Saturday, March 3, 2012

Debunking the Fourteen Basic Needs of a Marriage: Introduction

I will be quoting Bill Gothard's material in this text style and my response will be in the normal text:

Bill Gothard has published a manual on how a wife should meet her husband's seven basic needs, as well as how a husband should meet his wife's.  As you'll see, the latter part, directed at the husband, is highly disingenuous because, according to Bill Gothard, a marriage relationship is skewed completely toward the man.  The wife is only a cheerleading, supposedly willing, party.

As Bill is notorious for, he takes anything he can find in the Bible to support any point he dreams up, disregarding the context, the era, even the writer's style, etc., and sandwiches it in with his unique, sleight-of-hand, wording to numb your mind into believing he knows what he is talking about.

The unsuspecting reader may look at Bill's words as a sort of optional guidebook that might work for some and not others.  I will prove to you that this is not the case.  Bill makes it very clear that, if a woman does not follow his directions to the letter, she is a fool.  Worse yet, she is a horrible wife.
Finally, why are there not 8 basic needs?  Or 16.5 of them?  We'll never know how Bill finds his "rhemas" as he calls them.  We can only look at what he gives us and blow his theories out of the water.  You will find that much of my commentary will be decidedly personal, but that's just fine.  Why?  Because Bill makes the assumption that he is speaking for all men, and last I checked, I am a member of "all men".

Now, let's begin with a look into Bill's introduction to the Seven Basics Needs of a Husband and Wife.
Your spouse has many needs. Even if he or she is not consciously aware of all of these needs, when they are unmet, your spouse will exhibit sorrow, confusion, and frustration.

This is a setup.  It is a very effective tactic to come out at the beginning of any "new truth" and state that the receiver of that truth may not even be aware of the need for it.  By saying this, any person who wants to "debunk" the message, as I am doing, can be easily dismissed as ignorant, or even better, accused of willfully denying what is obvious truth - obvious because Bill Gothard says so.  Thus, if I say that I don't need my wife to meet my basic needs, as laid out by Bill, the author would state that I am simply unaware of my basic needs and, more importantly, the correct process or person to have those needs met.

Then Bill polishes off this introduction by proving to the reader that spousal sorrow, confusion, and frustration are symptoms of not following his formulas that will come later.  This isn't new though.  All "how-to" manuals begin this way.  They sneakily position one or many common human emotions as being negative, and then hit you with the reason for that emotion - the reason being a common trait in society, as well.  Bill is a master at this.

As the Lord shows you how to meet these needs, you can avoid strife and prosper...
No, Bill, as YOU show us how to meet those needs.

Then Bill talks to the woman:

As a wife, you are uniquely qualified to fully meet your husband’s needs and cause him to “rejoice in the wife of his youth” (Proverbs 5:18).

This is a horrible bastardization of a beautiful Solomonic proverb.  It makes me want to go to Bill, who has never been married in his life, and slap him on the back of his head.  The verse is talking to a man and telling him how to enjoy life.  The responsibility for the choosing of the enjoyment is squarely on the man.  Bill, in his finite wisdom, decides to pretend the causation is flipped and the man cannot enjoy his wife unless the wife meets the needs that Bill will later lay out.

There are days in my 10-year-old marriage where I hate the ground my wife walks on.  I can't stand the mother she came from or the person she is.  The couch is a warm and comfortable pity party for me.  But do I walk out?  Heck no!  I love my wife with every part of my being, even in those dark moments.  In those moments that matter the most, the times when I could throw it all away because I am fleetingly angry, I choose to love her.  She can do nothing at all to bring me back.  It is all up to me.  And I always end up on the other side, happier for it.  I get the sense that this was the real point of that proverb.  Requiring the woman to do all the right things so the husband enjoys her is a prison that is unnecessary and burdensome.

In His Word, God clearly establishes the responsibilities of a husband and a wife.

And there you have it.  Everything that Bill will present is now non-optional.  He used the word "clearly" after all.  A favorite of any fundamentalist guru.  If you disagree, then clearly you don't "get it".  Clearly you are not "saved".  Or clearly you are unaware of real truth.

It is the wife’s responsibility to honor and reverence her husband.

Bill gets this little idea from Genesis 3:16, as well as a few sprinklings of New Testament verses where writers, 2000 years ago, wrote their ideas of how women are supposed to act toward their husband.  With progressive understanding (namely, 2000 years of wisdom and knowledge), we can move away from archaic and backwards ideas and look ahead to the realities of how things really are in light of the complexities of life.

But, it's the Genesis 3:16 reference that really floors me.  The verse is where God is saying to Eve that he will "multiply her sorrow in childbirth" and "thy desire will be to your husband" (which I don't have a problem with at all, if you catch my drift), and finally, the part that Bill loves, "your husband will rule over you".

God was telling Eve this because she sinned.  It was her punishment for sinning.  I emphasize that twice for a very simple reason:  Why is Bill Gothard requiring honor and reverence from a wife in order to gain God's favor (as well as her husband's) by telling the woman that she is required to, because God told Eve she was required to, due to her sin?  Obviously, I find this text to be somewhat humorous.  On one hand, God punished Eve with some physical punishments that she couldn't get out of; childbearing, pain in conception (huh?), and then punishes her by saying she would be ruled over by her husband - something that is clearly (there goes that word) a choice on the husband's and wife's part.  Bill sees it as a metaphysical re-wiring of the male and female psyche.

I disagree.  And I am perfectly happy to do so.  And so is my wife.
In Part 1, we will discuss the first of the seven basic needs of the husband, according to Bill Gothard: A man needs a wife who is loyal and supportive.


  1. Hi, IC. I love your writing style, and how you start by showing the sleigh of hand attempted in "needs not consciously aware of." And your distinction between Word of God and word of Gothard.

    But I don't think you should use "requirement" in discussing "he will rule." (Gen 3:16)

    It is, on face value, a statement of how things will happen in a sinful world. If you read history, very much a true statement. With your style and insight, I think you will make this clearer to those who do not want to throw out the Bible if you emphasize this.

    "He will rule" is not synonymous with "he should rule.

  2. Retha,

    That is pretty much what I was shooting for.

    Now, here was my dilemma:

    I look at the Bible as less of a rule book than the fundamentalist that uses it to direct their whole life. I look at it differently than even the free-er Christian that takes everything in the Bible as inerrant and works to try to iron out inconsistencies and uncomfortable passages.

    I see the Bible as an awesome book. One that has a lot of wisdom and insight. I don't view it as inspired by God (to be fair, this is a recent development).

    The problem is, that I am writing for everyone. From the person who so desires to love God by obeying every command in the Bible, to those who reject it entirely and look for common sense in directing their lives.

    What I REALLY wanted to say was, "Why is a man (Bill Gothard) trying to force us into a world where we MUST live the way that sin cursed us to live (man ruling wife), rather than realizing that our sins have been forgiven and we CAN live any way we so desire with no consequences?" If you want to live in a co-equal relationship, have at it! You will not be forced into what God cursed Adam and Eve with.

    Does that help at all?

  3. This seems to be yet another detailing of the age old church teaching during marriage class: Women want love, men want respect. Same thing as Mars Hill is so famous for advicating at this time.

    Personally I would, in a forced choice pick the respect because I fundimentally do not beleave you can truly love them in a marriage kind of situation with out respect. In my mind the eros romantic love would be transformed to lust or parent love. One is not love, the other is disgusting. I on the otherhand can imagine an arranged marriage based on mutual respect.

    Still I would rather have both as a woman, but what do I know of my own needs because clearly this man is telling me because he knows better what it is to be a woman. Women are individuals because God created us that way. Individual humanbeings.

  4. Skeptigirl. I agree. Billy Boy G. has never been married. Ever. So...what does he know?

  5. Why would anyone take marital advice from a man who has never been married?

  6. Because they place complete trust in his judgement. After all, he has proven to them that he alone knows God's REAL commands. And he has stories to prove that he is right - ALL THE TIME!

  7. Thank you for your little change in post wording.

    I understand you are writing for a very broad base, and how hard that is. I also agree with the point as you set it out in your answer. My only comment was that here, you could tell even the literalist that the text does not support a patriarchal reading.

  8. Ah. I see. I'm not sure that I entirely agree with that. Especially when you take the words of Paul and others at face value. There is much that adds a hierarchy to the male/female relationship in all areas of society in the Bible. I consider it very cultural and unenlightened.

  9. So. Growing up Gothard gives me the suspicion that he chose "seven" because of his obsession with numbers and the ideas that they have god-ordained sort of mystical properties. Seven is a "perfect' number and the number of God and six is the number of man and the antichrist. Idiocy, really, but I bet that factored in.

    I love that you point out the word "clearly" as a manipulative tactic. My husband spent the first few years of our marriage helping me to relearn not to use the word "obviously." I had picked up the verbiage of know-it-all fundamentalists and hadn't even realized how much I sounded like a pompous idiot!

    Love the start of this and can't wait for the rest!

  10. rachel, clearly you have come far. Clearly.

  11. Hmm... Maybe I should join real quick before I get married? Clearly, measured against his rules, I'm a hell-bound sinner. I can't stomach most of his teachings, and the submission one is nauseating.

  12. Aaahhh...religious or not, Bible believer or not, the Bible does NOT "CLEARLY" lay out anything regarding the marital relationship. Thank you for pointing that out! And love and respect is actually a two-way street. Marriage is a two-way street. You can't expect to "get" what you are not willing to "give." My husband has absolutely NO desire to "rule over me", thank goodness for that!

  13. Why, Rambles with Ruth? Is there an "or else" involved? I know what you mean. My wife is a black belt. It's kinda hard to rule over her when she can squeeze and twist at will. Youch!