A Cry For Justice

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

A Look Inside the Mind of “Christian” Patriarchy

I (Jeff) was trained in conservative evangelical churches. The seminary I went to was conservative in its theology. Ultimately I embraced reformed theology and still hold to the reformed confessions of faith (I am a reformed baptist). Over the years in our present church (we have been here nearly 24 years now) most of the families chose to home school their children and most all of them have done a fantastic job.

But in the midst of this church culture, unknown to me, “certain persons” as Scripture warns us of “crept in among us.” They were disguised as devoted, eminent, holy Christians. They were at every church gathering. They served. It all looked great because the rest of us really were in earnest about wanting to serve the Lord in truth. We wanted nothing to do with the widespread compromise of the faith seen in so many churches then and today. That zeal for the Lord is commendable, but it must be guided by truth or it easily goes wrong.

The ones who “crept in” among us brought baggage with them. Not only personal, emotional, and spiritual baggage, but theological baggage that was a distortion of God’s truth in Christ. It was legalistic. It was used to control others and to bring praise to the ones proclaiming it. Our church is free of that now, though we must always watch and be on guard. Satan really is prowling around you know.

But my point here in this post is to share with you just a few of the indicators that, specifically, are signs that an unbiblical doctrine which I would call “patriarchy” is being promoted by someone. I look at them now and think, “Jeff, how could you have not seen these errors earlier?” There are a wide variety of reasons for our blindness to such things — the deceptive nature of the “creeps” who creep in, the erroneous teaching we have received in school, from pulpits, in the “Must have” books we read — all of which lead us into a mindset that wrongly functions on the assumption that certain basic tenets we hold to really are God’s truth, when in fact they are deceptions. I suppose a fish that lives in the ocean may well not have any idea of “saltiness” if you could talk to him about it. “Saltwater? What’s that?” The things we have been immersed in are usually not questioned. And that is dangerous.

Side note by Barb. Here is an example I found recently that illustrates how books can influence us without us even realising it.  It comes from the ESV translation of Numbers 5:19-20, which is in the passage known as ‘the ordeal of bitter water’ — the law Moses gave as a way to test whether a wife had committed adultery:

Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, ‘If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband’s authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you …

Notice that the phrase ‘under your husband’s authority’ occurs twice in that ESV translation? Now let’s look at the KJV:

And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband…

Check it in the Blue Letter Bible. The KJV’s instead of your husband is quite a valid translation. The Hebrew text can have the sense ‘under’ but it doesn’t have a word for ‘authority’ in those verses. Possibly the ESV translators used the word ‘authority’ because of the concentration of male-authority salt in their ocean.

Here are some statements that I (Jeff) have heard these patriarchists make which I hope you will be able to identify as serious error if you every hear them. Patriarchy, by the way, is the philosophy/theology that, to state it simply, men are superior to women. Husbands are superior to wives. The husband/father of the family is not only to lead his wife and children in the worship of God, but their worship of God is essentially mediated by the husband/father. God is particularly concerned with the commission He has given to the man, and the other family members are to support the man in that mission. These kinds of things to one degree or another define this false and enslaving beast we are calling patriarchy.

Listen then to these statements:

  1. “I told my wife that she must obey me.”
  2. “As the father and husband, I am the priest of my home.”
  3. “Women do not function well in the workplace because they should never be in the workplace. They are to be workers at home.”
  4. “Well, you know what women are like.”
  5. “You say that you are worried about a guy flirting with your wife? Well, you need to fight for your marriage. Fight for your wife. She is YOUR wife.” [Note: that sounds good, and I suppose if stated by the right person it would be. But what a patrarchist means by “she is YOUR wife” is that she is YOUR property].
  6. “When a guy’s wife works at a job and makes a salary, he has to watch out because she will start getting pretty independent.”

I am sure there were more of these kinds of statements made over the years, but these are some of the more typical ones. No doubt you all can provide some more examples in the comments here.

A wife, you see, in such a warped and twisted system (all “supported” by the warping and twisting of Scripture of course) really is no different than a child when it comes to her relationship to her husband. This is one of the errors you will find in the Puritan writings on marriage and family (though there is MUCH sound doctrine and practice to be gleaned from the Puritans as well). The wife is one of the children you see.

