Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners


“The Beautiful Wife”: How One Woman Is Crusading to Save Christian Marriages

Reading the book, The Beautiful Wife, by author and speaker Sandy Ralya, whose agenda to save so-called “biblical marriage” seems a bit dubious from the start, feels like the times I’ve been asked to buckle up during a spate of turbulence on airplanes and find myself absent-mindedly checking for the barf bag in the seat in front of me (just in case I’ll need it).  For a funny lampoon of “biblical marriage,” see the article I co-wrote with John Spalding here.) In some places, I find myself pleasantly surprised by the smoothness of the ride and even enjoying the views; at other junctures, my stomach turns a bit and I reach for the sick sack.

Ralya directs the marriage mentoring ministry, “Beautiful Womanhood,” which seeks in ten years’ time to halve the divorce rate in our churches.  The goal is both commendable and ambitious- in places like the South, where I live, nearly one in two marriages fails (both in the church and out) with tragic ripple effects on the fabric of the society at large- and Ralya’s effort seems to be making an impact.  Churches are responding.  Marriages are healing.

Not surprisingly, in the same way that Ralya’s ministry focuses on women and what women can do to heal their marriages, Ralya’s book and its accompanying study guide and prayer journal are also geared for wives.  The implication can in turn be that we women, as wives and mothers, bear much of the brunt for our own marital success (and, conversely, our marital failure).  True to a degree, maybe, but also a bit of a canard.

Ralya at the outset rightfully acknowledges that there can be no one-size-fits-all recipe for marital satisfaction, even as she sets out her own loose rubric of sorts for how to inventory one’s marital health.  Chapters organized around topics like sex, romance, self-care and, my favorite, the “professionalization” of the job of wife and mother, offer some helpful, new insights.  They also survey some familiar terrain.

In certain places, Ralya’s coverage of well-glossed submission passages in Scripture leaves me pleasantly surprised.  Paul’s admonition to women in his letter to Titus to “be submissive to their husbands” does not elicit an accompanying order by Ralya.  Ralya takes Paul to mean here, among other things, that married women must “understand your role.”  Ralya goes on to elucidate her belief in later pages that this role is a four-fold one, that of “equal partner, friend, helper and prayer warrior.”

In other places, only a little reading between the lines has me wondering if Ralya maybe secretly harbors nostalgia for the bygone era of the 1950’s, when June Cleaver of “Leave It To Beaver” encapsulated wifely perfection in her beautifully coiffed, unruffled domesticity.  In a section on sex, for example, Ralya, in affirming six “God-designed” purposes (“creation of life, oneness, knowledge, pleasure, defense against temptation and comfort”), offers some indigestible views around the meaning of God’s call in Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply.”  She appeals both to our fears and to our evangelistic sympathies with the following statistic released by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life- that by 2030, the Muslim population will grow twice as fast as the non-Muslim population.

“These are staggering statistics!,” Ralya writes.  Maybe we should take God’s command to be fruitful and increase in number more seriously.”  Ralya goes on: “As a follower of Jesus Christ, I love Muslims and want them to come to a full knowledge of Him.  But who will show them the way if the Christian population dwindles by comparison?”

In other words, a growing Muslim world in which women are largely oppressed and have no voice, precisely because their only role is one of bearing children and catering to men’s every whim, becomes the basis for a challenge to Christians to have more children!  This kind of reasoning is backwards in more than one sense of the term.  Here the turbulence becomes a bit unbearable, and I find myself grabbing the sick bag.

Author and speaker Sandy Ralya is on a mission to save marriages. Her organization, “Beautiful Womanhood,” mentors women in their roles as wives and mothers…The question is, how?

In short, Ralya’s crusade to save marriages is a noble one.  I applaud it.  I wonder, though, if the old saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” is not at least a bit apropos here.  As a mother to two children, and as a wife to a man with whom I am an equal partner, and as a woman in what is traditionally a man’s world (ordained ministry) I often find myself exclaiming at the messiness of our familial life these days; but I wouldn’t trade this in for six kids, a pristine house and a life confined to domesticity any day- even if it meant more “orderliness” and a world with more Christians than Muslims in it.  Women should of course be free to make the latter decision, too, and be supported in their choice.  But to prescribe this sort of thing, I fear, does the very thing that Ralya abjures- offer a recipe; and, it is a recipe that, if followed to the tee, will take us back to another age, one that I don’t want to live in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Previous Posts

The Neuroscience of Temptation
It's been too long. I hope you're enjoying God and life. That next book I'm working on is now evolving into a book about addiction and mental illness—and how churches can and must learn to love and wel

posted 1:52:23am Oct. 14, 2014 | read full post »

Brokenness—as Creative Tension?
This morning a meditation from Paula Ripple's Growing Strong at Broken Places sparks some thoughts about embracing brokenness as the very site where God seeks to form us, like a master po

posted 10:13:15am Oct. 03, 2014 | read full post »

Mental Health Break—The Worship Service To End All Worship Services
It's been a while since we've had a mental health break. As a little bit of comic relief at the start of another work week, this clip from a worship service somewhere in America comes from saint and sinner Paul. The comments from readers are just about as funny as the weird break dancing routine in

posted 2:12:30am Sep. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Christian Purity: Is God's Mission Possible When Purity Rules?
I had a really weird, somewhat distressing interaction this week, and it is still on my mind days later. It's one of those uncomfortable encounters that you would like to press the "replay" butt

posted 1:40:13pm Sep. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Jesus and the Rich Man: A Sermon on the "Hitler" of Passages.
It's rare that I find myself thinking about Sunday's sermon midweek. This Sunday our pastor Drew Ditzel preached on the familiar story of Jesus and the rich man (Mark 10). The rich man, who says he has kept all the commandments perfectly and has lived a righteous life, comes to Jesus asking what mor

posted 10:40:08am Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.