Domestic Mussolinis

This last October I put up a post called Bitterness and the Unsubmissive Wife. This generated some comment at the time, not to mention since then, and because there are some aspects of this that really are difficult for some to grasp, I thought I should make just a few more points about the whole issue.

1. One of the things I did was argue from Gen. 3:16 and Gen. 4:7, saying that the ongoing tension between the sexes was a result of the curse. The first misunderstanding to address is the idea that I am somehow saying that bitter unsubmissiveness is defined by disagreement with this exegesis. But these are entirely different things. A woman could disagree with my understanding of Gen. 3:16 and be the polar opposite of a bitter, unsubmissive wife — in short, a wonderful wife. Further, another woman could agree with my exegesis completely and still be a shrew. Now bitterness could certainly be displayed in how someone might disagree, but the disagreement itself need not be an attitude problem at all. When bitterness is a problem, it is primarily the result of not understanding your own heart properly — which is not the same thing as not understanding Gen. 3:16 properly.

2. For my second point, I need to first reiterate the qualifications I made in that post, make them yet again, and then move on to my new point. In that post, I made it clear that I was not trying to pave the way for any “domestic mussolinis” or “angry and abusive husbands.” I said this:

“So I am not at present talking about lousy marriages that are lousy because the husband is violent, or angry, or resentful, or lazy, or misogynistic, or unfaithful, and so on. I know that such exist, and I am unalterably opposed to every last one of them. I am especially opposed to them when the name of Jesus is invoked as an excuse for the sin.”

I have been doing marriage counseling for over three decades, and believe me, when it comes to misbehaving husbands, I have had a seat on the fifty yard line. The last thing I would ever do is try to pretend that husbands are not a driving force in all of this.

But here comes a new question. Why are such qualifications not heard?
One of the reasons such qualifications are not heard is that our generation has successfully politicized certain character flaws. In other words, character flaws now have a constituency, and any attack on the flaws directly is taken as an attack on the group most susceptible to them. But in the Scriptures, certain temptations go with certain groupings of people. Paul tells children to be obedient to their parents (Eph. 6:1-3), he tells older women to guard against drinking too much wine (Tit. 2:3), he tells husbands not to be harsh (Col. 3:19), and he tells wives not to be disrespectful (Eph. 5:33).

In doing this, he is not saying that an older woman can’t be harsh, or that a husband can’t be a drunk. He is simply generalizing, which in our hyper-sensitive age, you are not allowed to do. He even does this with ethnic groups. Cretans are evil beasts, lazy gluttons and liars. But this is not saying that Cretans have to be that way (he tells Titus to rebuke them sharply, so that they won’t be), and it doesn’t mean that Irishmen can’t be that way. But if we were in a situation where tensions were running high between Ireland and Crete, any criticism in either direction would tend to be heard in sweeping and universalizing ways. An overly sensitive hermeneutic therefore indicates the presence of other issues.

This same dynamic was in play, incidentally, in some of the responses to my recent post about Millennials. To say that Millennials are vulnerable to certain temptations is not to say that not one of them has ever resisted these temptations, or that other generations are not tempted by anything at all.

And so this indicates that when the statement “some wives sometimes fail in this way” is heard as “no husbands ever fail in other ways,” there is some kind of tension, or bitterness, or hostility somewhere.

3. So to come at the central point from another direction — both men and women are sinners. When men sin, they sin the way men do. When women sin, they sin the way women do. They sin, as they do everything else, in line with their general makeup and character. And one of the things that all sinners tend to do is try to create a situation where pointed identification of that sin is difficult, if not impossible. Sin always seeks to evade, or hide, or change the subject. When Jesus identified the sin of the woman at the well, all of a sudden she wanted to talk theology.

Now one of temptations that some men face is that of abdication. One of the temptations that some women face is that of usurpation — whether Gen. 3:16 is talking about that or not. When a wife is bitter, resentful, and hostile, and her husband is afraid to help her identify that problem, you have a bad situation. You do not have a universal situation, but you do have a bad one.