Now, all of this created an inner conflict in me and in others in the church, though it was sometime before we realized it was there. A conflict I say because I did not relate to my own wife in this manner. I would never have told her “you must obey me,” or claim some kind of exalted priesthood for myself. My wife has worked outside the home most of our marriage and I am very glad that she now has some great job skills that are benefiting us, all the while ministering in the music ministry of our church faithfully all these years on top of that. I have never viewed her as “my property.” And yet — here is the catch — I suppose for some years until the lights really came on for me about all this, I felt guilty to an extent for not being “the kind of man God calls me to be.” Or rather, the kind of tyrant the patriarchist creeps insist that God calls me to be. I hated going to men’s conferences (still do) because I could not relate to what was being taught in most all of them.

Turns out I hated them because they so often promote some aspect at least of “men are superior to women.”

Well, here is my point. Watch out for those kinds of statements such as I have listed here and recognize them for what they are. They are clues that a perversion of the good Word of God has come in among you. And be sure of it, if it is not opposed and rejected, it WILL spread among you. It will create an oppressive, legalistic, bondage-making culture in your church.

Ultimately we did see it. We did confront it. And as a result our church is much smaller now numerically. But if I could do it all over again, I would have openly and firmly exposed and confronted it right on the spot. “Hold it! Stop right there! Hey everyone, let’s sit down and talk about what this fellow just said. He commanded his wife that she must obey him. He claims to have a Scripture verse for that. Let’s search Scripture and see why he is wrong and why he is distorting God’s Word.”

 

18 Comments

  1. The Blogging Beth

    Oh oh! I have two to add! These were both hammered into my by my parents growing up in an IFB home.

    1- “You cannot have a job while married because that means you will be working under a male boss and you can’t do that because your husband is already your boss and the boss that’s most important.”

    2- “Your sole job as a woman & and wife is to make his job and life better and easier. Period. End of story.”

    These still make me cry thinking back to all the lies I was taught and how to this day they’re still clinging to me even though I’m trying to break free.

    • Anonymous

      “These still make me cry thinking back to all the lies I was taught and how to this day they’re still clinging to me even though I’m trying to break free.”

      The Blogging Beth, it’s so heartbreaking and true! And as Jeff stated, he too was imprisoned with this wrong teaching. The evil one is at work all the time keeping us enslaved to one lie or another, and when we finally wake up to the truth of it, the healing seems to comes in bits and pieces because once we uncover one lie we believed to be truth, we find that our entire foundation was a tapestry of lies interwoven with truths that we need to allow God to lovingly undo and restore with HIS design and his pattern. There is NO WAY to rush this process and most of us here have been forced to let go of all these old ways of thinking. Thank you!

  2. Great post. I didn’t grow up in patriarchy (I guess my family of origin was more of a matriarchy), so I wanted to run to partriarchy when I found it 25 or so years ago, when it was all the rage at the homeschool conventions. It was my wise husband who said no, he didn’t want to have that kind of family, he didn’t want to be that kind of husband. I continue to thank God for what He spared me from even though in my foolishness I would have pursued it.

  3. Anonymous

    As is often the case when I read the posts on this website, I start writing my response before I have read it in its entirety. So when I went back and read the whole article, I was encouraged to see that we ended up with similar thoughts. The same spirit working in us and all that (for real!)….so here’s what I had written prior to reading the end:

    I remember when God was forcing me to wake up to His truth through His word. I’d been kept so childish in my thinking by church teaching that focused on the length of a woman’s hair or how long or short her skirts should be or that a woman should never raise her voice above a whisper or other INANE things that kept my focus on how others PERCEIVED me rather than my relationship with Jesus through His word.

    I think that’s why I’m so enthralled with the many zombie apocalypse movies and TV shows that are available today. In the zombie apocalypse world, all the garbage like this is tossed out the window and you are forced to deal with reality or to die and become like an evil one. Either of these two horrific options is enough to motivate people like me to choose what really matters. If I don’t want to become a zombie, I need to die in such a way that ensures that I am truly dead. (Where do I want to end up after I die–walking the earth “dead” and harming others–or to die in such a way as to ensure I will NOT be the walking dead?) And while I’m alive, I don’t have time for worthless things like dress length or how soft my long hair is–I want to be surrounded by trustworthy people who are not evil and who are willing to love me and who also have my back just like I do theirs. It totally keeps things in perspective.

