A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Patriarchy in Action: Caleigh’s Story


Thanks from all of us, Caleigh, for so graciously sharing your story. Caleigh’s blog is The Profligate Truth

In January of 2011, my dad kicked me out and told me that he didn’t have time for me anymore and didn’t want to deal with me anymore. I moved out two weeks later, even though my soon to be father in law, and my mom, came to me and said that pleas were welcomed. I wasn’t going to beg to stay when I could no longer do what my dad demanded of me. It broke my heart to leave my siblings, but it was definitely the time to get out. I got married three months later, and am still happily married two years later.

Let me back up, and give some more definition and background to my story. I am the oldest of nine, 4 girls and 5 boys. My family has moved around a lot, my dad used to be in the military, and in doing so, we have been in a lot of different churches. I don’t know when exactly my parents/dad started sipping the patriarchy kool-aid, but now that I am aware of the effect it’s had on my family, I can trace it back to long before I can remember. We started going to a small house church when I was somewhere around the age of 5 or 6, and that was the first time I remember being around other families doing the same things my family was, and all of the dads were the authorities in the church.

I grew up with fear, and was taught that whatever my dad said was what I absolutely had to do, say, or believe. I knew no other way of living, nor did I understand what was wrong, even though I constantly felt like something was wrong with my family. It wasn’t until I was 14 or 15 that I really began to understand just why my family was the way they were, and still are to some degrees.

Growing up, we had “family devotions” but we never really enjoyed them, and by the time I was in my mid teens, they were more of a joke than anything else. There was never any discussion about what we, as a family believed, or what my parents believed. We were told, not asked what we thought, and I can see how that really messed me up, especially when I realized that my dad was a hypocrite and someone who did not “follow” what he preached.

When I was 7 ½ years old, I got baptized, and that is the only time I ever remember my dad specifically talking to me about what it means to be saved. I do remember not being able to give the definition on my own, but when my dad started talking, I was able to fill in the words. I don’t think I really understood what it meant to be a Christian at that age, but I definitely can remember my heart really changed after that.

I mainly was excited to be able to take communion with all of the rest of the adults and to give my dad the thumb’s up that meant that I didn’t have anything to confess. I have never been able to take communion without remembering that I had to give my dad a thumbs up or else I couldn’t take communion. The thumbs up was supposed to signify that I didn’t have anything to confess, and also that I didn’t have anything against my dad, or anyone else.

My dad controlled my siblings and I when it came to communion, and many other areas. Having to give him a thumbs up was like showing to the world that he was in control of our faith. I hated having to do it especially because rarely was I not angry or frustrated with him. I just didn’t want to have to be approached by my dad and given a talk about how I’m holding things against him, or not forgiving him, and forget that I was hurt by him, or angry with him for abusing my siblings.

Patriarchy is a sneaky beast, and it definitely has some good aspects, but more so it gives abusive men the perfect cover up for continuing to abuse their families. Patriarchy is very much of an outward picture belief system where a lot of pressure is put on everyone doing the same thing, “looking” the same way, or believing the same thing. Home schooling, women being baby making machines, and practically being chained to the stove, daughters never going to college, quiverfull mindset of having as many children as possible, sons carrying on their father’s business, or never going to college as well, and fathers being in supreme authority over their families are very common things among patriarchal/quiverfull families. The fathers having absolute authority over their families with no one they are accountable to is what enables the abusers.

This sort of mindset creates an environment where scriptures that talk about submission, authority, women, and children are all taken out of context and made to mean that the men are in absolute authority over the women and children. These verses are then twisted to mean that men are the only ones who can hear from God, and fathers rule their families with this mentality meaning that the children and their wife can never hear from God. This closes the box pretty tightly around any child who might have questions, or who begins to think on their own, and begins to realize that maybe daddy isn’t always right.

This started happening to me when I was about 17. We had started attending a church that had been a flagship for Sovereign Grace Ministries and I was really struggling with respecting and listening to my dad. It seemed that every command or “teaching” that came out of his mouth was obviously hypocritical and I can’t respect someone who says do one thing, and then they go and do the very opposite.