When a situation is not like this at all, I am delighted to acknowledge that it is not. I am not in need of additional intractable marital situations. I have plenty. I want the number of them to go down, not up. But if a husband and wife really are at odds, nothing is gained by pretending otherwise.

The way out of such tangles is always repentance, always turning to Jesus. He forgives every sin, and while we may identify sins by means of generalization, He always forgives them specifically.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • Mark B. Hanson

    “…character flaws now have a constituency…” That explains quite a bit about the world we live in. Thanks!

  • Ben Bowman

    “He forgives them specifically” Amen to that! 

  • delurking

    “When Jesus identified the sin of the woman at the well, all of a sudden she wanted to talk theology.”
    And when Doug Wilson gets caught being nasty and bitter toward an entire generation, all of a sudden *he* wants to talk theology.

  • Jon

    Cretans are lazy gluttons…I wonder why they were.  Perhaps island-life is very laid back.   And why were older women more prone to drinking too much wine?

  • St. Lee

    Pastor Wilson, you said:

    When men sin, they sin the way men do. When women sin, they sin the way women do.

    Why do I suspect that you will get pushback on that benign statement to the effect of : “I am a woman and I take offence at that – I can sin any way a man can and maybe even more so.”  Or the inverse of that.

  • Eric Stampher

    Chiasms maybe crossed incorrectly on that Gen 3:16 exegesis?  To be clear, you are not saying that Gen 3:16 itself talks about a woman’s desire for control, are you?  Seems like maybe a conflation of 4:7 (where the adoring Private First-Class Sin will meet his General Cain), over against 3:16 where adoring Eve-Church is promised her saving Czar Adam-Jesus.  I.e., 3:16b is a new covenant promise, not curse.

  • Bryan Hangartner

    Delurking, give it a rest! You think Doug’s perfectly valid critique of a significant percentage of the millenial generation is “nasty and bitter”, and that he’s “talking theology” as a way of trying to excuse himself to the likes of you?!?!? God forbid that your arrogance be gratified! My fiancee and I are millenials and we groan wholeheartedly along with Doug at our generation’s disgusting entitlement mentality, shameful lack of work ethic, and senseless Marxist inclinations. All the whining excuse-makers like you are the problem here!

  • BJ

    Pastor Wilson, Two things: (1) My criticism of your post about millenials (that it was the logical fallacy of false generalization) was also rooted in (confession time…) my fatigue at hearing about how bad my generation is. So you are right. There was, “some kind of tension, or bitterness, or hostility somewhere.” I admit the deed, as Poe wrote. I also admit that gerenalizations can be useful at times, but they can also be bad at times. My problem with them is that they tend to foster wrongheaded attitudes toward me and my fellow reformed, clear thinking, hard working, unentitled comrades, when those same attitudes could be hoisted upon people of older generations before they became fellow reformed, clear thinking, hard working, unentitled comrades. This is especially irking to me since most all of your criticisms seem to be caused by the fact that at most any millennial is 30ish years old or under. It is more a criticism of youth, not generation. (2) I am going to sound like a full-on sexist here. I am not, so I apologize for sounding that way. I think the primary reason so many men are abdicating marriage and fatherhood (beyond the obvious fact that they are sinners) is that if they confront their wives about unsubmissivness they are labeled, by default, a “Domestic Mussolini.” We have no reprieve, either socially or legally, if we say we are not supposed to be ruled over by our wives. Husbands face the choice of either (A) defying what God says about being the head of the household by handing that over to the unsubmissive wife, or (B) becoming a social pariah labeled as some kind of abusive tyrant. It is easier to say, “Fine! I am out of here.” They save their own personal dignity. They save themselves social grief. Am I wrong here?  

  • BJ

    Bryan Hangartner,
    I would like to know how you could possibly prove that (in your words), “a significant percentage of the millennial generation” falls into the category of Doug’s criticisms. Do you have stats? Is there a study to which you can point? You might be right, but there is no good way to prove this that I have seen. Saying it does not make it true. Perhaps you have some anecdotal evidence of (in your words) “our generation’s disgusting entitlement mentality, shameful lack of work ethic, and senseless Marxist inclinations,” but there is no way you can legitimately apply this to a significant percentage. I have much anecdotal evidence to the contrary. I don’t say this to challenge you. You are right to a certain degree, that these characteristics exist among millennials. But there is also a strong movement towards reformed thinking and political libertarianism. Let us merely choose our words by what we can prove, and not just what we feel.