    Although some days I resent being forced to see the truth that God has written for us in his word about the end times, now that I know about it, I’m also very grateful. It just would’ve been nice to have been RAISED with the truth instead of childish lies that force us to live in a box. Lies about worshiping all male humans as God without any discernment or testing of their spirits as the bible tells us, or forcing women to act like little children in order for men to feel strong and powerful. Thank you AGAIN Jeff and Barb and ALL the people here at ACFJ who moderate and contribute–this “problem” of living in the end times ain’t gonna go away so we all need a place to come and rest and seek and speak the truth that God has shown us through His word and in our lives–we will need this truth even more so as we get deeper into them (the end times).

  4. BetterEquipped

    These things ought to be taught to women and men, especially women, before marriage. Teaching women how to see character correctly, learning to recognize the red flags, key code words of ‘patriarchalese’, and learning how to be assertive or confrontational about it. A ‘before you say I do’ book should be written!

  5. Lea

    I think its incredibly disturbing that people will openly talk about patriarchy in the church. Someone the other day wrote about all the abuse in church and how he was very sad about what was going on, but in the comments someone commented negatively on the patriarchy and he said something like ‘it is in the bible’. I mean, so is murder. Honestly.

    I have moved to an entirely liberal denomination so it’s not an issue for me. And I am thankfully every day that my dad was nothing like these men.

    • It is factually true that the Bible uses the word ‘patriach’ to describe Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The word ‘patriach’ in the Bible does not connote something sinful — it’s not used like the word ‘murder’ or any other heinous sin.

      The difficulty we have today is that the word ‘patriarch’ in the Bible has a different meaning from how it is used in modern-day discourse. In feminism, the word ‘patriarchy’ has only negative connotations. But in the Bible the word doesn’t have negative connotations. It is wrong to say that ‘patriarchy’ is always a bad thing… we need to carefully state what we mean when we are using that word. If people don’t carefully distinguish between the word as used in the Bible and the word as used in feminism and modern liberal thought, the discussion quickly hits roadblocks and potholes.

      • E

        Yes! Reading older literature (over a hundred years old), I could see the word “patriarchy” was being used differently today by conservative church people AND feminists. I looked up the definition in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, and the connotations are different than modern usage as well.

        In the older literature, a “patriarch” (referring to a then-current male) did not have the entitled sense of a system or rulership, but was simply the designation for the oldest living member of a family group, and family did often defer to him out of kindly respect, not because he was “running a patriarchy”. In the same literature, the oldest woman would be called the “matriarch.” The terms were not used in ways that include much of modern baggage for the word.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you for pointing this out. Here’s what the word means as it is used in Hebrews 7:4 when it says, “Now consider how great this man was — even Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the plunder to him!” http://biblehub.com/greek/3966.htm

        It’s more simply used to describe a person who started a tribe or family (founder of a tribe, progenitor) with progenitor meaning, “a person or thing from which a person, animal, or plant is descended or originates; an ancestor or parent.”

        How evil men have used this as their “right” to abuse and have twisted the meaning to say that ALL men should ALL be worshiped and have ALL control over every aspect of the lives of people who “belong” to them. This sounds an awful lot like something SATAN would say. Shocking! That those who BELONG to him (John 8:44) should perpetuate this evil. Oh wait, not shocking AT ALL, just sssooooooo typical!

  6. JesusmyJoy

    These recent posts are so very good and informative. We know a situation where the adult daughters, some in their later 20’s and early 30’s, are not allowed to own cars because it would make them too independent. These adult daughters may only live at home under their father’s authority until they get married, if or when the father approves of a suitable husband (one he can control in his patriarchal kingdom). The daughters can only work for their father or do childcare or housework for certain friends or relatives. Even the married sons cannot function or make independent life decisions without their father.

    This whole evil of patriarchy is so perverted and enslaving it is good to see it being addressed and exposed for the false doctrine it is. We have seen so much real damage and abuse because of it. Although we never fully bought into it, our family is extremely sorry that for too long we were influenced by patriarchy in the churches and home schooling groups we were involved in. Praying that God will continue to bring His light to shine and expose this man-centered, controlling, and unChristlike mentality and the awful consequences which are the result. We are so thankful for the way He is using this ministry, A Cry for Justice, to do just that. It has been eye-opening for us and gives us information to share with others.

  7. Rosie

    I agree with your post. The longer I am away from false teaching, the clearer my thinking becomes. I am grateful for you all posting here. I was falsely taught the reason Eve was tempted by Satan in the garden is because she was weaker emotionally. So the error started toward the beginning & kept growing & maligned & jaded everything else being taught. When I’d question or challenge their thinking, I was told that this was a blind spot of mine, that I was a “daughter of Eve.” That I needed my stronger, wiser husband & church leaders to guide & direct. My thought was, “What about each believer being indwelt by the Holy Spirit? God guides us & reveals Himself to each of His children directly.”

