Male Passivity: Does the Danvers Statement See the Problem the Right Way?

by | Jun 13, 2023 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 74 comments

Male Passivity in the Danvers Statement on complementarianism
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Sheila here!

Our June series on Bare Marriage is all about the four problems that those who believe in hierarchy in marriage say we can encounter. And my husband Keith’s the one writing the series! It’s based on the Danvers Statement, a codified statement of complementarianism.

Keith’s been thinking about this a lot, and I’m so pleased to welcome him back to the blog again!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Passivity and Domination in Men: How do we see them?

How often have you heard a sermon from someone who believes in hierarchy in marriage about the dangers of a husband using his position to dominate his wife?

And how often have you heard about the dangers of male passivity in marriage and society?

We are in the middle of a four-part series about the ways that hierarchy in marriage can go wrong according to people who believe in gender hierarchy by looking at the Danvers Statement and considering the way it discusses these issues.

The Danvers Statement was released by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 1988, and is the rallying point for those that believe in a hierarchy between men and women. It teaches that God’s plan for marriage is a husband’s sacrificial leadership and a wife’s willing submission, and claims this can go wrong in four ways:

  • A husband can err toward domination or passivity
  • and a wife can err toward usurpation or servility.

Basically, it suggests a spectrum where God’s perfect plan is the middle ground between opposing errors as shown in the graphic below:

Danvers Statement Complementarianism

I will be discussing each of these four errors in turn. Today’s topic is “Passivity”. In my first article last week, I discussed “Domination”. Specifically, I talked about how teachers of male authority over women, while labeling domination as an evil, do nothing to stop it in real lifeThey avoid grappling with the natural consequence that granting men authority over women will certainly in some cases lead to abuse, and instead simply explain away any case of abuse as the actions of a sinful man. 

Do hierarchists take domination seriously?

But even if we believe that men being in charge is a good thing, if we also believe that the “heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”, then it follows that we must anticipate some men will misuse the authority God has given them. Should we not then do everything in our power to keep women safe?

After all, the point of patriarchy is the protection of women, not the preservation of male authority, right?


So where are the blog posts from proponents of male hierarchy that teach in detail what a man dominating his wife looks like so we can all recognize and confront this error immediately? Where are the sermons warning how domination can subtly sneak in and is just as pernicious as overt abuse so we need to be on our guard?

If they exist, I have not seen them. All I see are vague assertions that “of course we do not condone abuse” and “of course women need to seek safety”.

In fact, in every case that I can recall where domination was talked about, it was as a caveat in a sermon or article about how women need to submit. “Men should not use their authority to hurt women” is always the buried lede; the headline is “Women, submit more!”

We treat passive men like the real problem

But in stark contrast to the reticence to talk about the sin of male domination, it seems to me the evangelical church is practically falling over itself to decry the dangers of male passivity. Need an example? Well, consider Father’s Day which is coming up this Sunday. My experience in the evangelical church has been that while pastors’ sermons on Mother’s Day celebrate motherhood, on Father’s Day the sermon is more often than not a tirade about how the world is going to hell in a handcart because men are not stepping up and living out their God-ordained leadership.

At any given time in some corner or other of the evangelical world, one can hear people opining about how the church is in decline because men are too passive (usually phrased as “not manly enough”). We hear constant talk about the “crisis in masculinity”, how horrible it is that men in general – and husbands in specific – are disengaging and not fulfilling their roles.

The problem of male passivity is defined too narrowly

Now this would all be well and good if the goal was to encourage husbands not to leave everything on their wife’s plate, but to take up their share of the burden. I can get on board with the idea that women want an equal partner not some passive extra child! 

But tragically, as far as I can see, the idea is never phrased as a husband taking on his fair share of the work involved in maintaining the relationship; it is always phrased as him taking LEADERSHIP of their relationship. In other words, it’s not that there is asymmetry and he needs to pull his weight. The problem is the asymmetry is tilted in the wrong direction and needs to be corrected by him taking back his God-ordained authority.

Passion 4 Dancing

I find this rhetoric fascinating and darkly humorous in a number of ways.

For a start, it is clear to me that passivity is not the true issue; the true issue is that men are not in charge. I encourage you whenever you hear someone talking about the problem of male passivity to decide for yourself, but in every case that I have witnessed, “passivity” is never used in the proper sense, but always as a proxy for failing to lead.

If the concern were really about men not being passive, then an egalitarian marriage, where both husband and wife share power and work together equally, would solve the problem just as handily as the man taking up his mantle of supposed God-ordained authority. Yet, I have never once seen a person who believes in husbands having authority over their wives give any acknowledgement of this. Passivity is a sin not because he isn’t pulling his share, but because he is abdicating his position of authority in the relationship.

Leadership can actually be a cover for laziness

The sinister part of this is that it allows men to reap the benefits of being passive and lazy without being labelled as such as long as they take their role as leader seriously. A case in point is the video of Stephen Crowder’s horrific rant at his wife that Sheila wrote about in Baptist World News.

