Plain Love and Marriage

Those of us who live traditional lives accept the validity of headship – there has to be someone in charge in the family, and that’s the husband. Paul held that up as the model for Christian marriages, and it had worked for millenia before the church existed. So Christians held on to it, for many reasons. First, the husband was the one who moved in the outside world, who interacted the most with the official community. Father or husband held property for a woman, and represented her in court. Some of this became rather narrow-minded in Judaic custom, but Christians seem to have tried to loosen that up a bit.

Nonetheless, women ran their own businesses, had control of some kinds of property, and were in charge of the household itself. Women expected to find husbands who had been raised to be good providers and managers, who listened to their families, and who were integrated into the surrounding community. Women expected husbands who were reasonable, and who shared the responsibilities of family life.

Men expected to find wives who knew how to run a household, who could cook, clean, sew, care for children, and do what was necessary to make some money from their skills, such as spinning, weaving, trading, gardening, or raising livestock. Women were sometimes employed as scribes to copy manuscripts or as artists.

It’s not a bad model for Christian family life now.

Plain life echoes these traditions. We do as much as we can ourselves, whether it is food production, clothesmaking, raising livestock, or engaging in a craft that provides income. Sitting at a computer isn’t a Plain occupation, for many reasons, alhtough I admit it is a part of what I do from day to day. I would not want it to be my main occupation though.

The Christian model for family life is of Christ as the head of the family. We all serve Him in each other. That’s simply all it is. We look for spouses who are God-centered, and willing to be servants to the rest of the family. It’s not a matter of power or privilege.

I think that is a huge modern misunderstanding about Plain life, that father knows best and what he says goes, right or wrong. I’ve never known a family where that worked, or could work. Humans are frail and sometimes wrong; it is sinfully stubborn to refuse reason just because it comes from wife or child. If it comes down to a matter of both being equally right but in opposition (such as a matter of spending money on each one’s priority) one has to take charge, and in traditional Christian families, it is up to the husband. But first of all, the family and community needs are to be considered, not just one’s heart’s desire.

A Christian man treats his wife as an equal in reason, unless he has positive and longstanding proof otherwise! And if he is more likely to make whimsical and foolish decisions, it is up to her to gently lead him to the best choice. That may mean appealing to a relative or close friend for support in that decision; we don’t need so much autonomy that we can’t listen to the good advice of others.

I’m afraid modern marriages are made on the basis of superficial traits – who is beautiful or handsome, who is most popular, who is most appealing. Marriages are too often begun in deep debt, as couples look to start their new life together with expensive clothes for the wedding, big parties, luxurious honeymoons. Young people buy houses and cars they can’t afford, because they think it is what is expected of them. It’s a fantasy life, and not one of responsibility and reason.

In the traditional Plain wedding, the bride makes her dress, The groom will buy some new clothes, but they will be worn again and again. They will perhaps have their own household established, but family will have helped to furnish it. The biggest expense will be the huge home-cooked meal provided for the many guests!

Modern Plain people who live outside Plain communities might consider a different way of beginning their marriage. I recommend that the wedding apparel be the least of their concerns, and that they focus on receiving good counsel and preparation for the long term contract that marriage is! The wedding itself could be a small Saturday afternoon gathering of family in the church, with no expense except an at-home meal afterward. Or for those who are entirely tradition-minded, get married on Sunday morning during the service. This will throw most minsiters for a loop, having never done it that way, but it a very old and almost defunct custom. The promises are dropped in at the prayers of the people, or just before the offertory. It is right that the first meal the couple share is the eucharist. The wedding reception can be cake and coffee in the church hall afterward, with a family meal at home later in the day.

Christian marriage is a relationship of love in Christ and mutual respect. It is not one taking orders from the other, or spouses competing for control. It is not about who is most popular with the children. It is about serving Christ in one another, and in the whole family and community.

13 thoughts on “Plain Love and Marriage

  1. magdelaina,

    This is the clearest and most reasonable article on true Christian headship within marriage and the model of the Christian home & family i have ever read! So many supposed ‘Biblical Patriarchy’ movements, thinkers, ministers in favour etc miss the point completely, rendering God’s beautiful truth for us into a dangerously farcical affair that damages and wounds instead of nurturing and building up for and into the body of Christ.

    Your observations regarding marriage and indebtedness are spot on!!!!! ‘Afflenza’ anyone?

    We do what we can, here re making our own; medium density suburbia requires new vision or, more accurately, a return to the time honoured ways (most of which are pre WW2) in which townsfolk and cityfolk have lived for centuries, especially for those of us who cannot go country and buy acreage as is very popular among much of the ‘Biblical patriarchy’/home education/plain or plainesque movement; disability, age and status as sole believers within family settings divorced from traditional hereditary ways of life and community present formidable barriers, but we can all use less, replace it only when its well and truly broken, cook from scratch, (more or less the natural norm down here in Australia), choose our clothing from the non commercial sector, purchasing from, and thereby supporting family and community models of business, often also run by fellow Christians, plant herbs or veg if possible, give fad and vapourous fashion the flick… ……..intentional community of faith might provide answers, but outside of North America, these are scarce and those that are in existance are often inaccessible.

