This last Wednesday, I sent out the following tweet:
Just so you know, husbands, angry men are terrible lovers.
The day after, I sent out one for the ladies:
Just so you know, wives, complaining a lot is like taking ugly pills.
Both tweets got positive responses, but they also each got a peculiar and similar response from members of the tagged sex. That response was, well, that goes for women too, or that goes for men too. Don’t leave them out. The point must also be made that angry women are terrible lovers ALSO, and that complaining husbands are taking ugly pills TOO. Okay. Why does Col. 3:19 tell husbands not to be harsh with their wives? Have there never been harsh wives? The answer is that you can’t say everything every time, and that generalities are appropriate. Paul is being unjust to no one by apportioning his teaching in accordance with general patterns of human behavior. Men have more of a problem with what Paul was talking about. That’s why he was talking about it.
But we are so in the grip of individualistic and egalitarian madness that we do not want to admit the justice of generalizations at all. Here’s a sample for you. Suppose I said that men are taller than women. Am I refuted when given a clear instance of a woman taller than most men? Of course not. But suppose a combative little egalitarian man comes roostering up to me, and says that, yeah, well, “every time I go to the airport I see at least ten women who are taller than I am.” I would say, yeah, well, that’s because you’re a squirt. Where was I? I think I got off point.
Generalizations. Anybody who doesn’t like them is probably a Cretan, and they, as we all know, are liars, evil beasts, and slow bellies (Tit. 1:12).
Men are more prone to certain sins than women are, and women are more prone to certain sins than men are. And so when we think we are just showing solidarity with our sex, perhaps we are really showing solidarity with our sin. When we are defensive on behalf of another, perhaps, at the end of the day, it is not on behalf of another at all. The evangelical D.L. Moody once said that when you throw a rock into a pack of stray dogs, the one that yelps is the one that got hit.
The same kind of weird solidarity came up in the comments of this post by my daughter Bekah the other day. She wrote a fantastic piece on modesty, and if you read through the comments you will see people feeling sorry for a hypothetical girl in a made up parable.
But this is like a Pharisee listening to Jesus tell the parable of the Good Samaritan, and reacting by saying that the Levite and the priest were probably both rushing to the hospital to visit their dying mothers, and so Jesus’ parable isn’t nearly as pertinent to Jewish animosities as it may have appeared at first glance. We must learn to take all the facts into account, people.
I recall C.S. Lewis once wrote a short story called The Shoddy Lands about a very self-centered young woman who couldn’t see anything clearly except the various baubles that she wanted. I also remember reading a feminist critique of Lewis’ misogyny. He clearly hated all women because he was so clear-eyed about this one woman’s sins.
Whenever we hear a story told, there is a God-given impulse to identify. This is how we come to tell who the protagonist is — we identify with him or, as I hasten to add, her. We are supposed to do that. But we are supposed to do it in line with God’s standards of righteousness, on the basis of what is right and noble. When we refuse to do this, we start bonding on the basis of weird things — like shared sex, shared nationality, shared age, shared birth position, shared Chevy ownership, and so on.
So if I say that angry husbands are terrible lovers — because they are — and this provokes an urgent request for me to, quick, make another statement, one which says that angry wives are terrible lovers too, what does the request amount to? It amounts to a refusal to identify with the true protagonist of this story — the abused wife. It also is a demand for a new story, one where I can identify with the true protagonist but feel comfortable because the protagonist is a man, like me.
This is because we prefer propaganda to parables.