PODCAST: The Problems with Lies Women Believe

by | Feb 8, 2024 | Podcasts, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 59 comments

Lies Women Believe podcast
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It’s time for a deep dive into Lies Women Believe!

** Scroll down to receive the downloadable one sheet (look for the box to enter your email! **

As you all know, I have a deep concern that many resources offered to women in the evangelical world are deeply unhealthy and can actually do significant relational, emotional, and spiritual harm.

I’m trying to choose different books of special concern to look at on a regular basis, and this month we’re tackling Lies Women Believe by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, because it’s one of the most widely used books in women’s Bible studies.

When I read this book in the Sydney airport in December in preparation for this, it left deeply, deeply sad. It wasn’t even primarily what it said about marriage (though that’s concerning, and we’re looking at that today), but rather the entire view of God. So I’m giving two podcasts to Lies Women Believe. This week the wonderful Natalie Hoffman and Gretchen Baskerville are joining me to look at the marriage & sex teachings, and next week we’ll tackle what the book says about emotions, shame, and God.

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 Get involved & Our process
3:55 Natalie and Gretchen join to share initial thoughts and experiences with the book
13:15 Twisting the truth
20:30 You don’t have the right to be treated well?!
32:15 The mishandling of marriage in the book
49:00 What’s up with this weird stuff?? (Conflict, roles, libido, mental load)
1:02:30 Sex & Birth Control
1:13:00 Final concerning thoughts on the book

Lies Women Believe

In the book Nancy Wolgemuth lists 43 things that she says are lies–and that believing these lies is what causes women to end up in difficult places with God. 

The problem? Many of the lies aren’t actually lies. And also, often women’s problems are not in our heads. Sometimes we’re dealing with abuse and trauma, and to overlook these things and blame women’s feelings and lack of faith for our difficult circumstances or emotional state is simply unfair and even cruel. 

I’ve prepared a downloadable one-sheet that you can get with all the information on why I find this book  harmful, so you can give it to your women’s group leader, pastor, and more!

Lies Women Believe

One Sheet

Everything Harmful with Lies Women Believe Summarized on One Sheet!

Subscribe today to get the free printout to share with your friends, family, and pastors

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

First, to support us:

Natalie’s Materials:

Gretchen’s Materials:

Extras Mentioned: 

Podcast on problems with Lies Women Believe featuring Natalie Hoffman and Gretchen Baskerville

What do you think? Have you read the book? How did it strike you? Let’s talk in the comments!

Transcript

Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your sex life and your marriage.  And we are able to do that because of the wonderful support of people like you.  People who have joined our patron group, who give as little as $5 a month and get access to our Facebook group and some unfiltered podcasts.  Or people who give in the United States, you can get tax deductible receipts by giving to the Good Fruit Foundation, which is an initiative of the Bosco Foundation.  And the links to all those things are in the podcast notes.  And, of course, people who buy our courses and our merch like our love and respect mugs, or our biblical womanhood mugs, or wall hangings, or canvas bags, or anything.  So the links to that are in the podcast notes, so that you can support us too.  One of the things that we do periodically on Bare Marriage is we want to draw people’s attention to some of what we think are the most harmful resources that are currently in evangelicalism and create resources so that you can share them with your church so that hopefully these resources will stop being used.  We have a rigorous process where we put these resources through our rubrics to see whether they actually do qualify as harmful or not.  So we’re trying to be as objective as possible.  We try to choose books that are still heavily sold and used.  And we’ve done Every Man’s Battle, Love and Respect, For Women Only, Power of a Praying Wife.  And today I want to look at Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth.  It’s not a sex or marriage book per se.  It’s a women’s book, but it does talk quite a bit about both sex and marriage.  I read this book for the first time when I was in Sydney, Australia at the airport.  We were there all day waiting to come home back in December.  And I can’t tell you how bad the book made me feel.  It was one of the strangest reactions I’ve had.  I was so tremendously sad.  I didn’t sleep well.  And I know, obviously, I had jet lag.  I had dreams about this for the next few nights.  But just reading it reminded me of where I was 15 years ago in church and how I always felt that God was disappointed me and that I wasn’t good enough.  And God wasn’t Jesus, who was there by my side and who cared.  God was this unhappy taskmaster, who didn’t see much good in me and who saw me as a worm who wasn’t really worthy of anything.  And it was tough.  And I was reading this book trying to figure out what I wanted to do with it.  And so here is what I’ve done.  I have created a one sheet download, which you can look at and give to your women’s ministry leader, small group leader, pastor, anyone who is using the book or recommending the book so that they can see the problems with it.  And that is available.  The link is in the podcast notes.  It’s free.  You just download the PDF, and you can give it out or email it.  Whatever.  Let’s just get it out there.  And today I’m bringing two friends on specifically to look at sex and marriage since that is what we do here at Bare Marriage.  But I don’t think that’s actually the real issue with this book.  I think the real issue is more its view of emotions, emotional health, and especially its view of God.  And so next week we’re going to do another Lies Women Believe podcast where we actually get into more of the faith issues because I think this goes a lot deeper.  And I think many of you, like me, have been reading these resources and feeling so guilty and so weighed down, and that’s not what Jesus ever intended.  And so without further ado, I’m going to bring my two friends on as we look at what the book says about marriage and sex.  Well, I am so thrilled to have two of my favorite people on the podcast today with me.  I have Gretchen Baskerville from The Life-Saving Divorce.  Hi, Gretchen.

Gretchen: Hello.

Sheila: And you were here for last year when we did our big one on Power of a Praying Wife, and now you’re back for this one.

Gretchen: Yeah.  That was very exciting.

Sheila: It was.  And Natalie Hoffman from Flying Free, a sisterhood at flyingfreenow.com.  And she’s the author of the great book, Is It Me? Making Sense of Your—shoot.  I forget your subtitle.    

Natalie: Confusing Marriage.

Sheila: I forget my own subtitles too.  But we are here to talk about Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth.  So when she wrote the original version, she was Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  And then she got married in her mid-fifties to Robert Wolgemuth and has since written the revised version, and the quotes that I’m going to give you today are from the revised version.  So just for our listeners.  And I think the book has been out for about 20 years now.  And as we’ve been working through with the team which books we want to tackle, we decided that we really wanted to do the ones that were still the most influential and the most widely used.  And Lies Women Believe is—it’s always up there on Amazon rankings.  It’s really high.  And churches are still using this book for women’s book studies and Bible studies, and so yeah.  I thought this is one we really need to look at.  So Gretchen, you looked at this book before I did because I had never read it until the Sydney airport in December when I just about fell apart.  But you read it—you’ve read it a couple times.  Or this part of it a couple of times.  

Gretchen: Yeah.  Let me give you a little bit of background.  I’ve been blogging on this book for quite some time.  Several years.  And that’s because I went through a horrific divorce back in the 1990s.  My husband was involved with very illegal, very immoral, felony level behavior.  And that was before she wrote the first edition of this book.  In the early 2000s was when they had all these women’s conferences.  Remember the Women of Faith women’s conferences?  In the early 2000s.  And I always found in my giveaway, my swag bag, a copy of Nancy Leigh DeMoss—back then she was Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  Her book, Lies Women Believe.  And when I had time, I would pick it up.  And I would read it.  And then I would get to page 159 where she would claim that if you were a wife and you had had years of compounded hurt, which I certainly had being married to somebody who is involved with illegal, immoral stuff, is unbelievably difficult.  She says that you can—this can lead a person, the wife, to rationalize things they never believe and justify choices they would never make.  She’s talking about divorce.  Okay?  Then she has the gall to say that we, that I, the invested wife, the wife who tried so hard to get my husband help, to hold this marriage together, to be godly, that I’m the hard hearted one and I have fallen into the deceiver’s trap and have been ensnared by his deception.  Okay.  So I’m just about ready to pitch this book.  Fly into the trash can.  This is not.  And frankly, this is not a lot of women, who need life-saving divorces.  Okay?  But she goes on, and she makes this comment.  There is no marriage God cannot heal.  There is no person God cannot change.  And the primary purpose of marriage is to be—to glorify God and not to be happy.  Well, I’m sorry.  God can change—He can heal every cancer.  He can heal every birth defect.  He can heal the injuries from an automobile accident just like that.  But He doesn’t choose to, and that’s why those kinds of things would be a complete and total miracle.  Anyway, I’m getting too far into my story.  I threw away my first copy.  Then I attended another women’s conference.  One of these huge women’s conferences. Got another free copy.  Forgot why I had thrown away the first one, got to page 159.  Boom.  That one went into the trash.  And I did it with a third copy.  So when I started blogging about her, I looked up the update that she wrote three years after she got married because a lot of people agreed with me.  But they blamed it on the fact that she was single at the time she wrote this book.  And I thought, “No.  I’m sorry.  I know a lot of single people who aren’t this cold hearted and this nasty toward women who have really gone through nightmares.”  And so I read that too.  And I think she had been accused of mentioning Satan more than Jesus, and so—

Sheila: Yeah.  She certainly did in the younger version.  We counted it.  And in the one that we looked at for She Deserves Better, Lies Young Women Believe, the word Satan appears more often than the word Jesus.

Gretchen: Yeah.  Yeah.   This is a big thing for her.  She’s really—I don’t know what her deal is.  But she lives on another planet.  Anyway, I want to say though before we kind of take this book apart.  I’ve kind of already ragged on it.  But I used to believe almost everything she says in this book.  I used to tell other women the things she says in this book.  I used to embrace these kinds of teachings.  And I am sure I’ve done a lot of damage in my younger life by doing so and by telling others this.  And I had to repent.  And I changed my mind when I was in my mid-forties, mid-fifties.  And I’ve had to apologize to people for embracing this.  And I really—Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth is only two years older than I am.  There’s plenty of time for her to say no.  I was wrong.  I wasn’t listening.  And I repent.  And now I’d like to undo some of the harm I’ve done.  So Nancy, come on out.  The water is warm, and it’s great.  And there is a lot—you can change sides and leave the dark side, hon.

Sheila: Amen.  And that’s all people want, I think.  And that was my overwhelming feeling reading this book is just how sad I was because I believed a lot of this stuff.  And it’s really dark.  I want to pick up on just something that you were noticing is that you were given a lot of these books for free.  And I don’t know that people necessarily know that background to this book, which is that Nancy Leigh DeMoss comes from an extremely wealthy family.  One of the wealthiest families in the United States.  Her father started a huge insurance company for Christians, died a multimillionaire many times over.  And so that family is behind a lot of—or several really big books that they got big by giving them out for free at first.

Gretchen: Right.  This is not the first book that the DeMoss family has—DeMoss women have given away—written and given away free or had written for them and gave away free.  There was a big book in the 1990s called Power for Living.  I think it was originally written in the early 1980s.  It had all kinds of problems with it.  There were actually plagiarism allegations.  They weren’t just allegations.  The people who wrote the first version of it went public and said, “Why did you take our names off this book and replace it with someone else’s names and, yet, leave a huge proportion of our wording?”  Anyway, so this family has money to burn apparently.  And the way they want to change the world and—they don’t have any particular theological training.  I don’t believe that either the mother or the daughter have been to seminary.  But that doesn’t stop them from inflicting all their views on us and giving them away to vulnerable Christians, who feel like they need to go to some kind of women’s conference because they’ve got anxieties and pressures in life that they’d like answers for.  So they’ve given these away free.

Sheila: Yeah.  So at the beginning, the book was given away for free in large numbers.  It became quite widely used for Bible studies then because people had it, and it was handy.  And they got it for free.  They looked at it.  They got it for their Bible study.  And it really took off from there.  So what I want to do today is I want to go through just what she says about the marriage relationship largely.  We’re going to look at some other aspects next week on another podcast for this.  But yeah.  And just leading up to what you said, Gretchen, about how she comes down really hard on anyone who would ever consider a divorce.  And so let’s start—and, Natalie, I’ll throw this one at you.  How it prepares women to put up with horrible behavior from husbands in all kinds of different ways.  So let me give you some examples.  She blames women for being lonely.  Multiple times in the book.  For instance, she says, “Sure.  I need God, but I need Him plus close friends.  I need Him plus good health.  I need Him plus a husband.”  And she asks, “Do you truly believe God is enough?  Or do you find yourself turning to other things and people including a husband?”  So you’re saying sure.  I need God, but I also need all these things.  And she’s like, well, then you don’t—you’re not really loving God then if you think that you need a husband, who is going to make you not lonely. 

