I hadn’t planned on writing this post. Really. In fact, I kinda don’t even want to, but I have to at least write this one out. If you are reading this, then I must have decided to post it after finishing. It started innocently enough. I read a blog post from Rachel Held Evans, who does a series on her blog called “Ask a . . . . “ (http://rachelheldevans.com/ask-a-stay-at-home-dad-response) Each time she picks a different person, like an atheist, a gay man, a woman pastor, a homeless person, etc and her readers can submit questions to be answered by these people. This is done in an attempt to get to know people who, as Christians, sometimes, we don’t take time to actually listen to and get to know. Anyhoo, this week’s installment was “Ask a stay at home dad” and I was eager to read about his life experiences. In reading this though, I was astounded. no. Amazed. no. Shocked. no. Appalled. no. Horrified to learn that this man and his family had been told by TWO different churches that what he is doing as a stay at home father is wrong. WHAT? What the what? I was rendered speechless for a while. I must be really behind the times, because I didn’t even know this was a group of people that I was supposed to oppose as a Christian.
I was even more frustrated when I saw a video of Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife, where they actually say that a dad who stay’s at home isn’t providing for his family and would require church disciplining, if they went to their church. (http://youtu.be/1WPVxndUcHQ) I sat there saying “WHAT?!?!?” I have nothing against Pastor Driscoll. Let me say that. He does amazing work in Seattle at his church and I will not say anything negative about his ministry. HOWEVER, I do think that his position on this is dangerous at best, as he has a lot of influence in the church today. Should you have an opinion on stay at home dads? Sure. Absolutely. Have an opinion and express it to others. Shout your opinion from the mountaintop. But please acknowledge it as an opinion and not as something that the Bible says and therefore i.e. “what God Wants.”
The passage that most opponents (I can’t believe I even have to use that word!) use to say that stay at home dads are not following God’s will is from I Tim 5. In those days, if you had a father die, it was the cultural custom to take care of your mother, a widow, until she died or remarried another man. Men were trying to get out of having to take care of their mother’s by giving away their money and possessions temporarily, and then have it returned to them when she died. Paul was telling the men that this behavior was not acceptable and instructing them to take care of their mothers. It was written to sons and mothers, not husbands and wife’s. This just proves the point that each person should do their own research and studying to determine what the Bible actually says and not take the word of a leader or pastor as to what it says. You may find that you are basing your thoughts and beliefs on a false premise or interpretation.
The first and greatest commandment is to love one another. Period. The second is also to love. Period. How can anyone take a letter written by Paul over 2000 years ago, to someone who is not us, in a culture that is not ours, and then draw a line in the sand and TURN PEOPLE AWAY FROM THE CHURCH over it? What about the Gospel? I really am getting frustrated by Christians who take on these issues that are not absolutes in the Bible and just say “this is my opinion.” You could be right, but so could the other guy. I am not willing to lose someone over their childcare choices. Does the church not have enough issues to deal with already that actually matter and affect people’s eternal salvation without resorting to name calling over stay at home dads?
I believe that we have to look at the message behind their specific instructions to the early church. What is the meaning behind Paul instructing these things? The meaning behind him saying that a man should provide for his family, whether it be his mother, wife or children, is that he should not be a slackard or lazy in providing for your family. That includes ALL types of provision. How many men do you know provide financially for their families, but come home from work and enter into a coma? He is not providing, but we’ll give hime a pass because he’s “bringing home the bacon.” The teaching point here is laziness not stay at home-ness.
The other point from this passage is that it uses the word “provide” which could include any and all types of provision. I think everyone can agree that parents who only provide money to their children are not doing a very good job. Providing includes not just monetary means of support but physical presence, emotional availability and presence, spiritual presence, mental presence and so many others. Are we now an authority on what that passage meant by presence?
I don’t believe that either side of this debate is saying that what they believe should be universally applied. The stay at home dad’s that I have talked to and read about simply say that for them and their family, it works. For their marriages, it works. Yes, I have seen some that have tried it and realized that it didn’t work for them. But the families that do this and are successful have healthy, happy children and wives. And let me point out that an individual can do something that is “Biblical” and it still not be God’s will for THEIR life. The Holy Spirit leads, convicts and guides each individual Christian. I have enough trouble trying to discern what the Holy Spirit wants ME to do, much less try to tell another Christian who I think the Holy Spirit wants to watch their children. Who the heck do I think I am that I can tell a family who should take care of their children? What the Holy Spirit tells one to do, is not what every Christian should do.
And really, excuse me, but have’t we been telling Christian woman for decades that their role as stay at home wife and mother is just as important and equal to the husband’s role to bring home money? The way that they take care of children, cook, clean, manage the house, etc is as necessary and vital as the money. Right. So now, when a man stays at home and does the exact same thing, we want to say that’s not good enough? But as Mr. Driscoll says, lets not be legalistic about this. And apparently, there are exceptions to his rule on stay at home dads. I am not familiar with those and the Bible does not enumerate them. Perhaps he could do up a powerpoint presentation and 20 page guide on all the exceptions. So if a father works third shift and then stays up and takes care of his kids during the day, is that ok? What if a man works from home and gets his kids to school and also off the bus, is that ok? What if a father is on unemployment and takes care of his kids till he can find another job is that ok? What if a man is disabled mentally or physically yet stays at home and takes care of his children, is that ok? What standard of disability do we use? Does a pastor do some type of testing to determine this or should we leave it up to SSI or Workman’s Comp? Are Dad’s with a mental illness able to take care of their kids? At all or ever? Maybe the deacon board could determine that for us as well.
There is also the argument, which I really don’t even want to wade into, that woman are better caregivers for children than men. Sure we can issue generalities and say that, but we know women and men who don’t fit into those boxes. We know people who shouldn’t even have children. We know women who are not loving or nurturing. We know men who are. BUT here is the good news for everyone. We don’t have to make those decisions for anyone else on this planet! Sweet. We can just be in our own families, led by our personal relationship with God and follow where the Holy Spirit leads ME. When I stand before God on the judgement day, I stand alone. Period. No one else, not my parents, not my husband, and not my pastor. And I would rather on that day, God tell me I loved too much and was too forgiving than I was too legalistic and judging. I’m going to err on the side of over-loving than under-loving.
And finally, can we just quit drawing lines in the sand as Christians, over non-essential issues? I know, we all disagree on what is an essential issues, right? How about we stop at the Gospel? Yes we can debate issues. We should debate them. I learn something every time I discuss issues with people who believe different than me. But name calling, mud slinging, stereotyping and rock throwing need to stop. We are losing the world for the sake of “being right.” And make no mistake, we are throwing rocks, just as the people did in John 8 to the woman caught in the act of adultery. Except now we throw digital rocks on Facebook, Twitter and email. We send out emails letting other’s know how we feel about people on welfare, illegal immigrants, gays, feminists, liberals, single parents, non-Calvinist, etc and hide behind our glowing screens. We rarely do it to people in the flesh, because that’s not nice. That’s not Christian. Lets put our rocks down and just start loving on people. Let the Holy Spirit do it’s job in their lives. Some people, make other people, their full time job. Well it’s quitting time. Quit that job people. Let go and just love.