The bible is a fantastic marriage manual

Ah the supposedly “liberal” Anglican church.

Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, is not “liberal.” He demonstrates this in his explanation of the Anglican demand for wifely sumbission in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Many of our young people want to be ”wives and husbands” rather than simply  ”partners” and in their weddings they come as ”bride and groom” rather than  simply two individuals.  They believe that expressing these differences,  including different responsibilities, makes for a better marriage.

Both kinds of promise are provided for in the Sydney Anglican diocese’s  proposed Prayer Book, which has been the subject of commentary this  week.

There is nothing new in this – it is the same as the Australian Prayer  Book which has been used for decades.

Did you spot the oh-so-subtle dig at same-sex marriage? I know you did.

And then the nothing new nothing to see here move along  – well lots of things aren’t new, but that doesn’t make them good. We’ve been doing lots of things for decades, in fact centuries and millennia; some of those things are bad things to do.

Where different promises are made, the man undertakes great responsibility and  this is also the wording of the book, as it has always been. The biblical  teaching is that the promise made voluntarily by the bride to submit to her  husband is matched by the even more onerous obligation which the husband must undertake to act towards his wife as Christ has loved the church. The Bible says  that this obligation is ultimately measured by the self-sacrifice of Christ in  dying on the cross.

That’s what we’re always being told about Islamic laws of marriage. It’s such a great deal for the woman, because the man has to support her and all she has to do is surrender all her rights. And all that crap about as Christ has loved the church and the self-sacrifice of Christ in  dying on the cross – what’s that got to do with anything? What does it even mean? How has “Christ loved the church”? By doing the dishes one evening a week? Flowers? Diamonds?

And anyway what is the point? It’s a way to end arguments. Yes, but not a good way, and how is that the archbishop’s business anyway – how other people end their arguments?

This is not an invitation to bossiness, let alone abuse. A husband who uses the  wife’s promise in this way stands condemned for betraying his own sworn  obligations.  The husband is to take responsibility for his wife and family in a  Christ-like way. Her ”submission” is her voluntary acceptance of this pattern  of living together, her glad recognition that this is what he intends to bring to the marriage and that it is for her good, his good and the good of children  born to them. She is going to accept him as a man who has chosen the  self-discipline and commitment of marriage for her sake and for their children.  At a time when women rightly complain that they cannot get men to commit, here  is a pattern which demands real commitment all the way.

Along with inferior status. What “glad recognition”? And who says it’s “for her good?” It’s all purple language – so typical of churchy types – that doesn’t say anything. They can both perfectly well choose self-discipline and commitment without one of them having to be inferior to the other. Just get over it, dude – it’s not written in the stars that women are required to “submit” to men.

Secular views of marriage are driven by a destructive individualism and  libertarianism. This philosophy is inconsistent with the reality of long-term  relationships such as marriage and family life.

Referring to ”partners” rather than husband or wife gives no special  challenge to the man to demonstrate the masculine qualities which he brings to a  marriage.

Boy, that’s their go-to reason now, isn’t it – the alternative is ew ick secularism and individualism. The pope does it, the archbish of Canterbury does it…It seems to be all they have left.

It is a pity that the present discussion has been so overtly political.  Instead of mocking or acting horrified, we should engage in a serious and  respectful debate about marriage and about the responsibilities of  the men and  women who become husbands and wives.  The Bible contains great wisdom on this fundamental relationship.

The rush to embrace libertarian and individualistic philosophy means that we  miss some of the key relational elements of being human, elements which make for  our wellbeing and happiness. It’s time to rethink marriage from first  principles. It really matters.

The bible contains great wisdom on marriage? Please.

This kind of thing reminds me why I’m a gnu atheist (with or without pluses). That article is so annoying – all that windy dignified word salad, saying very little and that little totally wrong. It’s perfectly possible to have a serious and respectful debate about marriage and about the responsibilities of  the women and men who become wives and husbands, but the bible has nothing to contribute to such a process.

Religion simply obstructed Peter Jensen’s ability to say anything even faintly relevant or interesting or useful.




  1. says

    No, Jensen is definitely not liberal. He’s up there with Cardinal Pell, Danny Nalliah and Fred Nile in the nasty Australian religious stakes.

    But a) he’s not the Pope, so no-one in the church has an obligation to agree with him and b) liberal Anglicans are very annoyed with him. HAHA! is what I say to them.

    (Well actually I don’t, because they’re sweet really and I can’t quite bring myself to be so mean.)