Natalie: Yeah.  I was going to say too.  I mean just right out of the gate just think about the title of her book.  It’s Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free.  She’s setting her book up almost as—she’s setting her book up as a Bible really.  Her book is the truth.  It’s just Nancy’s opinions.  It should be called Lies Women Believe and Nancy’s Opinions of What She Thinks That They Should Believe.  Back when I was in that world and I was living with a husband who was emotionally and spiritually abusive, I was looking for truth.  I did pick up this book and thought, “Okay.  This is the truth.  Everything that she says is the truth.”  And then she goes and lists all the lies.  But some of those lies are not lies at all.  Some of those lies are the truth.  That’s exactly what the adversary does.  He sets up things, and he twists the truth just a little bit.  I always say it’s like this big glass of lemonade of truth because she does have a lot of truth in there too, right?  But there’s these mouse turds in the lemonade that nobody wants to drink that.  And it’s so destructive.  As I was reading this now again from my perspective, I got rid of my copy.  So thank you for buying me another one.  But as I was reading it, I realized how many times she speaks with a forked tongue.  She’ll say one thing like God loves you, but—and then she’ll say shaming, demeaning, dehumanizing things to these women that are completely the opposite of love.  

Sheila: Yeah.  She does that.  She says, hey, if you’re not doing all of these things, so you’re not really believing the truth.  You’re going to get all twisted around, and we need to start believing right.  But the things that she sets up as right, like you said, they’re—often they’re twisted too.  She really doesn’t like women wanting affirmation, approval, or even the company of others.  If you are sad because you are lonely, if you feel like other people have rejected you, then you are somehow sinning.  

Gretchen: Yeah.  When I read that, it was so interesting.  I thought, “Is she teaching something like isolation is godly theology?  Is this the idea that we should be hermits living in a cave who don’t really need anyone but God?”  And that defies the whole notion of the church and bearing one another’s burdens and being hospitable and welcoming and embracing and loving and serving and encouraging one another and weeping when we weep, singing, and praying with each other.  I mean offering help and comfort and accepting help and comfort, comforting those with the comfort we ourselves have received.  That’s all part of Christianity.  So this idea that you should feel guilty about needing comfort, that you should feel guilty about being lonely, I don’t know where she’s getting that.  That’s really, as Natalie said, her opinion.

Sheila: Yeah.  I mean let me just read you this one.  And this isn’t even in a marriage.  This isn’t even in the marriage chapter or a marriage lie.  Okay?  This is just early in the book where she’s just talking about women and our emotions and how we see God.  All right?  And she says this.  It’s just a throwaway line.  “We all know married women who struggle with a deep sense of loneliness and isolation.  But the fact is there is no man on the face of the earth who can satisfy the deepest longings of a woman’s heart.  God has made us in such a way that we can never be truly satisfied with anything or anyone less than Himself.”  That sounds godly, doesn’t it?  That sounds like something that I would have taught.

Gretchen: Yep.

Sheila: But you both have been in abusive marriages.  Okay.  When you read that, when you hear that, think back to yourself 20 years ago or however long ago.  What would you have felt?  

Gretchen: Well, it’s interesting.  She never makes a distinction between things outside the relationship and things within the relationship.  Character issues within the relationship.  She makes unfulfilled longings a sign of godliness.  And now the truth is that some people do need to handle stress and tension when the issues is outside of the relationship.  For example, medical issues or job layoffs or natural disasters or prostate cancer or, some day, dementia.  But that’s not the same as a pattern of abuse, neglect, or indifference from our spouse.  We may have signed up for richer or poorer, for better or worse.  But to quote a woman named Brenda Lin in my private group on Facebook, “that only means whatever life hands us.  It doesn’t mean no matter how you treat me.”  And there is a big difference.  

Sheila: Yeah.  That’s really good.  That is really good.  Because what I’m thinking, Natalie, is—okay.  And I’m not in an abusive marriage, but I’m imagining—I know when I was a child I grew up in a single parent household.  I was an only child.  I was often lonely.  And for me to read that—okay.  If you’re lonely, well, don’t you realize that only God can fulfill you?  Why do you want to be with other people?  That’s a very shaming message.

Natalie: Yeah.  Well, and we’re supposed to be in community.  The whole Bible is—honestly, the entire Bible is a treatise on how we are to love one another and be in community with one another, how we are to be in relationship with one another.  And the whole—not the whole book of Proverbs.  But a large portion of the book of Proverbs is what that looks like when you’ve got a problematic person, a fool, an abuser spinning around in those circles.  What do you do with someone like that?  Well, it’s not what Nancy thinks that you should do.

Sheila: No.  And so this is what I’m saying.  And this is what I want our people to understand is that in the lead up to her marriage lies where she demolishes the lies about marriage which is—I don’t know.  Probably about two thirds the way through the book, she’s got all of these other things first which are like if you’re feeling lonely it means you don’t love God enough.  Right?  If you need affirmation, if you feel like you need affirmation, it means you’re relying on people, not God.  So it’s anything that we might need from other people is a sign of lack of faith, lack of devotion to Jesus.  So right off the chute, right off the bat, we’re told that.  So now let’s really interesting lies.  Lie number ten is I have my rights.  Okay.  And this is a lie.  And she says that, “I have my rights.  How the quest for rights is the driving force behind wars, revolutions, demonstrations, protests, strikes, lobbying efforts.”  And she presents this a bad thing.  

Natalie: I know.  Plus she’s speaking—again, it’s this forked tongue thing.  She’s speaking out of both sides of her mouth.  We’re supposed to stand up.  She’s like we’re supposed to stand up for the rights of others but not for our own rights.  So it’s like we, ourselves—I am a disposable trash.  This is so confusing.  Everyone is people.  I am people too.  I have value too.  So many women that I work with believe everyone in the world has value except them.  So they’re eking out their existence in survival mode never discovering their true calling, their gifting, never being able to express their own creativity or birth their own legacy.  And if every single person bought into that lie in the world, our world would literally sink into utter chaos because we can change the world but the very first person that we have to change is ourselves.  And if we don’t see ourselves as valuable, then we’re never going to have a reason to invest in that kind of change.  And then ironically, we’re not going to have the capacity to value other people.  I want to say one other thing because she said this.  She made this analogy.  This is her quote.  “The fact is successful relationships and healthy cultures are not built on the claiming of rights but on the yielding of rights.  Even our traffic laws reflect this principle.”  That is such a bad analogy.  I would argue that this is called taking turns, not giving up your rights.  When it’s your turn to go in traffic, you don’t say, “Oh, but I have no right to go ever.  I lay down my rights.”  No.  You say, “When it’s my turn, I have a right to go.”  So even her metaphors fall apart.

Sheila: So let me read you a couple of the rights that she says are bad.  Okay?  Just some quotes from this section.  “The mindset that I have my rights has caused many unnecessary arguments and much unhappiness in marriage.”  And two of the rights that she says that we have to fight against—one is “we have the right to be valued by our husband.”  So she says that’s something that you need to fight against.  You’re not supposed to believe that.  And the other is that we have the right to be respected and loved.  And then she says, “And if these rights are violated, we have the right to be angry.”  

Gretchen: So here’s what’s so interesting.  Few Christians realize that the Bible mentions minimum standards of marriage.  We were led by Nancy and many other Christian authors to believe that a devout Christian wife must put up with anything her husband does, and he doesn’t need to lay down his life for his wife which Ephesians 5 requires.  We just view it as sort of romantic idealism and not a command.  But that’s not true from the biblical standpoint.  In the Old Testament, we get a view of the minimum standards of care and treatment for a wife.  In the Old Testament.  At some point, Moses got fed up with reports about how certain men were treating their low ranking wives.  And he had to create two laws to address it.  So you couldn’t withhold basic requirements such as good food and good clothing, and you couldn’t reduce her to slavery or sell her to someone else.  And if you refused to treat her at the minimum level of care for wives, not slaves—for wives, you had to let her go.  In other words, Moses, the Bible, actually commanded men to divorce their wives legally so that she could find another husband who would treat her properly.  And even the Puritans took this so seriously that they would fine husbands who were abusive to their wives and allow divorce for cruelty.  So the Bible does give women rights in marriage.  And although we don’t ever hear about this in our churches, these laws from the Old Testament make up the basis of Jewish marriage law today.  Orthodox Jewish people know these laws inside and out.  This is (cross talk).

Sheila: Yeah.  It is interesting.  I was talking to some Jewish people.  And in that, women are actually promised sexual pleasure.  They have to get—husbands have to promise that to their wives as part of that based on those passages, which is really interesting I think.  

Gretchen: Yeah.  And we hear this echoed in the New Testament, right?  There are verses like, “A man who doesn’t care for his wife is worse than an infidel.”  Anyway, I’m kind of going into the weeds, but I have a YouTube video called Divorce is God’s Protection for Old Testament Wives, if anyone really wants to go down that rabbit trail.  But there absolutely are minimum requirements for how a man should treat his wife in the Bible, and we do have the right to be treated with respect and understanding.  And the Bible even says that men’s prayers won’t be answered if they don’t.

Sheila: Right.  So let me read you how she ends this section.  Okay?  Because I think it’s very telling.  She says this, and this is specifically about marriage.  Okay?  “Each new hurt, each new offense, is a fresh opportunity to surrender our rights and to respond in the spirit of Christ, who ‘though He was in the form of God did not quote it,’”—and now she’s quoting Philippians.  “’Did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant.’  And paradoxically, it is in that posture of humility and yieldedness that we find ourselves lifted up.  That’s when we discover that all that is His has become ours through His willingness to lay down His rights.”  And that’s what she does, listeners.  Over and over again.  She’ll say something which is actually quite horrid if you live it out.  So each new hurt is a fresh opportunity to respond in the spirit of Christ.  Isn’t this wonderful?  You should rejoice when you’re being hurt.  And then she quotes all of these Bible verses.  And she ends this passage by quoting three different Bible passages, which supposedly prove what she’s saying even though she’s taking them out of context.  Right?  Because Jesus didn’t suffer for no reason.  Jesus suffered so that we can be reconciled with God.  Paul brought up his rights when the Gospel was at stake.  Suffering, in and of itself, is not a good in Scripture.  

Gretchen: Right.  Jesus walked away.  Jesus walked away.

Sheila: Yes.  Suffering is never commended as something which is an automatic good.  Instead it’s suffering for God when it points people to Christ is good.  But suffering when it enables people to act in an unchristlike fashion and to continue sinning and sinning against you and your children is not bringing glory to God and is not a reason to rejoice that you have the spirit of Christ.

Natalie: When I viewed my suffering as bringing glory to God was when I was going through my divorce and was being excommunicated by my church and rejected by my family of origin.  That was suffering for doing what was right because I was finally obeying God in what He wanted me to do instead of obeying Nancy Leigh DeMoss and my—all of my spiritual mommies and daddies.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And I know that many people who read this book—they’re not in abusive marriages.  And so you may not—this may not have resonated in the same way.  But I just want you to think in the average women’s Bible’s study let’s say there’s 10 people, right?  What do you guys think?  You guys probably know better than me.  What do you think is the instance of abuse in evangelical marriages?

