Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Disingenuousness of Patriarchy

A couple of weeks back a friend sent me a link to this article, and other than linking to it myself a couple of posts back, I wasn't gonna say much about it. But...I don't think I can remain silent, considering that this kind of short-sighted, loaded-language thinking is, in my estimation, very spiritually dangerous and very spiritually dishonest. With that in mind, I want to address a few things from the article.

I'm gonna address the loaded language and use of buzzwords, as well as the subliminal suggestions made - the stealth additions added in to the scripture quotes, attempting to use the scriptures to dishonestly promote the agenda.

For the record, I consider myself neither complimentarian or egalitarian. I'm somewhere in between, and I believe there's biblical support for aspects of BOTH viewpoints, but not for wholesale implementation of all the ideals of either side.

  • What is the opposite of submit?
  • What is the opposite of head?
  • What is the opposite of subject?
  • What is the opposite of love?
  • What is the opposite of give?

This is where it's important to study the root words in the Greek, because "submit" and "subject" both come from the Greek word "hypotasso". This is evidence to me that this article was written from agenda and emotion. With a little research, two questions would've become one.

"Hypotasso" has two meanings - 1) in military terms, it speaks to subordination, and 2) in civil terms, it speaks to voluntary cooperation. Paul wasn't addressing the Ephesian militia, so it's safe to conclude that he was counseling wives to voluntarily cooperate with their husbands. Ironically, the Greek word for "give" used in counsel to the husband is "paradidomi", which is a form of "hypotasso" in and of itself - a form of submission, a form of subjection.

The Greek word for "head" is "kephale", which has several meanings. One is the literal head that sits upon one's neck. Pretty sure that's not what Paul's getting at. Another is lord, master, prominent figure. Given one of the passages that Mrs. McDonald quotes, Mark 10:42-45, and given Jesus' stern warning that no one can serve two masters, Luke 16:13, I'm pretty positive that Paul wasn't speaking in terms of authority. The final meaning is "chief cornerstone", or the piece upon which life is built. This is the one that would apply, since woman originally physically came from man, just as the church physically comes through Christ. It isn't speaking to a position of authority. It's speaking to the root of existence. It isn't a statement of authority. It's a statement of essence.

I don't really know what purpose it serves to determine the opposite of these words and concepts, except to misdirect and serve as a thought-stopper, but just to put it out there - the opposite of "submit", in the English language, is "resist". While resist and rebel are similar words, they aren't the same word. Rebel works a lot better for patriocentrics and hyper-fundamentalists, though. Sounds more sinister and quickly jolts subordinates back in line, being that rebellion is akin to witchcraft and all. "You resistor!" just doesn't have the same ominous ring to it.

A growing number of Christians have the concept of biblical headship upside down. Too often:
1. Rebellious women want to be loved and cherished, but, do not recognize their obligation to respect and submit to their husbands. Submission is considered a weakness…rebellion, well, who is there to rebel against?
2. Rebellious men who think they are the ultimate authority, and are accountable to no one besides God, want their wives to submit and their daughters to obey, but demonstrate no obedience or accountability themselves. And sacrifice…what is that? How do you sacrifice for someone who is clearly supposed to be serving you?

In the stretch of the article quoted above, we see a very disingenuous and agenda-serving use of the words "rebellion" and "authority", two words which, as the Greek root words demonstrate above, have very little, if anything, to do with any of the scripture being discussed. Buzzwords. Thought stoppers. We even see the stealth inclusion of "daughters to obey", when not so much as a drip of the scriptures discussed mention children or their responsibilities toward parents or vice-versa. That's more than a bit manipulative as an inclusion.

Patriarchy - Father-rule (lead, love, sacrifice, provide, disciple, cherish, faithful, tender)
“For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Ephesians 5:23; 25-29, NKJV)
Patriocentric - Father-centric (selfish, demanding, egocentric, self-serving, rebellious, arrogant, lazy, harsh, tyrant)
The very fact that Jesus is given as a husband’s example of godly leadership exposes the error of true “patriocentricity.” However, while I don’t deny that this type of father/husband exists, I don’t agree that he is as prevalent as some would have us believe. Too often, I’ve seen those who adhere to biblical patriarchy (as described in Eph. 5) lumped together with egocentric tyrants.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see the word "patriarchy" anywhere in this passage of scripture, nor do I see a command for "father-rule". It simply isn't there. While she's correct that Patriocentric means father-centric, her adjectives to describe it listed inside the parentheses are manipulative and misleading. Father-centric means that all life revolves around the father, which it does in the lifestyle she promotes. She likely does nothing without his approval, his grown, yet unmarried children likely do nothing without his approval, and likely, Mr. McDonald acts as God's voice and arbiter to his family. Patriarchy (as practiced) and Patriocentricity (as practiced) are the same thing, no matter how much designer cologne you spray on one to make it less odorous than the other. There's no New Testament basis for "biblical patriarchy". None whatsoever. It's a commandment of men, and the "worship" of God through it renders that worship in vain. I would also suggest that if one of the author's daughters, as an adult, were to reject being ruled over by her father, there would be an emotional punishment and likely estrangement. I'd practically guarantee it. I'd be curious which one of the two (Patriarchy or Patriocentricity), by her own definitions, such an emotional backlash would fall under. I have my suspicions. 

