Thursday, April 23, 2015

Phyllis Schlafly's Low Opinion of Marriage

In a recent editorial on the Christian Post, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly tries to make the case that the wage earning gap between men and women is either voluntary (by women, no less) or justified, or both.  It is a ridiculous argument, but not one that truly surprises given she essentially argued earlier this year that if there were not so many women in our colleges and universities, there would not be so many campus assaults.

Ironically, her most recent musing reveals her incredibly low opinion of marriage, coming from a self-described Christian and conservative.  Our culture abounds with opinions on marriage these days as we continue to wrestle with the question of marriage in a larger civil rights discussion for LGBT, a discussion which is long overdue.  Those of Mrs. Schlafly's ideology hold themselves up as champions of marriage defense.  However, her own argument betrays her own weak view of marriage.

First, she says women choose lower paying careers and working circumstances, thus leading to the wage gap we all know exists.  She says this is not a problem, as women are generally attracted to men who earn more than them.  In fact, they are unlikely to even date, much less marry, men who earn less.  Wow, am I glad my wife did not feel this way when I asked her to marry me (more on this in a moment).

If her view of women isn't insulting enough, she then paints an equally insulting picture of men.  According to Schlafly, men are incredibly insecure regarding all things economic; apparently the male preference to earn more is so important it must be a controlling factor in the relationship.  Let me see if I understand this:  Women are essentially gold-diggers when seeking out a mate, and men are so insecure they can not handle the "threat" of a potential mate making as much (or more!) than they do.

As a school teacher and a minister, my wife and I clearly did not choose our careers primarily for personal economic benefit.  However, at several points during our marriage -- including its beginning -- Tara has been the greater wage earner in our family.  We have continually relied on the better benefits her career provides.  And I've never felt threatened in the slightest.  Instead, its been my privilege to be her biggest supporter and fan, while her hard work has allowed me to pursue my calling without feeling the burden of providing more for our family.

Is the husband who finds himself laid off and taking a job earning less than he would like, less than his wife (gasp!), less faithful or successful as a husband and father?  Can a woman only find contentment when she finds a good-earning husband she can fall in appropriately behind?  Do we want to reinforce these dated cultural tropes, or fight against them?  As usual, Mrs. Schlafly finds herself captured by her 1955 world.

Her opinion of marriage appears to be even further dated.  There was a time in human civilization where marriage was primarily a contract with two purposes: advance economic interests (often for the extended family) and produce children.  Certainly this is one of the perspectives on marriage we find in the bible, though it is only one of many.  I'm grateful scripture demonstrates a view of marriage which changes over time, with Jesus eventually challenging the notion that any of our human relationships must involve manipulation through abuse of power and money.

Instead, the best biblical perspectives on marriage present a relationship of love, support, encouragement, and mutual submission, rather than exercised power.  When given a choice between this perspective and those presented by Schlafly, I have to wonder who truly has a higher view of marriage.  If Mrs. Schalfly wants to defend marriage as defined primarily by economic acquisition and suppressed insecurity, she can have it.  The rest of us have moved on to something much better.

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