My dad broke my trust when I was 14, and I mean severely trampled and crushed.  I couldn’t look at him for 6 months at least. That is when I began seeing him for who he really is. An abusive, manipulative, hypocritical man who rules over his family with absolute authority and who has no compassion or grace for any of his children whom he has hurt. I also began to see and understand how he had made it that far without being held accountable at any of churches we had ever been in. He is one heck of a smooth talker, and can really convince and cover up anything he wants to. That is, until the dirt gets too big to be constantly swept under the rug.

It frustrated me to no end that I would keep asking people for help as I watched my family slowly start to fall apart, but no one listened to me because my dad still held the perfect family screen really firmly in place for the outside world to see. My siblings didn’t believe me, my friends didn’t believe, and the pastors didn’t believe me, but that didn’t keep me from calling out.

Just over 4 ½ years ago, we became members at this church, and that’s when I started really fighting for the right to be heard. I also met my now husband Phil within the first few weeks we were there. I remember my mom was really relieved to be members at church because I think she maybe though that we would finally get help. I remember meeting with the pastor I had been assigned to as a single person, and crying while I told him about life at home. He didn’t react or respond other than to say he was sorry as I sat there and described the physical, emotional, and mental abuse that was pretty constant in my family’s house. I remember walking out of that meeting and feeling like maybe, just maybe, someone here would listen to me.

At the same time as I was trying to get someone to hear me and help rescue my siblings, my relationship with Phil started moving towards something more serious than friends, or just being slightly interested. I was 18 and Phil was 19. As soon as my dad became aware that there was something more there, he really put a stop to it, and made it extremely difficult for me to trust him at all. When Phil and I had to cut off our friendship due to his parents saying they didn’t want us to talk, or interact, my dad’s response was that if my heart was hurting then I did something wrong. I knew then and there that I would not be able to trust my dad or expect him to really hear me no matter what happened.

Sure enough, things went downhill fast, and for two years, we fought to be allowed to be friends, and to have a relationship as my dad sabotaged, and tore us apart time and time again. I personally believe it’s because I didn’t give him any control in the relationship, and the more that I saw him for who he is, the more I refused to simply lie down and let him walk all over me.  He still had quite a lot of control emotionally and spiritually over me, but I was slowly starting to find my footing, and wasn’t giving in to his manipulative behavior.

Phil and I separately and individually met with the pastors at our church over 40 times, asking for help, and asking for mediation between us and our parents. The pastors not only didn’t help us, they kept telling us that we weren’t honoring our parents, and especially that my dad wasn’t being honored through our actions. I also met with the pastors asking for help in how my dad continued to treat me, and I got nothing but blank stares, I’m sorry’s, and reminders to not hold anything against my dad, or that I needed to forgive him because it sounded like I was bitter towards him.

The climax came that day in January when my dad decided that it was more worth it to kick me out than try to reconcile our mangled relationship. Instead of trying to work through our differences, and instead of my dad letting my relationship with Phil be a chance for him to let go of me a little bit, he saw Phil as being extremely disrespectful because he hadn’t honored my dad in the way my dad expected to my honored. My dad felt like he should be in complete control of my relationship with Phil, and he didn’t believe that Phil and I should get married because Phil didn’t fit his criteria of the man he wanted me to marry. And simply because I didn’t bow down and worship my dad’s wishes, he kicked me out.

I almost didn’t let my dad walk me down the aisle when I got married (I was 20 and Phil was 21), but I did and spent the entire day anxiously waiting to get away from him and married to the love of my life that day. I am frustrated that just in the past few months has my dad finally been held accountable for some of things he’s done, and he is now on church discipline. But that doesn’t even deal with half of how he’s treated my family for all of my life. I know ultimate judgment is in God’s hands, but I will continue fighting for the sake of my siblings to be moved away from his influence so that they can have a chance to think on their own and to be healed from his manipulation and emotional abuse.