  • carole

    BJ, I was thinking along the same lines, that it sounded more like a critique of young people generally, but I do think there is a huge underlying problem to all these similar problems, and btw you do not sound sexist at all.  It seems to me, that our feel good culture just wants everything to be easy and no one wants to be the bad guy…parents are afraid to discipline their children, Husbands are afraid to lead their wives, employers are afraid to fire their employees…no one is steering the ship, and the mess is obvious.  It isn’t supposed to be easy, is it?  Every time my friends get together and someone is having trouble being submissive, inevitably that sister will sing the… well, I would be submissive if he were doing the right!    It sounds so funny, but that is what gets said.  In other words, I would be submissive if my husband did what I wanted and made it easy for me.  I would discipline my kids if they weren’t such trouble makers and people didn’t look down their noses at me. I would be a leader if everyone would just do what I said and everyone else would encourage me… we are all singing this song.  What has happened to the whole culture that it wants everything to be easy and pleasant?  That is not what we as Christians are told to be like.  We are supposed to follow the commandments even when the whole world tells us we are wrong… right? I think Dan said it best in another post.  We all really need to toughen up!!

  • Bryan Hangartner


    First, to clarify, I used the term “significant percentage” to justify Wilson’s stereotyping of our generation, not to indicate that a MAJORITY of millenials exhibit those stereotypes. Maybe it’s just because I’m from Portland, OR where Wilson’s stereotype seems validated around every corner, but we who are reformed and/or libertarian do not in any way seem to be numerically superior to our liberal peers. The fact that Obama carried 66% of the millenial vote in 2008 ( is enough evidence to indicate to me that those millenials are either Marxist (likely not having a clue that they are, hence my use of the adjective “senseless”), or given over to the entitlement mentality their parents, grandparents, and educators fed them, and probably both. My suspicions are confirmed by Pew Research, whose poll found that millenials are “more supportive of a progressive domestic social agenda.” ( From the same report, “Asked who has the better work ethic, about three-fourths of respondents [millenials] said that older people do.” I have personally seen this stereotype vindicated too many times, but that is anecdotal evidence form Portland, OR. As to actually proving that the average millenial’s work ethic is poorer than that of an average older worker, that would require a very rigorous study in which the influence of significant variables such as the recession would have to be removed. I haven’t seen anyone try that yet . . . but there is much evidence that proves that millenials have a problem with an entitlement mentality and its political incarnation, Marxism.  

  • Ellen of Tasmania

    Just wondering when it would be acceptable in today’s culture to use a generalisation. What percentage of any particular group would have to show the tendency, to what level, and with how much proof, before it was O.K. to generalise?

  • BJ

    Bryan Hangartner, Thank you for taking the time to respond. You are correct that the type of study necessary to make a full proof case is not feasible. But I would say that what you gave me is plenty to justify saying what you did. I am sorry that you are justified, as I am sure you are as well. My anecdotal evidence is from Virginia Beach, VA where I did my initial lay-ministry. I do not know how many flags I saw that said, “Don’t tread on me.” That I think explains quite adequately our different emphases. So, I say to you, keep trucking up there in Seattle. And be encouraged that although you may not see us much, there are many thousands of us millennials who are reformed and Bible-believing. We may not be as loud as the opposition, but I can guarantee we will be faithful to our cause. 

  • BJ

    I am sorry. I meant to say Portland. Keep trucking up there in Portland.

  • Seneca Griggs

    Let’s face it; it is a “cluster-fark-nado” here on planet Earth.  We have sowed the wind; we reap the whirlwind.  God help us.

