Richard Eyer has come out with a really fine little book on marriage, in which he compares the biblical view of marriage to ballroom dancing. It is a great way to understand the authority of the husband and submission of the wife in marriage. The dancing couple moves together in unity, but within there are different roles. The man leads and the woman follows. The man does not coerce the woman around the dance floor, but invites her to follow his lead. It’s a really fine little read. Much of what he writes can be applied in the church as well. For example, he has a great section on authority, and how any mention of authority outside of one’s own personal authority today immediately causes resentment. We have this sort of “knee-jerk” reaction to anyone who would claim to have authority over someone else. Here is a snippet of what he says:
Shifts in culture away from a wholesome understanding and respect for authority have added to the burdens of reclaiming leadership in marriage. The effects of feminism on marriage over the past decades have undermined the concept of authority. Many can hardly allow themselves to pronounce the word authority without conveying the attitudes of suspicion and resentment. This negative association of the word authority with infringement on our freedoms is a residual of the 1960s. Occasionally it is still possible to find a car bearing the bumper sticker: “Question Authority!” We have come to equate authority external to one’s own as leading to authoritarianism that breeds oppression. The result of the assault on authority is that there is no longer any virtue left for many in the concept of authority, unless it be the authority of our own viewpoints or actions (So true!!).
The 1970s was an introspective decade that gave rise to “encounter groups,” a form of group therapy in which participants were urged to explore their feelings and learn to claim them as a foundation for their own authority. This appeal to claiming your own authority often generated resentment toward all external authority. In the light of decades of redefining authority as that which resides in the self, it is not surprising that there continues to be a discomfort for many with the suggestion that a husband should have authority over his wife.