41 Comments

  1. Good for you, Caleigh, for standing up for yourself and for fighting for your siblings! How brave and strong you are! It sounds to me like dad didn’t like Phil because Phil didn’t let your dad control him. Nothing but a power trip.
    I often wonder why, if patriarchy is God’s will, why didn’t God just make the man and a bunch of automatons to do man’s bidding? What is the purpose of giving girls brains and hearts and personality and individuality if they are not allowed to use and express those things freely? Patriarchy is life-sucking. Patriarchy is nothing short of bondage.

    My perceptions of headship and submission are probably skewed by the patriarchy movement, but I would really like someone to tell me what headship and submission really is, if not patriarchy or egalitarianism. The Gospel Coalition (very mainstream Evangelical organization) called Complementarianism “patriarchy” last year, and I am not sure what to think anymore. My more soft Comp pastor doesn’t like to use the word “subordination” when it comes to the relationship of wives to husbands, but his wife once relayed to me a story of when she she was forced by her husband to leave her eight-month-old firstborn to go to another country for a pastor’s wife conference even though she didn’t want to leave her nursing child for that long. She told me through very evident pain that when she returned her son no longer wanted to nurse anymore, and that bonding she had enjoyed with him had been abruptly cut off against her wishes. When she spoke of this experience, she didn’t mention any blessings from the conference, but there was certainly pain there and an anger buried just beneath the surface of her “I am a happy, unswerving Complementarian” exterior. Did God not permit her even to make her own decisions concerning the nursing of her own child? If she isn’t entitled to make such a personal decision for herself, what decisions IS she allowed to make??? This isn’t oppression? We now know that it is highly recommended that women nurse their babies, at least for a year if possible for the best health of the baby. Did father know best here?

    I often wonder how an otherwise decent and thoughtful man benevolent could justify doing such a cruel thing to his wife. Did he think he knew better than she did about what she needed? Isn’t that abusive in itself to some degree? What attitude was underlying what he did to her? How common is this attitude in Complementarian men? Is this a good example of biblical submission?

    All this to say, perhaps the reason so many clergymen don’t take abuse allegations seriously is because they themselves sympathize with the abuser’s mentality. My pastor does. Entitlement, to him, is a man’s right. Patriarchy at all costs; love, mercy, and justice if the occasion permits.

    • Just Me

      Oh Desley. I know this post really isn’t about breastfeeding, but it’s bringing it up for me. The breastfeeding battle was HUGE in this house. With our first, I started supplementing pretty early because I went back to work, and husband was giving me so much grief about it, and gave up altogether at 6 months. With our second, I was a stay at home mom and was determined to nurse for a year. My husband hated it. He got mad when I nursed in bed. He got mad when we were out and I had to find a place to nurse in private. He got mad when we would go out on a date and I’d need to pump. And our son has many food allergies. He was diagnosed at 4 months old, but before that, I just had a God-given instinct that told me not to give him formula. I suspected allergies and since we’re in a rural area, I feared that he would die from a reaction before help arrived. Once he was diagnosed, husband became ok with me nursing because the formula he needed was prescription and cost $500/month. He did eventually get exposed to dairy and he had an anaphylactic reaction, but fortunately we had an epi-pen by that point to save him. But it confirmed to me that my instincts about formula were right and if I had submitted to my husband telling me to give him formula before his diagnosis, he likely would have died. Husband’s mother and his sister in law gave me grief any time they could about nursing, I have no idea why they cared. And he bought into it. He gave me a “deadline” of our son’s first birthday to stop nursing. I pushed it by taking the kids to visit my dad in another state for the bulk of the summer, and made it to 15 months. Then I had to put him on rice milk, which says right on the side of the carton “do not give to children under 5 years old” because he was allergic to milk and soy and the prescription formula was too expensive. Enter a chronic diarrhea problem which lasted until he turned 3. He also has asthma, a chronic and unexplained vomiting problem, and chronic pneumonia which has left him with permanent lung scarring. He’s only 4. I wish I could go back in time and put my foot down.

