How do I view my right to authority as a man? As a man I am meant to create order, to provide rules, to impose obedience upon others to the rules that I set. Men collectively impose rules upon the society overall; men collectively setting the rules of government or the practices and teachings of church institutions while I as an individual man impose rules personally upon my immediate sphere of influence such as my wife and children and other roles I may play in life such as being a supervisor at work.
How do I as a man “impose obedience” upon those under my authority? Through punishment, of course. I want it to be unwise or not worth the effort and not self-serving for those under my authority to disobey me. I want to be obeyed for a reason; I want my authority as a man to be respected for a reason. My authority serves a purpose, it provides a benefit, it exists and is a “real thing” that I have the right to uphold and protect. When someone that I have a legitimate claim of authority over violates my authority or seeks to undermine my authority they are doing a real harm against me and against those I am trying to serve; a harm that justifies punishment against the harm, against the disobedience that is causing the harm.
Does a teacher have the right to punish an unruly student? Does a supervisor have the right to punish an uncooperative employee? Does the court system have the right to punish someone who has broken the law? Yes. The reason for the right of the person in authority in these different situations to punish those under their authority who violate their rules is rather obvious. The teacher that cannot punish their students for misbehavior will soon have a wild out-of-control classroom. The supervisor that cannot punish or fire their employees will have an unproductive work environment leading the business to soon fail. The court system not being able to enact criminal punishments against lawbreakers will lead to a breakdown of law and order. The legitimate authority of the teacher over their students is a real thing; it is an authority that exists for a reason. Same for the authority of the supervisor over their employees, same for the authority of the law over the citizen. All of these different authorities are real and exist for a reason and are enforced through punishment.
So, does a husband have legitimate authority over his wife, authority that the husband is entitled to uphold and enforce through punishment? To this question I would say yes, yes in general terms under ordinary circumstances. First off why does a husband in general have legitimate authority over his wife in the first place, why aren’t husband and wife equals or peers like the feminists and egalitarians like to claim? The most fundamental reason why the husband has legitimate authority over the wife is because the husband financially supports the wife and not the other way around; in other words the husband invests in and gives to and supports the wife while the wife receives the husband’s support and investment. The husband gives and the wife receives in the marital relationship between husband and wife. This means the husband is highly vulnerable to exploitation and being “taken advantage of” if he is not in control of his marital relationship. There are other reasons besides this why it is better for the man to be in control such as a man’s higher skill levels in setting forth and enforcing rules fairly and consistently that take everybody’s needs and the overall purpose of the marital relationship into account but the primary most important reason why the husband needs to be in control is so that the man can guard his interests while fulfilling his marital obligation of fully financially providing for his wife.
What are the consequences of attacking and undermining male authority in the context of romantic relationships and marriage? The consequence is unstable and insecure relationships between men and women, this shown by the higher divorce rate. The consequence is a radical reduction of men’s investment in and support of women, this shown by the huge increase in married women working and putting children into daycare rather than the children being directly cared for by their own parents within their home. The harms of the attack against male authority in the family are very very real and very very manifest. Definitely the avoidance of these harms to family life that result from male authority being undermined and attacked by the feminists and egalitarians justifies punishment against women who defy the rightful and legitimate authority that their male romantic partners and husbands seek to claim over them. Men have the right to claim and enforce order within the family just like the teacher has the right to impose order on their students, just like the employer has the right to impose order on the work environment, just like the law has the right to impose order on society overall.
There seems to be a common teaching in Christian Complementarianism that says that yes wives should submit to their husbands but that no a husband does not have a “right” to the wife’s submission and that it is wrong for a husband to punish or coerce his wife to submit to him. This position or viewpoint is difficult for me to understand. If it is wrong for a wife to disobey her husband then doesn’t that mean the wife is doing something bad in disobeying her husband and therefore deserves a reprimand of some sort for her bad act, it being a general principle that bad acts should be punished to avoid future bad acts? The idea being promoted by certain Christian Complementarians seems to be that it is sinful for a wife to be rebellious against her husband but that it is also sinful for a husband to seek to gain control over his wife through coercive means, that the disobedient wife is aggressing against her husband and that the punishing husband is aggressing against his wife with his punishment, that wifely disobedience is bad but that husbands punishing the wife for disobedience is also bad.
