Both the media and Twitter users have decided to tear Kirk Cameron apart for his views about marriage that he recently shared in an interview with The Christian Post. Cameron is best known for his role in the 80’s sitcom Growing Pains but has more recently starred in Christian films such as Fireproof and Monumental. Though I’m not endorsing Cameron’s faith and personal beliefs (simply because I don’t know much about what he stands for), I do agree with what he recently had to say about marriage.
In his interview with The Christian Post, Cameron dared to say, “Wives are to honor and respect and follow their husband’s lead, not to tell their husband how he ought to be a better husband. When each person gets their part right, regardless of how their spouse is treating them*, there is hope for real change in their marriage.”
That was all it took for an outright attack on his views from celebrity gossip news and Twitter users, but I think they are missing the point. They are only listening to and focusing in on a part of the message.
Listen to Kirk Cameron’s Conroversial Advice on Marriage
What Kirk Cameron said is nothing new. It is Biblical:
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.” – Ephesians 5:22-33
Although Cameron is not Catholic (he’s an evangelical Christian), his advice on marriage also aligns with the Catholic Church’s teaching on Marriage.
“By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God. This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they ‘help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.’ Christ is the source of this grace. Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of Matrimony. Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to ‘be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,’ and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1641-1642)
Not only can you find Cameron’s advice in the Bible and reiterated in the Catechism, I know it to be true in my own marriage. Though it has taken me some time to learn what it means to submit and respect my husband (and I’m a very stubborn person so I constantly make mistakes), I can attest that doing so has brought peace and joy into our marriage. I don’t feel restricted or restrained at all.
There is freedom that comes in knowing that I can trust my husband to do what is best for me and our family. I trust my husband because I know that his goal in leading our family is to help us all get to heaven. His actions and decisions are not to fulfill his own selfish desires. A leader is not a dictator. When faced with an important decision, he doesn’t make a quick choice. We spend time together discussing the issue and many times even debating the pros and cons. My voice is always heard in our marriage.
After discussing, we take it to prayer. I know when my husband seeks God to direct his path, even if things don’t turn out the way we want, God will see us through. I pray too. When my husband and I have different opinions, I pray that God would change the heart that doesn’t align with His plan for our family. Because my husband submits to God, I am able to submit to my husband.
It wasn’t easy for me to accept this teaching. I first had to learn that the Biblical definition of submission is not the same as the secular definition. If only the media and others would read on just a little further or stop for a moment to try to understand what Kirk Cameron was saying, they would discover the beauty of what is being said in this verse.
Although the woman is asked to be respectful and submissive, the husband is instructed to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. How does Christ love the Church? He gave everything for her. He served her to the utmost. He gave her his very life. When a husband loves his wife in this way she can fully trust that he would never ask her to do anything that would bring about emotional or physical harm.
If you are looking for a “how to”, I recommend the book Love & Respect. The author gives wonderful insight and a detailed explanation of what love and respect look like in a marriage. Dr. Brant Pitre also has an excellent document that explains some of the definitions more clearly according to Catholic teaching. You can find that here.
If you think for a moment about the practical side of the issue, it certainly helps to have a decision maker in any organization. It is no different in a family. It is beneficial to have a leader. We can think of this in the same way we think of the Trinity. God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit all have different roles and jobs, yet all are equal. Having different responsibilities within a family does not make anyone greater or lesser; it simply creates order. In saying this, we keep in mind the godly qualities that a leader must possess. Jesus led with humility, strength, and service. A leader does not simply tell others what to do. A leader sets the example and takes the time to listen to others.
In his document Familiaris Consortio St. John Paul II instructed us, “Authentic conjugal love presupposes and requires that a man have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife: ‘You are not her master,’ writes St. Ambrose, ‘but her husband; she was not given to you to be your slave, but your wife….’ Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love.”
Kirk Cameron is reinforcing the values of marriage that Christians have followed for centuries. When the wife is focused on respecting and honoring her husband and the husband is focused on selfless service to his wife, both spouses grow in holiness and are able to live out a marriage that glorifies God. Hopefully, in the midst of all the adversity that Cameron is experiencing, he will also reach those who are struggling in their marriages and are open to allowing these truths to penetrate their hearts.
* When Kirk Cameron says “regardless of how their spouse is treating them”, I am assuming that he is not referring to a marriage in which any type of abuse is taking place. I think he is talking about the marriage that is experiencing difficulty and dissension. I would never advise that a person endure abuse of any kind and the Catholic Church does not feel that way either. Find resources to help here.