      And, with our first child, we left her with his mother for 9 days when she was 8 months old to take a vacation out of the country with his friends and their wives. I didn’t want to go, and I still hate that I left my baby. This was back in the day where I thought I was supposed to submit even when he was being destructive. Ugh!!

      • What a burden for you to have carry, JM. None of this is your fault. You did the best you could with the circumstances you were in.And this just proves one more time that father does not always know best.
        I would like to know is whether or not soft complementarians would think this is something that a “biblical” woman should be submitting to.

      • Katy

        Oh JM that is horrendous. Please don’t beat yourself up. I’ve got boys with allergies and had an awful time as well, my boys now are on prescriptions for the problems. What your husband did was evil and you’ve got to cut yourself some slack. God is able to protect your son and it’s clear that He did, but I often wish that God would protect us MORE than He seems to sometimes. . (hugs)

      • JM, I’m so sorry for you and your children esp the son who has all those health problems. I echo Desley: you did the best you could, given the emotional and spiritual entrapment you were under at the time. It was like you were in a cage.

      • Just Me

        Thank you, ladies. The “what if” thoughts come and go. Most of the time I’m okay. I’ve just had a bad few weeks of “what ifs.” I appreciate the encouragement!!

    • perhaps the reason so many clergymen don’t take abuse allegations seriously is because they themselves sympathize with the abuser’s mentality. . . . Entitlement… is a man’s right. Patriarchy at all costs; love, mercy, and justice if the occasion permits.

      I agree, Desley. I think the substratum belief in male privilege held even by many non-abusive Christian men is one of the biggest blockages in the road towards justice. The men who are not outright abusers may vehemently disavow hard-edged Patriarchy, but in subtle ways they still subscribe to male privilege.

      So, not wanting to overturn Desley’s very apt comment, because it is perfect for the hard-patriarchalists, I am going to recast it and apply it to these milder men.

      Many non-abusive, non-partriarchal men share an underlying sympathy with the abuser’s mentality. Subconsciously, they still believe that entitlement is a man’s right. They are more than happy to show love, mercy, and justice if the occasion permits, but should they have to diminish or dispense with male privilege in order to show mercy and justice, they take the easy road out, sitting on the ‘neutrality’ fence, weakly confronting the abuser, and mouthing platitudes to keep everyone happy. In their heart of hearts they cannot dispense with male privilege, so when the rubber hits the road they side with the abusive man and leave the woman out to dry.

      • Now Free

        Barb, I have felt the pastor of the church I started attending recently might not be overtly abusive, but has sympathy for abusers, especially men. If my worst nightmare happened and my to be ex husband started to attend this church, I really feel this pastor would assume the cloak of neutrality and eventually would put the blame on my shoulders.

      • NF, from what I have heard, that kind of scenario is not uncommon – a pastor showing kindness and support to a victim until her abuser shows up and gets in his ear, then pastor is swayed and starts being more ‘neutral’ and dropping hints to the victim that her ex-husband is not really that bad . . .
        All I can say is, if you are aware of this possibility, it may be less of a shock if it happens. And you may be forearmed with some strong things to say to the pastor if that occurs, to try to show him why his take on it is wrong. Good luck!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Desley – I have come to the conclusion that the term “complementarian” is worn out. It has come to carry so much additional baggage that it is so vague it doesn’t have any real accuracy. For example, a month or so ago a pastor I was talking with was asking some questions about our church, getting a feel for where we were coming from. Eventually, he asked me “are you complementarian.” When I hesitated to reply (because I had already seen the problem with the fogginess of this term) he said “you know, do you ordain women as pastors?” And all I had been thinking of is marriage. So people are using this term for a lot of different things. Some will assume patriarchy. So I just don’t like that word. It probably never was a good one. Now I answer – “I believe what Ephesians 5 says.”

