Can a Christian man marry a feminist Christian woman with the intent of taming her like Petruchio did with Katherine in Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”? Or must a Christian husband always seek a woman who is submissive and believes in and follows Biblical gender roles?
Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”
Here are some excerpts from synopsis of Taming of the Shrew by www.sparknotes.com:
“In the Italian city of Padua, a rich young man named Lucentio arrives with his servants, Tranio and Biondello, to attend the local university. Lucentio is excited to begin his studies, but his priorities change when he sees Bianca, a beautiful, mild young woman with whom Lucentio instantly falls in love. There are two problems: first, Bianca already has two suitors, Gremio and Hortensio; second, Bianca’s father, a wealthy old man named Baptista Minola, has declared that no one may court Bianca until first her older sister, the vicious, ill-tempered Katherine, is married…
The Katherine problem is solved for Bianca’s suitors when Hortensio’s friend Petruchio, a brash young man from Verona, arrives in Padua to find a wife. He intends to marry a rich woman, and does not care what she is like as long as she will bring him a fortune. He agrees to marry Katherine sight unseen. The next day, he goes to Baptista’s house to meet her, and they have a tremendous duel of words. As Katherine insults Petruchio repeatedly, Petruchio tells her that he will marry her whether she agrees or not. He tells Baptista, falsely, that Katherine has consented to marry him on Sunday. Hearing this claim, Katherine is strangely silent, and the wedding is set.
On Sunday, Petruchio is late to his own wedding, leaving Katherine to fear she will become an old maid. When Petruchio arrives, he is dressed in a ridiculous outfit and rides on a broken-down horse. After the wedding, Petruchio forces Katherine to leave for his country house before the feast, telling all in earshot that she is now his property and that he may do with her as he pleases. Once they reach his country house, Petruchio continues the process of “taming” Katherine by keeping her from eating or sleeping for several days—he pretends that he loves her so much he cannot allow her to eat his inferior food or to sleep in his poorly made bed…
Katherine and Petruchio soon return to Padua to visit Baptista. On the way, Petruchio forces Katherine to say that the sun is the moon and that an old man is really a beautiful young maiden. Since Katherine’s willfulness is dissipating, she agrees that all is as her husband says…
At the banquet following Hortensio’s wedding to the widow, the other characters are shocked to see that Katherine seems to have been “tamed”—she obeys everything that Petruchio says and gives a long speech advocating the loyalty of wives to their husbands. When the three new husbands stage a contest to see which of their wives will obey first when summoned, everyone expects Lucentio to win. Bianca, however, sends a message back refusing to obey, while Katherine comes immediately. The others acknowledge that Petruchio has won an astonishing victory, and the happy Katherine and Petruchio leave the banquet to go to bed.”
A lot of Christians who are ignorant of history and even the Bible would say a person is wrong for marrying for economic reasons. If you believe that, I would invite you to read the story of Ruth in the Bible. She married Boaz to redeem her mother-in-law’s husband’s family land. We falsely have been taught today that a person must marry because they first “fall in love with a person” – that command is found nowhere in the Bible. It is wishful thinking, mostly on the part of women. Some will say – what about Jacob? He loved Rachel so much he served seven years for her. But again, this is not a command, it is an example. And why did he love her? Check the story – it was because of how beautiful she was.
And let’s not forget Jacob’s mother and father. What a whirlwind romance they had right? They just met each other and went into his mother’s tent had sex and became man and wife. No long courtship, no discussion. Isaac followed his father’s advice for him in finding a wife and Rebekah followed her father’s command for her to go back and marry Isaac. It was that simple.
But the most important question the Taming of the Shrew presents us with is whether or not it is sinful or immoral for a Christian man to marry a rebellious woman with the intention of taming her into submission?
However, before we can answer this question, we must first answer another very important question for Christians.
Can a Christian Marry an Unbeliever?