As soon as we all get honest about what we believe regarding Ephesians 5 I think we’ll be able to rationally discuss biblical headship like…well, like Christians.

I'd suggest that as soon as we get honest about what passages of scripture like this one are saying...1st Corinthians 7...

 25Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
 26I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
 27Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
 28But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
 29But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
 30And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;
 31And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
 32But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
 33But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
 34There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
 35And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

...we'll see that our "sacred calling" (as suggested by Mrs. McDonald) is really only sacred in the context of our own plans for the cultural war, and not in the opinion of the guy whose writing is contorted to support "biblical patriarchy", who, although being adamant that it isn't a sin to marry, makes it clear that it's a burden and distraction. And he, speaking as one influenced by the Spirit of God, would prefer that God's people put less stock in marriage/family and more stock in placing themselves in a position to fully serve the Lord unencumbered. Spiritually. Not culturally.

I think marriage and family are wonderful, beautiful things, and those bound by marriage and family should give their very best to their spouses and children as unto the Lord, so please, no nasty comments or emails about how I'm devaluing the covenant of marriage or the importance of strong families.

I just don't like idolatry...and that's what "biblical patriarchy" and "sacred callings" are. Why not point people (especially our children) exclusively to Christ and not to Christ through daddy or a series of "godly" behaviors? To Christ alone. It's hard enough to be a spouse/parent sometimes. Why add being the god of your spouse and children to the equation?

It's terribly easy for people to turn the straight and narrow way into the straight and narrow-minded way.


  1. Thanks for making the distinction of practice. The praxis of neo-patriarchy in the home can be wholly different than the precept (whether the precepts are accurately drawn from the Bible or not).

    I love how this passage, written to the church (men AND women) distinguishes the true Head of the body: but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4)

  2. I saw her definitions of patriarchy and patriocentric to be the same, just as you did. They're the SAME THINGS!

    I love this part of the passage: "The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit:"

    So many parents (especially fathers) in patriarchal homes forget that their unmarried daughters care for the things of the Lord, NOT the father. That seems to be the way in patriarchal homes. The unmarried daughters end up serving their fathers and care for their fathers because their fathers put themselves in
    the place of God in their families. Of course, if they allow their daughters to actually care for the things of God, they lose control over them because the things of God don't always line up as the things Daddy wants.

    You are so right about it being idolatry.

    Narrow-mindedness indeed!

  3. Voluntary submission...Yes, if it was meant to be involuntary, that Paul likely would've said, "Men, make your wives submit," an interpretation that many take anyway.

    Good point about "rebel" versus "resist." Isn't "resisting" what everyone wants a wife to do if her husband is being abusive or forcing her to sin?

    What I see as the main problem with her post is that it's all about extremes rather than degrees. She doesn't say this, of course, but there's an implication that anything short of complete submission is complete rebellion. Maybe that's a good way of generally looking at our relationship with God, but our relationship with human authorities isn't so black and white.

  4. Hillary and Erika...I think that's what makes it so dangerous - the element of control necessary to uphold the system. Relinquish even a small bit of the control, and the entire system crumbles.

    Jenny...I think the extremes are necessary for them to generate the fear required to maintain control and keep the product viable. Scare people enough and you can sell them just about anything.

  5. My understanding of the metaphorical meanings of "kephale" are:
    1. prominent one or "the one on top" (this may connote authority, but "authority" is not a primary metaphorical meaning of this word)
    2. origin, source or beginning (this is where "headstone" or "cornerstone" comes in)
    3. source of provision/nourishment (this is the meaning in Ephesians 4: 15-16, where Christ is the "Head" from whom the body receives growth).

    I think the meaning in Ephesians 5:22 is probably #3, because the husband is then spoken of as "nourishing" his wife. But I love your deduction, Lewis, that since we cannot serve two masters, "authority" is probably not the meaning of "head of the wife." In any event, since the metaphor is one where "head" and "body" are used together, unity and oneness is clearly also in mind.