      • Charles Price (The People’s Church in TO- not the name-it-and-claim-it preacher) maintains that if husbands loved their wives as Christ loves the church, wives would naturally want to submit to their husbands. He says that Ephesians 5 is not meant to be rules for marriage, but rather, when Christ is the third cord in a marriage (I mean, really) this is the overflow of that. I did send my pastor this message a few months back in hopes of getting some feedback (Charles Price is solid, as far as I know), but nobody got back to me yet.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Desley – I’m not familiar with Charles Price so I didn’t include the link here. I wish I had time to listen to it, but all of us are pretty much swamped right now. However, your description of what Price said is certainly an excellent point. Ephesians 5 is indeed about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church. Patriarchy, as I understand the word to mean, says that the husband/father (ie, the man) is FIRST. The Father and the Son relate in a kind of head and submission. Perfect love. It just works. Now, if a husband loved his wife in this self-sacrificing, servant manner, as you say — the husband/wife relationship just happens. When we know that Christ loves us and that He died for us as the suffering servant, our relationship with Him works too. But not only is this not emphasized so often when we preach on Eph 5, some other distorted model is presented. And that is why I have decided to tell people, “I believe marriage is to be what Ephesians 5 says.” Honestly, I think if a husband and a wife are both genuine Christians who know and love Christ, you should not have to tell them very much at all beyond what Eph 5 says and they will get it. In fact, they are probably already doing it. Where there is battling and strife going on in a marriage, one must really wonder – is there an unbeliever in the mix? In abuse cases, in my opinion, it comes down to an unbeliever (the abuser) persecuting the believer.

        What does this all say then for the myriads of Christian marriage books that have been cranked out for decades? If every Christian has been taught by the Spirit of Christ to love others, then how can all of these marriages be battle zones? I think that James has the answer for us –

        (Jam 3:10-12 ESV) 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Jeff,

        I was thinking something along the same lines recently. These people are all about saving the marriage, but if each party in the marriage is doing what God said the marriage automatically takes care of itself. It is when one party* is not doing what God said that we see problems.

        *Or it could be both, but that’s not our issue here.

      • Anonymous

        Oh, I so agree with this Ps. Crippen. I cannot figure out why all the problems in Christian marriages, except what you say here. I think part of the problem may be the influx of “I’m just a sinner” being used as an excuse to abuse and sin against others. We are not that old man anymore, but it seems that it is not being taught that way. Ephesians says that we “were formerly” that, but we are no longer that – we are new creations.

        Where is the encouragement to put your sin away and actually STOP sinning against God and others? Not that we ever reach perfection, but that our sin is not abusive toward our spouse. Maybe we disagree, but we don’t abuse. Make sense? If two people are true Christians, then they should love God more than they love themselves and should be willing to lay down, at some point, their desires to be able to pleasantly compromise with their spouse. I cannot imagine any woman who is truly being loved by her husband, not having a desire to submit to his godly love and leadership, but maybe that is just my la-la-land vision. However, it seems to me that the more women/men are taught to live with abuse in their marriages, or they call abuse the “norm” in marriage, (everybody does that, or we’re all just sinners, so get over it) the more abuse sprouts and the more husbands don’t love their wives and the more wives don’t submit, because he is not laying down his life for her, and the mess just goes on and on.

        Perhaps it would help, if the Church were to clarify and set a standard, that no abuse in marriage is ever going to be tolerated and then actually qualify abuse as grounds for divorce, O-P-E-N-L-Y and vigorously. Then, we might see true marriage as described in the Bible, actually blossom and grow into the beautiful scenario it was intended to be.

        I know that is the end we are all working for. Give us God’s truth about abuse.

  2. Just Me

    Caleigh, thank you so much for sharing. It’s enlightening to hear the perspective of a child who grew up in this. I’m so glad you’re free and happily married. I have a few questions. Did you know any families where patriarchy seemed to work? The Duggars seem so happy that I wonder if the authority figure isn’t abusive, if the lifestyle works. And second, since I presume boys are treated as inferior to the men while growing up, and not allowed to question things, how are they prepared for the responsibility of being husbands and fathers? Do they attempt to teach them? Or do the boys go from being subordinate to their abusive fathers to being the authority of their new bride overnight?

