The “Dad-Mom” Debate

by | Nov 26, 2011 | 06 Articles, Family

Owen Strachan, a professor of theology and church history at Boyce College in Louisville, recently wrote a post critiquing a Tide commercial on “Dad Moms” as one more indication of the cultural decline of men.  His post sparked a small avalanche of  blogging comments.  In response, Mr. Strachan offered to debate Laura Ortberg Turner, a Westmont College graduate and an admissions counselor at Fuller Theological Seminary.  She took the challenge.

The Tide commercial depicts a stay-at-home Dad bragging about his laundry folding skills using the “brute strength of Dad to mix the nurturing ability of his laundry detergent” while his wife works outside the home.  In the short version of the commercial, he displays his ability to french-braid his daughter’s hair.

Strachan objects that being a “Dad Mom” is “men abdicating their creational responsibilities.”  He writes:

Men are not called by God to be “working at home” as women are in Titus 2:5.  The ground is not cursed for women in Genesis 3:17, but for men, whose responsibility it was to work outside of the home–and to protect women, which was the first “man fail” of all time.

The curse bore down upon Eve’s primary activity, childbearing, showing that her intended sphere of labor and dominion-taking was the home (Genesis 3:16).  This is true of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 as well, who though something of a whirling dervish of godly femininity was not, like her husband, by the city gates with the elders (Proverbs 31:23), but working tirelessly to bless her family and manage her home for God’s glory.

Turner responds about Titus 2:5:  in Paul’s largely agrarian culture “being busy at home also meant being busy at work”.  She adds 1 Corinthians 12 “reminds us that we are all of us given spiritual gifts by our God for the purpose of building up his kingdom”.  The giving of gifts is not divided by gender.  But her main point of disagreement lie in interpreting Genesis 3.  She writes:

My two biggest disagreements with you, though, lie in your reading of Genesis 3 and your insistence on protecting a view of masculine dignity. To the first issue, if Genesis 3:16 is to be read normatively to say that the husband ought to rule over his wife, then you may as well say that Genesis 3:19 establishes that the man’s place is in the grave. The point of the curse is not that it ushers in a new way of living in God’s kingdom. The point of the curse is that it is something from which we are to be redeemed. And that redemption doesn’t wait for another life or another time, it starts now. When Jesus prayed that the Father’s will be done on earth as in heaven, this is what he was talking about. Any attempt to say that the curse reflects the way things should be for us is not only damaging to both men and women, it is heretical.

More even than that, however, is the notion that Jesus would have insisted on maintaining a masculine image that would have kept him far from the laundry room, the kitchen, and anything that might smack of femaleness. It is hard to imagine the Jesus who washed his disciples’ feet and cooked them breakfast and said that slaves were the model of greatness turning up his nose at laundry as something beneath his masculine dignity.

In Mr. Strachan’s counter-point, he acknowledges that “manhood must not be determined by the culture, but it does look a bit different in diverse times and places” but he argues creation sets spheres within which we exercise our gifts.  His response includes:

The question, though, is whether I am to take on the burden of such [domestic] work as a man. My read of numerous scriptural texts is that I am not. I try to help out where I can, but I am called of God to break my back to provide for my family so that my wife can care for my children and also my home in order that they and it might flourish. The pattern for such a life comes from texts both obvious and less expected. Genesis 3:16 shows that the Fall brings the curse to bear on the woman’s sphere of cultivation: children. Verse 18 shows that the Fall brings the curse to bear on the man’s sphere of cultivation: provision, whether located in the four walls of the house or outside it. We are redeemed from the curse, but not from God’s wise plan—and childbearing and provision are not effects of the Fall.

It is men who are out in the fields and tending the sheep in the Old Testament, not women; that seems so plain as to be obvious. The proverbial husband is outside the home in Proverbs 31, providing and leading, while the proverbial wife cares for and nourishes the home and family. Titus 2:5 upholds exactly this kind of arrangement. Women, not men, are to work at home.

We await Ms. Turner’s response.

I love a good debate.  I bet Tide is enjoying the publicity.