In the video, Crowder sits smoking a cigar while he orders his eight-months-pregnant-with-twins wife to give the dog its medication and accuses her of a lack of respect when she tries to suggest it might be better if he do it. He is the very picture of passivity, relaxing while others work around him, but do we see the Gospel Coalition or Desiring God or any other bastion of the Evangelical Industrial Complex decrying Crowder for his horrible behavior?  The silence is both deafening and telling.

Passivity and Domination aren’t necessarily opposites

If I can go further and engage in some sardonic humor, their silence is even more shocking as Crowder has in fact managed to simultaneously commit both of the opposing errors that the Danvers Statement warns about. His performance is a live demonstration of passivity and domination in concert! But this is not at all surprising since despite what the Danvers Statement may propose, passivity and domination are not two ends of a spectrum, but two sides of a coin.

If we teach that men, simply by virtue of being male, are entitled to unconditional respect and willing service from their wives, we should not be surprised when, thinking they are not receiving it, they rail and rage and try to dominate. But nor should we be surprised, when upon receiving it, they decide to sit back and enjoy it in indolence and passivity. 

The teaching itself creates the very conditions it claims to oppose.

If you tell a man he has to earn his place as an equal among the men and women around him you might generate active men, but tell him he deserves the unconditional respect of half the population before he even lifts a finger, you will almost certainly generate passive men. 

If believers in the Danvers Statement were truly concerned about the problem of male passivity, they should be the most vocal opponents of the idea that men deserve respect unconditionally. Instead, their pushing of the idea demonstrates that despite their assertions, domination or passivity are not the issue. Keeping women in a position of subordination is the sole agenda.

This is such a low view of men

Furthermore, the whole idea is subtly yet profoundly anti-male. The underlying assumption is that the only way that passive men can be freed from their passivity is to step into their God-ordained leadership, but I would suggest another option: being an equal partner. Why is this never presented as an option for men? As far as I can ascertain, the only reason is that one believes men lack either the capacity or the inclination to the task. But think about what that says about men!

It says we are either incapable or unwilling to participate in a relationship of equals with women. Basically it claims we are all toddlers grown large who, if we can’t have our own way, will take our ball and go home.

I, for one, find that a very low view of men. In contrast, my view of masculinity does not require unconditional respect to be given to me because I am quite confident that I have the ability to earn it. And I have enough faith in men to say without hesitation that I believe every single other man can do the same.

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We are still blaming women for male passivity

But those who believe in male authority not only teach that men can’t be equals; they teach men can’t even lead unless women support them. Consider Sheila’s post about the TGC article where Ligon Duncan complains about “it is very easy for men to be passive”, but lays the responsibility for fixing this issue squarely at the feet of women, telling them they need to encourage their husbands if they expect them to lead.


God created men to be leaders, but that leadership is so fragile that it will collapse unless women are constantly supporting it? Say what you want about my belief that husbands and wives are meant to be equal partners in marriage, but at least it is not intrinsically self-contradictory.

If husband and wife truly do have two completely different roles that each can either fail to perform or successfully perform and if the role of one is to be in charge then the one in charge is ultimately responsible for the failings of both parties! If you are the leader, then you lead! You don’t blame your lack of leadership on those who you are responsible for leading! 

Couples who see themselves as equals can debate how much responsibility each of them has for any troubles in their marriage, but if asymmetry is intrinsic to your relationship, then when the relationship goes wrong there can be only one person to blame: the one in charge. And the one in charge cannot offload that onto the other person and call himself a leader with any integrity.

Even if your wife is not fulfilling her supposed role of submission, if you truly are a leader your only question should be, “What am I doing wrong that they aren’t able to fulfill their role?”. But we do not see things playing out this way in spaces that believe in hierarchy between the husband and the wife because, again, the issue is not ultimately about leadership any more than it is about passivity.

If the concern truly were creating men who are “sacrificial leaders”, then we would see a multitude of sermons on the perils of domination, a smattering on the trap of passivity and almost none on the need for women to submit. Instead, we see the exact opposite ratio. And in every case, the solution is not for men to be more sacrificial, but for women to submit more. If men are dominating, women are told to “Patiently endure” and to “win him without words”.

If men are passive, women are told to submit more so he will feel empowered. But if the answer to every question is “women need to submit more,” it does not take a lot of intellectual power to realize what the true agenda is; it just takes a bit of intellectual honesty.

Male Passivity: Does the Danvers Statement get this wrong?

What do you think? Do hierarchalists take male passivity seriously? Are passivity and domination two sides of the same coin? Let’s talk in the comments!

Keith's Danvers Statement Series

Looking at the 4 ways those who believe in hierarchy in marriage think marriage can go wrong

Plus see the book Keith co-authored with Sheila, The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex!

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Keith Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Keith has been married to Sheila for over 30 years! They met while he was in pre-med at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He has served as Chief of Pediatrics in the Quinte Region, and has been the chair of undergraduate pediatric medical education at Queen's University, and participated in the Royal College examination board for new pediatricians. He is the co-author with Sheila of The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex, and a new marriage book they're working on. An avid birder, he loves traveling with Sheila all over North America in their RV.