  • Matt

    As BJ said, the problem with your Millenial post is that “Millenials” are too diverse and large a group to draw these generalizations about.  I find it odd that Millenials are accused of an “entitlement mentality”.  If you think about the main entitlements in society, SS and Medicare, it ain’t the Millenials driving the bus.  Maybe we can generalize Boomers as “utterly oblivious to their own faults as they bankrupt the nation”.  It also is bizarre to call a 66% voting rate for Obama in 2008 as evidence of “Marxism”.  In 2008 the Republicans had made themselves completely poisonous to anyone not inside the right-wing tribe.  They have only marginally improved since then.

  • Matt

    To elaborate further, the generalization “black people tend to commit more crime” is a false one, even though you can produce statistics to support it.  This is because “black people” is too broad of a category.  Elderly black ladies are as unlikely to commit crime as elderly ladies of any other race.  The correct generalization is “Young black men from depressed urban environments tend to commit more crime”   In that way, you can draw a generalization like “White Millenial liberal arts graduates from middle to upper-middle class backgrounds tend to have an inflated sense of their own worth”.  

  • Matt

    Generalizations about sex and behavior are generally safer, because women tend to behave like women and men like men.  Even then you have to define your category accurately.  Something like “Men tend to consider overt displays of emotion effeminate” is inaccurate; it’s only true of certain cultures and times.  So “American men tend to consider overt displays of emotion effeminate” is fine.  You should always keep this in mind, not because we don’t want to offend anyone, but rather because if you sloppily generalize no one listens to you and you sound like a prejudiced jerk.  This is especially true if you are arguing something like behavioral differences between the sexes, where you are facing an uphill battle against the conventional wisdom.  Any argument that isn’t completely airtight will be summarily dismissed.

  • timothy

    I like Pastor Wilson’s style much more than yours.  You may ‘summarily dismiss’ all you want, just like I have summarily dismissed your objections. Since you have summarily dismissed his arguments, why are you posting here?

  • Matt

    Timothy, honestly baffled at your post.  Have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • timothy

    Your exhortation to embrace the permutations is self defeating for Christian ministry..
    By using the language of the Left, the Christian is capitulating to the world. Let’s take a simple example–sex. And God created them male and female.
    Your approach is to engage in the “diverse tapestry’ of  the LBGTQWTF variations on God’s design. My approach is not to engage it, but to destroy it. The sooner the better.

  • J

    BJ – At this point I suppose the horse is dead, but that never stopped me switching from my boot to a bat. That said, I am also a millennial and I can understand (but do not agree with) where you are coming from. When talking about Doug’s generalizations you said this” My problem with them is that they tend to foster wrongheaded attitudes toward me and my fellow reformed, clear thinking, hard working, unentitled comrades, when those same attitudes could be hoisted upon people of older generations before they became fellow reformed, clear thinking, hard working, unentitled comrades.”. Here is my issue with that statement. It is exactly the kind of  language spoken by the person Doug is generalizing about. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no idea what your political opinions are or what your work ethic is actually like, but you are “speaking” like a person who has about 100 “sensitive” buttons on various parts of his body just begging to be pushed. And therein lies a lot of our problem. We are so indoctrinated into this culture of radical PCness that we don’t hear ourselves when we succumb to its pressure. Maybe we are not so “clear headed” after all. I am simply suggesting that our tendency to take offense to what we see as generalizations about us should be utterly rejected whether we believe them to be true or not. In the end, even a false generalization can be overturned easily on the local personal level by simply proving the opposite of that generalization with your actions which in turn take the wind out of the sail of said generalization (I sure wish there was a shorter word for generalization). Doug gave all the necessary qualifications to say that this was not an across the board thing he was about to say. All this push back from it just seems to be proving his point. If you are a hard working, clear headed, go gitem, type of person then maybe you are in the 15% of millennials that Doug would “hire in a minute”. But then again would a person in that 15% be worried about what some stereotype (whether false or true) had to say about his type or would he be confident in his ability to prove it wrong? 