    • Good questions! I am curious to hear the answers…

    • caleigh

      Just Me,

      The biggest problem I have with the Duggars is they are completely isolated, the kids are totally robotic in their responses to any questions, and the kids are not allowed to have friends unless Jim Bob has approved them first. They live MILES out from civilization, and while it may seem like their family works, honestly, the oldest girls are raising their siblings, not Michelle. She is simply popping out babies and overseeing, but it is the older girls who are trapped raising their siblings and I feel sorry for them. Depending on your definition, patriarchy is not necessarily wrong, or harmful. The version of under which I was raised is harmful, and that is most people’s definition of patriarchy.

      They don’t teach the young men how to be husbands and fathers. The fathers basically say “figure it out on your own.” They go from being subordinate to their fathers to becoming their fathers because that is all they have ever known. Most of the children, girls and boys, are never encouraged to get more than a HS education, and most of them, if the parents have their own business (a lot of patriarchal families do), the sons take over and become part of that business.

      • So if they don’t teach the young men how to be husbands and fathers, is that why there have to be squillions of books to teach men how to be good husbands and fathers? (which, by the way, I think many men don’t read, but their wives buy them and leave them lying round the house in hope . . . )
        just a tad cynical, here :)

      • Caleigh,
        Just to correct a little-or maybe”correct” isn’t the right word-anyway-as a system, I would say Patriarchy is always bad- now the idea that the husband is the head and the wife has a particular role within that headship-is fine-but anything with the label Patriarchy is already poisonous, in my opinion.

      • I can’t kick the nagging feeling that any “headship” that is defined by “authority” in an intimate relationship has an abusive quality to it; it creates an harmful tension when it comes to boundaries and a healthy sense of identity. I have thus far been unable to find peace with the doctrine of headship (husband authority) because of this tension. And it does no good for people to tell me to just “trust and obey.”

        Is there something I am missing here?

      • jodi

        Well whatever your missing, count me in, cuz I don’t get it either.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Desley – What I find interesting in this subject is that Christ is Head of the church, His bride. And He has authority, big time. Yet there cannot be any abusive quality in Him. I think this is why the central issue here is, in just what manner is a husband functioning as head> I think this is what gets all turned around.

        Colossians 1:18 ESV
        (18) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

        In addition, God the Father is the Head of Christ –

        1 Corinthians 11:3 ESV
        (3) But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

        Again, there cannot be any abusive element to this divine headship. God cannot abuse.

        And we have it once more –

        Ephesians 5:23-26 ESV
        (23) For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
        (24) Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
        (25) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
        (26) that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

        Christ as the Head of the church. My head hooked on my body is the head of my body. But I don’t think my head being my body’s head is an abusive relationship (well, until my head says to eat a whole bag of Oreos or something). The point I am driving at is that the concept of “head” is not innately evil, but in fact is good.

        Man in his sin distorts it however, and it is those distortions we must be on guard against. And we have not been doing a very good job of this.

      • Thanks for your reply, Jeff. I appreciate it.
        I am not trying to undermine your position at all, so please don’t think I am. I have been trying so hard for the last few years to find peace with this doctrine so I can get in line with God’s system and move forward with my life, but I hit up against this every time I try. I have now given up and am hostile to H&S.

        I have absolutely no problem with the concept of God being my authority because:

        #1) He is my Divine Parent, my Creator, and my Sustainer

        #2) He IS superior to me in knowledge, wisdom, power, and holiness.

        But these things cannot be said about any fallible human being. I don’t think any human being should ever be given unilateral authority over others because when you give that kind of power to a sinner, that power will almost always be corrupted. If that authority is given over another’s personal life, the damage done by the corruption of that authority will cut much deeper.

        So if husbands have authority over wives, where is the line drawn? Most Christian teachers/theologicians either define headship in a way that is too ambiguous to actually be tenable, or they are blatantly clear that the line is drawn where the husband is asking the wife to sin. If this is true, then there is a necessary tension between the autonomy of one group of human beings (wives) and the principle of a gendered authority. (I don’t think autonomy is itself evil; it becomes evil when we want to be autonomous from God).
        It usually turns out that the value that is placed on the wife’s own autonomy comes secondary to the value placed on the husband’s authority. When there is a conflict of will in a marriage, the weight of the burden falls on the wife to subordinate her will beneath her husband’s, instead of the burden being placed on the husband to esteem the wife’s will and honor that.