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  1. James

    The crux of the matter is that when one of these two positions goes to the extreme, domination is the one that causes the most harm, because it can lead to physical abuse, whereas passivity simply leads to an unhealthy marriage where the other spouse does all the work.

    I know you mention that passivity is what gets all the attention in sermons and society today, but I have seen so many more articles on public feeds discussing “toxic masculinity” in ways that paint all masculinity as bad. This may be due to toxic influencers like Andrew Tate pushing a so-called “alpha male” agenda, but at the same time, I have seen so many boys in this generation and before, who simply never grew up, unsure of how to be strong masculine men, which leads to their girlfriends/wives having to carry the load. They never learned how find that middle ground between passive and dominating, and so bounce between the two, being lazy for the most part, and then, when frustrated that they aren’t getting respect (as lazy men shouldn’t), falling prey to toxic voices who encourage them to dominate.

    While I think you’ve minimized the damage of passive man (or human, as either spouse can do this), I wholeheartedly agree that the solution isn’t to tell the wife to submit, its to teach the young men to take charge (by which i mean: make the plan, schedule the event, get a babysitter, pack the diaper bag, buy the tickets, mow the lawn, whatever the need may be.)

    All that being said, while it is mainly a male problem of not stepping up, I have seen marriages where the wife simply wouldn’t allow her husband the chance to stand up…I look forward to your next 2 articles to hear what you have to say!

    • Suzanne

      Women don’t need men to “take charge”, we need men to “take part”, all your examples are of that, taking part. Women need me to jump in and take part in the family like a true partnership.

      • Lisa Johns

        Amen, Suzanne!

    • Phil

      James – your comments always seem to be on the passive aggressive side and or using two sides of the same coin – Meaning they contain tricky language meant to confuse the folks here into thinking that you are here for good reason. I have had several responses written for you today all of which I did not post because what if I was wrong? So instead I decided I am calling you out directly and we will find out the truth. Today your comment has all the language masked in a complementarian push. Masculinity, lead and take charge and respect. So what is it James? Talk to me. I am looking forward to hear what you have to say.

      • James

        Hey Phil, this is my first comment on this blog, so I’m not sure how they could “always” be anything. I don’t think I’m intentionally confusing anyone, though it IS a nuanced issue, and I don’t have all the answers. You seem to be coming at me very aggressively, (declaring I’m passive aggressive, trying to confuse, masking my language) but if you take issue with any of the content I wrote specifically I’m willing to discuss my opinions, though I’m not sure what you want me to talk to you about, in regards to masculinity.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          You have the same screen name as another man who has been commenting a lot recently, so I think that’s where the confusion came from!

          • James F

            Ah, that makes sense! The curse of having one of the most common names in the US. I’ll have to add a last initial or go by a nickname in any future interactions

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            That’s great! Thank you. 🙂

        • Phil

          James F- I will apologize right here for my aggression. I have been coming around here for a while and I have watched many men come in here and play games and be awful to Sheila and the many women who come here. While these women do not necessarily need me to stand up for them The truth is many of the women here are much smarter than me in this atmosphere and they can fend for themselves quite well. I choose to to be a presence here and I stand up for them… So to speak. So the truth came out that I was wrong: I am good with that so my friends know who you are. I do appreciate that clarification and now things make more sense to me. Once again I apologize and also welcome. I eat my hat. Thank you.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thanks, Phil! That was very gracious, and you are always appreciated.

          • Lisa Johns

            I hope you had a little salt with your hat. You ate it so graciously that you deserve it to taste good! (Ketchup, maybe?) 😆😁❤️

    • Wild Honey

      Maybe this is splitting hairs, but all of what you describe in the examples of find a babysitter, change a diaper, mow the lawn, etc sound more like “take the initiative” rather than “take charge.”

      Both leaders AND subordinates/followers “take the initiative” all the time to get their jobs done. It’s one of the things that makes a good employee! That they know what to do and then do it without having to be told. That doesn’t require leadership, simply knowledge and maturity.

      Does taking care of household or child raising responsibilities have to be couched in leadership language (ie, “take charge”) in order for men to be encouraged to take the initiative? If someone has to be a leader in order to simply change a diaper, what does that say about all the women changing diapers?

      • James F

        You’ve hit on something there! When I think of a passive male, it’s someone who doesn’t take any initiative. They might help out, but it’s definitely helping, as opposed to doing. Asking what they can do to help get ready for dinner, for instance, is not as helpful as taking responsibility for a meal and handling the mental load. While I wouldn’t expect the man to do this for everything in life and their relationship, they shouldn’t put it all on their spouse, or they are falling into what I see as the ‘passive man’ trap.

        • Wild Honey


          Just an observation, but you can easily swap the word “woman” for “man” in your paragraph, and it’s equally appropriate.

    • Anna

      I would argue that passivity can, indeed, be abusive. A passive person will avoid all responsibility at the expense of their family. They are putting their spouse/family in the position of being the fall person when things go wrong.

