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Although its nefarious-sounding title would suggest otherwise, ABC’s Wednesday Night hit-show Wife Swap really has much to say about the culture of the American family in the 21st century. To be honest, my mind was racing when I first saw the initial previews for the new show last fall. They really played up (or at least didn’t quell) the adulterous tendency of most peoples’ thoughts when hearing the title for the first time. I was among many who boldly stated my intentions of “never watching that show.”
However, a brilliant time-slot behind two of ABC’s most popular shows, Lost and Alias, left me with a TV tuned to ABC at 10 PM one fortuitous Wednesday night in January. At first, it was sheer curiosity that kept me watching, but as the show progressed and it was nothing like what I expected, I kept watching because I was hooked on the premise. You see, Wife Swap, for the uninitiated, is exactly what you think—two men swap wives for two weeks. But, then again, it isn’t what you think. The official ABC Wife Swap web page asks: “Have you ever wondered whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence? Two wives discover that it often isn't when they hand over the keys to their homes and literally switch families — but not bedrooms — for two weeks on the new reality show Wife Swap.”
The producers of the show go to great lengths to find two women that are almost polar opposites of each other, one is a clean-freak, the other not-so-clean, one is permissive, the other authoritarian, one is a Christian, the other is a New-Ager…you get the idea. The women are often from very different parts of the country with different family incomes and different numbers of children. The idea is for the women to “walk in another’s shoes,” as it were. They have one week to live under the house rules of the new family, outlined by the “other woman” and seen to by the rest of the family; then in the second week, the new “mom” gets to shake things up and make all new house rules. So what we have are two households in America, each with a new wife/mom for two weeks and two teams of cameramen to document the ensuing confusion for the viewing public’s entertainment.
While I enjoy the concept of the show and the end result (most everyone learns to appreciate and value what they already have), the show gives valuable insight into our current way of life. First and foremost, the very title of the show reveals that something is amiss from the Biblical standard for families. If we really had Biblical families in this country, then the show would be called Husband Swap. The Bible calls for fathers to be the head of the household, both spiritually and physically. Husbands are to “love their wives as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). They are to teach their children the Word of God all day long (Deut 6:6-7). The Bible is patriarchal from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation.
However, our modern fathers are too busy chasing the “American Dream” to notice. They leave home early in the morning and return late at night. Simply watching a single episode of Wife Swap can prove this assertion. The fathers of both families are almost never visible, distant and passive when they are and are basically just another member of the family. America in the 21st century is a matriarchal society. Wives/mothers have had to fill the void that fathers have left gaping wide by abdicating en masse their God-given responsibility.
Christian fathers are just as guilty of this (I’ll be the first to confess.) As we stand around discussing passing and shooting records, our wives are the only legitimate role models our daughters and sons ever see. How will our sons learn to be godly men if we don’t set the example and actively teach them? How will our daughters know what a man “after God’s own heart” is really like if we don’t model that example at home? We should thank ABC for making this so plain to us through a TV “reality series.” Men, it’s time for us to take back our families and run them the way God designed them—your wives will love you for it.
 Apparently it also speaks much about the culture of the European family, because it originally began airing in the U.K. three years ago.