Gretchen: Well, there’s actually been a study on this, right?  So in 2019, a very pro family, pro marriage organization, the Institute for Family Studies, did a study on this.  And they asked questions.  And the questions were about serious abuse.  And lo and behold, one in four highly religious families, couples, said that they were—and you’re in the United States.  That would be the majority of the religious people are evangelical Christians, right?  They said that they were—had experienced that level of abuse in their current relationships.  I mean you should read these questions.  I’ve got them on my website.  It’s shocking how many nice, Christian—devout Christian women are experiencing this level of abuse.  

Natalie: That doesn’t even cover emotional and spiritual abuse.  It doesn’t cover the kinds of abuses that a lot of people don’t—wouldn’t say is abuse.  I personally think it’s at least half.  I think at least half of Christian women are in a marriage where they’re being manipulated in different ways and controlled in different ways and spiritually where God and the Bible are being used to control them.  

Sheila: Yeah.  So if you’re in a women’s Bible study, even if you’re not being abused, think of the effect of these teachings on the women around you.  But even it’s not about marriage, what does it do to you, as a person, to read that, hey, if someone is trampling all over your rights you should rejoice in that because you don’t deserve anything better.  And that’s how God sees you.

Gretchen: Yeah.  We’re just dirt to be trampled on.  Yeah.  I mean this is ugly.  

Natalie: Well, it creates that attitude in women who are in better marriages and who have no concept of what that might be like.  They can read a book like this and feel good about where they’re at.  Oh, I’m believing all the truths.  I’m glad I don’t believe the lies.  Not understanding that—the privilege that they have.  And then looking down on women who might be sharing in their Bible study really hard things and thinking, “Well, if they were believing the truth, then maybe they wouldn’t be,”—that’s what I experienced.  I didn’t dare say some of the things that were going on because when I did I got bashed down by people.  So I just—for the most part, kept it to myself.  Once in awhile, it would get so bad, and I would go to my pastor or something.  But yeah.  So I think books like this are harmful even—it’s really—what it is is it’s—it’s a beautiful piece of propaganda that’s brainwashing the collective whole of Christian women.  And the men love it because then they can abuse with impunity, and they’ve got women on their side.  Yeah.

Sheila: So yeah.  I do want women listening to hear that.  If you’re in a good marriage and you read this and you think, “Yes.  Because I really trust God, I can handle things,” it’s like no.  You may just have a different circumstance.  And just because other people aren’t able to give up their rights as easily and as happily as you are does not mean that you are more spiritual.  It might just be that they’re in a very different situation.  And they need your help and your compassion.

Natalie: Well, and what rights are—are you giving up your right to sleep at night after you’ve had a baby, or is your husband sexually raping you?  What rights are we talking about here?  

Sheila: Yeah.  So let’s move on to those actually.  So let’s move on to what she says about marriage.  She says that one of the lies that women believe is that there is no hope for my marriage.  Okay.  So this is a lie.  I find this really strange.  Lie number 44 is, “I just can’t take it anymore.”  And one of the lies in that is that, “I can’t continue in this marriage.”  So she says this multiple times throughout the book that it is a lie to believe there’s no hope, that you can’t continue, that you can’t take it.  All of these things are lies.  

Gretchen: Well, she never tells you what you shouldn’t take anymore.  I mean there are things that happen in marriages that you need to put your foot down on.  Now, of course—so the first example she gives in one section is, well, a husband who forgets the two-year anniversary of the day you meet which is, obviously, silly and ridiculous.  And then the next things in her bulleted list are genuinely horrible things that you shouldn’t take anymore.  So she wraps together ridiculous things with genuinely important things, and it just becomes a mind game.

Natalie: I took tons of notes on lie 31.  It was lie 31 is, “There is no hope for my marriage.”  And, again, she describes normal marriages where two normal people are learning to give and take and communicate and get along.  But those kinds of people are not the ones that are saying there is no hope for my marriage in the first place.

Sheila: Yeah.  I would never say that.  I would never say that.  You would never say that today with your new marriage.  Right?

Natalie: No.  Never.

Gretchen: Nor would I.

Natalie: So she goes through, and she actually has these bullet points that I was like furiously writing responses to.  For example, she says, “Have I come to,”—first of all, though, she says, “The devil wants to divide you.”  So if the abuse victim—this is me talking now.  If the abuse victim wants to escape, she is being told here that the devil is behind her desire to escape abuse which implies that God really, really thinks that it’s a good idea that she’s in an abusive relationship.  So one of the bullet points is, “Have I come to believe that the problems in my marriage are totally or mostly my husband’s fault?”  I would have raised my hand there.

Sheila: That’s the next thing on my notes too.  It’s like what are you talking about.  Yeah.  

Natalie: Yes.  If you’re being abused, the abuse—how is the abuse the victim’s fault?  Yes.  That is the abuser’s fault.  

Gretchen: Yes.  Hey, Nancy, I wasn’t the abuser.  I wasn’t the cheater.  I wasn’t the addict.  I wasn’t the pedophile.  The Bible actually tells us to get away from those people.

Natalie: Right.  Another thing she says is, “Am I being honest and humble about how my responses or spirit could have contributed to the breach in our relationship?”  If you are being abused, then nothing you could do can stop that abuse from happening.  Abuse comes—it originates in the abuser, not in the victim.  She says, “Do I see myself as a sinner as much in need of God’s grace as my husband is?”  And there is—but I say there is a world of difference between someone who is chronically mistreating their partner and all the rest of us, who are garden variety sinners.  I think Nancy has—I don’t know if she has ever read the book of Proverbs.  I would encourage her to read the book of Proverbs because I think that would help her out a little bit.

Gretchen: The other thing is she talks about—she finally got married in her late fifties.  Okay?  For the first time.  And she talks about how respectful and how tender her husband is and how thoughtful he is.  Well, lucky her.  That’s not what a lot of people got.  And for her to presume that every marriage out there is as tender and thoughtful and every woman gets treated the way she’s treated just isn’t true.  I don’t think she actually listens to domestic violence victims.  Or if she does, she just says, “La, la, la.  It’s all your fault.”

Sheila: Well, it’s interesting because at the beginning of the new edition she talks about why she wrote it.  And one of the reasons is about abuse because she’s trying to do a better job in this edition than she did in the last.  But she talks about women doing just what you did, Gretchen.  She literally talks about women who told her they threw the book across the room.  Okay?  No one has ever told me that they threw one of my books across the room.

Gretchen: Right.

Sheila: That is a big thing.  And I think part of the problem is women’s Bible study leaders will say, “Okay.  I know there’s some problematic things in it, but let’s just take the meat and spit out the bones.”  When there is this much bones, there is no meat.  And there are books that you don’t have to spit stuff out at.  As a Christian church, we need to raise the bar and stop reading books that we know are partially harmful because there might be something good in it.  What?  You think there aren’t books that are just plain good.  There are.  But we keep reading these books that are trash, and then we just assume all books are.  And the truth is a lot of evangelical books have been harmful because they all believe this one central lie.  And I’m going to read you this bit here.  Okay?  So this is, again, from the section on how you got to believe that every marriage can be restored.  “As Christ’s suffering was the means by which we were healed, so your faithfulness and willingness to extend sacrificial love to your mate maybe the means of his restoration.”  And she has multiple Bible verses referenced in that thing.  And this is what so many evangelical books do.  They tell you, “Hey, if you’re unhappy, the problem is not because of your circumstances.  The problem is because of your attitude.  If you just got rid of your expectations, if you just remember that it’s only God who can fulfill you so thinking that other people can make you happy is crap.  You got to let that go.  And by the way, suffering is good for you.”  When most evangelical resources teach this, they’re going to end up doing a lot of harm.  And there is a healthy way to talk about suffering in Scripture, but it isn’t this because Jesus does not ask us to suffer so that other people can sin more.    Jesus does not say, “Hey, when you suffer, when you enable sin,”—and I don’t mean—I’m not trying to blame the abuse victim for being abused here.  Okay?  But I’m just saying when you bend over backwards to be nicer all the time so that there’s no repercussions for anything bad that he does, right?  You’re not bringing about holiness and righteousness.  When he is hurting you, that is increasing the amount of pain in the world.  And Jesus doesn’t want us to increase the amount of pain in the world.

Natalie: Yeah.  It’s perpetuating a cycle of abuse in children too.  We’re only talking about the wife here. But what about the children who are being raised by men and women who are buying into Nancy’s—it should be called Nancy’s lies.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Well, think of Emerson Eggerichs.

Gretchen: Lies Nancy believes.  

Sheila: Emerson Eggerichs, who wrote Love and Respect, as a child, he saw his father strangle his mother.  He witnessed that.  And do we not think that that might be why he’s writing such destructive stuff today?  Because he was traumatized as a kid.  And we are perpetuating this trauma.  And then what she does is not only does she give this teaching, she also does something quite similar to which Emerson Eggerichs does.  We have an episode where we look at what—the sermon that he did at Houston’s First Baptist Church where he basically tells the audience, “Look.  Your son is going to be accused of being abusive,” when he walks away to calm down.  And he keeps going on about how men are always being called abusive when they’re really just being honorable.  They’re really just trying not to attack you, and so they’re walking away so they don’t get too angry.  And you’re calling that abusive.  So he’s telling everyone in the audience, “Hey, if someone accuses someone of abuse, they’re wrong.”  And that’s kind of what Nancy does here too because she tells two different stories.  She tells multiple stories.  But there’s two that really stood out to me.  One of a woman who prayed for 16 years for her marriage to be restored, and it was.  And one of a woman who prayed for 40 years, and her marriage was restored.  In both of those cases, there would have been children probably watching what was going on.  And she’s praising these women for staying despite the fact that those 16 years or those 40 years were terrible.  And in one case, she even says that friends and counselors and everyone told them to leave.  But she didn’t listen to the counsel.  She held on to God and to what the Lord was telling her to do.  And so by reading that, every woman in an abusive marriage, who has had her sister tell her, “You need to get out,” or her mother say, “Please leave,” or even her pastor tell her, “You need to get out,” she’s thinking, “Oh, well this woman heard that too.  But this woman stayed.  And look.  After 40 years, her husband changed.” So Nancy is priming the women to disregard people who genuinely love them and know them in real life and who are trying to rescue them.  And Nancy is priming women to disregard those who love them because they have to cling fast to God. 

Gretchen: Yes.  She is.

Natalie: Because of two anecdotal stories honestly.  I think those are the only two that have ever changed in the whole world.  

Gretchen: Yeah.  And she’s praising women.  She’s praising women for suffering instead of taking their valid, legal method of escape.  I mean these women are not suffering for their faith. Their husband isn’t coming home and abusing them because they claim Christ because they have a Bible on the shelf.  They’re suffering due to Nancy’s false theology.  Nancy prioritizes the injuring of women rather than rescuing them.  I mean that’s what this comes down to.  I mean she really doesn’t seem to care about these women’s suffering.  She sanctifies it.  And her interpretation, I think, contradicts the teachings of Jesus.  

Sheila: Okay.  Let’s say that this woman stayed married for 40 years in this terrible situation where her husband is being harsh.  He’s being abusive.  And she stays, and she prays.  And now suddenly, he gets better.  Okay?  She’s still would have been better off if she had left at year 10.  

Gretchen: Right.  Right.

Sheila: So what?  He’s better at year 40.  So she’s what?  65 now.  Her kids all hate her.  Her kids don’t have a relationship with either parent because the relationship was so dysfunctional.  Right?  She doesn’t know her grandkids that well.  How is this better?  In what universe is that even better?  Okay.  Well, now her husband knows Christ.  So what?  He may have come to know Christ anyway.  You don’t know that he wouldn’t have come to know Christ if you left.  Maybe in the leaving, it would have snapped him into realizing there was something desperately wrong with his life.  

Natalie: Yeah.  Sooner.  

Gretchen: Right.  Right.