      • James F

        I agree! Actually, from the blog post, and comments here, I think I have stronger opinions against passivity than most.

      • Lisa Johns

        Passivity can indeed be abusive, quite so! Especially when it is accompanied by constant criticism of the choices that the passive person DEMANDED others make for them.
        I’ll stop before I start cussing…. 🙄😆

        • Laura

          I agree that passivity can be abusive. One example I can think of is a husband who refuses to work while he insists his wife works 2 or more jobs, yet he will not lift a finger with household responsibilities and or childrearing. That is financial abuse and treating her like a slave.

        • Ladybug

          This. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain when you don’t like the result.

      • Unseen

        After living with passivity for over 30 years, I can attest to the fact that it is very abusive.
        Passivity is a method of control that destroys the victim emotionally and spiritually. It is selfish and is a form of abandonment.

    • Ladybug

      James F –There is a good series somewhere on this blog about mental load which seems to cover what you call “taking charge”.

      That said, this is not the case for all women who refuse to let the man stand up…there are plenty of women who refuse because their husband will deliberately sabotage such a task in order to avoid being called on again. And he gets exactly what he wants (an out) when she refuses to let him.

  2. Mara R

    I like this one even better than last week.

    So much paper, ink, internet space, and recorded space is used on this supposed ‘sin’ of passivity as defined by hierarchalists that it has become so wearisome (not winsome). And I love how you define passivity and expose what the hierarchalists think passivity is in male. It’s all about leadership and nothing about not being lazy.

    But I love, best of all, how you hold up the picture of the Crowder story as proof positive that Passivity and Domination are not far sides of the spectrum. The spectrum created by the Danvers writers is wrong, false and deceptive.

    Only God knows how many women have been abused by Domineering and passive men.

    Thank you for coming at it from your unique perspective and dismantling this kingdom built on sand and on the backs of women.
    Thank you for calling men to grow up and to stop being petty tyrants in the name of Jesus.

  3. Prisca

    Can we get a link to Sheila’s article where she addresses Ligon Duncan’s TGC article, in addition to the Instagram video link?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I actually don’t think I wrote a whole post about it–I talked about it more on Instagram. But I did refer to it in this piece!

  4. Angharad

    It’s never made any sense to me that women are supposed to ‘make’ their reluctant husbands lead by deferring to them.

    If you’re a leader, you lead, you don’t hang round waiting for your followers to push you into leading. “He’s going to be the one to make decisions, whether he likes it or not.”

    The whole ‘leader/follower’ thing can produce some very funny problems. I know an extremely complementarian church where women were allowed to teach other women in the ‘Ladies Fellowship’ as long as they only dealt with what the Bible had to say about women. The problem was that the male leadership had to ‘vet’ speakers to make sure they weren’t saying anything unsuitable. And of course, men were the only ones who could make that judgement because they were the leaders. But if they turned up to the ladies’ meetings, the women speakers couldn’t speak because they would be ‘teaching men’ which was a role only reserved for leaders (i.e. men). So the elders had to turn up and announce that they were to be ignored because they were ‘in the room but not attending the meeting’, which allowed them to listen while not listening to a woman teaching them but not teaching them…

    • Suzanne

      “So the elders had to turn up and announce that they were to be ignored because they were ‘in the room but not attending the meeting’, which allowed them to listen while not listening to a woman teaching them but not teaching them…” That is so ridiculous it made me laugh out loud.

      For any Harry Potter readers I can see those elders pulling the memories out of their heads and depositing them into a sealed jar, can’t have what silly women say clouding up my man brain!

    • Boone

      That sounds so much like a government function of some type.

      • Lisa Johns

        Why do you think these guys so often want to run for political office? 😆

  5. Cynthia

    It seems to put some bizarre pressure on husbands that actively works against good problem-solving in a marriage.

    While we didn’t hear sermons like this, I remember that my husband had absorbed some family and cultural messages about manliness early in our marriage. It made it harder to figure out how to do basic stuff according to who had the time or ability. I’m better at driving, reading maps and assembling things. My husband had entitlement to parental leave when our oldest was born while I didn’t. He is also better at managing the social calendar. We wasted energy in those years trying to life up to expectations that just didn’t work for us.

    • Wild Honey

      Same here. I literally thought we were broken. Turns out, it was societal expectations, not us.

      • Lisa Johns


  6. Nathan

    Great post, Keith, as always. Only one issue. You claim that ALL men are capable of earning real respect. I would say that MOST men can do so.

    And as for the very first post at the top, yes, I’ve seen that many people who discuss or decry “toxic masculinity” are basically saying that ALL masculinity is bad, ALL men are bad, etc. That’s another extreme position that doesn’t work. This is complicated by the fact that many define “real men” in different ways.

    And Angharad, your comments about those are there but not there, listening but not really, is hilarious! Or would be, if it wasn’t real.

    • Bernadette

      Nathan, this isn’t aimed at you or Keith. It’s just something that came to mind when reading your words about masculinity.