  • J

    BJ – One more thing…. you said “It is easier to say, “Fine! I am out of here.” They save their own personal dignity. They save themselves social grief. Am I wrong here?  “Yes you are wrong there. Any man that would say such a thing is not a man, he is a boy. And in doing so he makes manifest the fact that he is a weak disobedient turd nugget. And rather than saving any dignity he had, he looses it all in an instant. So what if the world labels us as a tyrant when we are actually being a servant. Water off a duck’s back bro….. Have a good one.

  • J

    PPS – Bryan, I like your fire about the topic. I’m sure living in a city like that must be tough, but remember one thing when coming to conclusions. 83.465% of all statistics are made up.

  • Moor

    Nothing like staying on topic…

  • Johnny

    Seems more like when the Samaritan woman was caught, she asked where to go sacrifice.

  • J

    Moor – I know what you mean. However, Doug did reference the Millennial post in this one. The door wasn’t wide open, but it was sorta cracked a little bit. Give me an inch and I’ll take a mile :)

  • Bryan Hangartner

    Matt, how could a 66% millenial vote for Obama NOT indicate a Marxist propensity amongst my generation? Obama promised (and is in the process of delivering) universal, government-run and mandatory health care for all U.S. citizens, free college education for all, a reduction in “income inequality” (necessarily through coercive means), a preference for minority-owned businesses in government-subsidized loans, etc., etc. I realize that few millenials would label themselves as Marxist, but the above “progressive” policy goals are the root and fruit of Marxist socialism. I believe that most who voted for Obama do not think of themselves as Marxists, but this proves merely that they are politically and historically ignorant, and therefore, not properly terrified of a political dogma that results in senseless and unnecessary loss of life:

    How many people will die as a result of Obama’s vaunted Affordable Care Act?

  • Bryan Hangartner

    Maybe Portland needs a regiment of Virginia volunteers to set things straight up here . . . ?

  • timothy

    “but remember one thing when coming to conclusions. 83.465% of all statistics are made up. “
    That’s good!

  • BJ

    Carole, Thanks for your repsponse. It is always interesting to get a female perspective……………….
    J, I admitted that there a bit of sensitivity involved, but I am working to try and change that stereotype. That is why I am commetting on a blog from someone whose perspective I respect. And I have no idea whether I am in the 15%, but I think that caveat can be tossed out because…something about stats being made up. To your point about weak disobedient turd nuggets, I’d like to whack-a-mole these knuckleheads back into the hole they tore in their family and make them patch it with cement mixed with their remorse and a little hot sauce. They deserve no sympathy. I was simply pointing out that there are forces beyond their inherent lack of britches-wearing that causes this epidemic. The sin goes beyond them to the culture created by (insert reponsible group here)……………….
    Bryan Hangartner, I would be interested in Portland (I’m told the fishing is pretty amazing) except the good ole Air Force is not a libertarian organization, so I’m kind of stuck. Keep up the good fight, though. Maybe one day the reinforcements will arrive. (Have you seen 300?)

  • Douglas Wilson

    Post a comment

  • St. Lee

    Well, looks as though my guess about the pushback on this post was all wet.  If I can make a generalization from that, it would be that there must be more Millennials who follow this blog than egalitarians :-)
                                                                                                                                                                             I think it would behoove those who seem to have such a distaste for anyone making generalizations about a specific generation to do a word search on “generation” to see how many times Jesus did that very thing.  Then ask yourself, are you offended when Jesus does it?

  • timothy

    @Ellen of Tasmania wrote:
    Just wondering when it would be acceptable in today’s culture to use a generalisation. What percentage of any particular group would have to show the tendency, to what level, and with how much proof, before it was O.K. to generalise?

    Ellen, could you please be more specific. I am not sure if you are speaking in general about generalization, or if you are generally inclined to specificity when dealing with the generic

    p.s. just kidding (;

  • Ellen of Tasmania

    Timothy – yeah, I think you understood what I meant.

  • timothy

    Ellen thx.
    I think it is right with them when we know longer think.  Have you read Lewis’ ‘The Abolition of Man’? The first lecture–‘Men Without Chests’ describes these people quite well. The Green Book of that lecture has become quite a success. My only quibble with Lewis is that they did not turn out to be “Men Without Chests’ but  ‘Boys In Onesies’.