By this point, many proponents of “Biblical patriarchy” — and I hope you folks are being good Christian sports and still reading! — might have already begun skimming and missing things.
As I said yesterday, one of these things is the truth that many Christians do reject man-made selfish “dating” and also dislike patriarchalists’ preferred methods of arranged-marriage-esque “courtship.” One can say that as often and as graciously as possible, and patriarchalists simply won’t engage with a balanced marriage-minded-courtship-with-dating-allowed view.
I’d like to assume the best and conclude that they’re just distracted by shiny spiritual objects.
But at worst — it’s proven true before — they simply refuse to get it, at least not yet.
Why? That’s the topic of tomorrow’s column. But for now I can say this: not in the age of the internet and easy-access data about false beliefs can patriarchy teachers easily claim ignorance.
Unfortunately, those who promote patriarchalist-style autocracy also transfer their control-the-family tendencies into control-the-debate tendencies. And those who’ve delved more deeply into the issue often expose this control on their blogs and sites, often because they have more experience with standing up for what Scripture actually does and does not say.
On many patriarchalists’ anti-feminism-pro-”femininity” sites, I can’t find any straight-up debate about whether patriarchy is superior to Biblically based complementarianism. So far all I’ve seen are responses to a much simpler and easier-to-rebut feminist beliefs, such as professing Christians who ask (honestly or challenging) “what’s such a big deal about modesty” or espouse overtly feminist ideals. And for those who claim the “patriarchy” movement is legalistic, patriarchalists respond with suspicion, as if everyone who cries “your patriarchy is legalistic” is surely pushing for license and lack of Biblical discernment.1
So to learn more about whether “Biblical patriarchy” is really Biblical, one must look elsewhere.
Have Christians already been dealing with this issue? Yes, and these responses haven’t just been from professing Christian feminists who want to put women pastors into pulpits.
Last year I spent several hours in a crash-course review of patriarchalism and patriocentrism, courtesy of blogger and web-activist Karen Campbell (aka “thatmom”). In fall 2007, Campbell recorded a nine-part series of podcasts focusing on the issues. Along with guest and a fellow homeschooling mom named “Spunky,” and Don Veinot of Midwest Christian Outreach, Campbell addressed the issue with humility and orthodoxy. Gently but directly, they questioned patriarchalist teachings, presented the most outrageous quotes from patriarchalist leaders’ statements and books, and showed how such ideas are not only utterly foreign to Scripture, but directly contradicted — especially when it comes to the belief that a father is equivalent to a representative or “priest” between God and his family.
These Christians’ grace-based care and Biblically based reasoning might surprise any patriarchy proponent who’s been paying attention. No one on that podcast, or among many former-patriarchalist moms and other Christian bloggers and critics, has swung to the opposite extreme and demanded women preach from pulpits and guys stop being their families’ leaders.
Instead, Campbell and others believe in and love the husband/wife roles found in Ephesians 5: 22-33 and other passages. Patriarchalists don’t seem to get this, or refuse to see: sorry, but one can oppose your views and not be a bra-burning, abortion-advocating Godless feminist.
However, one can oppose feminism while also being a wimpy, leadership-obsessed, chest-thumping chauvinist.
I’m not saying all patriarchalists promote this. But do they discourage it?
Maybe a patriarchy preacher could avoid the debate by pointing out that many who oppose their teachings are women. But notwithstanding Don Veinot’s research into the topic (last I checked, he was a man), let’s turn the large homeschooling tables: an equally committed cabal of women are promoting “patriarchy.” On blogs and at conferences, they’re equally avid evangelists for the Christianity add-on as the men. So what’s the difference?
Sometimes I do wish many Biblical complementarian teachers would directly disavow patriarchy in the way it’s meant by Vision Forum and other homeschooling-bent leaders. So far my guess is not that they are okay with that kind of patriarchy, but simply aren’t aware of that particular danger. Say the name “Vision Forum” to an average, mature Christian man — as I’ve done myself — and you get a blank look. That’s great, if the person is solid; yet it can be risky if you’re, say, a newbie homeschooler, too easily impressed by all those “perfect” families.
However, here’s one possibility — maybe all those complementarian husbands, fathers, pastors and theologians are just different like this: they don’t feel compelled to obsess over the subject of their own manly manliness to think they’re masculine God’s way or loved by Him.
One of the more comical and yet sobering aspects of patriarchalism is their obsession with Manliness to the point of constant gazing at their own (presumably hairy) navels.
If some women may be deceived into becoming feminists, some men just as eagerly believe others’ lies, or their own lies, and become masculists.
Either error results in forsaking Biblical roles for men and women, husbands and wives. And either puts the focus on playing your role, being who you’re supposed to be or who God made you to be, not on the God Who will not give His glory to another and Whose light we reflect.
Some men try to look all “manly” with big guns, big chests, beer and/or skanky women and/or disgusting accessories on their trailer hitch posts. It’s stupid — a caricature of the real thing.
Others have as many children as possible, and dominate their families. And that is worse.
Patriarchy leaders talk a lot about chivalry, being strong, being manly, women-and-children-first-like-it-was-on-the-Titanic. But that particular emphasis stands tall, strapping and in weak contrast to its lack of reminding husbands to serve their wives and children in other ways.
This reminds me of a quote from (I may get in trouble for this) a certain “superhero” sort of character from the critically appraised classic film Hellboy II: The Golden Army:
HELLBOY: I’d give my life for her. But she also wants me to do the dishes!
This ironically contradictory attitude is perhaps no more evident than in the often over-the-top admiration heaped on patriarchalist husbands by adoring wives, or the image the husbands publicly project of themselves. Are not the men allowed to honor their wives just as much and praise them for their love for Christ, not just their happy-homemaking skills?
But it becomes far worse than that. Last year I learned that a “Manliest Man” online contest sponsored by the Old Spice company was won easily by one of the patriarchalists’ poster guys. To support the eventual winner, the entrant’s wife, herself a popular patriarchy-promoting author/blogger/speaker, wrote a 600-word essay praising his manly virtues and his manly accomplishments and his manly idealism and his manly family-caring manliness.
Reading this page for the first time, I voiced aloud a let’s-prove-this suggestion: I’d like to play “Where’s Waldo?” with this woman’s material promoting her husband. Only, instead of looking for Waldo, let’s look for Someone else’s Name.
Read it through yourself. See if He’s there. Even a brief mention would be nice.
No. Christ receives no credit. You might think we’d at least hear about His Father.
(Tomorrow: why don’t they get it, and how can we avoid their errors and better love Christ?)
- Searching patriarchalist websites for articles or products about the dangers of legalism or chauvinism won’t turn up much besides decrying critics. Evidently they expect people to learn elsewhere about the dangers of legalism when one has skipped past the truths of God’s grace? ↩