  2. Aliasalpha says

    Ahh jensen… There was a debate on the abc last year he was a part of, the topic was something like “are atheists wrong” (gotta love the default acceptance of the religious point inherent in the question), he was one of the most waffly, time wasting and ineffectual speakers; fallacy on top of fallacy, shifting the burden of proof, special pleading, confirmation bias etc. He did he classic schtick of talking for 5 minutes straight & saying absolutely nothing, hasn’t changed much it seems.

  3. Kels says

    How has “Christ loved the church”?

    He never writes, he never calls, it’s like the church doesn’t even know him any more…

  4. kia says

    The Sydney Diocese is notoriously conservative. They won’t marry people who have lived together before marriage or who aren’t Anglican. Not all Anglican churches are the same (I think structurally each diocese is pretty independent of the others); a friend of mine is the daughter of a female Anglican priest in regional NSW and she definitely supports same sex marriage and would marry same sex couples in her church in a heartbeat if she could [same sex marriage is *still* not legal in Australia, civil or religious]. A lot of Anglicans – all the ones I know – can’t stand Jensen.

  5. Paul W. says

    How has “Christ loved the church”?

    Well, he allegedly had a really bad weekend a couple thousand years ago.

  6. mandrellian says

    Just in case anyone was wondering if the US evangelicals or the Vatican itself had cornered the market in deluded, ignorant religious lackwits – let’s hear it for our “liberal” Aussie Anglicans.

    As for Christ “loving the church” – I’m not convinced. Seems to me a self-enriching and self-perpetuating clerical dictatorship would be the kind of thing he wouldn’t, y’know, dig.

  7. says

    REALLY maddening, just extreme naivety or willful dishonesty:

    Jensen: “It is a pity that the present discussion has been so overtly political.”

    Political? Religio-political?? Jensen here is re-framing this known-to-be divisive issue, a legal issue that’s before democratic governments -–a proposed change to the Act, to legislation–- as if marriage law is a topic that has something or other to do with him, with clergy, their favourite work of fiction, and its characters that talk in riddles.

    Sickening Jensen, just sickening. If you don’t want to be insert yourself into a polarizing politico-religious debate, then please by all means -–you and and all your christian leader buddies-– STFU !

  8. Erp says

    And Jensen can’t stand the liberal Anglicans. He’s been trying to kick the US Episcopal church out of the Anglican communion for some years for being too liberal (women priests, gay priests, etc). He’s been a bit quieter internationally recently after his diocese’s investments plummeted in value (I understand the Sydney archdiocese is/was one of the wealthiest in the world but they invested speculatively and badly).

    The Anglican communion is broad. It has evangelicals and anglo-catholics (the latter sometimes so high they make the Vatican look plain) and everything in between. It ranges from those who want to see gays imprisoned for life (or maybe executed) (see Uganda) and women properly submissive and in their place (see Sydney and Chichester) to having women as bishops (the US/New Zealand churches) and openly gay bishops (US church). For an Archbishop Peter Jenson there is also an Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The political range btw does not map to the liturgical range. It also has a few close to atheist priests (I’m still trying to figure out where Richard Holloway, former primus (head) of the Scottish Episcopal Church is but he is now at least as atheistic as some open atheists [his autobiography, Leaving Alexandria, is revealing reading]).

  9. Hypatia's Daughter says

    The odd thing is that the Bible says very little about marriage.
    There is a bit in Proverbs and stuff from Paul. Proverbs 31:10-32 praises the ideal wife, “whose price is above rubies”, who sounds remarkably like a modern working wife and mother.
    The schtick above is by Paul (in Ephesians 5: 22-32). Paul didn’t much favor marriage because “the world is going to end any day now; just cross your legs and it’ll all be over soon.” It is rather a good thing for xtianity that they didn’t take his advice seriously.
    Do you suppose that men like Jensen ever have a guilty twinge that this is just a religious rationalization of their desire to lord over women? Sort of, I may not be better or smarter than my wife but I get to be in charge because god says so?

  10. Anonymous Atheist says

    Kels #4:

    How has “Christ loved the church”?

    He never writes, he never calls, it’s like the church doesn’t even know him any more…

    When I read this comment, I thought y’know, that makes religious people sound kind of stalker-y… They put so much energy into obsessing over someone(s) who completely ignores them… Puts a whole other angle on shrines and relics!