        I am curious to know why we can honor the values of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as inalienable rights which are endowed by our Creator in the U.S. Constitution (or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada), but we are unable to see how these values, to whatever degree, are being undermined by the very people who are claiming to be doing the bidding of this Creator who has, as they say, endowed all people with these rights in the first place.

        In all honesty, and with the utmost respect I say this: All hierachy in marriage seems to me to be inherently abusive, as it undermines personhood. Patriarchy is simply a more brutal form of this abuse that stems from the same seed. I believe in Ephesians 5. But I believe that this submission is qualified by the previous verse that tells us to submit one to another out of reverence for Christ. This, to me, means that I have my own boundaries and individuality that is valuable and ought to be preseved, but I submit in other areas that aren’t inextricably tied to my human dignity.

        Does this make sense?

        .

      • Jeff Crippen

        Desley – Yes, your points make sense. I understand them. But I like to go back to the essence of things. Divorce for instance. Divorce is not in its essence, evil. How do I know? Because God, who is incapable of evil, divorced Israel. In the same way, I don’t believe hierarchy is evil in its essence. Why? Because there is a hierarchy in the Trinity. The Father is the Head of the Son, and the Son always submits to the Father. And the Son sends the Holy Spirit, who always does the will of the Son. It is a hierarchy. And yet in that hierarchy there is an equality of essence, while there are still 3 Persons. So hierarchy in itself does not need to de-personalize anyone. Now, you might say “but that is God. It’s different when people are involved.” And yet Scripture tells us that in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness under the U.S. Constitution, there is a hierarchy. We are to render honor to those whom honor is due and we are to submit to the civil authorities established by God (Rom 13). And that hierarchy in civil government is presented as a good thing in Scripture. Do evil people abuse it? Yes, but the moment they do, they have lost any authority God had granted them and we don’t have to obey them.

        Anyway, I do know that you and I can fully agree on at least this point — much of the head/submit business that has been going on in the church has been enabling abuse, it has been a distortion of Scripture, it has not been an example of Christ loving His church. I do know Christian couples who have beautiful marriages, where the husband is indeed loving and serving his wife, and she submitting as a person, and thriving. I know that word “submit” is a triggering word, but the fact is that it is a biblical word and therefore a good thing. Like you, I press on trying to understand it more fully. Where what is claimed to be headship and submission that is not resulting in both husband and wife thriving, growing in Christ, growing as persons and as a couple, then there is necessarily distortion due to our sin.

        Someday when we are in heaven, lets look each other up and go get this whole thing straightened out:):) “Hey, Paul, got a minute?”

      • I can appreciate your perspective, Jeff. I don’t think I will press the thing any further because I know this is not the place for that. And I know that we stand on common ground on much more than where we disagree, But yes – that Paul thing when we’re in heaven? I’m so there!

      • Isn’t it great that we will have no time limit in heaven, because I’m busting to ask Paul some questions, and I bet masses of other people are too. :) We will have eternity to listen to and discuss Paul’s answers. And it will all make perfect sense, I’m sure.

      • You know, usually when I get into a comp/egal debate with a Christian man I am very hostile and suspicious of motives. I found it refreshing to be able to talk some of the points through with a Christian man without that suspicion and need to defend myself and my sisters. I realized that this only happened because I was talking to a man who was not using male privilege to keep women under thumb and hurt them, but to protect them and defend them. It really made the difference for me.
        I still maintain my position, but I also respect yours, Jeff, and know without a doubt that you are sincere. That is HUGE. Perhaps the failure on the part of most comps to protect and defend the underprivilged is one of the biggest factors in why they are losing so many women to the egal camp? I think it might have more of a role to play than even the argument itself.

