Perhaps Scripture Would Like You to Shut It, John F. Kippley


Come closer; I have a confession.

(whispering) I like pre-Cana.

There, I said it. Essentially for two hours a week, my fiancé and I hang out in a room with a bunch of other really nice couples and listen to a priest talk for 45 minutes about something affecting marriage and then we listen to a couple talk about how they’ve handled related issues. To close things out, we chat with our partner about things like our family backgrounds and how that influences our approach to conflict, or about how we might divvy up household duties. There are snacks and juice and fill-in-the-blank worksheets. Add naptime and cubbies and take away the sex talk and it’s kindergarten all over again! When we’re done, my fiancé and I adjourn to nearby Cactus Cantina, where over lunchtime salsa and chips we actually have productive conversations that I think will put us in better shape before we get married. I’m not kidding.

What I do detest though is the Marriage is for Keeps book that we’re required to read three chapters of each week. (Even that has its saving grace though: we don’t ever discuss them in class. We’re on the honor system.) It’s important to note at this point that the book is not written specifically for Catholics. Rather, it generically targets Christians, published by a group called The Foundation for the Family. Early on, my loathing for this book focused on its jackhammering about the evils of contraception. That was until I got to Chapter 6.

Chapter 6 is titled: In Marriage, Who’s the Boss? And to that question, they give an answer. It’s the husband. Specifically, the husband is “the divinely established authority within marriage.” How divine?

Future wives, in verse 22, St. Paul gives what may be one of your greatest challenges as a modern wife—the command to be subject to your husband.

I’ll give you a minute and let you mull that one. Ladies, I’ll give you an extra minute to allow you to peel yourselves off of the ceiling. Whoopsiedaisy, you’ve got a little foam at the corner of your mouth.

Let’s read on and see what author and Foundation for the Family creator John F. Kippley has to say next about this concept dubbed “husband headship.”

I suspect that some young women will have trouble with this. It goes against the grain of a certain feminism (as contrasted with femininity) that pervades the late 20th Century and which disregards the real differences between men and women. To such women I offer this counsel: out of love for your husband, accept and respect the biblical, spiritual principle of husband headship.

At dinner in Annapolis with my parents this past weekend, I couldn’t resist reading that exact portion to my mother. That would be my mother the product of the women’s lib movement who earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees and was a working professional for my entire childhood—all of which made me admire her even more while growing up. (Confounding critics who claim children of such mothers are really left to huddle glumly in the corner of daycare centers while yearning for a cookie-baking domestic feminine presence in their lives, and in the absence of which they grow up to become very, very gay.) Eyeballing the copy of Marriage is for Keeps in my hand as if I’d just pulled a ferret out of my handbag, she inquired tersely, “What decade is this exactly?”

In case you don’t get a chance to read Marriage is for Keeps, the alleged purpose of “husband headship” is that it keeps order in the household and allows the husband to feel that he is the protector and leader and the woman to be the nurturer. Because we’re just happier that way. In our natural roles, that is. I’ll let Kippley close us out with this final thought that ends the chapter:

Perhaps Scripture is revealing to us that a husband has a very real psychological need for headship, a real need for respect within the confines of his own family…Perhaps Scripture is revealing to us that wives have a real psychological need to be submissive to the one to whom they have pledged their lifelong love and fidelity.


24 Responses to “Perhaps Scripture Would Like You to Shut It, John F. Kippley”

  1. OC Says:

    Thanks for the preview a.ka. warning. This same book is sitting on my kitchen table. Our priest would like us to read it, but it’s not mandatory. Between all the grad school readings I’ve got this semester and year for that matter, I think I’ll get to it sometime during 2009. Love, love, love hearing your take on the pre-cana. My fiance and I start session one of three on natural family planning next weekend. Yay!

  2. Gabrielle Says:

    At our Pre-Cana, the priest had a slightly different interpretation of the infamous verse 22. In his view, the analogy of ‘the husband is the head of the household as Christ is the head of the Church’ isn’t so much about power or sexual politics as it is about sacrifice. He described the husband’s role as “head of the household” as a call to be Christ-like. I wouldn’t say this particular spin on the roles husbands and wives completely mitigates the inherent offensiveness of that verse, but it did make it a little bit more palatable.