      So many people confuse prejudices, stereotypes, statistics, gender-based double standards, etc, with innate differences between the sexes. And then call that list either masculinity or femininity, depending on who they are talking about.

      But if masculinity truly means that which is intrinsic to being male, then masculinity cannot be toxic. Because that would mean God made men to be bad in some ways.

      How so? Because God *made* the *innate* differences between women and men. If any innate part of a man (or a woman) were to be evil, then that would mean God created something evil.

      By confusing toxic stereotypes about men with inherent male characteristics, we do a huge disservice to men.

      I prefer the phrase “toxic beliefs about maleness” instead of “toxic masculinity.”

  7. Mara R

    Angharad in comment above: ‘It’s never made any sense to me that women are supposed to ‘make’ their reluctant husbands lead by deferring to them.
    If you’re a leader, you lead, you don’t hang round waiting for your followers to push you into leading. “He’s going to be the one to make decisions, whether he likes it or not.” ‘

    It only makes sense if you believe that God Almighty Above had created His Divine Order that is, was, and shall always be, just like God Himself.
    Men were born to be leaders. Women were born to submit. The Divine Roles are Holy and non-negotiable. Not following this Divine Order is sin and is opposing God, Himself.
    When a man marries, he steps into his ultimate calling and it is up to the wife to uphold, support, and prop up this calling, no matter how hard he resists.

    As Keith mentions in the above post, the big issue is with men not ruling their homes. Many articles and books have been written on this from so many angles. Much thought. sweat, and tears, have been spent to make this Divine Order palatable to the modern fallen world that has been wracked with that nasty feminism from the pit of hell. Josh Butler’s book is one of the most recent in a long line of persuasive but wrong books.

    One such book “The Resolution for Men” went on in great detail about the male and female position in marriage. They likened the ‘passive,” non-ruling male to a man who has fallen asleep at the wheel and the wife in the passenger seat trying to keep the car on the road and just making it worse because that’s not her role.

    It is just assumed that the man is born into the driver’s seat and the woman is born into the passenger seat. And never the twain shall meet.

    • Mara R

      I wanted to make part 2 and 3 of the Resolution for Men critique available as more of an example of how hard hierarchalists work to persuade men to not be passive. They are really trying to inspire men to come into their place of rulership in the small fiefdom of their individual families. Who knows, maybe Crowder read The Resolution for Men a decade ago and it, in part, fueled his domineering yet passive verbal and emotional abuse of his pregnant wife.

      • Mara R

        Direct Quote from The Resolution for Men on page 14: “If your wife has been calling the shots in the family and has had her hands on the wheel, then very likely it’s because you have not. Regardless of what she does, God has intentionally placed YOU in the driver’s seat and wants YOU to lead. You need her deeply; but leading is your God-ordained responsibility.”
        (emphasis theirs)

        On page 13 it says, “God’s Word COMMANDS husbands and fathers to lovingly lead their homes.”
        (emphasis mine)

        Looking back on this, I am reminded of things I’ve seen on Twitter and elsewhere where someone said, “I was today years old when I found out that nowhere in the Bible are men commanded to lead their wives.”

        These people truly believe that men are commanded to lead. But is says so nowhere in the Bible.

        This is discussed in part 3.

        This is what we are up against. This is what Keith is talking about. This false teaching is everywhere and is deeply entrenched. It is believed in as Gospel truth. Even if it hasn’t been good news for women for years. Doesn’t matter to them. All they want to believe is that God commands men to lead their wives. And the lengths they will go to to push this in everyone’s faces is numbing.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I always laugh when people say that God’s word commands men to lead. Where? Show me one verse where men are told to lead their wives?

          • Mara R

            We have to just keep saying it over and over.

            And louder for those in the back.

            It’s so entrenched, people just think it’s true.

          • Unseen

            So 1st Corinthians 11:3 doesn’t mean what churches preach? I’ve wrestled with this verse for a long time.

          • Jo R

            If Paul is attempting to lay out a hierarchy, why doesn’t he go bottom up or top down?

            Bottom up would be “The head of the woman is the man, the head of the man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God.”

            Top down would be “The head of Christ is God, the head of a man is Christ, and the head of a woman is a man.”

            The particular Greek word used here, kephale, does not acquire the meaning “boss” until the fourth century.

            At the time Paul is writing, it means “source” or “origin.” Even in English, we have “head of the line,” “trailhead,” or “headwaters of a river.”

            Now reread the clauses with that concept, and it’s actually in chronological order. Christ created the first man, so was Adam’s source. Adam was used to create Eve, so was her source. And Christ, referring to the INCARNATE messiah, was created by God (referring to the Father) through the Holy Spirit’s action over Mary.

            There are LOTS of Greek words that mean “boss” or “leader” in different areas of life (like we have president, CEO, admiral, principal, chief, and so forth), and Paul never uses any of them to talk about husbands.

            See for lots more.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Exactly! It’s out of order if it’s about hierarchy; it’s in order if it’s about source or initiative.

      • Lisa Johns

        No, a guy like Crowder is going to function like that no matter what he has read. Seen entirely too much of that stuff, and my husband’s no reader!