      • Just Me

        Caleigh, I agree. They are isolated and robotic, although they do appear to be happy. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I think escaping this type of spiritually abusive environment is more difficult than escaping most other abusive environments. When you’re told over and over by everyone in your life that this is what God says, and what God desires, even if it instinctually doesn’t feel right, it must be so hard to see it as untruth. You are very brave!

  3. Now Free

    In Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That?'”, he devotes an entire chapter, “The Making of an Abusive Man”. There are too many variables to list here. External forces such as popular songs, movies, other media like magazines, web sites, early training about sex roles, and of course what I think is much more important is how the child is raised in his/her home… religious beliefs, dynamics between the parents play a large role. Values passed on to the sons (and daughters) by the parents, culture, etc. etc. All play in the making of an abuser.

    Bancroft does not excuse an abuser, however, and if he is offered an excuse such as “I did it because I learned entitled expectations and the devaluing of females”… He will respond by “telling the client that he is putting old wine in a new bottle. The number one lesson you seemed to have learned is how to make excuses for abusing women. And I see that you’re still practicing it.”

    • I think many of these men (like my husband) were spoiled out of their socks and taught by their mothers/families that they can and should have everything they want and they are entitled. My ex ‘s family actually said he was perfect-they said it all the time. Made me want to gag.

  4. Not Too Late

    Caleigh, so happy for you that you managed to get out. Your courage is inspirational. Reading your post tore my heart a bit, because I could have been reading something written by my own daughter. Unlike you, this daughter seems to have taken a different road and resorts to destructive patterns to survive. I keep holding on to the small glimpses of kindness, innocence and goodness I once detected in her, but at the moment, all I see is a shell of a person who creates a false image and exploits people because she cannot trust anyone. She has removed all contact with us, although she still has contact with her abusive father, probably due to traumatic bonding. As long as there is life, there is hope; God can do the miraculous. That’s what people who have left this system need – a miracle to restore the “years that the locusts have eaten”. Otherwise, the thought that we could have created abusers is unbearable.

  5. From what I have seen in patriarchy is they have it backwards, as do most churches/pastors. It’s supposed to be that the husband represents Christ, who laid down His life for us, but how often are the wives told to do that? The wives are the ones usually doing all the sacrificing! Especially in abusive marriages! And we wonder why the marriages aren’t working!

    • That’s a great point, Lynette! I can’t count the number of times that I have asked God why it is that I as a woman always end up on the losing end of things. This doesn’t only apply to harsh patriarchy either; it applies to any gender-hierarchical system in which the wife becomes the perpetual;loser.

      I am really glad you made this point. It is so true.

    • Husbands laying down their lives for wives doesn’t work either, though- you cannot change another person through good behavior unless you are in a Disney movie.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, agreed, Jeff. I know of a pastor whose wife always used the “you are supposed to sacrifice for me” line to feed her entitlement. The poor guy had no rejoinder, since it is clearly laid out that the husband is to lay his life down like Christ laid down his life for the church. What this woman couldn’t see was that she couldn’t demand it of him, any more than an entitled, religious man can insist that his wife submit to him.

      • Well said, Anon. The scriptures can be wielded like baseball bats by any abusive spouse, whatever their gender.

        Scripture is good, true, perfect and pure. But evil minds twist it to their own ends.
        To twist the Word of God and use it for evil selfishness is high handed blasphemy.

  6. For those who may not be aware of it yet, there are a number of books about the Quiverfull movement, which is strongly related to the Christian Patriarchy movement. One is Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement

    • Barbara- It never ceases to amaze me how much evil men (and women) can distort scripture! It is all so very disturbing and sad.

  7. I coming in a little late on this one but that is what weekends are for right? :) Caleigh, You are a wonderful writer. Your story is a painful one but you have expressed yourself so well. I am so happy that you have gotten away for your abuser and that you are starting to see justice. I am praying for you and for your family, that they will all be able to get free of his grasp. I am proud of you. You are a very strong woman!

    • caleigh

      Thank you, Bethany, I appreciate it. :-)

  8. caleigh

    Reblogged this on The Profligate Truth and commented:
    This is my guest post from a week ago over at A Cry For Justice.

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