In 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 the Apostle Paul gives the following command regarding Christians entering into relationships with non-believers:
“14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”
As we can see from the above Scriptures, it is clear that believers are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
This is why a Christian church has no business having an inter-faith conference with the Muslim church down the street. And it is also why a Christian man or woman can never enter into the most intimate of human relationships God ever designed which is marriage, with a non-believer.
Some Christians have falsely used 1 Corinthians 7:13-16 to say that the Apostle Paul was ok with Christians marrying non-Christians:
“13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”
However, such an interpretation betrays the entire context of the passage which Paul states in verse 20 of this same chapter:
“Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”
Paul is saying that if you become a believer and your spouses does not come to the faith as you have that you are to remain with them if they want to stay. He is not saying it is ok for a Christian to purposefully marry a non-believer which would then conflict with what he said in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.
Now that we have established this important principle of the Scriptures, we can go on to answer the question at the center of this article.
Can a Christian Man Marry a Christian Feminist Woman with the Intent to Tame Her?
Throughout the Bible God’s relationship with humanity is pictured in two different ways. As individuals our relationship with God is pictured as a father and child relationship. But God’s relationship with his people in the collective sense is always pictured as that of a husband to his wife.
We can see this concept shown where God pictures the nation of Israel as a treacherous wife in Jeremiah 3:20:
“Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.”
Notice how he refers to his wife – “O house of Israel”.
Now let’s look further in this book to Jeremiah 18:1-6:
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.
3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”
What do we see here? God presents the picture of a potter who had a marred, meaning it had defects. So, he reshaped it against as a whole new vessel. God tells Israel, his wife, that she is like that clay. He saw defects in her and wanted to reshape her in another vessel but she would not allow him to do so.
Now let’s look to the New Testament in Ephesians 5:25-27:
“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
There is an important parallel here between God as a husband to Israel and Christ as a husband to the Church. How does a potter shape his clay into the form he wishes it to be? He uses water. In the same way we as Christian husbands are told to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her so he could wash her with “water by the word”, so she would not have “spot, or wrinkle”, so he could present her to “himself a glorious church”.
Why did God want to reshape Israel as his wife? Because she was “marred” which parallels the “spot or wrinkle” shown to us here with Christ and his wife, the Church, in the New Testament.
The point is that God is a consistent husband. Christ is not a different kind of husband to the Church than God was to Israel. We as Christian husbands can learn just a much from God’s example as a husband to Israel as we can learn from Christ’s example as a husband to the Church. This is a fundamental truth that all Christian husbands must embrace.
With that being said can a Christian man marry a Christian woman whom he perceives is marred by feminist tendencies with the intention that he is going to attempt to wash her of those tendencies?
The answer based on God’s own example with both Israel and the Church is a resounding YES!
Am I recommending Men Marry Feminist Women with the Intent to Tame Them?
I have proven the case from the Scriptures that nothing in the Scriptures stops a man from marrying a woman whom he genuinely believes to be a Christian but is marred by feminism.
I made the following statement about my second wife in a post I wrote a few years ago that include my story about how I met my second wife and married her:
“While we were dating, I detected feminist tendencies in her that she had from her upbringing (her mom was a career woman as well). Her mom even told me on one occasion that she taught her daughters to “be independent and not need a man”. So even though my wife had become a Christian a few years before she met me, the feminism ran deep in her. I also detected that her job as a manager might cause some friction in her commitment to our marriage and our home.
But she was so different from my first wife, and such a good Christian woman with great character that I chose to overlook some of these areas that would later come back to haunt me, naively thinking I could help her to see what God says a Christian woman’s priorities should be in regard to her husband, her children and her home.”
I mentioned in that same post that my wife displayed many marks of a true believer in Christ. She was so dedicated to seeing people saved. She witnessed to her friends at work and relatives and she was concerned for her lost loved ones. She went on missions’ trips with her church. I spoke with her Pastor and some deacons at her church and saw in her a woman that had many great character traits and a passion for God. But she was a new Christian, saved only few years before I met her.
So, I believed when I saw the feminist tendencies in her that I could just teach her and help her to learn those ways were not right. She told me she believed the passages about submission that I showed her. But she also believed that men and women were equal and she was trying to square that with what the Bible said about submission.