    • Wild Honey

      I don’t get the whole “she’s making it worse when he’s asleep at the wheel” analogy. So she’s supposed to just let the car crash and kill someone?

      This happened to a relative-by-marriage. Husband had a heart attack while driving, sadly passed away. Wife was able to grab the steering wheel and guide the car off the road as it lost momentum.

      • Mara R

        Wild Honey, I appreciate your story. I was also insulted by the story I read by Resolution Guys back in 2013. And I said this in part one of that series:

        “Anyway, back to the woman in their fictional story who can’t steer and who is representative of all women to the Resolution writers. They believe that women can’t steer, or at least they can’t do so in a crisis situation from the passenger seat when there is a man around who is supposed to be in charge. I’m sure they didn’t mean to be insulting. But they were insulting by boxing all women in the same package and using this false package as persuasion for the doctrine they are pushing, the doctrine that says as long as men are in charge and stay awake and on duty, everything will be fine. As soon as women get involved in any leadership situation, by default or otherwise, it can only end in disaster. This disaster can only be diverted if men wake up and do their job of being the boss.”

        Then I link this wonderful TED Talk on The Single Story.

        Here is one of many good quotes from the TED Talk: “that is how you create a single story, show a people as one thing. As only one thing, over and over again and that is what they become”

        Many more excellent stories, quotes, and analogies on this in the video. Highly, highly recommend.

        One thing Comp doctrine relies heavily on is this lie of female incompetence. It is false and very insulting.

    • Angharad

      “They likened the ‘passive,” non-ruling male to a man who has fallen asleep at the wheel and the wife in the passenger seat trying to keep the car on the road and just making it worse because that’s not her role.”

      Because letting the car crash makes things so much better?!!

    • Bernadette

      Also, it assumes that the marriage journey is a car. A better analogy would be two walking side by side!

      • Mara R

        Or if you use the car analogy for marriage, I assume they are thinking of it being a long trip. And if that’s the case, then people should take turns driving.

        Not only does the “Husband is born to be in the driver seat” position insulting to women, being in that position always and forever, you are never allowed to sleep. Maybe, when he’s tired and needs to sleep, she could drive for a while. Duh.

        Sorry, but I’m accustomed to long trips and it’s just about never a good idea for there to be only one designated driver for the whole trip. The responsibility should be shared.

        • Bernadette

          I hadn’t thought of it that way. You’re right.

        • Laura

          The one in the driver’s seat often has a navigator in the passengers seat. Being the driver does not mean that the person is in comp!she control. The navigator will give directions if the driver doesn’t know where to go. I bet the Kendrick brothers who wrote this book inspired by their movie Courageous didn’t consider this aspect. I thought that movie was a great movie but I didn’t like the part where they had that ceremony and talked about leading their families as though their wives don’t know what to do or they can be passive. Most women do not want a passive role in their marriage or household.

  8. Jo R

    Why is it so hard for adults to be adults and just do what needs to get done, regardless of peeing posture?

    Pretty sure I heard this old dude talk about not lording it over others. Did that rule get rescinded?

  9. Sarah O

    “Couples who see themselves as equals can debate how much responsibility each of them has for any troubles in their marriage, but if asymmetry is intrinsic to your relationship, then when the relationship goes wrong there can be only one person to blame: the one in charge. And the one in charge cannot offload that onto the other person and call himself a leader with any integrity.”


    Well done Keith.

    What’s weird to me is that this and other brands of patriarchy simultaneously oppress and idolize women by making them the litmus test for every measure of man’s success. If a man is a good leader, women will follow him. If he’s a good husband, his wife will serve him and give him children. Every male expression of emotion and connection is taboo, save through orgasm that women must provide.

    It creates all this anger, because any objection to the system from women becomes intensely personal and threatening. If I woman at any stage for any reason wishes to abstain from sex, childbearing, or serving – she’s preventing a man from achieving adulthood/success/power/connection/whatever. There can’t be autonomy because she has all the valuable community resources. But she can’t be a leader. It’s weird logic.

    I’m also curious whether you’ll dabble in the self/fulfilling prophecy/pygmalion effect in this series. My husband and I had to wrestle with this a bit in counseling. Sometimes, especially when my husband is stressed, I think I’m being “kind” by sparing him from difficult tasks and topics, but his heart receives it as me thinking he’s weak or incapable, which makes him feel insecure, which makes everything feel more stressful. So in trying to help, I make the problem paradoxically worse.

    He actually prefers me to tell the truth and keep the same character standards for him regardless of what’s going on in our lives, because that makes him feel like I’m confident in him.

    They need a new field of study called “emotional triggonometry”.

    • Kay

      “If I woman at any stage for any reason wishes to abstain from sex, childbearing, or serving – she’s preventing a man from achieving adulthood/success/power/connection/whatever.” (From comment above)

      Ahhh, it’s women who hold the “power”, but we mustn’t let them know that, so that is where all the “Submission “ stuff comes from.

