Yes, OK, I admit it. I succumbed to the temptation of a click-bait title! But I wanted to get your attention. Recently I have been contacted by a handful of people on this blog, my Divide The Word YouTube channel and Facebook page, and by email, dealing with this topic of the pastor invading the home/family structure and taking precedence over the husband, or the head of the household in family decisions.
Another young lady contacted me recently about a pastor demanding that she be submitted to him until she has a husband, qualifying himself as her spiritual ‘father/husband’ figure. She was looking for advice about what submission really means and while I would love to talk about that topic, I want to focus this article on the reality that in some Christian sects, the wives literally become spiritually married to the pastor.
It is no surprise, as we look into the past of modern Christian history, that the woman has oft times been something of a tool to be used by men. Considering some of the scandals of nunneries and cult organizations such as the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas in the ’80s and ’90s, women have been coerced into submitting their temporal bodies in service to God, primarily in sexual manners.
Yet, I’m talking about something more subversive, perhaps even more insidious. Something most people are wholly unaware of. When women become sexual slaves for madmen, it’s generally open, and in a more commune style system, away from public scrutiny yet the membership is aware of it. However, what I’ve seen in modern sects of Christianity is that women are enslaved to the leader, or pastor, in their minds.
Through time-proven methods of indoctrination and brainwashing young women because mentally married to the church, and to the leader and follow that person’s wishes over their spouse. And of course, I am more and more required to add in the disclaimer that this is not true in ALL of Christianity, or other religions, it is small subsections of the religion as a whole.
I have some personal experience with this, in that my spouse still attends the group I fled. At one point, she uttered the words in anger (and I doubt she would repeat them again today), “Why should I be submitted to you when you aren’t submitted to the man of God!” This, of course, was after I left that particular Oneness Pentecostal group that demands absolute obedience to the pastor even if the requirements he sets are not Scriptural.
In other cases, people have told me that their marriages were ripped in half. When the man left the church, the spouse would not follow and instead was loyal to the group and leader. And, in some cases, I’ve seen the gender reverse. The wife left the church and the husband refused to see the dangers she saw, and the marriage was ripped apart.
And finally, I know some people whose spouse gave the other an ultimatum, “It’s me or that church. Pick one.” I once asked my own spouse, “If I were to say, me or the church, what would you say?” And her response was, “I’m not leaving this church so…” (To be clear, I’ve never asked my wife to leave Faith, I’ve only asked her to leave a group clearly defined as a cult, even suggesting she go to another like-minded church for the time being.)
Again, my wife would not answer the same today, and I’m not saying any of this to paint an ill picture of my wife. She is my own, my precious and I would not give her up for all the riches of the world. I am simply being transparent about something I’ve never written here before to provide evidence for what I’m writing about.
Is the pastor taking your spouse?
You can find many online articles of “Putting church before your marriage”, or, “Is church ruining your marriage?” And it is important to note, this is NOT an attack on ‘Church’. These people found themselves over-obligated, their priorities in the wrong spot even if their heart was in the right place. It is quite common, but it is different from so-called spiritual leaders placing themselves between a husband and wife as an authority figure.
First, let’s look at this from a practical and secular level.
We know the phrases like ‘he’s a workaholic’, someone who invests too much of their time into the job, or the career, at the ruin of the family and social life around them. They become so engrossed in their work that they lose focus on the things that will fade away silently and they will never get back. Regret is the only thing that has perfect hindsight.
On a secular level, people agree all the time that it is unhealthy to have fanatical and misplaced loyalty in a position, or a person, to the detriment of your family. Choosing your job over your spouse could only be classified as foolish, irresponsible and will only result in destruction if not caught and changed before its too late.
The same can be said for any obsession, like entertainment, video games, sports, hobbies, etc. How many wives lose their husbands on Superbowl night? We chuckle and roll our eyes at it, but taken to extremes it can be very dangerous.
Then use our earlier asked question in relation to something like this; “Suzie, it’s me or your job. Pick one.”
No one in their right mind would say, “Suzie, I know its tough, but stick with it. Your job is vital and important and your boss is a really good man…” Rather, we would be screaming, “You can get another job, Suzie! Take care of your family!“
Now move this into the Church
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; ~ Ephesians 5:22-25, KJV
I don’t necessarily like using passages like this, unless given the right context because I am NOT a preacher of the old adage, “Wives should be seen not heard.”, which is to say, they are the subjects of their husbands. That is a false narrative taught by chauvinists who want domination instead of a partnership.
However, something highly critical can be taken from this passage, and it’s companion passage in 1 Corinthians 11;
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:3, KJV
The pastor is surprisingly vacant in the writings of headship, marital authority, positions and purpose. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is an indication, writing or example ever set, that the woman is to be subject to the so-called ‘spiritual leader’ in absence of a husband.
Nowhere in Scripture does it indicate that a wife should follow her pastor if her husband stops attending a church. Neither, to the extreme, does it even teach that she is to follow another ‘headship’ if her husband leaves FAITH altogether. In fact, she is encouraged to stay faithful to her husband in hopes of winning him back to God.
Yet, this is exactly what has happened to many poor couples. The pastor becomes the wife’s spiritual husband. He becomes her ‘headship’ when her real and God-honored husband is ‘away’ from the so-called fold.