Natalie: At one point, she says, “Am I willing for God to use me as an instrument of grace in my husband’s life?”  And I think that goes along with this idea.  We’re supposed to be—it’s something that we can do.  Pray for 40 years or whatever.  And we’re supposed to be the instrument of grace.  But I don’t believe that a victim is called to be an instrument of grace in her abuser’s life.  We would never tell an 11-year-old rape victim, for example, that she should be an instrument of grace in her rapist’s life.  A victim is a victim, so they’re not—they are specifically not called upon to be the instrument of grace.  Let Nancy be an instrument of grace in all of the abuser’s lives.  I’d like to see her start to minister to some of these abusers and be an instrument of grace to them.

Gretchen: As you already mentioned, both of you, it’s just unwise advice because staying in a highly toxic marriage such as abuse if far worse for children’s wellbeing than leaving.  And we’ve known that since the 1990s.  It’s pretty shocking.  We know that abuse is worse for kids than divorce.  Is divorce bad for kids?  Yeah.  But abuse can be up to 10 times worse.  If you stay, you’re—every single day you’re staying, praying for your spouse, who you don’t know is going to turn or not, or as Natalie said might turn to Christ whether you stay or not.  Every day you stay you are damaging your children.  And the ACE Study of 1998 shows that if you stay in a situation where there is—whether the children either experience or witnessing physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental—destructive mental illnesses or criminal behavior, that they are far more likely to experience early death and pretty severe medical conditions later in life.  So that’s something that our churches never tell us.  Nancy isn’t telling us that.  But this isn’t just a matter of you can stay and nothing bad is going to happen to you.  That stress.  Absolutely.  Even Focus on the Family admits that that level of toxic abuse and stress leads to autoimmune diseases and all kinds of things.  So let’s be honest.  This is not an issue where suffering quietly has no horrible unintended consequences to the wife and to the children.

Sheila: Yeah.  And what does it say that we think God wants that?  What a view of God to think that Jesus is looking at a woman who is getting hurt and saying, “I want you to continue to hurt—to be hurt.”  That’s a terrible view of God.  She gives two stories of women who were made content in really difficult situations in their marriage.  And she tells her stories quite at a lot of length.  Historical women.  Elisabeth Prentiss and Martha Washington.  But both of these women lived in a time when women had no choices.  And we don’t need to say well just because women in the past put up with stuff and managed to thrive that that means that we need to be in these awful situations.

Natalie: Right.  The caged door is open.   So why would we sit in the—continue to sit in the cage?

Gretchen: Well, and Jesus—I said this when we talked about The Power of the Praying Wife.  But I think it bears repeating again.  Jesus doesn’t want us to go into danger or stay in danger for religious sounding reasons.  Remember the three temptations that Jesus experienced in the wilderness.  Satan came to Him three times.  And the second time Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and said that he could prove that Jesus could show the world that He held the elite status of being Son of God if He would just throw Himself off.  And Satan quoted Scripture saying, “God would command His angels to protect Him lest He strike His foot against a stone.”  And Jesus refused Satan’s twisted invitation to prove His devotion to God in a showy way.  And He replied, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”  In other words, proving your incredible faith in God by putting yourself into danger or staying in danger when you have a choice—and we already said that those women from centuries ago had no choice—this is actually testing the Lord, your God.  And Jesus calls this a sin.  So I’m not sure why she’s so intent on blaming women for everything.  If you notice in the Gospels, Jesus never once gets angry at a woman.  He never once calls women names.  He doesn’t condemn them even when women talk to back to Him and argue with Him.  And I think that Nancy’s message in this book is the exact opposite of what Jesus’ advice would be.

Natalie: Yeah.

Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  I want to move on to some other aspects of marriage.  So we’re going to put—let’s put a bookmark in abuse.  Okay?  So for the rest of the podcast, I don’t want to look at necessarily abusive situations.  But just darn weird stuff she says about marriage.  Okay?  So we know that what she says about abuse is terrible.  But when she’s talking about how to actually fix a problem—so let’s say there’s a problem in your marriage, and you need to bring it up.  Okay?  She does this weird false dichotomy.  And I’ve talked about this on the podcast before.  But she says this, “There are two powerful tools more effective than lecturing, nagging, or whining.  And those two powerful things are godly life and prayer.”  Okay?  I have a problem with saying that when a woman brings up an issues she’s either lecturing, nagging, or whining.  What if she’s simply saying what her issue is?  What if she’s simply saying, “Hey, I’m not happy about this.  Can we talk about it?”  And so many authors seem to say to women, “Look.  Either you let it go and say  nothing at all, or you’re lecturing, nagging, and whining.”  We played a podcast of—oh, what’s the—is it—Furtick.  Furtick’s wife.  Oh, I forget her first name.  But we played a podcast—a reel of her doing that a little while again too.  And it’s like, um, isn’t there another option there.  But let me read this too about bringing stuff up.  This is when she’s saying, “Okay.  If you are going to bring something up in the marriage, if you are going to say something, you need to remember that you have to be submissive about it.”  Okay?  “So once a wife has graciously expressed her view on a matter,”—at least here she’s allowed to be gracious.  “Once she has shared her concern and appealed to her husband to reconsider a particular direction, at the end of the day, she must be willing to back off, accept her husband’s decision, and trust God with the consequences.”  And this is what we hear over and over again from evangelical books about marriage.  It’s like yeah.  You can say something.  Sure.  But it really doesn’t matter.  If he doesn’t take your opinion into account, you just need to trust God and just go with it.  So he wants to drain your bank account on a stupid investment.  Just trust God with the consequences.

Gretchen: Yeah.  No.  She also brings that up—maybe you’re planning to get to this anyway.  But on page 182, “If my husband is passive, I’ve got to take the initiative.”  And that goes along with your example of men who are foolish risk takers, who can be very destructive to their financial stability through both now and the retirement in the future.  And while I am—and she advocates just being totally passive and saying nothing.  And while I am a believer that we should generally allow adults to suffer the consequence of their own bad choices, sometimes the behavior has long term devastating results for the family.  And I think a wife can and should and must step in.  And I think to consider it a virtue to stand by and watch your passive or foolish husband refuse to act is just irresponsible and negligent, and it’s enabling his immaturity.  Or maybe if he’s older, it’s ignoring his cognitive decline or overlooking his addiction or his lack of medical compliance.  I mean some men, and some women too, abandon their duty to their family by just selfishly refusing to be an adult.  Bills have got to be paid.  Taxes have got to be filed.  That leak.  You can’t just let it go on.  It’s going to damage the subfloor.  You’ve got to have that lump in your groin examined.  So what gets me is she uses the story of Sarah in the Bible to defend her teachings that you should just shut up and go with whatever your husband wants.  But she ignores the story of Abigail in the Bible that teaches the opposite.  That if you’re married to a foolish, arrogant man, you have to take action in order to honor God, do what’s right, and avoid the crushing punishment that goes with neglect of duty.  So I don’t know.  I just can’t buy into her solutions.

Sheila: Yeah.  Also interesting about Sarah in the Bible is that it looks like she separated from Abraham after Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac.  After that, they never lived together, and they weren’t living together at the time of Sarah’s death.    

Gretchen: I never noticed that.  Thank you.  

Natalie: Yeah.  Why doesn’t she bring up that truth in her book?

Sheila: Yeah.  But in that lie, I have this written down.  You both are totally tracking with me because you keep saying the next thing I’m going to say.  So it’s awesome.  But the lie that she says, “If my husband is passive, I’ve got to take the initiative.”  And she says that’s totally a lie.  And she asks this question, “You know, after all, what’s the worst thing that can happen if you don’t jump in?”  And it’s like I can think of tons of things.  Like you said Gretchen, I can think of tons of things.  Okay.  I also have a big issue with how she fundamentally sees a woman’s role.  This is not confined to just Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  But evangelical literature as a whole tends to do this.  But she’ll make a statement as if it’s just demonstrably true in the Bible when it’s not.  For instance, she says, “The Bible does teach that God created women with a distinct responsibility regarding the home.”  Where does it say that anywhere?  Where does it say that the home is women’s sphere?  In 1 Timothy 5:14, it does say that women are to manage their households.  But the purpose of that verse was—Paul was writing to Timothy to say what to do with Ephesus, right?  And he was talking about something which had been happening in Ephesus which is that the women who had become Christians were just hanging out with each other and gossiping.  And they were letting the slaves and other people run their households.  And Paul was saying, “No.  You got to be responsible.  Go run your households.”  He wasn’t making a statement like women you should be in the home instead of out working in the corporate sphere.  There was no corporate sphere for women then.  

Natalie: Exactly.

Sheila: So the only two things women could do is either be fundamentally lazy and not have any responsibilities and go around with their girlfriends or manage their households.    

Natalie: And the work was in the—a lot of times work was in the household.  There was textiles.  There was farming.  There was pottery.  A lot of the industry that happened in those cultures was happening individual homes.  And the woman was definitely part of that.  We can’t just take verses and literally apply them across all of history when it’s talking about a specific time and place.  You can take the principle, the idea of being industrious.

Sheila: Yes.  Which is what it was talking about.

Natalie: Exactly.  Exactly.  But being industrious now looks very different than it did back then.

Sheila: Yeah.  As a side note, the phrase heads of household does not appear in Scripture.  But the closest we have to it is in 1 Timothy 5:14 where the woman is called that.  So the idea of the man as the head of the house isn’t actually there. 

Natalie: I love it.

Sheila: But the closest we get is where the woman is called that in 1 Timothy 5:14.  But there is nothing in Scripture that says that a woman is supposed to care for the home while the man is supposed to go out and work.  That is something that came out of the Industrial Revolution.  It is cultural.  It is nowhere in Scripture.  And yet, she talks about it like it’s a given.  She says, “God wired women to be connected to home and relationships in a way that men are not.”  No.  He didn’t.  Never says that.  Nowhere in the Bible, nowhere in science, it just isn’t there.  That is what you think, Nancy, but it isn’t there.  But this is what the evangelical church has taught over and over again.     

Natalie: Yeah.  There’s nothing in Scripture that teaches that only men are wired to work.  This is from her quote.  “Only men can financially provide, and only men can protect in ways that women are not wired to do that.”  If that was true, then Scripture—Scripture would not be applicable to women at all or to single moms.  And we know that’s not true.  

Gretchen: Well, and the Proverbs 31 woman—twice it talks about this woman’s arms.  I mean she’s this amazing import export mogul.  She’s absolutely working.  She’s managing.  She’s checking her accounts.  And she’s a force to be reckoned with.  

Sheila: Okay.  Two things that really I find bizarre.  I mean there’s actually—I think there’s three more.  But these are two big ones that I talk about all the time.  Mental load and libido.  I just want to deal with these really quickly because I find this really funny.  So the way that she paints women’s exhaustion—okay?  About how women will say—and it’s a lie to believe—there’s not enough time to get everything done and being exhausted is bad.  And if you’re exhausted, she said the problem is that you haven’t prioritizes properly.  That there is enough time in every day to do the things that you have to do.  

Natalie: Says the woman who has no children.

Gretchen: Right.

Sheila: Yeah.  And she goes on and on and on about how you can organize better, et cetera, et cetera.  But what she never talks about is the systemic issues, which is women, more than men, carry most of the mental load and do most of the housework even if they work outside the home.  So she just spends the whole time saying, “Hey, you need to prioritize better.  You need to stop wasting time.  You need to work harder.”  But she never says, “Hey, maybe the reason that you’re so exhausted is because your husband is pulling his weight, and that’s an okay thing to talk to him about.”  She never says that.

Gretchen: Notice how she kind of hits mothers with a truck and then rolls over back and forth just to hurt them a little bit more.  She accuses women of being exhausted for—because they are trying to imitate the beautiful lives on social media.  But long before there was social media, women were exhausted.  Let’s not blame women for adding to—for their own exhaustion.

Natalie: I was exhausted before social media.