Strangely this kind of double think doesn’t seem to be advocated for in any other kind of authority relationship setting; nobody says the student in class being unruly is sinning but that it is also wrong for the teacher to punish the student for being unruly, nobody says it is wrong for the worker to defy his supervisor but that it is also wrong for the supervisor to take action against the worker for his defiance, nobody says it is wrong to break the law but that it is also wrong to punish the lawbreaker for breaking the law. Only in the marital relationship context is it claimed that it is wrong for the wife to rebel against her husband but that it is also wrong for the husband to seek to control his wife through coercive means.
Mary Kassian with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood put up a post on November 15, 2011 titled “7 Misconceptions About Submission”; focusing on her misconceptions number 4 and 5 she said:
“MISCONCEPTION #4: SUBMISSION IS A RIGHT—A HUSBAND HAS THE RIGHT TO DEMAND HIS WIFE’S SUBMISSION.
A husband does not have the right to demand or extract submission from his wife. Submission is HER choice—her responsibility… it is NOT his right!! Not ever. She is to “submit herself”— deciding when and how to submit is her call. In a Christian marriage, the focus is never on rights, but on personal responsibility. It’s his responsibility to be affectionate. It’s her responsibility to be agreeable. The husband’s responsibility is to sacrificially love as Christ loved the Church—not to make his wife submit.
MISCONCEPTION #5: SUBMISSION IS INDISCRIMINATE—IT MEANS MINDLESS ACQUIESCENCE.
A Christian’s first responsibility is to submit to the Lord and His standard of righteousness. A wife is not called to submit to sin, mistreatment, or abuse. The Lord does not want “weak-willed” women—women who lack the discernment and strength to respond to the right things and in the right way. Godly women do not submit to sin. They carefully and intentionally weigh and discern how to submit to sinful human authority in light of their primary responsibility to submit to the ways of the Lord. No brain-dead doormats or spineless bowls of Jello here! Submission is neither mindless nor formulaic nor simplistic. Submitting to the Lord sometimes involves drawing clear boundaries and enacting consequences when a husband sins. Submission is an attitude of the heart. A woman can have a submissive spirit even when saying “no” and refusing to go along with sin.”
Does a husband have a “right” to his wife’s submission? Yes if he is a competent ordinary not clearly wrong husband. If he is average following the rules of what he owes to his wife as a husband then he has a right to his wife’s submission, a right he is entitled to enforce through coercive means or punishment if necessary. He has the right to protect his relationship against his wife’s bad behavior against him. A husband cannot claim legitimate authority if he is violating his duties on behalf of his wife but if he is fulfilling the ordinary expectations of what he as a man owes to his wife then under those ordinary usual routine circumstances he does indeed have legitimate authority over his wife and he furthermore has the right to protect his marital relationship with his wife against his wife’s potential transgressions against him by means of punishment strategies if necessary.
It is a general principle that the husband’s authority claims must be directed towards his wife’s benefit or to the benefit of the family or relationship overall rather than a husband being selfishly oriented in his authority demands. Also it is a general principle that a husband is to financially support his wife 100%.
Most importantly the wife’s decision whether to submit or not should be based on objective standards and objective criteria, not just based on her own wishes or judgments regarding things. The wife should be obeying an authority above her husband to justify her disobedience against her husband; disobedience should not be something that the wife decides on simply based on her own judgment of things. In particular I object to Kassian saying “deciding when and how to submit is her call.” Submission is an actual duty a wife owes to her husband that is defined and directed by the husband himself necessarily; that being the whole point of what submission is. Kassian further says “The husband’s responsibility is to sacrificially love as Christ loved the Church—not to make his wife submit.” To this I would say that a husband has the responsibility to sacrificially love as Christ loved the Church AND has a responsibility to make his wife submit to him; making the wife submit being a part of the overall mission to sacrificially love your wife as Christ loved the church.
