People do not know what they are doing; because they do not know what they are undoing. – from Chesterton’s The Thing
Just stumbled upon this article by the Oxford and Princeton ethicist formerly known as William Crouch. He’s formerly known as Crouch because he and his fiancée have determined to both change their surnames when they are married. His facile mind has reasoned thus:
As with so many gender-biased traditions, this one has pretty disturbing roots. The legal concept of coverture came from England and caught on in 19th century America: the idea was that a woman, upon marriage, becomes the property of her husband. She had no right to vote or take out a bank account because she could rely on her owner to do that for her. And, of course, she couldn’t be raped by her husband—because she was essentially her husband’s property, and he was free to do with her what he wished.
We’ve made progress on these issues (though some remarkably late). But the tradition of taking the man’s name remains and, given its background, it seems to me it’s simply bad taste to carry on with it, in the same way that it would be bad taste to put on a minstrel show, no matter how pure the intentions.
You might say that we need some rule, and that taking the man’s name is as good as any other. But is this true? Why not go with whichever name sounds better? Or which name is associated with the coolest people? (MacAskill clearly beats my birth surname “Crouch” on both counts, having a better ring and being the name of both Giant MacAskill—a forebear of my fiancée’s who has a claim to be the world’s strongest ever man—and Danny MacAskill, a trial-biking legend who, also being descended from Giant MacAskill, must be a very distant cousin.) Or any other choice made by both parties.
Crouch has added his voice to a growing post-Christian chorus whose understanding is completely ignorant of God’s Word. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Christian capital that has steadied the ethics of our nation for some time is running out. The radical egalitarian agenda is incapable of recognizing, honoring, and rejoicing in authority. The suggestion that a woman take her husband’s name as a sign of his authority is rejected as a relic from a dark, oppressive, unenlightened age. Cranmer’s old vows that the wife “love, honor, and obey” are laughable and insufferable to Crouch and his fiancée.
The reason a woman takes a man’s name is not that she becomes his property but that she gives testimony to her husband’s God-given authority and delights herself in the comfort and protection that follow therefrom. As I just said, such authority/hierarchy/patriarchy is hated today. Evangelicals hate what God’s Word says about men and women and marriage (for example, check out the website of Christians for Biblical Equality), and they save face by mocking Scripture’s teaching. And so today’s male is expected to limp wrist it from the wedding altar on, which he’s only happy to do because he’s thoroughly healed from his neutering.
Scripture teaches us that authority is good. The problem today is we’ve believed the lie taught to us…that authority is bad and only and ever used for oppression. Such is the case when authority is dislodged from Scripture. When there is no governor on authority, in the form of all men everywhere submitting to their Creator, then we do indeed get oppression. Yet, as we submit ourselves to God’s ethics, authority is blessing and comfort and assurance and a cozy blanket with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter night.
The woman takes her husband’s name in order to show respect to her man (Eph. 5:33). The woman takes her husband’s name in order to announce to the world she has a protector and a lover (Eph. 5:25-27). The woman takes her husband’s name as a sign of her deep commitment to her husband, following Eve’s lead (after reading Gen. 2:18, read the Holy Spirit’s explanation in 1 Cor. 11:8-9). The woman takes her husband’s name in order to honor God’s Word (Titus 2:5), to witness to the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church (Eph. 5:22-33), and to thumb her nose at the world’s hatred of femininity (Gen. 2:23).
Or, you could listen to the sage advice of our clear-thinking ethicists and go with whichever name is associated with the coolest people… Honey, we’re changing our surname to Dylan.