Gretchen: You have nine children.  Heavens.   Of course, you’re exhausted.  So here’s what’s so weird.  Then she has a whole paragraph where she points out modern conveniences such as microwaves and dish—clothes washers.  And then she shames exhausted women saying that their mothers and grandmothers had it so much worse.  But the truth is that women still carry too much of the physical and emotional load.  And women have a mountain of chores and errands that are considered by evangelicals to only be women’s work.  So right now my husband is recovering from a medical procedure.  And I’m often working long past dinner to do basic household tasks that he would normally do.  I’m not out there looking to create beautiful meals.  I’m just barely holding my head above the water.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  So, again, picture a woman.  She’s got three kids under the age of six.  She’s working part time trying to get everything under control.  Her husband really doesn’t help.  He’s not home that much.  And she goes to a women’s Bible study where she says that God wants you to work harder, to prioritize better, and to stop wasting time.  And that’s part of the problem is that we’re putting God on—all of the advice that Nancy is given she is saying it’s coming directly from God.  And so if you are still exhausted, it’s actually because you don’t have enough faith.  It’s because you’re sitting—and God is disappointed in you.  So now not only are you exhausted, you’re also a failure to Jesus.  And I find that really, really exhausting and difficult.  Yeah.

Natalie: Exhausting.

Gretchen: She blithely discussed how women in the sandwich generation, who are trying to care for children and their elderly parents.  And we’re talking about people who probably now need a little bit more help.  Maybe due to dementia.  I mean a lot of us have lived in this situation.  It is exhausting.  And frankly, anyone who doesn’t have discretionary income—let’s just face it.  The cooking, the cleaning, and paying the bills just isn’t going to get done. 

Sheila: Isn’t it better to hear that God sees that?  And He cares about you in those moments when you’re exhausted.  It matters to Jesus that you’re exhausted and at the end of your rope.  And He does want to help instead of just hearing you’re not trying hard enough.  I find that (cross talk).

Gretchen: Her answer is she gets to say no to discretionary things like reading a book or browsing social media.  But she’s out of touch of the huge list of non discretionary tasks that just need to be done to keep a household going.  And Jesus is the One who is offering rest for those who are weary.  

Natalie: And it’s not necessarily practical rest like making a different choice.  Sometimes it’s just resting in your mind and your soul while you keep—while you get up in the middle of the night with your kid who is puking his guts out.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Exactly.  Okay.  This one is bizarre.  Okay.  Super bizarre.  Let’s talk about sex.  All right?   

Gretchen: This is your area, Sheila.  

Sheila: Oh my gosh.  Oh my gosh.  The number of times this woman tells women that their job is to teach their bodies to respond because the problem—okay.  And let me read you this.  One of the lies—what lie is this that I’m in?  I don’t know what like I’m on.  But anyway, so she’s talking about the purpose of sex and how sex is supposed to be something that God made, which is good for you.  And so she’s talking about a woman who is just really ashamed of sex because of trauma in her past, et cetera.  “That all changed when a message on the true purpose of sex opened her heart to the truth that she should never settle for less than God’s best in her marriage.  She resolved to be intentional about romancing her husband and training her body to respond and asked a close friend to help hold her accountable.”  Okay.  

Gretchen: I’m sorry.  

Sheila: Do you know the number one reason why women don’t reach orgasm?  

Gretchen: Why?

Sheila: Lack of foreplay.  Okay.  It doesn’t really matter how much you train your body to respond if she got nothing to respond to.  And the way to get a guy to give you more foreplay is not to have a close friend hold you accountable.  It is to actually talk to your husband about a little to the left or maybe—I find this bizarre.  And she doesn’t just say it once.  She says it multiple times about this.  Now what people may not realize too is when Nancy wrote the first edition to the book she had Dannah Gresh write the bits on sex.  And Dannah added quite a bit to the new addition as well because she’s like Dannah is my good friend.  And I’m not married, so I don’t feel qualified.  And so Dannah actually wrote this bit.  Dannah Gresh—I’ve talked about her a lot on the podcast.  She’s the author of And the Bride Wore White.  She did the Secret Keeper Girl curriculum, which was the one that warned eight-year-old girls that their bellies had the power to cause adult men to get out of control.  The sight of their bellies.  Yeah.  Really, really problematic.  And whenever I read stuff about sex that Dannah has written, I think it’s very, very important to remember where Dannah was when she was writing this.  Because Dannah spent 20 years telling girls to be more modest and telling women to have more—to be more interested in sex, et cetera, et cetera while her husband was watching porn.  And that’s come out now.  They’ve written a new book, she and her husband Bob, about how to get over porn use and how a wife can be instrumental in helping her husband to get over porn use, which is problematic in and of itself.  

Gretchen: Well, it didn’t work for the first 20 years.

Sheila: Yeah.  But this is what Bob wrote.  Okay?  And he wrote this in—he said this in—that was published in a Brio magazine article with Focus on the Family.  He said this, “If a guy sees a girl walking around in tight clothes, a mini skirt, or short shorts, you might as well hang a noose around the neck of his spiritual life.”  

Gretchen: His spiritual life.

Sheila: Yeah.   So if a guy so much as sees a girl in tight clothes, his spiritual life is dead.  Bob Gresh wrote that. 

Natalie: Well, that tells you something about his spiritual life.

Sheila: And Dannah Gresh was writing all about modesty and sex at the same time as Bob is writing this.  And we now know that he was really into porn, which was escalating worse and worse.  And so you just have to ask how much a lot of that played a role in the parts about sex.  And it makes me very uncomfortable when you learn this sort of stuff afterwards, right?  

Natalie: Yeah.

Gretchen: This whole book is Nancy’s lies that women are to be blamed for absolutely everything.

Sheila: Yeah.  Oh, here.  Here.  This one is good too.  Okay?  Here’s just a random quote.  I highlighted.  “That’s how we treat God’s masterpiece of marriage and sexuality when we believe the lie that sex and spirituality are unrelated.  That we can be a godly woman and, at the same time, have sex outside of marriage or not be interested in having sex with our husband.”  

Gretchen: Oh wow.  So equating adultery with not wanting pleasure in sex.  Yeah.

Sheila: Not wanting sex.  And she’s saying you cannot be a godly woman if you don’t want sex with your husband.  

Gretchen: Wow.

Natalie: Unbelievable.

Gretchen: Never mind that one in four in this other survey I mentioned before—I mean  a lot of people said yes to the question of have you been raped by or spiritually—or coerced by your husband to have sex.  Yeah.  No wonder.

Sheila: Yeah.  Very, very, very damaging message.  We talk about that so much in the podcast.  I won’t belabor it.  But I just want you all to know that this is another book giving that same message.  Okay.  The same obligation sex message.  All right.  Here is a strange one.  Let’s talk about contraception.  Natalie, I don’t know if you have thoughts on this one in particular because—

Gretchen: She has nine children.

Sheila: So lie 32 is, “I have the right to control my reproduction.”  So she believes that it is wrong to use any kind of contraception and that you just must welcome as many children as God brings you.  And she sets up the ideal.  She gives a story of a woman, who had two kids while using—but then used birth control, was convicted of that.  They stopped using birth control, and they now have eight.  And it’s wonderful.  

Gretchen: I’m surprised that Natalie isn’t rolling her eyes.

Natalie: I am inside.  I published a book with 10 other writers—or 9 other writers.  They were all—all of us—it was called Three Decades of Fertility.  That’s what it was called.  And it was 10 stories of women who gave their fertility to God.  Over half of those women are divorced to this day.  And their families are in shambles.  Okay.  Tons and tons of kids, all struggling.  Some had walked away from the Lord.  So all of this idea, this quiverfull idea, or whatever, it all sounds good on paper.  But when it comes down to the nitty gritty reality of it, it’s not—when she says I have the right to control my reproduction and she says that’s a lie, what—we have a responsibility to control our reproduction in my book now.  And I’m speaking from a person who believed that I did not have the right to control my reproduction.  That that had to be completely left up to God.  God always works through people.  You and me—we are the hands and feet of God in the world.  That means that God works through us and our choices.  He does.  Why does God choose to do that?  Because He’s not a manipulative abuser, petty, whiny controlling God up there.  He gave us a world, and He gave us free choice.  And now we—and then He changes the world by—with a little yeast crystal or a little mustard seed.  And we are the yeast crystal and the mustard seed.  And we are the ones—we’re supposed to go out with autonomy and making decisions and choices and changing the world by—in those ways.  We don’t just sit on our hands and just float down the river of life and let our husbands rape us every day and then hope that it all works out in the end.  That just doesn’t—it’s not a good—it doesn’t have a good ending.

Sheila: Yeah.  And she does admit that it’s a hard—it’s hard for her to say this because she knows she doesn’t have any kids.  But yeah, Nancy.  That is a hard—and then the lie number 33 is, “I can’t afford more children.”  So if you think you can’t afford more children, that is a lie.  You can always afford more children.  Or I can’t physically handle more children.  I’m exhausted trying to take care of the two I already have.  And she says that’s a lie as well.  

Gretchen: Yes.  Says the woman who has never had to sweat rent for months, years, and decades.  Man, this is just speaking from such amazing—

Natalie: Privilege.

Gretchen: Yeah.  Privilege.  I mean this is a let them eat cake kind of statement.  Totally tone deaf.  A Marie Antoinette statement.

Sheila: And I want to say too.  If you want to have a big family, I am not saying—and none of us are saying that that is wrong.  It needs to be a choice.  That’s all we’re saying.

Natalie: Yes.  Yes.

Sheila: It just needs to be a choice.

Gretchen: On timing too.  

Natalie: That you consciously make from intentionality and talking—and partner—in partnership with a husband, who is actually reciprocating that partnership because raising nine children basically by yourself is really, really difficult.  So if you don’t have a husband who is in partnership with you, that’s a road to hell.  Not literally.  

Sheila: When I mentioned Lies Women Believe on social media, the number one thing that people bring up is this weird contraception thing.  People say that they’ve been in Bible studies, and they’ve talked about the contraception thing.  And yeah.  It is the number one thing that people talk about, which is totally bizarre.  Don’t know why she would invest in that so much.  And she really does shame women who are exhausted.  She gives the example of a woman with twins.  She has a two year old and then one-year-old twins.  And this woman is exhausted.  And Nancy’s point is that God did the timing of these kids so that He could teach you patience in a way that you could never learn any other way.  And God just wants you to learn this right now as opposed to—yeah.  You’re tired.  And she just has no sympathy.  It’s just all you need to get right with God.  

Natalie: She has no patience.  She needs to learn some patience with everyone else, who is really struggling.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Okay.  Some other quick things that I noticed about the book.  Just a couple of weird quotes.  This one is on page 81.  “A wife who makes no effort to care for her physical appearance will reflect negatively on both her husband and her heavenly Bridegroom.”  So there’s just that kind of shaming.  If you neglect your appearance, you’ll reflect badly on God.  We don’t say that to men.  When is the last time that was ever said to a man?  

Natalie: Seriously.

Sheila: This is just adding stuff to Scripture that isn’t there and heaping a lot of shame and guilt on women.  And then there’s this theme that she has where she is constantly equating trauma and abuse as if they’re both sin.  She’ll take a trauma response, like you said Gretchen.  She’ll often give these bulleted lists and talk about—she does this at the very beginning of the book.  How women have all of these challenges and these failures and how women have failed in all these areas.  And then she’ll have difficult relationships with your children as if that’s a failure.  That’s not your failure, if you have a difficult relationship.  But she seems to do all these lists where she’s equating things that are not equated.  So at one point, she has a huge list of things that I can’t tell anyone about.  Okay.  And she’s trying to get over the lie that you should feel shame.  You should never feel shame.  The lie is that I can’t tell anyone because you’re feeling ashamed and feeling ashamed is a bad thing.  So she’s trying to defeat all shame in one go.   And in that list—

Gretchen: Yeah.  Just snap out of it.  Snap out of that shame.

Sheila: Yeah.  So in the list of things you can’t tell anyone about, she includes a stepfather forcing himself on me sexually from the time I was 5 to 11 every week and a woman choosing to get caught up in social media.   

Gretchen: And notice that she doesn’t even have one ounce of compassion.

Sheila: Right.  And what does she call these things?  

