The Christian Family and Understanding God’s Authority

Someone by the name of Lisa who recently stumbled across this blog (or perhaps has known about it a while but has been quiet) provided me with a link to a great article concerning marriage, submission and headship in a Catholic Christian context. This was in response to my previous posts, Sins of Omission Part 1 and Sins of Omission Part 2,  on the subject of Catholic teaching about sex and marriage. The article, titled Wives, Obey Your Husbands, was written by Fr. Christopher Rengers. His bio:

Fr. Christopher Rengers, O.F.M. Cap., was ordained in 1942 and did graduate work in history at St. Louis University. His assignments have been teaching, parochial and hospital work, and promoting devotion to St. Joseph and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Books in print are Mary of the Americas and The Youngest Prophet, both by Alba House. His last article in HPR appeared in the April 1996 issue.

The entire article is too long to quote in full, so I’ll instead mention some of the more pertinent sections. My commentary will be sparse, as most of the material speaks for itself. I will start with the introduction:

Authority means the right to command. It implies the right to make a choice for another person. The other person, meaning the one who is commanded, does not thereby lose freedom. He can choose to obey or disobey. He may ask for a reason. He may cite circumstances that will influence the person who has the authority to change his command, to alter it, or to cancel it. But if the person having authority is not convinced, and re-states his command, then the one commanded has again the simple choice of obeying or disobeying.

This paragraph serves as an important reminder to us that we always have choices in life. We may not like the choices, we may consider some to not be much choice at all, but we always have a choice.  For Christians, the principal choice we must make is whether or not to obey God.

Two Co-Pilots Not Logical

A family with no true authority vested in one person will be rudderless in the stormy sea of life as it exists on this earth. It will not be able to survive crises that inevitably develop, when choice is deadlocked. The example may be given of an airplane. It needs a pilot and a co-pilot. To have two copilots with equal choice in moments of need and crisis will end in disaster. The same can be said of a ship or of an automobile. The ship needs a captain. The auto needs a driver. Two people cannot steer a car through a maze of traffic, if both have equal choice in steering. Sooner or later, a situation will come up where one will brake while the other steps on the gas. One will veer to the left and the other to the right. The copilot in a plane may be more skilled than the pilot, the driver of a car less skilled than a passenger, but when the plane is in motion and the car moves along the road, the pilot and the driver have to be in command.

This is perhaps the most obvious and logical argument why there must be some kind of hierarchy in a family. Unless there is a clear chain of command, you will have spouses working against one another, possibly with disastrous results.

Helps Understand God’s Authority

Logically too, for anybody who believes in a personal God, there has to be a strong recognition of and example of authority in the family, if all concerned are to understand the authority of God. It is necessary for the father of a family to know he has authority and use it, if he is to recognize God’s authority over him. It is necessary for the wife to recognize and submit to the husband’s authority, if she is to understand God’s authority over her. It is necessary for the children to have an observable model of authority used and heeded, and to follow it themselves, if they are to be truly submissive to God. Where the authority is over-exercised or mean, children will tend to fear or rebel against God. Where it is underexercised, they will tend to have a sentimental, buddy-buddy relationship with God and minimize his laws.

This argument is one I hadn’t seen before, but I found particularly powerful. I have heard something similar in that a proper Christian marriage is similar to our relationship with God, and thus a model for the parents. But I hadn’t considered before the impact that a proper Christian marriage would have on children. Observing proper authority and hierarchy in action would have to have a positive influence for children as they grow up, to give them guidelines on how to live Christian lives.

