Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Miss, Ms, or Mrs: Why should a woman use her husband's surname?

Ptr. Alen and Sis. RuthIn an article entitled “What’s Your Name?” published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, University of Chicago professors Leon and Amy Kass (husband and wife!) explain in a very scholarly and closely reasoned manner why a married woman should use her husband’s surname. Among other things, they say:

The husband who gives his name to his bride in marriage is thus not just keeping his own; he is owning up to what it means to have been given a family and a family name by his own father - he is living out his destiny to be a father by saying yes to it in advance. And the wife does not so much surrender her name as she accepts the gift of his, given and received as a pledge of (among other things) loyal and responsible fatherhood for her children. A woman who refuses this gift is, whether she knows it or not, tacitly refusing the promised devotion or, worse, expressing her suspicions about her groom’s trustworthiness as a husband and prospective father.
Patrilineal surnames are, in truth, less a sign of paternal prerogative than of paternal duty and professed commitment, reinforced psychologically by gratifying the father’s vanity in the perpetuation of his name and by offering this nominal incentive to do his duty both to mother and child. Such human speech and naming enables the father explicitly to choose to become the parent-by-choice that he, more than the mother, must necessarily be.

Fathers who will not own up to their paternity, who will not “legitimize” their offspring, and who will not name themselves responsible for child-rearing by giving their children their name are, paradoxically, not real fathers at all, and their wives and especially their children suffer. The former stigmatization of bastardy was, in fact, meant to protect women and children from such irresponsible behavior of self-indulgent men (behavior probably naturally rooted in mammalian male psychosexual tendencies), men who would take their sexual pleasures and walk away from their consequences. The removal of the stigma, prompted by a humane concern not to penalize innocent children by calling them “illegitimate,” has, paradoxically but absolutely predictably, contributed mightily to an increase in such fatherless children.

The advantage a woman and her children gain from the commitment of the man to take responsibility and to stay the course - the commitment implied in his embracing the woman and her prospective children with his family name, now newly understood - is by itself sufficient reason why it is in a woman’s interest as a married-woman-and-mother-to-be to readily take the bridegroom’s name.
But there is a deeper reason why this makes sense. The change of the woman’s name, from family of origin to family of perpetuation, is the perfect emblem for the desired exogamy of human sexuality and generation. The woman in marriage not only expresses her humanity in love (as does the man); she also embraces the meaning of marriage by accepting the meaning of her womanly nature as generative. In shedding the name of her family of origin, she tacitly affirms that children of her womb can be legitimated only exogamously. Her children will not bear the same name as-will not "belong to"-her father; moreover, her new name allows also her father to recognize formally the mature woman his daughter has become. Whereas the man needs convention to make up-by expansion-for his natural deficiency, the woman needs convention to humanize-by restriction-the result of her natural prowess. By anticipating necessity and by thus choosing to accept the gift of her husband’s name, the woman affirms the meaning of her own humanity by saying yes to customizing her given nature.
(emphasis by boldfacing supplied)
The Biblical view on a wife’s use of her husband’s surname

The Biblical concept of marriage is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, chapter 2, verses 20 to 25. Please take note especially of verse 24:
20. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
21. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
25. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Ephesians 5:21 up to 33 outline the rights and obligations of husbands and wives:
21. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
22. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
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.
28. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.32. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
I Peter 3: 1-12 also state the rights and duties of husbands and wives toward each other:
1. Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2. While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
3. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4. But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
5. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
6. Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
7. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
8. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
9. Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
10. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
11. Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
A wife expresses her Biblical submission by using her husband’s surname

In the area of relationships and marriage, there cannot be a more explosive and divisive issue than that of the headship of men and the submission of women. Sometime in the late 1990’s, I think, the Southern Baptist Convention issued an official statement asking women to “graciously submit” to their husbands. Needless to say, that statement was greeted with controversy, scorn and ridicule from different sectors and even from within the Convention itself. Feminist groups have been saying all these time that the Biblical injunction for women to submit to their husbands is an open invitation for spousal abuse.

If you want a thorough discussion of the Biblical doctrines of the headship of men and the submission of women, I recommend the following books to you:
[1] “Strike the Original Match” by Chuck Swindoll; Multnomah Press © 1980; specifically the chapters entitled “Let’s Repair the Foundation” and “Bricks that Build a Marriage.”

[2] “The Grace Awakening” also by Chuck Swindoll; Word Publishing, ©1996; specifically the chapter entitled “A Marriage Oiled by Grace”

[3] “Together Forever” by Anne Kristin Caroll; Zondervan, © 1982 by Barbara J. Denis); specifically the chapter entitled “Who Wears the Pants?”

[4] “Rocking the Roles” by Robert Lewis and William Hendricks; NavPress, ©1991; specifically the chapters entitled “The ‘S’ Word” and “The Masculine Counterpart to the ‘S’ Word.”
“Being a spiritually submissive wife doesn’t mean being a doormat”

In the New Testament, whenever husband and wife Aquila and Priscilla were mentioned after Acts 18:2 (five times in all), Priscilla was always mentioned first. Bible scholars say that it was probably because Priscilla had the higher social standing, or had the stronger personality and thus was more well-known than her husband.

I have previously written about the headship of men and the submission of women, and you might want to re-read it. Part of that article reads as follows:
Lewis and Hendricks, while maintaining the traditional view of the headship of men and the submission of women, clarify however that submission is not a wife’s role. Rather, they say, submission is the wife’s loving response to her husband’s loving and sacrificial headship.

“Roles” and ‘responses” may sound like only semantics to you, but I encourage you to read “Rocking the Roles.” The most striking statement in this book about submission is found in page 135: “A biblically submissive wife’s focus is not on enabling wrong behavior, but in empowering her husband to pursue right behavior – to become the man God wants him to be, and the leader God wants him to be.”

I remember something Dr. James Dobson wrote in his classic book (highly recommended!) “Love Must Be Tough” about submission. Dobson said, “Being a spiritually submissive wife doesn’t mean being a doormat.”

Caroll, who writes her book out of the crucible of the pain of her divorce (and remarriage to the same guy) says on page 126, “Submission is freedom.”
During the wedding reception of a Filipino missionary couple bound for a Creative Access Nation, the groom wished out loud that his wife would submit to him. That brought about a lot of laughter among the guests. Well, Sir, please do keep in mind Lewis and Hendricks’ definition of submission and I’m sure your marriage will turn out okay. What’s their definition again? “A biblically submissive wife’s focus is not on enabling wrong behavior, but in empowering her husband to pursue right behavior – to become the man God wants him to be, and the leader God wants him to be.”

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