against Love & Respect? Let me know in the comments!
I went straight to the article when you linked to it in Facebook.
At the time I wanted to comment there but they don’t allow comments. I can only guess why. All the L&R apologists would inundate them with stupid comments.
Glad you refer to, quote, and linked it here. It is a good article and worth discussion.
So grateful to see an example of this kind of toxic behavior out in the open! Not glad for the women who have lived it, but to finally have a present example of the harm this kind of teaching does. Thank you for presenting and pointing out how L&R enables abuse. I tried commenting on the original article too, but they don’t have comments! I have read it twice now and will share the article. I am so grateful to see tides turning.
Pray for Hilary, her children, and other women experiencing this emotional abuse, control and intimidation.
Absolutely sick. Breaks my heart that people like this are successful in this world.
He’ll be a lot less successful if we have anything to say about it!
Thank you Sheila. I shared your article on my FB page and I hope my friends can see the dangers in this book Love And Respect. Praying that eyes will be open and ears and hearts are receptive. I’m glad your doing excellent work and your team to continue to shine light on all these toxic teachings in the church.
This is so beautifully written. Every time I read your break down of “Love and Respect ” I wonder how I fell for it the first time I read the book- it’s so clearly wrong! Unless you believe that gender roles are a major part of Christian living: if you believe that (and I did) you never see any red flags. While we were never Gothardites growing up, we did attend his seminars a couple times; we subscribed to Wisdom’s Gate’s homeschooling magazine, and read Jonathan Lindvall. I originally found your site (10 years ago) because I was trying to respect my husband’s desire for me to orgasm from intercourse alone, and to orgasm more regularly. (Yes, it is ironic that I was trying to figure out how to orgasm for my husband’s sake. He is not a jerk, but teaching and the movies really affected his thinking.) Over the years you have helped me to reshape my thinking about gender roles. I am so glad for “She Deserves Better”! I want my girls to be better prepared.
Are things changing?
Sometimes, what I see still being published, spoken and written makes me think there is no change – or that it’s getting worse.
But then I think about myself. How I would have reacted to these sermons or articles or books 5 years ago, or 10, or 15, compared to how I react now.
I’ve changed. I can see the false teaching. I can call it out. And I may be just one, but if I’m changing, then lots of other people probably are too. So yes, I think things are changing for the better. Thank you for all the work you are doing towards this change
I agree! My views are sooo different than they used to be, and I’m trying my best to speak out about these things in conservative church environments.
Same here! And my husband, too. People are seeing things differently. There is hope.
That post is SUCH a great response to the video! Well done! It’s mind boggling that people can think that isn’t abuse. But at the same time, I remember being shocked as a young wife when someone on a (secular) message board told me I was being abused. (That was after a rash of people calling me a liar because “no one would respond to you like if that was all you did.” So the way my husband treated me was so awful that people accused me of lying rather than believing my husband would actually respond like that. Crazy!)
Thankfully in the last 20 years people have figured out that abuse goes beyond bruises and broken bones. As a teenager I wished my mom would just haul off and hit me so I could prove that I was being abused, but for some reason I couldn’t see the same thing as a wife. No, it isn’t for SOME reason! It’s because I was being told by Christian leaders and books that if **I** were more submissive, my husband wouldn’t treat me that way.
I was worried that watching the leaked video would be triggering, but it really wasn’t. Probably because it’s mild compared to much of what I’ve lived through. I still consider his actions in the video abuse, don’t get me wrong. Apparently it takes more to trigger me.
One thing that has helped my healing is seeing how things have changed. I’ve mentioned in other comments on this blog how my husband has changed a lot in the last few years. Plus even more recently I’ve told my current church leaders what I went through years ago (same church, new leadership) and they apologized for what I went through and even wanted to know who told me those things. I’ve also recently had a friend cry after hearing what I went through. Both of those experiences were really validating.
I just had another thought about why I didn’t feel triggered watching the video — I dissociate easily, so I may have dissociated rather than feeling triggered. That makes a lot of sense, actually.
That really *does* make sense! And explains for me why I don’t react to very much any more! Dissociation… hmmm.
It really is a protective measure. Sometimes I’m glad for it, other times not so much.
Why is the whole burden placed on girls and women? Where are instructions to boys and men to be just decent human beings, let alone to be like Jesus?
Romans 12:18, CEB:
If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.
A lot of women have completely worn themselves out striving way beyond their ability. But no matter what we do, how much we sacrifice, how much we give, how much we erase ourselves, IT’S NEVER ENOUGH.
Well, I, for one, have nothing to give anybody beyond my immediate family. And I’m not going to feel bad or guilty or less than anymore.
Thank you, Sheila and team, for raising so many of us out of the morass that the church has become. ❤️
Crowder definitely needs to reexamine his definition of “respect”.
And a bit late, but from yesterdays blog, the poster who mentioned a pastor who thinks that women shouldn’t even PRAY. Wow. Every time I think that the extremists have hit bottom, they dig a little bit more. I haven’t read the entire bible, but I don’t remember ANY passage that even HINTS that prayer is only for men.
Yeah, that was a doozy.
How low CAN they go? 😂
Haven’t you heard? It’s because men are second to God Himself and can therefore do no wrong! They are superior in every way to that fallible, deceptive, weak creature called woman. *end sarcasm*
Seriously, though, it’s like they deliberately ignore Jesus’ call for men to take their own sin into account and do better. Actually, I think a lot of these evangelicals do because they want to justify their own twisted beliefs – and, as we’ve been finding out, creepy fixation on young girls.
I do think things are changing. My new church is filled with “refugees” from local mega churches and most are complementarian. This Sunday we are starting a series on women in the Bible, and every week in May they’re doing a video testimony from a woman who has been harmed by the church. It’s going to be so powerful…I can’t imagine a church doing this even a few years ago. (I introduced the head pastor to your podcast and he loves it!)
I meant the mega churches are complementarian, not the refugees. I worded that wrong 🙂
Oh, wow! That sounds like an amazing church! That gives me so much hope.
That is amazing, and I love it!