Gretchen: I was watching for that.  She doesn’t.  Something is wrong.

Sheila: And what does she call these things?  Sexual sins, challenges, shortcomings, and fears.  So a man raping a child from age 5 to 11 is categorized as a sexual sin, a challenge, a shortcoming, or a fear.  Not traumatic abuse.  

Gretchen: And what was so weird is that her solution is that you tell your sexual secrets to other trusted Christians who are probably a lot like her who have just been taught to ignore this, snap out of it, pretend it never happened.  I would suggest finding a licensed counselor, who is well versed in dealing with sexual trauma.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Exactly.  Okay.  Here’s another good one.  There is a list in lie number 24 that God’s standards for sex are out of date.  Okay?  So that’s her lie.  “God’s standards for sex is out of date.”  And she has a list of nine sexual acts that God expressly forbids in Scripture.  Do you know what act is not included in that nine—in that list of nine things?  Rape.

Gretchen: Which one?

Natalie: Rape?

Sheila: Rape.

Gretchen: Rape.

Sheila: Rape or sexual assault is not on that list.  Do you know what is included?  

Gretchen: What?

Sheila: Impurity or losing one’s virginity.  So losing one’s virginity is seen as a sin, but rape is not even mentioned.

Natalie: You could have lost it through no choice of your own.

Sheila: Exactly.  Exactly.  And purity is not something you commit.  It’s so bizarre.  And equating impurity with not being a virgin is so problematic.  The Christian ethic is chastity, not virginity.  Right?  And chastity is just putting your sex life under the lordship of Christ, which is going to look different in—for people who are married or single or whatever.  But that’s what chastity is.  It’s just not living a sexually hedonistic lifestyle.  It’s not virginity.  Virginity can be taken from you, or you might do something in your past that you regret.  And you decide that now you’re going to live a chaste life, and that’s fine.

Gretchen: Well, not only does she list this impurity, which she defines as losing one’s virginity.  But she also adds to that list—incest is the last one.  So it sounds like in this context because she’s already mentioned a woman who had been raped by her stepfather for quite some time, that being—maybe even being an incest survivor is a problem.  It’s just—the whole thing is—I don’t know.

Sheila: Yeah.  Or how about this one.  Just the number of times that she mentions a situation, which is abusive and doesn’t mention it.  She just does it constantly through the book.  There’s this one quick quote in one of the stories she tells where a woman says, “I lost my father when I was 14, and I got married at 16.”  And then she goes on to tell this story.  And the bit that Nancy is referring to is something else in the story.  But it’s like that little bit, “I got married at 16,” that matters.  That is a child marriage.  

Gretchen: Yep.  She’s probably a victim of statutory rape.  

Sheila: Yeah.  So it’s like that actually does matter.  But she glosses over these things so quickly throughout the book.  And it’s like I kind of want more information there.  

Gretchen: Well, here’s another thing she said in this section.  So back to the stepfather raping his stepdaughter, which is felony sexual assault.  She doesn’t show any compassion.  And then she says that if you view yourself as a victim, like even a victim of a crime, you’re embracing shame which is making you feel victimized.  And I just want to scream and say, “She was victimized, Nancy.”  I don’t know why Nancy doesn’t get this.

Sheila: Yeah.  So again, please, women, if you are leading a women’s Bible study, just remember that—what is it?  One in five women are victims of sexual assault at least.  That’s a conservative figure.  So when this is the way that sexual assault is being portrayed afterwards like you’re in trouble if you think of yourself as a victim and you’re sinning against God, that’s just simply not true.  This does serious harm to women who are reading this.  At the very beginning of the book, she says that her aim in the book is to have women fee “winsome, joyful, and content even if they are living in painfully difficult marriages just like with cancer or a child dying.”  Right?  So she equates living in a difficult marriage with having cancer or having a child die and say in all situations you’re supposed to feel winsome, joyful, and content.  

Gretchen: Right.  Let’s see you do it, Nancy.

Sheila: But they’re also not remotely the same.  I have had a child die.  And I wouldn’t say that I ever felt winsome, joyful, or content.  I would say that I did feel peace in the midst of grief.  But having a child die is very different from being in a painfully difficult marriage because having a child—Christopher didn’t die to get at me or to hurt me or to—it wasn’t something that anyone deliberately did to me.  It was just something that happened.  No one was deliberately hurting me.  But when you’re in a painfully difficult marriage, there is someone who is hurting you.  That’s not the same thing.  

Natalie: Plus it’s just interesting to me how—I think the—one of the reasons why she does not have a lot of compassion is because she hasn’t experienced any of these things herself.  And I just think it’s irresponsible to write a book like this to people who are hurting and tell them that they need to show up in certain ways when she doesn’t—when she’s not willing, number one, to understand their true experience.  And she’s not willing to sit with them in compassion or curiosity.  She’s not really willing.  And she’s never experienced herself.  Basically, she’s beating women—I think the whole book is like her taking a bully stick and beating women over the head with it and telling them that shouldn’t hurt now.  If you’re a godly Christian, this won’t hurt, and you should be happy and winsome and joyful even though we—me and all of my friends are beating you over the head with this.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And is this really the kind of Bible study anybody wants?  Is this really the view of God that we want the women in our church to have?  

Gretchen: Yeah.  I was asking myself, “What if I were at a church where they were going to study Lies Women Believe?”  I’m curious, Sheila, what your advice is.  I mean other than—let’s say, at least, you try to go to the pastor and give him or her your one sheet.

Sheila: Yes.  Which is available.  The link is in the podcast notes.  Please, everybody.  

Gretchen: You have a synopsis with actual page numbers.  But let’s say that they don’t listen to you, and they go ahead and use this book in a women’s Bible study.  What kind of recommendations do you have?

Sheila: I think for me that would just be a red flag that this church may not be an emotionally or spiritually safe place.  It doesn’t mean that it would necessarily be bad.  I think people can make bad decisions.  And often it’s one person deciding what book they’re going to read in the small group, and the rest of the church doesn’t necessarily know about it.  So I know that it’s not always clear cut.  But if people really aren’t listening to you about this book, you need to ask what is their view of God.  And do they actually care about people who are hurting?  Or are they just trying to get everybody to look good on the outside?  And I don’t have easy answers for that.  We’ve done a lot of podcasts on whether or not to leave a church like that.  I think that it’s different for every person, and I can’t give an absolute statement.  But I would just say that’s a red flag, and that would make me start thinking whether this was safe or not especially for my kids.  Do you want your children growing up hearing that God is like that?  That God is saying work harder.  Stop wasting time.  Prioritize better.  If you’re lonely, it’s your fault because you’re not believing in Me enough.  If you’re still sad and ashamed from the assault, it’s your fault for thinking of yourself as a victim.  Do we really want our kids hearing that God is like that?  

Gretchen: If you’re married to someone who is abusive or addicted or serial infidelity, that you are hard hearted if you want to divorce and that you are trapped by the deceiver.  That’s just—it’s just shocking to me.  And time to throw the book away.

Sheila: Yeah.  And if you honestly think that we’re exaggerating or it can’t really be that bad, I just encourage people to look at our one sheet.  It truly is that bad.  Of all the books I’ve ever read for this work that we do, this one hit me the hardest.

Gretchen: Really?  Wow.

Sheila: Harder than Love and Respect.  Harder than anything else.  Maybe because it was specifically aimed at women.  But the view of God. 

Natalie: This is spiritual abusive.  

Sheila: It is.

Natalie: They’re using God and Scriptures to abuse women.  That’s why it’s so horrific.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I really—I found this one really hard.  I did.  I hope that—yeah.  Church, we can do better than this.  We can do better.  Study Aundi Kolber’s Try Softer.  Study—what other good books could people study instead of this in their church?

Natalie: Well, you have some good books listed in that one sheet of alternatives that they could study.  So they should go there and look at the list.

Sheila: Yes.  I do.  So go look.  Yes.  I’ve got some alternatives.  You don’t need this book.  We need to do better than this.  We need to be a church that doesn’t just shame people and doesn’t just guilt people and doesn’t just tell people, “Hey, you need to have it all right on the outside if you’re going to come here.”  We need to be a church where we can get real.  And this isn’t it.  We need to do better.  We need to raise the bar, and so that’s why we’re so vocal about this book.  It honestly was one of the most shocking that I read and one of the most disheartening.  And part of it was because I recognized myself in it.  This is what I was in the middle of for years, and I didn’t see it then.

Gretchen: Yeah.  Me too.

Sheila: And I think it just took me back there to how—yeah.  To how I constantly felt like I wasn’t enough for Jesus and—

Gretchen: This is what it looks like.  It’s so fabulous with page numbers and summary and issues.  This is her one sheet.

Sheila: Yeah.  So please download it.  So Natalie, where can people find you?

Natalie: I have a podcast too.  It’s called The Flying Free podcast.  Honestly, that’s where I think I’d want people to go.  And I talk to Christian women who are in emotionally and spiritually abusive marriages.

Sheila: Yeah.  Thank you.  And Gretchen?  

Gretchen: You can find me at lifesavingdivorce.com.  I have a private Facebook group called The Life-Saving Divorce Private Group.  It’s made up of Christians.  We are over 5,000 strong.  And yeah.  Come on over, and I have a YouTube channel that’s very active as well.  And I’ve done a lot on DeMoss and just the problems in her teachings.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And, again, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, she wrote Lies Young Women Believe, which we looked at for our book, She Deserves Better.  So yeah.  Quite familiar with this.  And we can do better, people.  We can do better.  We must do better.  So thank you for joining us.  I really appreciate it, ladies.

Gretchen: Thank you.

Natalie: Thank you, Sheila.  Bye.

Sheila: I am so grateful to Gretchen and Natalie for that amazing conversation.  Please join us next week as we bring on two more people to talk about what Lies Women Believe says about emotions and about wellness and try to debunk some of those things and just have a more hopeful view of God and who He is and how He is compassionate.  Please remember that there is that download in the podcast notes, which is available for you.  Please download it and pass it around.  And remember that here at Bare Marriage we want to set people free.  Not just from bad teachings about sex and marriage but about bad teachings about God because it all comes from the same root, doesn’t it?  And so if you need to be set free, please pick up our books The Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better.  They will help you be set free from a lot of these toxic teachings because we can do better as a church.  We can raise the bar, and I hope that as we continue to have these conversations we’ll see how harmful so many of our resources have been.  And we’ll see that it doesn’t need to stay this way.  It can’t stay this way.  It has to get better.  So thank you for being on this journey with us as we make things better and as we bring the church back to Jesus.  Bye-bye and we’ll see you next week for part two.

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

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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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59 Comments

  1. Lisa Johns

    You sure the turds in that lemonade are only mouse? Seems to me that was a GREAT. BIG. RAT. !!

    Reply
  2. JG

    I quit listening to Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth about 15 or so years ago because I got very busy with young children and homeschool. Now I think that was a good thing to do.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      very good!

      Reply
  3. Jo R

    So since no husband can fulfill 100 percent of ANY of his wife’s needs, then husbands are 100 percent exempt from attempting to fulfill any of her needs to any extent at all?

    Wow, huh. What happens if we goose-gander that?

    No wife can fulfill 100 percent of any of her husband’s needs, so wives are 100 percent exempt from attempting to fulfill any of his needs to any extent at all.

    Hallelujah! 🤣 🤣 🤣 🥳 🎉

    Reply
    • CMT

      Wow, funny how that only applies to women’s needs and expectations, huh?

      I grew up hearing versions of “I’m sorry, here are some Bible verses” or “that’s hard, you should take that to God,” when I was in emotional pain. I honestly think it was well-intended in most cases. Most of the people in my life at the time didn’t have the capacity to sit with people in uncomfortable emotions, and the spiritual bypassing was the best strategy they had. But yeah it so easily slides into this double standard they talked about on the podcast, where women believe everyone else is entitled to care and concern, except themselves!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It honestly does make no sense!