Kassian made the interesting statement that “Submitting to the Lord sometimes involves drawing clear boundaries and enacting consequences when a husband sins.” Kassian also however said “A husband does not have the right to demand or extract submission from his wife.” So it is OK for a wife to punish her husband or “enact consequences” when the husband sins but it is not OK for the husband to punish or “demand or extract submission from his wife” to correct the wife’s sinful behavior? I wonder what Kassian’s logic is here. Is she just blatantly pandering to feminist sensibilities cheerleading wives punishing their husbands while also condemning husbands ever punishing their wives or is the distinction in Kassian’s mind that a wife not submitting to her husband is not in and of itself sinful and therefore is not something deserving of punishment while a husband engaging in a recognized sin is more serious and more clearly wrong and therefore is deserving of punishment?
Later on in Kassian’s post regarding her own marriage Kassian said:
“My husband takes his responsibility to love me as Christ loves the Church seriously. I take my responsibility to submit to him seriously. That means that I am cherished and have a voice. That means that he is respected and supported. I work with him, and pull in the same direction.”
This all sounds well and good. Kassian said “I take my responsibility to submit to him seriously.” So Kassian admits she has a “responsibility” to submit to her husband. Does this mean she has a duty or an obligation to submit to her husband? Does this mean she is committing a sin if she chooses instead to defy her husband? If it is a sin to defy her husband does that mean maybe just maybe she should be punished for such a sin or transgression against her husband? If not why not?
Kassian further said in regards to her own marriage:
“So “what it looks like” on an on-going basis, is that I am soft, receptive, and agreeable toward my husband. I love responding to his lead. I respect who God created him to be as a man—and support his efforts to provide godly oversight for our family. I respect the position of responsibility that goes along with being a husband and father. “Respect” is probably the best word to describe what submission looks like in my marriage.
For me, submission is one of those things that is far more easily identified by its absence rather than its presence. I know that I am struggling with it when I am critical, impatient, defiant, and “snarky” toward my husband—when I refuse to cooperate and am unresponsive to input, when I rush in and take control, when I fail to “provide space” to allow my husband the opportunity to be a man and provide godly oversight for our family. In other words, it’s not readily apparent to me when I’m submitting, but it’s painfully obvious to me when I am not. I sense that I am disrespecting/ disregarding my husband, taking control, and pulling against him rather than for and with him.”
What strikes me about these paragraphs is that Kassian is taking on a lot of self-discipline to try to make herself an agreeable easy to get along with generally obedient and not confrontational wife. Also my impression is that her husband is generally silent on the issue when Kassian is not being her “best self” and that Kassian herself is the one who has to “sense” when she is not respecting her husband as she should, that her husband doesn’t directly confront her or tell her when he thinks she is behaving poorly as a wife; that she has to figure that out for herself. Furthermore Kassian presents her own sometimes disobedience as her being in a “bad mood” or something; not really sin on her part but simply her not living up to her own expectations of who she should ideally be as a wife.
I think what Mary Kassian is teaching is a middle ground between feminism and patriarchy; there is a feeling that men leading and taking on responsibility is good but that men “imposing their will” upon women is bad, that male authority is good on the conditionality that the woman in question approve of or “accept” the male authority. Feminism claims that male authority is by definition bad; patriarchy claims that male authority is objectively good or intrinsically good on the assumption that the man in question is submitting himself to God. Mary Kassian is claiming that male authority is good on the conditionality that she as a woman approves of it or is comfortable with it.
The legitimacy of male authority comes from God based on the man obeying God; the legitimate authority of the man being derivative of the man’s obedience to God. The thing is that the man’s legitimate authority is an objective truth; it is not dependent upon the woman’s approval or acceptance of such authority. Because of this the woman has a duty to obey the man whether she likes it or not and the man has the right to punish the woman for her disobedience again whether the woman likes it or not. The man has the right to defend and assert the objective reality of his legitimate authority over the woman by means of a punishment strategy because the woman’s disobedience causes real harm that the man is duty bound to prevent and minimize in whatever way he can including potentially by resorting to punishment.
Related article: The Rules of Gender Hierarchy; When and Why Women should Obey Men