    When I’m graduated, God willing, I’ll be a theologian who writes, perhaps teaches, perhaps speaks, hoping God leads me to etc, but this will be from home or close by, especially if writing. I guess this corolates to the womens’ tradition of scribing and writing…after the manner of women such as Abbess Hildegarde, a mighty theologian faithful to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (as well as composer, poet, philosopher and so much more).

    I do love the model of the marriage ceremony incorporated right into the heart of the Sunday service; our poor minister would have kittens, but it’s the type of thing I’d do, just to get ’em thinking…:-)

    Your ministry is like a beam of light through the darkness…………..keep on shining it forth for God……and…….continue to preach it, sister!!!!!!!



    • Friends of mine were married that way. I wished at the time that I had thought of it myself! We were, in fact, watching a bridal show on telly today, with Mother Kay. I asked her if she wants to know what sort of dress the bride is planning to wear when she officiates weddings. No, she’d never thought to ask. (I always did.) And as we watched a young woman modelling an expensive gown that actually showed her underwear through sheer panels at the midriff, Kay added, “But I think I will from now on.” I’m horrified at weddings that cost $50,000 or more; even $2,000 seems like too much money for a church ceremony and a party.

  2. I’m all for a Plain wedding.I like the idea of people being fed homemade food in the garden, but in Ireland the meal in the garden is just Plain wishful thinking!I know too many people who have the meal in a hotel and the day ending to disco music and with drunk people.

    My own parents wanted a quiet wedding but to their horror they discovered that my grandfather had invited over 100 people to the wedding and they were obliged to have a wedding of about 300 people.

    But didn’t our own grandparents just wed in a new outfit?Both my grandparents did and both grandmothers wore a skirt and jacket (it was the late 190’s/early 1950s).I do know that the pioneers in America wore their Sunday outfits on their wedding days.

    • My own mother was married in a grey wool suit her mother had made. I think some of my uncles married brides in wedding dresses (um, the brides in dresses, NOT the uncles), but it wasn’t common in my own family. I think my generation was the first to wear wedding dresses as a matter of expectation. The overrated and overindulged drinking certainly bothers me. It’s as if the whole thing is so painful that people need to be anaesthetized.

  3. I think many young women today want to be a bride but not a wife. They want the glamor and attention, but aren’t ready for the responsibility or reality of living intimately with another person every day. And the young men want control not sharing. This isn’t just stereotypes, but my own observations of our young tenants. I can’t say I’m surprised though. Just look at the models being held up by “reality” tv (not to mention the dramas, sit-coms and soap operas) that are so popular. No one tells the truth. Everyone is scheming to get their way without considering the consequences. Negotiation, compromise, and concession are considered signs of weakness with short term gains more important than long term outcomes. How can a marriage do anything but fail if fed on this? Sad.

    • I agree! Besides often not knowing anything about cooking, housecare, childcare or family management, they have been fed with the images of popular culture. Surely they have been told about the difference between fact and fiction? My mother didn’t allow soap operas or romance novels, or “trashy” magazines – fashion, Hollywood, or true crime. If I had a daughter in the house now, she wouldn’t watch reality tv either. It seems to me that church marriage prep courses need to start at early adolescence.

  4. When the digital switch happened, we decided not to get a converter box or new tv. We now only get 1 station (ABC). We really don’t miss it very often. Occasionally, there’s a show we would like to watch like a documentary last night, but overall are better off without it.

    • Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this…you can watch most shows by internet. Just go to the channel’s website and connect there. This doesn’t work if you don’t have enough gbs on the computer, but it is the solution if you want to watch a documentary or special programme and have the computer power.

  5. I tried so hard to have a very casual, inexpensive wedding. My “wedding dress” was an $11 dollar sundress I bought at a discount store. My bridesmaids bought sundresses they could wear again. My husband was going to wear a suit…Sadly it didn’t happen. At least my bridesmaids got the sundresses! My mother-in-law really pressured for certain things, and I couldn’t say no. She spent more on the rehearsal dinner than I did on almost the whole wedding.

    • It must have felt funny – you had a budget, but someone else couldn’t keep it! Since you weren’t responsible for the rehearsal dinner, I guess all you could do is sit back and enjoy it. Other people get very concerned that they will be considered socially incorrect or cheap if the wedding is not over the top, just what so-an-so had, or not up to family standards. It’s time to lower those so-called standards.

      • It does fully make me want to have a little money set aside and good ethics in front for any future daughter(s) I might have. That way we can have a Christ centred worship. I pray that I bring them up to love being good stewards – even in the midst of a celebration

      • Just so they know to marry frugal Christian men! Who ahve frugal Christian parents…My own father suggested we all elope.

  6. I wish for a plain wedding too, my brother’s wedding convinced me. He and his wife got married in nice clothes but not overly expensive and over the top. Then we had dinner at their house, food that they had made themselves and cake (from a bakery, but not a special wedding cake, just regular cake). It was so nice and everyone was happy. Simple, but not too simple, the day was great for everyone and very memorable. In my view, the perfect wedding, I would want something similar once it is my turn.

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