Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., actually does know why husbands abuse their wives.
But he is confused and just doesn’t realize that he knows: “And husbands on their parts, because they’re sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged–or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches,” Ware said recently from the pulpit of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas.
So, according to Ware, there are two options for men in response to women who assert their rights to be free and equal partners in marriage: beat them up or become passive, i.e. a wimp. Society condones the first and abhors the second. I think this is why we have abuse in marriages.
In his confusion, Dr. Ware prefaces this insight with the opinion that the problem begins with women who “rebel” against their husbands who have been given authority over them by God. So once again in blaming the victim, Dr. Ware misses his own insight.
Ware’s conclusion is quite limited: “He will have to rule, and because he’s a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive–and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that–but here’s the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to be the leader in the relationship and just say ‘OK dear,’ ‘Whatever you say dear,’ ‘Fine dear’ and become a passive husband, because of sin.”
Talk about dichotomous thinking. Actually, there is a third option for men and women in heterosexual marriage. What about those thousands of marriages that I know, like my parents’ for 50 years, where two adults stand side by side as equal partners, faithful to each other and their children, living out Gospel values every day?
What we have here is a professor of theology who clearly knows nothing about wife abuse and domestic violence and someone who is willing to expend enormous energy blaming battered women and excusing batterers with a high gloss, labored theological rationalization.
The “sin” is “that he [male humans] will have to rule,” i.e. the man’s desire to rule over and dominate another human being and his willingness to use force and violence to accomplish this. (I suggest that Dr. Ware reread Genesis 1 and Galatians 3:28 and anything written by Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger.)
Finally Ware worries that the “egalitarian” view–the notion that males and females were created equal not only in essence but also in function–crops up in churches that allow women to be ordained and become pastors. Praise God! Don’t even get me started on this one.
Marie M. Fortune is founder and senior analyst of the FaithTrust Institute
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Southern Baptist Scholar Links Spouse Abuse to Wives’ Refusal to Submit to Their Husbands