Kirk Cameron got his Biblical interpretation of husband and wife wrong.

In Ephesians 5:22-24 of the New International Version of the Bible, we read:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

This is an inherently controversial verse in the Bible, considering the times that we live in, where the equality of men and women is not only embraced, but widely espoused. The idea of submission, predictably, does not bode well with the American way of perpetually fighting for equality in the different facets of living, not just marriage, but also sexual orientation, racial identity, and even our jobs and professional lives.

So as not to take the command out of context, we must read the verses that follows (25-28), which also tells husbands to love their wives:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

In a nutshell, the Bible teaches that husbands and wives equally respect one another, and when perceived this way, it is not really much different from the widely accepted principle of equality in marriage. But just like any other commandment in the Bible, it is subject to interpretation, and a slanted interpretation can do damage not only in the life of the person who makes it, but those he or she impacts. Kirk Cameron, Growing Pains star and Christian evangelist, has ignited a social media backlash for his controversial statements on marriage. Preaching during his Love Worth Fighting For tour, he stated:

Wives are to honor and respect and follow their husband’s lead, not to tell their husband how he ought to be a better husband. When each person get their part right, regardless of how their spouse is treating them, there is hope for real change in their marriage.

The Friendly Atheist criticized Cameron for his statements, especially the part that says, “regardless of how their spouse is treating them,” taking it to mean that women should just endure it when they are being treated badly in marriage. This idea acknowledges the wife’s part in maintaining a marriage, but totally glosses over the part of the man, which is to also love and honor his wife. It also implicitly silences the wife, and between the lines says that she is not to correct her husband, even when he is in the wrong.

The uproar on social media includes tweets like “Cameron isn’t qualified to give anyone advice on anything.” “In other news, Kirk Cameron advises women submit to emotionally abusive relationships because apparently that’s what Jesus wanted? #Ack!”

Kirk Cameron preaching bad Christianity reminds me of that episode of Family Guy where Peter establishes the church of the Fonz.”

Cameron’s spokesperson said that his words were “taken out of context.” On Cameron’s side, he also said that husbands should not argue with their wives so as not to hurt each other, and that arguing in front of children can also affect the health of their future relationships. He also said that “a lot of people don’t know that marriage comes with instructions… we find them right here in God’s Word.”

Jory Micah, a Christian and theological scholar who has made it her mission to “to tell others about His amazing non-judgmental love and his heart for equality for girls and women,” said that Cameron and his sister, Candace, are preaching an “unbiblical and unhealthy view of wifely submission.” She commented that as celebrity Christians, they must comprehend how to read the bible before making interpretations “that could easily lead to women being treated as ‘less than’ in their marriages, and even to domestic abuse in some cases.” She also said that the Camerons seem to believe in “complementarian theology” which transparently discriminates against women, and a theology which many Christians are fighting to correct. She asserted that many couples, whether Christian or non-Christian have egalitarian marriages that thrive successfully. 

What was left out of Cameron’s version of God’s commandment on marriages was that in Ephesians 5:21, it is written that wife and husband must submit to one another.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

A husband who leads his family without regard for his wife’s thoughts and feelings is not following the Word of God either. Cameron’s interpretation can easily be used to justified ruling with an iron fist, and handling the marriage in a non-democratic way which only serves the husband’s self-centered ends. God commands husbands to love and honor their wives and that wives to do the same. Wives must also be a reflection of Christ in the marriage, and we don’t find the idea anywhere in the bible that we must not correct wrongdoings in the people we love.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter