Recently, I have had to dialogue on the subject of feminism with some friends. And a question that often pops up in these discussions is, “Who is the head of the home?” This is because some of the folks asking this question are of the opinion that feminism does not account for headship in the home (though, this discussion is not about if feminism account for headship or not). Hence, the reason for the rise in divorce.
To address this question, I will like to begin from a biblical standpoint. But at the same time, I will infuse my perspective to better enunciate my objective in this tête à tête. Which is to discuss the subject of headship in the family.
“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. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”Ephesians 5:23-25 (NIV)
Many Christians are familiar with these Bible verses. Although, the unique lines we often hear are “For the husband is the head of the wife” and “wives should submit to their husbands.” These words are at times said in isolation of the accompanying words.
Therefore, when I am asked, “who is the head of the family or the head of the wife?” I become reluctant to give a response. This is not because I lack the words or lack the understanding of what is expected with this kind of question. Rather, it is my dislike for words that make patriarchy thrive.
I could have simply answered as expected: “the husband is the head of the family and wife.” Of which, it is the rule in a patriarchal society.
Let’s digress a little.
In societies controlled by women, the matriarchs or mothers are the head of the family. Vusi Moloi, in her writing accounts, that many Africa nations such as Ghana, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, and more were matriarchal societies before the emergence of Islam and Christianity, and colonialism. Whereas with colonialism, Christianity, and Islam, patriarchy became the norm where men and boys took total control of societies. Then, patriarchy, hegemony, and inequality became the norm in our societies today.
Patriarchy is the enemy that we need to overcome. It dispels control, oppression, subjugation, and subordination. Thereby affirming that a man is the head of the family without putting into perspective mutual respect while also producing an isolated and disruptive perspective that only gives power to one person.
Though, in an ideal family, both the father and the mother (wife and husband) can determine who they want to lead the family. This perspective is built on the principles of mutual respect. Back to Ephesians 5:23-25 (NIV), “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. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. These verses valorize the principle of mutual respect. This is because the headship of a man in the home is unto Christ, the love he shows to his wife and children is unto Christ, and the submission of a woman is unto Christ. When the act of headship, love, and submission are unto christ, we no longer see ourselves as the actors but our acts and commitment to our family and relationship as obedience to Christ. By so doing a man and woman in a relationship see their relationship as an honor to God and themselves. In mutual respect, we do not see control, pride, subjugation, and oppression. Rather individuals seek to understand and honor one another. Herein, lies the decision to determine the headship of the relationship as it rocks both parties’ boats.
“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”Ephesians 5:21
The summary of mutual respect, however, lies in Ephesians 5:21 that says husband and wife should submit to “one another out of reverence for Christ.” Unfortunately, we often miss this verse out. (Submission by my friend Joshua Kayode Oloruneto)
In close, mutual respect goes beyond headship. Headship devoid of mutual respect allows for the oppression and suppression of the other person.