      Reply
    • GodsPeach

      Good One 🥳🥳🥳

      Reply
  4. CMT

    This book sounds really toxic. I never read it but the logic is sadly familiar.

    I have had similar reactions of pain and grief with re-exposure to harmful things I used to believe. I think for me it re-activates a lot of the shame and fear those beliefs used to trigger in me. I was not free to fully acknowledge those feelings at the time. They showed there was something wrong with ME, and the attempts at support I would get from people around me would usually end up as more spiritual bypassing.

    Now I see it very differently and I can have some self compassion. It’s like saying to younger me, “wow, yeah, it really was that bad. You’re safe now, we will get through this.”

    Reply
    • Jo R

      Your second para… oh man.

      And, Sheila, thank you so much for reading this crap and dissecting it for us all. I simply cannot, as I’m still too raw and recovering to even think of merely opening any of these books.

      Like CMT, I thought I was being godly, the best wife I could be, the best Christian I could be. There was no freedom, only chains. There was no lessening of the burden, the light yoke. No, it was all on me, all the time, no breaks allowed, weakness to be scorned, the whole smash.

      I’m still healing, and there are things I can’t do, that I simply WILL NOT do, and that’s ok.

      Hugs to me, and anyone else who wants ’em.

      Reply
      • CMT

        “I’m still healing, and there are things I can’t do, that I simply WILL NOT do, and that’s ok.”

        I love this for you. Learning to set the boundaries you need to care for yourself, and not apologize for them, or feel the need to justify why you need them, is huge.

        “Hugs to me, and anyone else who wants ’em.” 🫂🫂

        Reply
      • K

        Jo R, I appreciate your thoughts. Thank you for sharing them. (Right down to the GK Chesterton article from the other day.)

        I also appreciated your share about “if men want sex with a body that works like theirs, they don’t want a relationship with a woman!” (AMEN!!)

        I resonate with so many of the guilts and burdens you experienced and share. The overwhelm of only being allowed to find problems with yourself.

        I don’t really have much to add. Except thank you for sharing. You often say things I don’t have the energy for any more – but it still feels so validating to read them.

        I know that you probably feel turmoil, grief and anger as you wade through the aftermath of the years the locust has eaten, but you are making total sense and your indignation is wonderfully healthy.

        I accept a hug and offer one back. And send up a toast to your indomitable spirit!

        Reply
        • Jo R

          Thanks, K! (Do you work for the Men in Black???? 😉)

          I think the most significant thing for me that I got when I found Sheila in February 2020 is that I AM NOT ALONE. For DECADES, I was convinced I was the only one in my friend group, the only one in my whole 400-person church, who felt like this. That I must be absolutely depraved, that I must be a completely rebellious person to even think there might be something wrong. Well, something wrong besides ME. Because clearly, if I’m the only woman I know thinking these kinds of things, wanting more, wanting to enjoy, well, ANYTHING in life, then by definition, it’s ME that’s wrong.

          All the books said “this is God’s way,” all the Bible studies, the women’s retreats, the Sunday school classes, the marriage weekend thing we went to not even two years after we got married. They all had the same message, and I just had to try harder, do more, give more.

          Well, congratulations, church! I gave so much, I am tapped out. Completely empty. Absolutely nothing left to give. Because nothing filled me up. No one could do anything except mouth the same platitudes and pat answers.

          I can’t believe I allowed myself to get to this state. I have an engineering degree, which at the bachelor’s level essentially means I’m a well-trained problem solver. But I couldn’t solve this one. Because the data I was given was false from start to finish. So in addition to everything else, I feel stupid. I feel guilt for not seeing through the lies and twisted truths. For not questioning more (because doing so might indicate I wasn’t actually a Christian!).

          And round and round we go.

          We’ll get there, my friends. One way or another, we’ll get there.

          In the meantime, Mr. R and I are going to our favorite restaurant, and I might get an adult beverage! Woot! 🍸 🧉

          Reply
          • Laura

            Jo R,

            I experienced a lot of what you went through even though I was single most of that time. I often felt like I wasn’t really a “Christian” because I just could not make myself believe the stuff that has been taught in church culture. In my first marriage, I tried to be the good, submissive wife by giving my husband sex anytime he wanted it (he wanted it way toooo much and was also addicted to porn), be nicer to him even though he treated my like dirt, try to let him make more decisions without my input because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do, etc. Thankfully after 2.5 years of marital hell and sexual abuse, I gained the courage to leave 22 years ago. I am thankful I did not get as much exposure to all those “Christian” marriage and sex books back then. It was after the divorce that I started reading them and I gave up after a few years. If I wanted to keep my relationship with God real, I could not read that garbage.

            I’m so glad you and Mr. R have moved past that toxic evangelical garbage and are moving forward. Enjoy your adult beverage!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s how I feel now when I read this stuff. “I’m sorry you always felt God was so disappointed in you not trying hard enough.”

      Reply
  5. Amy Garner

    Did she forget that humans are social animals? God said it was not good for Adam to be alone in the garden. Or does she think lonliness is only valid for males and not for females?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that so many people make faith so entirely individual (and make the gospel solely about whether you inividually get to heaven) that they miss the point.

      Reply
      • Amy Garner

        It still comes off as the same as saying you don’t really need to eat, you just aren’t relying on God. Yes, we need God, but He isn’t going to miraculously put all our needed nutrients straight to our bloodstream! Almost reminds me of those people long ago that thought matter was evil and spirit was good. Jesus had needs when He was here. Do they think He wasn’t hurt by being rejected? Unless they want to be Docetists, those type of people need to stop labeling basic human needs(babies can literally die from not being held) as sin.

        Reply
      • Jane King

        That is a big part of what’s wrong with the evangelical church. We have reduced the historic Christian faith to a “get out the hell free card” for the individual. I agree we are missing the point.

        Reply
  6. Laura

    I think I had skimmed through this book years ago and a lot of the material just did not sit well with me. Lies was another “Christian” (there’s nothing Christ-like about it) book that I tossed to the side or threw in the trash because in my mind, if this was the way I had to be a “good Christian woman” then I did not want to have anything to do with God and it distorted my view of Him. Because I did not want to lose my relationship with God and I knew deep down that the “God” Demoss claimed she was talking about is NOT really that way, I realized that I had to look to HIS WORD, not someone else’s interpretation of it. That’s the problem many Christians fall into. They tend to only listen to what their pastor says on Sunday, read Christian books without referring to the Bible, and not practicing critical thinking.

    Even though I never saw Bible verses showing that “husbands should ‘lead’ their wives and families, it was always implied and I thought I had to believe that in order to keep my salvation. Since Bible studies have emphasized wives being submissive, the assumption was that husbands are to be in charge of them. It is so hard to get others to realize that’s not what those verses mean. There is nowhere in scripture that tells men to be in charge of their wives. I guess those verses about the “husband as the head of the wife” has been the catalyst that has put men into the dominant role and women to be subservient.

    How dare Nancy (who was not married nor ever had children) dictate to women how to conduct their marriages and sex lives? There is nothing wrong with being on birth control. That choice should be up to the couple to make that decision. Because of my almost “advanced” age of 47, my fiance and I have chosen not to have children even though I easily could. I am so glad I chose not to believe Nancy’s supposed truths which are really lies.

    I also get the impression that she hates women and deals with internalized misogyny.

    Reply
    • Anonymous305

      I regret the times I gave relationship advice before I’d had one. Especially, I regret recommending Joshua Harris advice!!

      Nancy was definitely single when she wrote the book, but 8 years ago, she married for the first time at the age of 57. I wonder if she regrets her advice. Regretting would be one step, but admitting it would be even harder.

      Reply
    • Anonymous305

      I previously commented before listening, but now just heard the fact that she put out a new edition after being married and left horrible stuff in it ☹️😡‼️ In some cases, I wonder if female authors normalize abuse because they’re in an abusive marriage, but Nancy wasn’t in any marriage when she wrote the original edition, so…I dunno. And if her husband is a good guy, what does he think? Also don’t know.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I think this is a huge part for a lot of female authors. Just recorded an upcoming podcast on that!

        Reply
  7. Ruth Songs

    Something I have noticed in the Evangelical churches I have attended- and it seems to feed into these wife is a martyr stories- is the idolization of a dramatic transformation from sinner to saved. You know, the once violent addict getting saved and changing his or her ways. Those kind of testimonies were always held up as something special, and yet ZERO mention ever that a person can choose in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, I have seen this play out when a subservient woman who believed she must never question, over the years, realized her husband had gone down the road of an illegal and immoral lifestyle. It’s as if the church didn’t even recognize this as a possibility. I mean, he attended church and all, he can’t REALLY be doing these things. It’s not her fault by any means, but the reinforcement he received over the years of her good-Christian-wife acquiescence really didn’t help anybody.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! I would love to hear a testimony of “she was in an abusive marriage, and the church came alongside her and helped her leave.”

      Reply
      • Anonymous305

        So would I!!

        Reply
      • Jenny

        I know two – one where the wife was abusive on multiple levels and was destroying her husband and kids and their pastor told the husband he needs to get a divorce and helped him leave. Granted, it was a man leaving his abusive wife, but that is literally the only instance I know of where a church recognized abuse and encouraged life saving divorce.

        The other was where a wife left an adulterous husband and wasn’t ostracized from the church, but I also don’t know how much help or support she got from the church as an institute. I do know she got help from family and friends within the church though.

        Which is pretty dang insane because I’ve had exposure to a lot of flavors of baptist and a pretty big number of churches and those are the only stories I’m aware of. I’ve known plenty of divorcees, remarried and not, welcomed into the church, but after the fact.

        I mean, I’m hardly the church gossip, but still… Two stories where very justifiable divorce was encouraged or “allowed” over 35+ years in church… And like maybe three or four instances where sexual sin faced church discipline. If the stats are true, I definitely should have seen more people held accountable, but they just don’t realize how wrong they are.

        Good theology everywhere but marriage and then suddenly you put a ring on it and the rules magically change.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, that’s exactly it. It’s like the whole rest of the Bible doesn’t apply to marriage.

          Reply
  8. JG

    What about women who have body injuries completely out of their control?

    I was in a car accident at 14 where I was thrown from the vehicle and had a dislocated hip. So thankful for the good orthopedic surgeon who took care of me. My husband was aware of the injury before we married and has been very understanding of when I have to get off my feet when my hip starts hurting.

    Thankfully I was able to have children, but we also knew when to stop. Pregnancy can become more problematic after 40. Our youngest of five was born shortly before I turned 40, and we both decided it was time to stop with her.

    Reply
  9. Jules

    Couldn’t agree more with this statement…”We were lead by Nancy and many other Christian authors to believe that a devout Christian wife needs to put up with anything her husband does and he doesn’t need to lay down his life for his wife which Ephesians 5 requires. You know, we just view it as romantic idealism and not a command.”

    If you want a good example of this, read the “Allison’s Story” portion of Chapter 7 in the book “The Excellent Wife”. This story about Allison dismisses any concerns that this woman has about her marriage and tells Allison that her marriage is not the real issue, but that she has abandon her precious savior for an idol. I wanted to throw the book into the fireplace when I read that chapter a year ago because the counseling that I had received about 5 years prior was out of the same ACBC playbook.

    I bought it hook line and sinker at the time. This idea of me just pressing into God’s love rather than asking for anything from my husband sounded okay – it granted me some perceived control of the situation, I am a pretty laid back person so managing my expectations / emotions / etc. didn’t sound so hard, and of course I want to lean into God’ love for me! But, as the years went by and my husband (who I believe struggles with anxiety and could benefit from some informed therapy in that area) didn’t change at all, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t being loved or respected…we now had a 5 year old child in the picture.