  3. Bridal Bird Says:

    OC-Hopefully you’ll have a similar situation where you can separate the literature they give you from the class itself. (Although I have heard some nightmare stories about the classes themselves, but those are mainly from the folks who do the rip-the-Bandaid-off weekend-long version of pre-Cana.)

    Gabrielle-That’s really interesting. We feel very lucky that our priest (who isn’t at the church where we’re actually doing pre-Cana) has a very modern, humble take on things.

  4. kerrie Says:

    “Wives, be obedient to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” (Colossians 3:18)

    I attended a wedding where the above was incorporated into the ceremony, much to my chagrin.

    I’ll take that over this one:

    “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.” (1 Tim 2:11-12)

    Effin Timmy!

  5. Lonnie Bruner Says:

    Before my wedding, we had to go to a single counseling session with the minister. The funny part is that my wife and I are complete atheists but we did it to humor my mother-in-law. The experience was quite pleasant, actually; we just did the Myers-Briggs test and the results were interesting.

    Later on, I started reading the Bible and realized that it’s a horrible moral code. Do you know that if your husband finds that you’re not a virgin on your wedding night he’s supposed to take you to your father’s front porch and stone you to death?? That’s Biblical morality for ya.

  6. I-66 Says:

    I just want to know when this Marriage is for Keeps was written.

    Oh, and don’t pretend you don’t keep a ferret in your handbag. I’ve seen that handbag move on its own, you know.

  7. Gabrielle Says:

    Here’s an article which makes an interesting argument that these verses in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians were actually intended to elevate the status of women:

    To Lonnie Bruner: I don’t think that the stories conveyed in Bible are meant to be a ‘moral code’ in the sense that they always model morally correct behavior – in fact, many of the stories in the Bible are object lessons in how not to live (the book of Kings is an excellent example of this).

  8. Lonnie Bruner Says:


    If they are lessons on how NOT to live, then what are we to conclude from some of God’s own behavior? For example, in Leviticus and Numbers he clearly says that children who curse their parents are to be put to death — same goes for homosexuals. Also, when Moses comes back down from Mt. Sinai, he finds that the Israelites have been worshiping false gods. God commands Moses to tell the Israelites to make up for that transgression by killing about 3,000 of their friends and brothers.

    How could anyone read an allegory into that? It’s so clearly spelled out in the Bible. I think the reason is that people cherry-pick the Bible and that most Christians haven’t actually read the thing. If they did, they’d never read it to young children.

    Another thing I never understood: Christians talk about how the New Testament is what they believe. But the NT God is the same genocidal, brutal, merciless, jealous God of Moses, right? So did he just change his mind all of a sudden? Never figured that one out.

  9. Erin Says:

    Wow, the book we got had a chapter on how women are like slow-cookers and men are like microwaves. At least we didn’t have to actually talk about that with our pastor. I think our big discussion was about no rice-throwing, starch ruins the carpet you know. Lutherans.

  10. Lemmonex Says:

    You know, I think this sums everything up…it is my new favorite quote:

    I believe that God has something so much greater for Christian young women today than following the careerism, consumerism, humanism, and feminism that the world wants to offer you. –“Biblical Womanhood”

    Seriously, BB. Stop expecting the world to do so much for you and accept your role as a Christian woman.

  11. Mary Ellen Says:

    Why are you upsetting me like this?
    I’m going to eat some chocolate-covered bacon now.

  12. Melly Says:

    Thanks to your Pre-Cana posts I remembered to have future hubby write down a different address on his form. We were praised effusively for not cohabiting! But we’ll just have to wait and see how we do at our next session, on human sexuality…

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  24. Daniel O'Connor Says:

    Looks like virtually all the comments on this post are spam; but this one isn’t.

    The Marriage is for Keeps book is excellent. If you don’t like what Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium have to say about marriage and the issues that pertain to it, why are you going to/did you get married in the Church?

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