The Teaching of St. Paul

St. Paul in chapter five of Ephesians says (v. 22 – 24) “Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord: because a husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is head of the Church, being himself savior of the body. But just as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things.” The rest of what St. Paul says makes quite clear that this subjection is not a slavish subjection, but one which holds for both husband and wife an obligation to love each other. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, St. Paul starts his chapter with an exhortation to be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. In chapter six, he exhorts slaves to obey their masters as they would Christ. The various passages have been construed as reflecting the cultural situation of the time. The dwelling on headship and love in regard to husband and wife, however, link headship and love together in a much stronger way. Paul wants them to be co-existent and he draws out and refers to “the mystery” of Christ and the Church. The union of husband and wife illustrates this mystery of close unity. It is a unique unity, but as the unity of Jesus and the Church has him as the head to the body, so the unity of husband and wife has the husband as head to his own body. It is rather difficult to relegate this strong comparison to the area of culture only. The stronger indication is that St. Paul is teaching a truth about God’s plan for marriage in its fullest beauty and ideal state.

While there is nothing unique about this line of thought, it is still a solid argument for why St. Paul was not speaking in a cultural context.

Conclusion

I found it heartening to read this article and know that some in the priesthood haven’t given in to cowardice or taken a bite out of the feminist apple. I can only hope that the recent homilies (sermons for the non-Catholics out there) I’ve heard about choosing to obey God’s laws over worldly laws are a sign that the Church is beginning to assume an overt counter-cultural position. Because when you get down to it, culture is worldly in nature, not Godly; which means that Christianity is always, should always, be counter-cultural.

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4 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Churchianity, Feminism, Marriage, Red Pill, The Church

4 responses to “The Christian Family and Understanding God’s Authority

  1. Lisa

    Lisa here! I did just kind of stumble onto your blog and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. On a personal level, at my Catholic wedding I personally picked Sirach 26 vs 1-4, 13-16 to be one of the readings at my wedding mass. One of the lines is “A gift from the Lord is her governed speech” During the homily, the priest who officiated at our wedding told those present that he was surprised to find out that the bride herself picked this particular passage as it can sound a little controversial and he then said we could substitute the word husband for the word wife in the passage and it would be equally true. I, to this day, cringe at the memory of my wedding being tainted this way. That was 15 years ago. I have a personal pet peeve when even priests try to placate to the radical feminist agenda regarding the scriptures.

    There is another article on that site titled “Wives do what?”

    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=1200

    It speaks about the reaction to the Southern Baptist Convention declaring that wives must submit to their husbands and gives many historical references to what contemporary and earlier popes have had to say about this issue. It also sites a quote from Casti Connubii an encyclical by Pope Pius XI on Christan Marriage that states “….”False liberty and unnatural equality [in authority] with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as among the pagans the mere instrument of man. Riding the wake of filth, violence, debasement, and rank misogyny of modern times, few objective persons would suggest that today’s women enjoy greater respect than their grandmothers did.” I personally would have added rank misandry to the list in the last sentence.

    I also liked this article I found which states

    http://voices.yahoo.com/how-good-catholic-wife-1325625.html

    ” It takes a special woman to remain humble during the courtship ritual and the early days of marriage. A woman quickly realizes that she has real power, even though her power is unlike that of a man. It is easy for young men to worship their young and beautiful wives. They adore their wives as goddesses.
    A goddess wants control, a humble wife submits. A goddess wants to be adored, a humble wife loves her family with all her might. A goddess wants to retain her power, a humble wife gives everything, even her physically fit body in the act of motherhood.
    A Catholic wife should step off of the platform of a goddess and become a mother. She should reject the sin of Eve and follow the better example of the Virgin Mary. The danger of a wife using her goddess power is quite real and clearly seen in our world – a man can quickly come to resent his wife. He has power too, and his is physically stronger, less delicate and more brutal.

    I hope the above writings also give you hope. The true voice of the Church may at times seem drowned out by the screeching of radical feminism but it’s still there if you look hard enough.

  2. Donal,

    If it makes you feel any better, there are far more men who are willing to stand up for the truth of God’s Word than we readily believe. Many times we think of ourselves as Elijah did and believe we are all alone, when really there are thousands who have not bent the knee. The trick is not realizing they are there, but building up your personal skill set so that when the time comes they will be willing to follow you because you have not only a plan, but the means to implement it.

  3. Pingback: Market Differences Between Christian and Secular Marriages | Donal Graeme

  4. Pingback: Sins of Omission- Part 3 | Donal Graeme

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