Sometimes we paint with too broad of a brush. There are times when leaders try to speak to some mythical lowest-common denominator nd completely miss the mark. In her incendiary piece, “I’m Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife,” Mary DeMuth calls out church leaders in an area she believes their broad brush is taking too many casualties. This is a noble piece, filled with a unique valiance to speak up for those often too insecure and damaged to muster the strength to speak for themselves. I fear, however, she may be committing the same crimes she accuses some pastors of making. She takes a some negative experiences, and poorly chosen words and constructs a perfectly fictional target for her attack. I am extremely sympathetic to her points, but am afraid these tactics lose those points.
The lack of context in this piece is stunning. I have no reason to believe the author is anything but a bright, intelligent woman, but her forms of argumentation are so fraught with error and devoid of context for the other side, it’s hard to really fight back. When a person is complaining to a straw man, the real person can’t get his point across. The first issue is the quote she draws from Mark Driscoll. Somehow, she has the incriminating quote verbatim but is unable to provide any amount of real context for the quote. There is no plausible way for a reader to go and try to discern the meaning from Driscoll’s piece. It’s gone. And, the very fact that it’s gone could be used to prove he regretted the piece and agreed with her issues with it. Either way, to use a contextless quote as her center piece of evidence of a corrupt mentality is a dirty trick. And it is talking about a very specific situation he has seen in his peers’ marriages, that a wife would leverage her husband’s profession as license to shut herself down. That speaks nothing into the legitimate struggle many people have. The assumption that his specific statement would be that far-reaching is misguided.
I don’t mean to just argue with the merits of her piece. Reading her piece, I see a woman clearly very hurt and trying to draw attention to an issue she feels is woefully, and painfully, underrepresented. That’s completely fair and a worthy cause. However, her method of argumentation may highlight some larger issues with her perspective; mainly, that her offense may (rightfully) clouded due to an unspeakable scar she carries from her past.
DeMuth makes the good point that the pastor is not merely there to lead the men in the church. That’s a good point. But an equally important point is that one of Driscoll’s (and many other pastors’) chief aims is to challenge the males in their congregation to behave the way biblical men should. To be honorable the way Jesus was honorable so that they can help lead honorable families and not be dead-beat dads who walk out and leave destruction in their wake. As Derek Rishmawy points out in this piece, they are trying to teach a pornified, over-sexualized culture that a life of chastity, monogamy, fidelity and unbridled commitment to one woman is the healthiest, intended way to live. He’s trying to raise men that won’t do the unconscionable things DeMuth was subject to.
So, Driscoll and many other leaders, occasionally (and awkwardly) publicly indicate that they have sexual desire for their wives. He also frequently brags about his wife as a mother, a counselor, an equal, and a multitude of other things. He also teaches his church that their spouses should, practically, be the standard of what they find attractive. In that same sermon, he even says that they shouldn’t go around flaunting their wives and objectifying them. It would seem Driscoll, like many, many rational people, would agree with many of DeMuth’s points.
It’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in this situation. DeMuth’s piece illustrates the incredibly awkward ways Christians broach the subject of sex. The current moment is a tricky one to navigate because an intimate, private matter is frequently publicly corrupted. The perversion is widespread and prevalent enough that a pastor or teacher who ignores the issue is doing a tremendous disservice to his congregation. DeMuth provides a brave voice for some of the victims of this widespread perversion. This piece is perhaps just a little to myopic and suffers because its criticisms are aimed at caricatures that largely don’t exist. Her points are poignant, her pain heartbreaking, and her call to action imperative – church leaders should take note of her complaints. The massive swell of conversation this piece ignited is proof enough that she is not alone in her complaints. But, maybe, there are more productive and less insulting ways to have this conversation.