  10. EOF

    “If men are passive, women are told to submit more so he will feel empowered. But if the answer to every question is “women need to submit more,” it does not take a lot of intellectual power to realize what the true agenda is; it just takes a bit of intellectual honesty.”

    THANK YOU!! I’m in counseling trying to untangle those lies I was told for so long. The answer to EVERYTHING was for me to submit. He won’t work? Submit. He yells at you? Submit. He won’t let you have a car? Submit. You don’t like what he’s doing in the bedroom? Submit. He’s telling you who to vote for? Submit. He doesn’t want you to see your family? Submit. He’s telling you what career you need to have? Submit. He’s a hoarder? Submit. He yells at you in public? Submit. He wants to go to all of your medical appointments? Submit.

    This is some freakishly messed up theology! Submission solves NONE of that! None!

    Keith, I hope you keep posting more blog articles!

  11. Rob

    I do find it profound how closely this article skirts the truth, while still missing it.

    It is recognized that the way we treat men compared to women are as failures, then goes on to discuss how the oft proposed solution is for women to fix it, and how wrong that is. I would posit that just like the fever roles chart, the answer lies in the middle.

    Yes, men need to step up and lead in the relationship, however that is defined by the couple in question. But they also need to be given room and opportunity to lead. If you are faced with constant criticism for even simply trying, why bother in the first place? I would suggest that instead of women trying to be more submissive, they need to back off on the nagging and controlling behaviors, and provide respect to men, when the men have earned it.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Angharad

      Surely if men do have this God-given gifting to lead within marriage, then they should be doing it regardless of their followers’ behaviours?

      I can’t imagine a high ranking army official moaning that he can’t lead his troops because they keep complaining.

      Or a primary school teacher whining that he can’t lead because the 5-year-olds in his class are so disrespectful.

      Or a church minister abandoning his pastoral role because his congregation criticises him.

      Perhaps the difference is that the army official, the teacher and the church minister are all doing roles for which they have natural skill and aptitude and which they are called to do…maybe the reason so many men find it hard to take a ‘strong lead’ is because they’re not actually meant to be doing that in the first place? Just a thought…

    • Mara R

      And I find it profound how many insist that the Bible teaches that men are supposed to lead when it absolutely does not.

      I have been in this conversation for decades with far less gracious men (and women) than you. And never once have any of them been able to produce the verse(s) that say men are to lead and women are to follow. That is because that/those verses do not exist.

      The only four letter word that starts with and “L” that men and instructed to do towards their wives is… wait for it… LOVE. That is all. Not lead, but love.

      The slippery slope of teaching men that they are in charge has caused so much grief in the church. This teaching needs to stop because it’s fruit is rotten.

    • Mara R

      And one small thing about nagging AFTER you read Sheila’s link concerning this and how it most often comes about.

      Another thing that I have notice in my years of being in these discussion. I’ve notice that sometimes good men and women in difficult relationships come to these spaces and end up talking past each other. As in, a woman comes and talks about a verbally abusive marriage she’s in. And a man come in, also from a verbally abusive relationship he’s in with his wife where it is waaaay beyond what Sheila’s article talks about concerning nagging, In his situation his wife is unmerciful in her expectations towards her overworked and unappreciated husband. And she is unduly disrespectful towards him.

      Anyway, the man deserves respect he isn’t getting and thinks that all women are like his wife and if they would just respect their husbands, things would be better for all. It would be in his situation because he is honestly being disrespected for little to no reason. But when he comes in and says this to women who have tried the respect route and have only been abused more, his words are poison. And he doesn’t get the push back because he, unfortunately, projected his situation on the relationships where the husband is the disrespectful and verbally abusive one.

      Hopefully, Rob, you are not in this sort of relationship. But if you are, know that women respecting and giving place to men to make mistakes and finally figuring out how to lead (which we have already pointed out is not what the Bible teaches) is not the answer. Not even close.

      No issue is being skirted in the article. Many wives, myself included, have tried to make space for their spouses to be less passive. Your proposed solution has been tried over and over and is not the silver bullet many men believe it to be.

      • Lisa Johns

        This is so true, Mara R, and thank you for saying so. The only thing the “stop nagging/submit more” doctrine earned our marriage was more heartbreak. And I am NOT a nagger.

    • Suzanne

      No Rob, men do not need to step up and lead in the relationship, men need to step up and take part in the relationship. Marriage is a partnership not a hierarchy. We don’t need your leadership because women are not followers of men, we are more than capable of leading ourselves.

      Respect is earned, not just given, and women are deserving of the same respect men are. If a man can’t take initiative and get to the tasks that need to be done without being asked then he is shirking his duties as a member of the household. We teach our children to see what needs to be done and to do it, men should not have to be coddled that way, but they also are not off the hook when they say they will take on a task and then don’t complete it. Its not nagging to ask when a task that a man should have already done, will get done. Don’t make more work for your wife, take part in running the household, raising the kids, being a good partner.

    • EOF

      It’s so interesting how the men (and women) who insist that the Bible CLEARLY calls men to lead can never come up with a verse that actually defends the position.