    I wasn’t the only one who questioned their erroneous teaching & was told, “[so & so] studied the Bible a lot longer……so they know what they’re talking about, you don’t.” This is another place where the gender card would be played. How could I possibly know what I’m talking about, being a woman & all?

    I’ve wondered too about the mindset of making wives to be as children to their husbands – it seems like a twisted, sick perversion regarding sex & intimacy. I’ve seen women who are under this false teaching comment about how they LOVE for their husbands to read to them from the Bible & explain it. It’s sickening.

    I’m so glad to be away from receiving those doses of poison on a weekly basis. I pray for others still there, who are blind (those fish in salt water – love that analogy), that God’s truth will speak louder through His written Word by the power of the Holy Spirit than any man can speak.

    • Hi Rosie,

      Welcome to the blog! We like to encourage new commenters to check out the New User’s Info page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      Again, Welcome!

  8. nowamfoundatlast

    yeah like this is new.

  9. Barely Reformed

    I looked up Numbers 5:19-20 on Biblegateway, and the ESV is not the only one to render those verses as “under authority”. The NKJV, the Holman, the RSV and NRSV, and most interestingly, the NASB all have the same thing. The ASV renders it “being under thy husband”. Others akin to the KJV are the Amplified, the CEB, the 1599 Geneva, the ISV, the MEV, and the Orthodox Jewish Bible. There are others I could name on both sides, especially the former. I am no Hebrew scholar, so I have no idea which is the most accurate translation, but the ESV crew may have been influenced by plenty of preexisting versions.

    • BibleBullet

      I looked it up in my NKJV. It has the word “authority” in italics, which indicates that the actual word in Hebrew for the English isn’t actually there. Just FYI.

  10. Gothard Survivor

    Rebecca Davis, homeschooling yuck! I homeschooled our daughters all the way through and though I enjoyed making up the programs and seeing them learn I hated the culture of it. And speaking of patriarchy, I also hated that I had no choice in whether I homeschooled or not. It was just another decision I had no voice in.

  11. Karen

    I was engulfed in the patriarchy mindset in a Baptist church. My husband considers himself the priest and lord of our home, so it is hierarchy based. His hatred and distain for women in general disturbs me greatly, believing we are stupid and ‘don’t have our theology right’ for satan tempted Eve in the garden because she was the ‘weaker of the two’ in every area of life. I can relate to the commenter above when reading of Eve being the “more emotionally immature of the two.”

    I no longer belong to that Baptist church, nor do I desire to sit under my husband’s guest preaching performances. In our home, we would have family devotions where my husband would choose Scripture text to read and it was up to the family to ‘have discussion.’ What I learned during those fake devotional times were this: the wife (myself) was coerced (encouraged) to share my belief concerning the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. In most instances, my husband “correct” my interpretation and tell us all what the verses “really meant.” All this was done in front of our children and became a very demeaning and embarrassing time for me, who at that particular time, believed that I must be very stupid in not seeing the vast wisdom and knowledge of God that my husband ascribed too.

    Our children learned much earlier than myself, to remain silent, sitting in anticipation to run off the minute the prayer was finished. I too, finally learned that whatever I said was in most cases “wrong” and sometimes my husband would laugh/mock me, shaking his head. It was humiliating and embarrassing for me and one of the fruits of such evil behavior is that my children began doing as their patriarchal father does. And it hurts as I’m seen as the stupid one.

    Unfortunately, there are other wives back at that Baptist camp who are experiencing the very same oppression, degradation, many of whom are experiencing depression. I have yet to meet a Baptist pastor that regards women as highly as Jesus does in the Gospels. There will be much to answer for one day when He comes again. His living water brings me joy, while my husband’s instruction causes spiritual death.

  12. Donald Byron Johnson

    One aspect of patriarchy for me was that it is presented as another “obvious truth from God’s Word” (TM). Any other possibility is simply not discussed, I did not even KNOW there was another way to understand Scripture.

    Another aspect for me was that essentially ALL the teachers that I knew and respected at that time taught it. Could it even be possible that they were ALL so very wrong?

    These were some huge hurdles that stopped me from even considering that there MIGHT be an alternative that was not junk.

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