Earlier in the week I sent this Tweet:
Conservative mothers whether biological or “mothers” in the church are often a great hindrance to the cultivation of true masculinity.
— Peter N. Jones (@PastorPeter77) August 2, 2016
As with most Tweets it lacks clarification and nuance. A friend of my said as much, so I decided to post a follow up explaining what I meant. By conservative, I mean religiously conservative, not politically. The description below will flesh that out a bit.
I have been a pastor in a conservative church in a conservative denomination for almost ten years. I home school and interact with the homeschooling community frequently. I have a wife and six boys. The point I made in my Tweet is one that I have seen in my own home, church, and denomination, as well as other conservative communities. Boys can have a hard time becoming men in conservative settings. The problem is not universal. Many, maybe even most, conservative moms and dads are doing a good job raising masculine boys. But the problem is not rare either. This is not just the fault of these moms, of course. The culture, both broadly and in our churches, pastors, and dads all share the blame. However, mothers can and do undermine masculinity in boys.
Why did I single out conservative moms instead of liberal ones? Well first that is my audience. I would rather preach to the individuals I know than the masses I don’t know. But also because they have a difficult time seeing the part they play in the emasculation of their own boys. Conservative moms view themselves as going against the flow and fighting against the feminism in our culture. Many of them are stay at home moms or part time stay at home moms who have rejected a career to raise children. Most home school or send their kids to private school. They go to worship and are active in their church. They submit to their husbands. They read their Bible and pray. They dress modestly. These are all good things. But as Doug Wilson has taught me when you go to algebra class you get equations. When you go to biology class you get problems about dissecting frogs. And when you have conservative Christian mothers you get women who do not see how they could possibly be a blockade to manliness in their boys and husband. They are the ones doing it “right.” These women are the ones least likely to believe they are the problem. I know many conservative mothers who are doing well at raising boys. But in conservative churches this is an issue and pastors ignore it to their own peril.
How do conservative women emasculate their boys and their husbands?
- They do not follow their husband’s lead and vision. Conservative wives are just as prone to usurping their husbands as liberal wives are. The difference is that conservative wives don’t do it openly. They find ways to get their way while appearing submissive. The couple wants to look like the man is head, but in reality the woman is. That means in public she will never disrespect her husband or talk back or disagree. But of course, by the time they get into public the husband knows exactly what to do and say. He knows the boundaries. The wife’s vision for the family dominates. Her issues are the family issues. Her talking points are the talking points for the family. What is most important to her is what must be most important to the family. The husband is a figurehead. This isn’t so much about specific situations, such as buying a car or the children’s education. It is about who sets the direction for the family. Who is actually leading the family? The central problem here is that both spouses think the husband is the one setting the course when the truth is he is on a leash.
- They refuse to submit to their elders or church leaders. Often conservative women will hide behind male headship to avoid accountability. “Talk to my husband. I submit to him not to you” is the idea, though those words are rarely spoken. A woman who is not really submitting to her husband will not submit to a male session. This can lead to serious conflict because the husband has bent to the wife’s demands she expects the session to as well. When it doesn’t she gets angry and/or manipulative.
- They function on fear. For some reason many conservative Christian woman in the 21st century are fearful of just about everything. How many things pushed by conservative women are driven by fear? This impulse is good when kids are little. It keeps children from dying young. But as kids get older mothers must learn throw their boys into the arena. Boys and men need risk, not carelessness, but risk. Risk is good for masculinity. Fear must be overcome. Obstacles must be knocked down. Dragons must be fought. Blood must be spilled. Mothers should push their boys (and husbands) to take risks, which means they must be willing for their boys to fail, to get hurt, to be embarrassed, and to lose. As their boys get older they need to get them out of the house and into the world. A fearful mother who controls her son and what situations he is put in will ultimately undermine his manliness and leave him unprepared to lead.
- They blame others for the problems in their sons instead of assuming responsibility for them. As boys get older sins and deficiencies begin to appear. A mom begins to reap. This happens to all of us, no exceptions, dads included. We fail. I felt the pain of this over the years as has my wife. We all will. By God’s grace many of our sins do not manifest themselves in our children. God is kind to us here. But some seeds we plant grow into ugly weeds. At that point we have a choice. We can either blame the guy down the road for allowing his wicked seed to get in our otherwise perfect garden. Or we can repent, acknowledge our sins to God, our sons, and husband, find forgiveness and begin fixing our mistakes. Why would a mother’s refusal to repent emasculate her boys? It creates an atmosphere of excuse making. Excuse making is the death of true masculinity.
Fathers and husbands can play a large role in undermining masculinity in boys. Men are responsible for their household. But Proverbs says that a woman can tear her house down (Prov. 14:1). Any pastor with two eyes has seen this happen. Conservative mothers need to be humble enough to admit that they can, at times, be unwilling partners with the feminists in failing to promote true masculinity in their homes and churches. They need to listen to and follow their husbands, not in word, but in deed. Where is he taking the family? How can they follow him? They need to listen to their pastors and elders. Pastors need to preach on this and privately exhort mothers in their congregations to be careful of over protection, fear, and domination. Mothers play a key role in making boys into men and helping their husbands be men. But they don’t do this by constantly watching them, pecking them like hens, being their best friends, trying to get them to act like women, or manipulating them. They do this by fearing the Lord, not man (I Peter 3:1-6), worshiping God, following their husbands, managing their household with grace and faith, respecting the men in their household, and setting their sons free to serve God and their fellow man.