As I mentioned in my last post, I’m not done with the whole Dad-Mom topic. In reading the various posts on Tide’s depiction of a stay-at-home dad being “awesome,” I came across the religious take on the topic played out in a point, counter-point debate between Owen Strachan, a professor of theology and church history at Boyce College, and Laura Ortberg Turner, an admissions counselor at Fuller Theological Seminary.
The discussion was a lively one, as you can imagine. To Strachan, the dad-mom, represented yet another of society’s attempts to pervert Bible’s stringent rules dictating who should and shouldn’t be laundering the frilly dresses and folding them with complete accuracy. In response, Turner contested this citing cultural context and scriptural misinterpretation before then mentioning the actions of Jesus that lead her to believe the Son of God wouldn’t be adverse to domestic duties.
When you get past the whole dad-mom folding laundry, and the scriptural references, the real point of contention, lays in Strachan’s statement t about “men abdicating their creational responsibilities,” to which he adds, “is no laughing matter.”
“God created the plans for the family, not man. We may want to be “awesome” as the culture defines it, but such awesomeness leads us away from the wisdom of our Lord.”
As with race and politics, I know it’s bad manners to discuss matters of religion, but in this case I’ll make an exception. In fact, it would practically be a sin for me not to after 10 years at a church-run school, acceptance to Bob Jones University, enrollment at Liberty University, followed by graduation from a Catholic college only to then eventually become—wait for it—a stay-at-home dad.
Bitter much? Not really. Actually, I thank God for blessing me with an insurance plan that covered the cost of all my therapy (I’m kidding). Over time what I have learned, though—and this is important to note as I go forward—is that there is a vast difference between organized religion and personal faith. Faith I have, it’s just not in organized religion.
Case in point: Stay-at-home dads. Strachan’s take is nothing new. The controversy has existed for as long as stay-at-home dads started getting attention. There’s a Biblical flood’s-worth of blog posts, message boards, videos, etc., all of which prove that Internet has produced more fruits, flakes and nuts than, Post, Kellogg’s and General Mills combined.
Among these you will find the toy surprise of Mars Hills pastor, Mark Driscoll. When asked about the rise of stay-at-home dads in 2008, Driscoll along with his wife Grace are not shy in their thoughts, quickly referencing the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy chapter 5, verse 8, which states:
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (NISB)
Okay, so I’m not a pastor, but I’ve seen one on TV, and he stayed overnight at a Holiday Inn Express with the church secretary and I’m not that guy. Even so, given the time I could debunk Driscoll’s ideology using actual theology. For now, however, I’ll just mention that Driscoll has taken this passage out of context in the same way cable news networks use sound bites to shape a particular slant on a story.
What I will address, though, is Driscoll’s and Strachan’s concept of how a man provides for his family. There was a time when I actually subscribed to this one-dimensional concept of me as the provider. Then divine providence turned me into a stay-at-home dad, and I realized the family has many more needs than just food, clothing, and shelter.
In essence, then, the Driscoll/Strachan male-provider model reduces the man’s responsibility to something quantifiable and temporary (money), yet leaves out the emotional aspect of a family’s needs which are permanent and lasting. As a SAHD, I actually have been more in tune to the real needs of my family than I would had I fulfilled the role as dictated by Driscoll’s interpretation.
That said, Strachan’s comment about how God creates the plan for the family and not man becomes suddenly ironic here.
There’s also another reason I picked Driscoll from the lineup and it directly relates to the gender-based division of domestic labor. Over the past several years, the church, Evangelicals in particular, have been engaged in a holy-roller man movement. In a nutshell, a core bunch of guys including Driscoll, feel that today’s God-fearing men are more fear and less men, and this is basically the fault of our feminist-dominated, dad-mom, laundry-folding society. According to their holy ‘roid rage Gospel, Jesus wasn’t the effeminate looking, homo we’re used to seeing, but rather a WWF-like character dishing out Biblical beat-downs whom Christian men should be emulating. I pity the foo that be foldin’ frilly dresses!
As we come full circle back to the dad-mom, it’s amusing then to me that masculinity is the shared point of contention. For the Strachans and Driscolls, the dad-mom embodies the extent to which masculinity has eroded to—a stay-at-home dad folding laundry—while here I am criticizing the dad-mom for not embracing his masculinity because he’s a stay-at-home dad folding laundry.
Personally, I really don’t care what Driscoll, Strachan, and their camp thinks of me as a SAHD. I’m pretty sure I’m not an abomination. What does annoy me is the idea that such a warped ideology has families convinced this is what “god” wants, causing who knows how much emotional damage in the process. This of course, only goes to show that religion, like alcohol, is both the source of and solution to all of the world’s problems.
I’ll close this by reiterating my position from my last post, that masculinity isn’t something you flaunt, and you especially don’t flaunt it citing religious dogma. Masculinity is a state of mind lived out in our actions, actions that include showing love and compassion to others. And, correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t that a cornerstone belief of nearly all religions?
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Ron Mattocks is a father of five (3 sons, 2 stepdaughters) and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He blogs at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and lives in Houston with his wife, Ashley, who eternally mocks his fervor for Coldplay.