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Volume 16, Issue 4: Husbandry

Angry Husbands

Douglas Wilson

Adam was placed in the Garden as a priest, which is to say, his duties involved guardianship. He was given the great privilege of tending and keeping it, and keeping it meant keeping it against intruders. This he failed to do, and the consequences are still with us. One of them is the sick problem of angry husbands.

Every husband is in an analagous role with his wife; each husband is assigned a priestly task. Like Adam he is required to tend the garden, and this means protecting it. But one of the great tragedies in married life is when the assigned protector becomes the one the wife most needs protection from. Where can she go? Where can she turn?
Men who have this problem often have a very inflated sense of their own authority, but the authority only goes one way. Those who need to be under their authority are reminded constantly that "the Bible says" that those who are subordinate must submit, and no back-chat either. But then when it comes time for this man to find a community where he can model this kind of submission for his family, it turns out that this is not really a possibility for him.
Biblical patriarchy is not a problem for those who believe the Bible (1 Cor. 11: 3). But there is a kind of patriarchy that wants to be a law unto itself with no accountability from nobody nohow. Not only is there to be no accountability, even to raise the point that such things might be occurring in our "Bible-believing" midst is seen as a capitulation to the feminists. But more is involved in answering the feminists than growing an epic ZZ Top beard, and starting a home-centered brain surgery center in the garage.
A great show can be made of "traditional values" in the face that is presented to the rest of the Church. Different traditions can also go into this traditional values set up, but a common theme is that a man with an anger problem wants to create a private playground for his fits of rage to play in. He must either create a situation where the members of his family have nowhere to go with an appeal (because they all live out in the woods), or they do have somewhere to go, but are afraid to (because they are physically afraid, or they have been browbeaten into thinking that God wants them to put up with what the husband/father is doing).
When a husband has this kind of problem with anger, the consequences are horrendous. This is why fits of rage are one of the reasons why certain husbands won't see the kingdom of heaven (Gal. 5:20). And it will not matter in the great day that those fits of rage were effectively hidden away in a marriage or family where all the members were sufficiently cowed to not bring the problem to the elders, or, when appropriate, to the police.
Some years ago, in the course of a sermon, I addressed the problem of angry husbands. I said something like, "God prohibits this crap. Knock it off." One of the most gratifying notes I have ever received was from a wife who had heard the sermon, and she thought that her husband had also heard it, and taken it to heart. But it was also a very sad note—because she did not have the freedom to sign it.
Speaking at conferences to young people is very gratifying—they are in a place where application of basic principles can make a very real difference in their lives. But when you are speaking to two or three hundred young people on a subject like respect and honor for their parents, you can pretty much count on a few kids there who have been molested or assaulted by an angry father. And that father has a wife, oftentimes a wife who has nowhere to turn. She and the kids believe themselves to be trapped, and the protector has become a predator.
The point is that when a husband is behaving like this in our circles, he has to do something to protect and hide his sin. And that "something" is to cultivate a high sense of complete accountability for everyone under his authority and virtually no sense of accountability to those that he should be answering to. Once the set up is complete, he can give his anger free rein. And many of these jerks do.
The problem is the anger, not the camoflauge. Many times such men are imitating—on the exterior—standards and appearances which may be entirely innocent, or even righteous. But they are doing so in order to please themselves. The motive is the thing that stinks. So one man may be a member of a church, but no one in the church has ever really been inside his home. Another man runs his own church, and if the wife has a problem with him, she can appeal to the session (him), and if that goes against her, she can appeal to presbytery (him). Few of these cases ever make it up to general assembly.
Anger devours. And when it is in the process of doing so, it is a tragedy that many women believe there is no one (who believes the Bible) to turn to.

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