Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Unchristian Nature of Mr. Mom

Image courtesy of Universal Studios (C) 1983 Universal Studios
I remember years ago watching the comedy movie "Mr. Mom."  Michael Keaton and Terri Garr, along with their supporting cast did a wonderful job giving a light-hearted portrayal of many of the dangers and difficulties that arise when the husband has to take on the role of nurturer and the wife has to become the breadwinner.

My wife and I enjoyed the movie, and we both learned from it.  

Seeing Michael Keaton's slide into self-loathing and unmotivated sloth as he was pushed down the road away from the blatant rewards and confidence-building experiences of the workplace clearly warned of the dangerous parts of this home-making role.  Then, watching his subsequent turnaround as he earned his self-respect and became self-motivated to excel in this role as much as he had in the workplace by demanding excellence of himself, gave the solution to the problem.

Likewise Terri Garr's experience of being thrust out of the home and into the workplace served to show pitfalls and dangers of that role.  Subjected to the blatant rewards concomittant with pleasing your boss, her perspective of her husband's worth begins to suffer while her own notions of self-worth become inflated by the flattering of those around her.  She begins to place more value on the role of provider, and less on the role of nurturer.  

Both of the have to resist the easy slide into self-indulgence through infidelity.  Which comes at each of them through ready access to those around them who are self-serving.

The movie helped me to gain a deeper appreciation for the tremendous challenges and need for self-motivation and organization that are inherent in the traditional role of wives and mothers.  I can honestly say that I have never had anything but admiration for those women who are brave enough to eschew the blatant rewards and comparatively easy path of the work place for the  uncharted wilderness of being a homemaker.

Where the workplace rewards you every couple of weeks with a paycheck, and provides a support group in the form of your coworkers and bosses who are, or have already walked the path you are on, in the home, those crutches are not readily available.

The rewards, if they materialize in a recognizable form at all, often don't really come to you until you have already invested many years.  And, all too often, the responses of your family feel more like getting a layoff notice, than a promotion.

And, the only real "promotion" that lies ahead is that of becoming a grandparent.  But that depends entirely on your children being willing and able to grant you that promotion.

One unfortunate side-effect of the movie was that, for some, it seemed to make the reversal of roles of men and women somehow more acceptable.  

Nowadays, when we hear of a healthy man who stays home with the children while his wife provides the living for the family, we are supposed to simply accept that as a valid alternative to the unenlightened traditions of our forefathers.

This situation is often presented as the simple, logical answer to a situation in which the wife's earning potential was so much better than the husband's that they decided it was better for him to support her career instead of the other way around.

I won't dispute the logic, except to say that logic is always based on a set of foundational assumptions.  And the logic is sound only as long as the foundational assumptions are sound.  Unfortunately assumptions are assumptions because the root facts are often unknown or only partially understood.

In this case, the assumption is that the greatest good to all the family members will come from maximizing the income to the family from the primary breadwinner.  Unfortunately, this assumption is based solely on a material measure of value.  It ignores the emotional and spiritual implications and utterly disregards whatever reasoning God might have when he commanded that men should do what they can provide for the physical well-being of their family.

For a moment, let us set aside the arguments for the differing roles of men and women that arise from Natural Law (which many will contend we have risen above, without giving proper consideration to matters that are deeper than the material support of families), and instead, consider what a practicing Christian is taught from the scriptures about the role that men are commanded to fulfill.  And yes, I will deliberately set aside discussion of what the scriptures say about the role of women, because that is not central to my point today.  

Today, I am not seeking to point out the duty or role of women.  Rather, my point today is about what men ought to do, according to God, regardless of what anyone else in their life might say.

In the New Testament, Paul tells Timothy clearly that when a man who is able, gives up on providing for his family, he is in far worse shape before God than are those who have never known the Gospel of Christ.

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
1 Timothy 5:8

When a man, professing to be a Christian, deliberately neglects providing for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of his wife and family "he hath denied the faith."  

How has he denied the faith?

The faith, is the belief in the fact that Jesus of Nazareth willingly submitted to sacrifice himself so that we could live forever (being resurrected into immortality) and attain eternal life where we can enjoy all that God has prepared for us.

By rejecting his responsibility to sacrifice his time and efforts in the service of providing for his wife and family, a Christian man is asserting that he is better than the Christ.  His actions, his neglect, proclaim his utter ingratitude for the sacrifice and suffering of the Savior.  By neglecting his duty to his family, he makes their suffering in this life more acute, and thus adds to the pains that Jesus suffered during his Atonement.  His rejection of the call of God to sacrifice his selfish pursuits to provide for his wife and family, the Christian man neglecting his duty to his family, denies his expressed faith in Christ and by his actions "he hath denied the faith."  And he is "worse than an infidel" because, unlike the infidel, he has been taught and expressed his belief in the sacrifice of Christ, and then, disregarding that knowledge and expression of faith, his actions have made that suffering greater, and the suffering on his own behalf vain and of no effect.

In our day, this obligation for husbands to provide for their wife and family was renewed and at the same time clarified that God, in his wisdom, may put women in circumstances where they don't have the ability to enjoy that blessing.

"Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken..."
Doctrine and Covenants 83:2

Sometimes, men are "taken" by God by dying.  At other times they are taken by God by suffering some calamity and physical impairment that renders them unable to provide for their wife and family.  But, this should make clear to all Christian men that they only excuse they have for not providing for their wife and family is if God renders them incapable of fulfilling that duty.

My own father-in-law was put in that situation.  When my wife was just ten years old, her father nearly died from an illness and was rendered unable to work in the textile mills.  On her mother the burden of support fell, supplemented by her husband's disability checks.  

But, my father-in-law did not let his disability keep him from providing for his family in the ways that he still could.  He and his wife suffered a bit of role reversal, with her working full time and him being at home taking care of hearth and family.  He became a real-life "Mr. Mom."  

He was a proud man and the change was hard, but he did all that he could.  And God blessed him and his family for his willingness to do all that was in his power to provide for the emotional, spiritual and physical well-being of his family.

He did his god-given duty to the best of his ability all the days of his life.

May each of us Christian men be real men.  Let each of us stand firm in our faith and do all that we can to do right by our wife and family, both temporally, emotionally, and spiritually.

And, may God help us to do it His way.  Not trying to lord it over wife and family, but rather in humble, earnest, loving service to those whom God has given us to be our family.

Tom Sheppard is a business consultant and coach to small business owners and individuals. He is a recognized author with dozens of titles in business and fiction to his credit. One of his endeavors is to help those who want to see their own book in print. He does this through his trademarked Book Whispering Process (TM). 

 The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein. 

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