  11. says

    I was an Anglican before I gave it all up for atheism, including in Sydney. But the Church I went to in Sydney was “high church” ie closer to Catholic in its rituals – incense, choirs, King James etc — than to the prevailing “low church” evangelical fundamentalism of the Jensens (he has a brother as well) and the Sydney diocese. It was stiflingly middle class/upper middle class (ie. This happened to me several times. I told someone which rural town I was from. They said “Oh you must know x” referring to old girl or teacher at the local posh private school. Uh, no I went to the local public school. OMG SHOCK!) and conservative politically but likely to regard the steely eyed fervour of the fundies as well, all somewhat vulgar.

    The Sydney Diocese as others have noted are constantly at war with the fluffy Church of England element which is likely to be desperate to be inclusive and do things like ordain gay bishops or pray for the environment or use gender neutral language. They are forever threatening to split from the Communion (with some other conservation areas like in Africa) and even though I am well out of it and so don’t particularly care anymore, jesus they should just GO. Stick the flounce next time, Bishop, will you please.

  12. rq says

    I hadn’t realized that marriage was simply a challenge for a man to show how masculine he really can be. By ordering everyone around, it seems. *sigh*
    Self-discipline and commitment for the sake of the woman and the children-to-be. Whatever happened to love and co-operation?

    I read these texts and I feel like I’m reading something from the middle ages. It’s hard to wrap my brain around the fact that yes, he actually means all this crap. It just feels so opposed to what marriage (of any kind) really should be – a partnership of equals who happen to love and respect each other and who are willing to put up with each other for years on end for their mutual benefit. Considering how diverse people are, you’d think each partnership would have their own customized model for achieving wedded bliss.
    Ah, but I keep forgetting – women don’t have desires or wills apart from their husbands. So submission should be easy. *sigh* Does making my husband want what I want count as doing what he wants?

  13. Chris Lawson says


    Jensen does not represent the “liberal” side of the Anglican Church. In fact, he would crush Anglican liberalism to dust if it was in his power to do so.

  14. stoferb says

    There is extremely little marital advice in the bible. Wives are baby-factories in the old testament or an outlet for those evil sexual urges in the new testament. In short women exist merely for mens posterity and pleasure.

  15. says

    I still suffer a twinge of embarrassment that my fiancee and I (being at the time, young, stupid and Evangelical) actually assented to all that submission crap, even including the traditional language in our vows. Fortunately, we immediately proceeded to ignore them in practice and just do whatever seemed to come naturally to our respective temperaments, and here we are 32 years later….

  16. Didaktylos says

    @rg #17 – well, when a man gets married he has to give up on all those really manly things (like chasing women, getting drunk and acting generally childish), so he has to (over)copmensate by ruling the roost at home.

  17. A. Noyd says

    “Referring to ‘partners’ rather than husband or wife gives no special challenge to the man to demonstrate the masculine qualities which he brings to a marriage.”

    “Masculine qualities”? Like capitalists, they’re inventing a product and then creating a need for it.

    “The rush to embrace libertarian and individualistic philosophy means that we miss some of the key relational elements of being human, elements which make for our wellbeing and happiness.”

    Interesting that he speaks of humans collectively here when his whole point rests on men and women having so little in common that our needs within marriage are drastically different.

  18. Hypatia's Daughter says

    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.

    Which is my problem.
    If my husband would hang himself on a cross for me, I promise to submit to him and make him a sandwich when he resurrects in three days……

  19. eric says

    Referring to ”partners” rather than husband or wife gives no special challenge to the man to demonstrate the masculine qualities which he brings to a marriage.

    On the contrary, referring to each others as partners gives a special challenge to misogynists, to demonstrate the (unisex) quality of fair and equal treatment for your spouse even when you may not want to.

    Jensen is living in opposite world. His argument is not about giving some special challenge to married men; its about making an excuse so they can avoid one. Its about letting the men who fail at the challenge of treating their wife well feel proud about it.

  20. says

    And just what *are* the “masculine qualities he brings to a marriage”? The other kind of genitalia? More facial and bodily hair? Leaving the toilet seat up? More likely to own power tools? Someone help me out here….

  21. smrnda says

    Perhaps the other problem is that when people regard marriages as unique partnerships where the 2 people in the marriage set the terms and expectations, it leaves people without the need to go to a church and listen to the priest or minister get in their business and tell them how marriage is supposed to work.If people stop buying into the idea that they need a priest or pastor to teach them to adhere to gender stereotypes for their marriages to work, they might be putting some members of the clergy out of a job.

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