Another entry into the praiseworthy journalism of Molly Worthen is this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine story on evangelical women who insist they “submit” to their husbands despite their daily life looking like every other companionate American marriage. Priscilla Shirer, the main character of the piece, is the daughter of well-known Dallas minister Dr. Tony Evans:
Most evangelical women, even those who say they believe in wifely submission and clear gender roles, live as Priscilla Shirer does — in a balanced partnership that doesn’t look all that different from a healthy secular marriage. A 1999 survey by the sociologists Christian Smith and Sally Gallagher revealed that in 90 percent of evangelical marriages, the husband and wife make decisions jointly. “My husband tends to have a more traditional view of male headship in marriage and the church, and I have a more egalitarian view, that we should submit to one another,” says Brenda Quinn, 44, a mother of three who attended the conference in Denver. “But in practice, in day-to-day living, there is no problem. Just because, intellectually, we disagree about how to read that part of Scripture, in practice, one is weak where the other is strong, and we need each other in our decisions. We seek each other’s counsel.”
Of course, this isn’t news to anyone who has spent very much time at all around evangelicals. Most conservative Christian couples have arrived at some sort of natural sharing of responsibilities that suits their gifts and personalities, despite the theological views on gender roles they might hold. This sort of equal partnership seems just about the only way to make it through modern life; I, for one, don’t understand why they have to ignore the monumental gains feminism has made for women.
David Sessions is the founding editor of Patrol. He covers religion for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and is a graduate student in the Draper Program for Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. He can be reached at hdavidsessions at gmail dot com.
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