I thought I could wash this feminism from her, but alas after almost 9 years of marriage much of it remains. There has been some progress and some change but not nearly as much as I had hoped.
The question though is this – does my failure to be able to wash away my wife’s feminism with the Word of God mean that no man could do this with another woman?
The answer is no. It is in fact possible.
In the three years since I wrote about my story with my failure to completely wash away my wife’s feminism, I have had many men write me telling they had success with their wives in this. I have actually even had many young women write me telling me that my writings helped to convince them that feminism was wrong and they came out of it on their own before marriage.
So, what is the variable that makes for success in the taming of a feminist Christian wife? The answer is it comes down to whether the woman will recognize this sinful thought process in her own life and then allow her husband in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to wash it from her.
In James 1:23-24 the Bible tells us about a man looking in a glass seeing his reflection:
“23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”
Now let’s apply what James is saying to a feminist Christian wife. A man can take his wife to the spiritual mirror which is the Word of God. He can show her the reflection of herself. He can show her the sin of feminism all over her face. But she must choose to humble herself before God and accept what she sees right there in the mirror. She must then submit herself to her husband’s washing and see him as a God given instrument for sanctification in her life.
Some may argue “Well I am fine with trying to tame her before marriage, but you should not marry her until she is completely tamed of feminism”. And I understand where that thinking comes from. But just because something presents a lot more risk does not make it wrong. Marriage itself is a risk. Even marriage to a woman who seems to be a good Christian and one who fully embraces Biblical gender roles. It is simply a matter of how much risk is involved.
Is This a Change in My Position on Christian Men Marrying Feminist Women?
The answer is Yes. Throughout this ministry over the last four years I have made changes on several positions. Really – over my entire Christian life I have made changes in my beliefs as the Lord has led me to do so. We must never be so rigid or get to the point where God cannot change our position on something and teach us new things.
Up until now I have taught people on this blog as well as my own sons that I made a grave mistake in marrying their step mother with the intent to help her understand the errors of her feminist thinking. I have taught young men on this blog and elsewhere that they should avoid interactions with feminist Christian women and at the first sign of feminist tendencies when dating or courting they should abandon such a woman.
If you or my sons want to follow the advice I have previously given there is no sin in following it still. If you decide that the potential costs in this spiritual warfare to attempt to tame a feminist Christian wife is too much I completely understand and there is no sin in avoiding feminist women like the plague.
So here is my change.
I have thought back to when I met my second wife and after I talked to all the people that knew her from her church as well as her family. My intentions were noble. I saw the potential in her for change. I went into this marriage fully intent on washing her feminism away and believing she would allow me over time to do it. I believed her passion to see souls saved would result in a similar passion to conform herself as a wife to the will of God for her life. The problem was not in my intent, but in her continued unwillingness to fully yield to the Holy Spirit on this issue, so in turn she could not fully yield to me either.
If you find a woman who has the markings of a true believer in Christ as my second wife had, but this appears to be a blind spot in her life and you are intent on doing spiritual battle, even if takes the rest of your life married to her, to wash the spiritual wrinkles and spots of feminism from her then this is a noble cause. But be forewarned, this is not for the faint of heart. It could greatly affect your future children and in some cases the battle could even lead to divorce.
However, if you are marrying a feminist Christian woman with the intent that you are going to tolerate her feminism and will just give up your headship role over her then you are wrong. As a Christian God does not allow you to surrender your position as head to your wife. So, if you know you are not willing to do battle to attempt to wash the feminism from a woman then you should not marry her. You should only marry a woman who fully embraces Biblical gender roles before you marry her.
So here is the conclusion of the matter. Is it a sin before God for a man to marry a Christian woman with the intent of taming her of her feminist tendencies and beliefs? The answer is no it is not a sin.
But I would leave any Christian man who intends to go into such a spiritual battle with this admonition from Christ found in Luke 14:31:
“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?”
Be sure before you go to war, that you count the costs that may be incurred on you in the process of that war.