Recently, I was talking to a man who said his wife, after he left the Oneness church (please note when I say a person left a church, they didn’t leave the faith, they left legalism), went to the pastor for council in family decisions, preferring his advice to the husbands.
Just a week ago a man contacted me on my Facebook page saying that after leaving his church (legalism) and wanting to move his family to a place he felt was safer for them, the wife refused based on the advice of her ‘bishop’. This reminds me again of the phrase, “Why should I submit to you when you aren’t submitted to the Pastor?”
In another closer to home example, I remember a husband who decided to move his family to another ‘like-minded’ church and community and was ostracized from his home church because they didn’t have the pastors ‘permission’. Thankfully, in that case, the wife trusted and followed the husband, but that doesn’t always happen.
Three Signs the Pastor is Controlling your Spouse/Marriage
These are simple rules of thumb to consider that the boundaries of the pastor’s role and the marital headship standards in Scripture are being violated.
1. “Obey them that have the rule over you.”
This often misused and misquoted verse found in Hebrews 13:17 has been used by many to teach the abdication of personal freedoms and relationship with God, or being led by the Spirit, and instead, be under the thumb of ‘them that rule you’, I.e., the pastor.
Yet, in looking at the original language, context, and cross-referencing commentaries, this actually meant ‘trust in them’, or ‘have confidence in them’ that have ‘positions of leadership and oversight’. The ‘obedience’ mentality came in the King James Version of the Bible, no doubt, as this was written by the request of a monarch.
If this verse and like-minded statements are used to teach that the wife is to be subjected to her Pastor in or out of the presence of her husband, the pastor is attempting to take headship over that person.
2. I am your spiritual father/husband
This is a devious mentality that spawns from the hellish dogma of Delegated Authority in which modern-day leaders think they are the Vicar of Christ (i.e. Pope) or the replacement or successor of Apostolic Authority. They will reference Paul speaking to Timothy, where he refers to him as “My son in the Gospel”, twisting that from a statement of affection into a message of headship and authority.
The pastor (please, pastors, back me up or comment here!) is NOT the authority of a wife in lieu of or in greater marital authority than the husband. The Pastor’s authority begins with being empowered to preach the Word and ends when he/she is done preaching the Word. The pastor has no place in the home, nor the affairs of the home, except his/her own.
If a man, and his wife, or one or the other wish to seek advice from a counselor, or pastor, they are encouraged to do so but should not feel compelled to follow the teaching of one or the other over the words of their spouse.
3. What does the pastor think about this?
If like me, you’ve ever come from a high-control or cult style religion, you’ve certainly hard that question. When you talk about changing jobs, buying a new home, moving, picking up a hobby, going to college, or anything that alters your life course, the reaction will be, ‘Did the pastor give his permission/blessing?’
If, as a spouse, you believe your family unit, and or other half is incapable of making decisions for the family without the permission or blessing of the ‘pastor’, that individual is controlling you. More importantly, if one party, in this case, would be unwilling to accept the warnings and choices of the other because of contrary words from the pastor, then that spouse is mentally married to the pastor rather than her his/her real spouse.
The natural next step in a conversation like this, is, “What do I do?” if you are in that situation. I’ve been asked this too many times. And, unfortunately, I’m not qualified to answer that question!
My best advice is threefold,
- Seek Secular and/or Christian Counseling. Get advice from other non-biased, even different denomination (if doing Christian counseling) based counselors. You have to get a clear-head outside person to look at the situation and give real-world advice.For instance, to one person who (a wife) was radically ‘in’ and unwilling to openly admit the danger of the cult they were in, I asked the question, “If you sat in front of a non-biased counselor, Christian or not, and laid out all the things your church demands of you and your family, what do you think they would say?” That wife responded, grudgingly, ‘They would think it was crazy.’ Sometimes that outside advice/perspective helps to open a clouded mind.
- For the Christian couple that wants to retain faith, study Biblical Headship. It is neither demanding of the wife to simply ‘obey’ the man, and neither will a true study find obedience to the ‘pastor’ superseding the family unit.In cases like the cult I left, the pastor even overrides the family unit on matters of their children. If I was the dad who told my son he could date a young lady, and the pastor decided they weren’t right for each other, I was overridden by that pastor and my son would not be allowed to date that young lady.
Studying true Biblical headship and authority will dispel the notion that the pastor has any say in marital decisions.
- Pray for your own patience, love, and understanding.Stockholm Syndrome, if you have never researched it, is defined in short as “feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor.” People who are being mentally dominated often learn to feel dependant upon and affectionate for their captors, whether it be physical or emotion/mental enslavement.
The only way to win someone over is to provide unending and unrelenting love and affection. The ‘bad guy’ in any scenario will show his/her true colors eventually. And the one who remains affectionate will win. Don’t let that bad guy outlast your affection.
You may want to pray for the spouse, (and you can, and should) but the reality is your perseverance is what will win the day. To some couples, the other spouse simply wasn’t willing to wait it out. And I completely understand. I have thought in times past, ‘how long am I willing to wait this out’. I came to the conclusion until I win my spouse back.
My hope is that anyone who reads this, who may have been in this situation, or who is IN this type of situation will find help, resolve and the knowledge that they are not alone.