    So, I asked my husband to go to counseling with me…surely if he was with me in the counseling room the actual issues would be addressed! Ha – was I naive. My husband confessed a few “idols” then he was a done deal…first session and he was on his way to whatever sanctification that God had in store for him. Never mind that he still had very little control over his emotions and couldn’t have a conversation without getting irritable, fidgety and ultimately shutting down (he had been stonewalling me for our entire 10 years of marriage and it did not matter how pleasant and in control I was when addressing him, I was made to be invisible). Stonewalling wasn’t the only issue, others had been piling because we couldn’t talk about them. The counselors gave us a few legalistic ways to communicate which did provide some bandaids but also worked to shut down communication just as much as they worked towards building it, and neither the counselors nor my husband had any interest in addressing my husbands emotional maturity, his anxiety, etc.

    Since my husband was good to go after he had confessed sin against God. The attention turned to me…I was pressured relentlessly to confess MY idol that was causing the problems in our relationship. I was continually bombarded with questions to try to help me to find my sin or “wrong thinking” that was contributing to our relational issues. Now I am all for doing my part, but I had been dying to self and pretty much letting my husband walk all over me for years as I tried to follow all of these demands that this counselor had set before me. How much can one person do? Is it really always my problem to fix? Do I have to always be the Christ figure who saves our marriage…doesn’t my husband have a role to play in all of this? I’d spent years doing all that I could to love and respect my husband? I didn’t honestly believe that I had been idolizing anything, but was simply calling my husband to more – grieving a marriage that was not how God wanted it to be and trying to urge my husband towards something that was what God had designed.

    Well, when I started pushing back on the counselor it all went south so fast. Our last discussions included concerns that I was enslaved to sin (the sin of idolatry in my heart of course – no one had pointed out any evidentual sinful behaviors that needed to be addressed) and that I wasn’t concerned about change for God’s glory, but I just wanted my husband to change to conform to my own selfish desires. It was an eye opening experience and I’ve been on a long road of questioning “what in the world was I believing” ever since. I appreciate what you all are doing. I believe that my counselor, as well as many others, are trying to serve God and help people, but the extra biblical things that they are teaching are hurting people…not just the wife, but the entire family unit.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, I’m so sorry you went through that! Yes, ACBC counselors can be really, really hurtful (and they recommend The Excellent Wife a lot!). It’s not true that both people contribute to the marriage problems equally. Not even remotely true.

      Reply
      • Jules

        Thanks Sheila – I appreciate your caring and considerate response.

        My counselor (and acbc I believe) would give lip service to the fact that both people do not contribute to the marriage problems equally. But they would say that even if you’re not the main contributor, your job is to look to what you are contributing – to “work on your 5% of the problem” rather than focusing on what the other person is doing”.

        Sounds okay at first, but what comes later is the realization that it is impossible to whittle your 5% down to a level at which you are “allowed” to shift your focus onto the relationship or your partner. The goal is to focus on fixing self, dying to self for your partner, and “getting right with God” – which is apparently an impossible feat as we are all helpless idol worshipers (don’t get me started on their theology regarding idol worship).

        I think that my counselor, along with the authors of many of the books that you have reviewed, give lip service to a good number of ideas because they know that they would be wrong not to believe those things (eg,,. both people do not contribute to the marriage problems equally, women should have a voice, God created us with emotions in his image, relational problems should be addressed, etc.), but then they go on to contradict those very things that they gave lip service to through the rest of their teaching. They are a tricky bunch and pretty impossible to disagree with. I don’t think that they are trying to be tricky, but just teaching what they have been taught.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, I think that’s very astute. They’re a tricky bunch, and often their “teaching” contradicts their advice, application points, or anecdotes.

          Reply
    • lisa johns

      “Now I am all for doing my part, but I had pretty much been dying to self and letting my husband walk all over me for years…” That hits hard. It’s a game we can’t win: either we “die to self” and let our guys walk all over us (which leads to burnout and breakdown), or we speak up and lovingly confront our guys about their sinful choices (which leads to being accused of “casting judgement all over” and the assessment by the pastor of us being intractable wives). so take your pick — would you rather be crushed in public or private?

      Reply
      • Jules

        Yeah – I think for a number of women that is more or less the way it goes. I’m sorry that you’ve been so hurt by the very institution that is supposed to demonstrate the love of Jesus. I hope that you are in a better place now and with a pastor who sees women through God’s eyes.

        Reply
  10. K

    If a woman’s lived experience of sex and a man’s lived experience of sex can be likened to Chef Boyardee (cold from the can) and Nona’s handcrafted perfectly simmered artisanal fare from the kitchen …

    What analogy works for women’s lived experience of Christianity versus men’s lived experience?

    They’re not really the same religion and don’t seem to worship the same deity.

    Just to start – apparently women were created to serve and men were created to BE served …

    Apples and oranges are both fruit – so I think that comparison would be far too generous to be helpful.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      As I’m rewatching Downton Abbey, I’d say too many Christian women’s lives are like Daisy’s in the very first episode, doing the preferably unseen drudgery that makes everyone else’s lives smooth.

      I’d say too many men live like they’re the Duke of Crowborough, busy getting their way and running roughshod over anyone who dares try to oppose them.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I think you’re on to something! Women get chef boyardee in a lot of situations.

      Reply
  11. Connie

    So let me get this straight…I shouldn’t be lonely or have needs from anyone because I have a Saviour, and He is enough for me. But, my husband has needs and Jesus is not enough for him, I am called to be his saviour? Didn’t know I had that much power!

    Oh, and the two women who prayed for years and their husbands pretended to change? What about stories of the women who prayed for years and were murdered? Every day in this country!

    Unfortunately I used to believe all this. Thank you so much for being our voice.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is absolutely heartbreaking what has been taught to women! Absolutely heartbreaking.

      Reply
  12. Nessie

    I read this book just a few years after accepting Christ as an adult. It really, really messed with me. I grew up being gaslit, so it kind of felt like “home” in a twisted way.

    Everything you said between the 2-3 minute marks…tears. That exactly! I knew I could never NOT disappoint God when I read this book! I knew I would never be worthy of His love. I am so looking forward to the next podcast on this!

    Being lonely… such guilt because I felt my husband was neglecting me (8 married years of not having a conversation with me can have that effect on a wife) so I knew I was not relying on God enough… I started to doubt my faith because if I was expecting my husband to help me be less lonely, I must not *really* believe in God, right? As a lonely SAHM, I later stopped going to my church small group because I felt I was making it my idol.

    I could write at least a novella-length article about how much shame this book heaped on me and how it cemented that God could not love me because I fell SO very short of His mark. Now I’m still chipping out all that concrete and it is tiring, dirty work. Thank you so much for going through this heap of garbage to help others heal!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I totally understand, Nessie. The ideas in this book are just so suffocating and not of Jesus! I’m sorry you were so hurt!

      Reply
    • Nessie

      I do want to add- when I went through this study, there were older women who worked with international families. Any concerns we had with thinking something might be “off” were dismissed, because they knew women who went through such atrocities at the hands of their other-faith husbands, and it was really a first world problem… that kind of thinking shamed us all into believing many of the lies that were lurking in DeMoss’s “in fact[s].”

      Whooboy, this has opened up a can of worms for me! I obviously still have more to process from this book alone!

      Reply
      • Rk

        Thank you Sheila. This helps so much. Even John Theophilus MacArthur (my little middle name joke) once said “nothing kills your spiritual life like legalism” . If that’s true then why do leaders keep adding legalism to their books?? Thank you for pointing out the man made rules in this book.

        Reply
      • CMT

        Nessie-trying to understand.

        The women at the study were saying: “Christian women in other cultures may suffer extreme abuse at the hands of non-Christian husbands, with no recourse. Therefore, N American Christian women married to Christian men should not do anything (beyond pray or politely ask) about problems in their lives or marriages, because those are “first world problems” and not worthy of actually being addressed seriously.”

        Is that it??

        Reply
        • Nessie

          CMT- Pretty much… It was somewhat of a “they bring glory to God in their severe troubles, so why do you think that your concerns are nearly as severe as theirs? Why do you feel you are so much more important than they are?” kind of situation. They said it as lovingly as they could, but I think most of them were married to pretty decent guys so they thought any complaints we might have must just be us exaggerating our problems.

          Like in the podcast, I believe it was Natalie that mentioned she dared not bring up any concerns because the first time she did, she was shamed into feeling they were less than she made them. That really resonated with me.

          Reply
      • Angharad

        Your experience with the ‘other people suffer more’ folk reminds me of the time when I plucked up the courage to complain about sexual assault from so-called ‘Christian’ men in church. I was told that women in other countries were subjected to abduction, rape and forced marriage by men who were opposed to their faith, and if they could still follow Christ in those circumstances, then I was a ‘spoiled princess’ and a ‘demanding diva’ for complaining about a bit of groping and kissing…

        I never got an answer to my follow up questions: 1) Where in the Bible does it say that someone else’s sin excuses our own? and 2) Where in the Bible does it say that we should be looking at the lives of unbelievers for examples of how to live as Christians?

        Reply
        • Nessie

          According to EE, we should be looking to Haman and other non-believers for our behavior models, right? *eyeroll*

          Reply
  13. Perfect Number

    I definitely used to believe that if I ever had feelings about my needs not being met, that would be a sin- I’m supposed to be content with God all the time, “God is all I need” etc. It’s a really anti-human teaching.

    Also I love the part in the podcast about how marriage is “for better or for worse” but that means you stick together and support each other through problems *that come from outside the marriage* (illness, etc). It doesn’t mean you have to accept it if your spouse mistreats you. The marriage itself should not be the source of the problems. Life can be hard, and marriage should be a way to support each other through it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, exactly!

      Reply
  14. Pat A

    I would like a link to the 2019 study on Christian martial abuse. I can’t find it because there’s not enough detail in the podcast for me to turn it up. Does anyone know how to read it?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It’s right here. Go to around page 36.

      Reply
      • Pat A

        Thank you

        Reply
  15. Becky W

    Yet another Christian giving advice on family and marriage when they are not doing those things themselves. It’s like Gothard again.
    I refuse to buy this book but from what I can gather this book is destructive. So she claims emotions are not trustworthy and mental health is best served by the church? While I agree emotions need to be challenged I think trying to pray them away or take them captive in the name of Jesus is prosperity theology. We simply can not control our emotions at times. As someone who has had panic attacks telling me I need to pray or I’m not trusting Jesus (which I used to believe) made me feel even worse than I already did. Trying telling a veteran with PTSD not to have triggers. Rather by me acknowledging how I’m feeling, yes I’m panicking, no I can’t control it, but I do now pray to Christ to hold me in my suffering. I trust Christ will give me strength to endure my emotions that I can’t control.
    The church is awful when dealing with mental health and I would never recommend anyone going to the church first. Don’t take your marriage to the church either. Until they address their own abuses I wouldn’t take anything substantial to them.

    Reply
    • JG

      I read on another website that Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth followed Gothard’s teachings. Some of the things mentioned here about what she taught is very close to Gothardism.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s true for a lot of what Dannah Gresh taught about modesty too–straight out of Gothard, like “eye traps”, etc. I think both Gresh and Wolgemuth were in Gothard’s sphere of influence.

        Reply
    • JG

      Becky W. Prayers and hugs. Jesus is with you no matter what you are dealing with. Sometimes as Christians we conveniently forget the people in the Bible that went through distress and depression. David, Elijah, Joseph (especially after being sold as a slave), Paul, Rachel, Sarah (having to wait so many years for a child). God never condemned them for their grief and depression, and we shouldn’t condemn each other for our difficulties in life.

      Reply
  16. Nessie

    Thinking on this more…
    I wonder if it can be easier for some women to believe that we are SO incredibly prideful (and thus need to repent by being ultra-submissive) because our husbands are portrayed, and behave, as such pathetically incapable creatures, and we end up feeling we are so much more capable than men but then feel guilty for being so “prideful?” It becomes a sort of Catch-22.

    Just a theory.

    Reply
    • Ladybug

      This was the first Bible study I participated in as a married woman, 21 years ago. Needless to say, it set me up for misery.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, I’m so sorry!

        Reply

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