      It ALWAYS comes back to the point that women NEED to submit! If wives are to submit, then “logically” the only answer is that men are to lead — but it’s not in the text! But even if you were to use the “head” scriptures as your proof, that doesn’t work. The Bible uses the head/body metaphor to describe UNITY not a military-like authority structure. The Bible is about love, not obsessed with authority. See what Jesus had to say about authority in Matthew 20:25-28.

      The Bible calls for men to LOVE their wives. When you look at the submit verses IN CONTEXT, the New Testament writers are talking to an audience of women who could be KILLED (legally!) by their husbands for not worshiping their husband’s god of choice. Of COURSE Paul and Peter are going to encourage those women to submit. If they didn’t submit, not only could they be killed, but it would also make Christianity look like a rebellion movement — and if you read the New Testament letters, the writers are VERY concerned about making the gospel attractive to outsiders. Look at our culture. Does oppressing wives make the gospel attractive? NOOOOOOO, it does not.

      Another thing, if you look at the supposed “roles” of wives and husbands by New Testament writers (Jesus never said any of these things, but only gave the utmost respect to women, and he also didn’t follow the Billy Graham rule) you’ll find that in others places in the New Testament, ALL BELIEVERS are called to those “roles” in their Christian lives. (Sorry for the really long sentence.) Wives are called to submit to their husbands, but ALL BELIEVERS are called to mutually submit to one another. Husbands are called to love their wives in the same way they care for themselves, but ALL BELIEVERS are called to to do this with each other.

      • Lisa Johns


        • Lisa Johns

          And amen on all you said. It was so WELL said!

          • EOF

            Thank you! I’ve been struggling through this for a long time and am finally starting to be able to explain it coherently! It actually took a couple years of reading this blog to even start believing that I didn’t have to live under total submission to a human to please God. Then started the process of trying to figure out what the Bible actually says about all of this…something I’m still trying to untangle! But I’m getting a better picture every day thanks to this community and others like it. And I’m seeing that Jesus really does bring a message of freedom, and not oppression to women!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I’m so glad, EOF!

    • Bernadette

      Rob, you’re missing the point. It’s not leadership when a man assumes that his wife cannot make her own decisions because she’s a woman.

      That’s treating her like a child.

      A woman who objects to being treated like a child is not criticizing the play pen that her husband tries to keep her in. She’s insulted that he thinks she needs a play pen in the first place.

    • Wild Honey

      “The husband feels controlled. But the wife’s not trying to control her husband. She’s trying to control the chaos.” (Paraphrase of Melissa Orlov, ADHD expert)

      If the husband would just honor his wife’s respectful request the first time she asks, she wouldn’t have to keep reminding him.

      Just saying.

  12. Lisa Johns

    Wow, intellectual honesty, what a concept! (Didn’t you know that intellectual honesty will make you — gasp! — *progressive*?!

  13. Perfect Number

    Well said! Especially the part about how when conservatives say men shouldn’t dominate women, it’s just a caveat, like “but this doesn’t apply to situations that are abusive” and then nothing about how to recognize the signs.

  14. Ladybug

    Thank you, Keith.

  15. Cassie Bloom

    Do you remember the scene in “The King and I”, where Yul Brynner stoops lower and lower, expecting Anna to keep her head below the level of his? I feel that. It became impossible and yet I was cursed because I was “usurping” his authority, (as in one parent had to grab the steering wheel.) I am trying to untangle the teachings that I completely bought into and tried to fulfill, while being married to a very passive “Christian” man. Thank you for bringing truth into the light.

  16. Rebekah Lohnes

    Dear Sheila and Keith, Thank you SO much for this article. I am an escapee of the Eggerich destructive teaching.
    Keith, I found your line in this blog under the heading “This is Such a Low View of Men”: “the whole idea is subtly yet profoundly anti-male” to be incredibly powerful. “Anti-male” a teaching that poses as Godly, and building up the body of Christ, but what I am actually seeing is something else, something “anti” all right, something actually antichrist. A form of godliness but denying the power thereof.

    • Mara R

      Enjoy your freedom from oppressive teaching.
      May you ever grow in it.

      Gal 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set you free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

  17. Mark

    I think another way of looking at this is through the lens of police brutality. We look at our society and feel it’s declining, so we give the police more and more power. At the same time, when police do things that are illegal, immoral or questionable, we turn a blind eye, because it’s SO IMPORTANT that police be active and not passive. When the police unions argue that internal affairs or other accountability measures will discourage them from their duties, we take it at face value. So, when people are shot, beaten or abused by the police, we don’t ask whether there is something inherent about the philosophy of policing that is encouraging violence. We just can’t imagine a world where we don’t need violent and militarized police to keep us safe.
    In the same way, Evangelicals look at domestic violence and other forms of spousal abuse, somehow, as a necessary consequence, or collateral damage in a world where it’s necessary to have a violent and militarized husband protecting his family.
    I’m not sure how we fix this. As some have pointed out, the belief is that preserving the hierarchy is more important than preventing the natural consequences of that hierarchy.


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