Patriarchy? (Or: My Daughter Is NOT My Helpmeet)

After seeing and hearing about patriarchy in the church (broadly speaking) and how it can be an occasion for pain, tears, and abuse, I decided to look into it a bit. One resource I recently read is No Will of My Own by Jon Zens. Although I was not overly impressed with it, and don’t really recommend it (it’s very short and I disagree with some of the author’s positions and generalizations), No Will of My Own does expose some of the dangers to which patriarchy has led.

What is patriarchy? Zens answers that question listing some beliefs of the patriarchy movement, including these: “A daughter should stay at home and serve her father until he chooses a husband for her.” “The daughter is a ‘helpmeet’ for her father.” “Parents should never let their daughter out of their sight.” “…Women are inferior to men, and …should therefore obey men.” “The worth of a wife… is judged by how many babies she brings forth.” “The words of fathers and older brothers… carry more weight than the words of girls.” “In patriarchy, a man is permitted to overstep a woman’s boundaries; a woman is forbidden to overstep a man’s.” And the list goes on.

These kinds of attitudes can lead to a less than ideal setting for women/girls and can be the occasion for men to sin in heinous ways. Overbearing and abusive patriarchy, Zens writes, can deeply wound women in these ways: 1) Girls are taught to believe that they provoked their own abuse, 2) Girls are taught to take the blame for their own abuse, 3) If girls speak about the abuse, they are not taken seriously, 4) Abused girls cannot pursue and reflect on life for themselves, and 5) The offenders are excused.

I’m not at all saying that every male in the patriarchy movement is rough and abusive; cruelty and abuse can and does exist in non-patriarchal families and churches as well. I do, however, want to put up red flags when it comes to the patriarchy movement. And, more than that, if you are a pastor or elder, please watch carefully for signs of abuse in whatever context you serve. If a girl or woman comes to you or someone else in the church hinting or saying she’s been abused, please take it seriously. A girl or woman stuck in the hell of abuse (as listed in the 5 points above) desperately needs your help. It’s unbiblical – and evil! – for a man to degrade, hurt, and abuse a woman, period. There is no context and there are no words that make male cruelty, belittling, and abuse towards women acceptable.

Again, even though I don’t “highly recommend” or agree with every part of this book, No Will of My Own, it did open my eyes a bit to some dangers that can be found in the patriarchy movement. FYI, it does rely heavily on an older study called Christianity and Incest by Annie Fransen Imbens and Ineke De Putter Jonker (Fortress Press: 1992). Feel free to let me know if you have other recommended reading on this topic.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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13 comments on “Patriarchy? (Or: My Daughter Is NOT My Helpmeet)

  1. Great post, Shane! Thankyou.
    I’ll be sharing it on the A Cry For Justice FB page.

    Other resources that expose the dangers of Patriarchy in the church:

    tag for “Patriarchy” at A Cry For Justice
    http://cryingoutforjustice.com/tag/patriarchy/

    tag for “Christian Patriarchy Movement” at Spiritual Sounding Board —
    http://spiritualsoundingboard.com/tag/christian-patriarchy-movement/

    Daughter of the Reformation’s posts on Patriarchy —
    https://adaughterofthereformation.wordpress.com//?s=Patriarchy&search=Go

    Steven Tracy’s article “PATRIARCHY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
    CHALLENGING COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS”
    http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/50/50-3/JETS_50-3_573-594_Tracy.pdf

    Guest post by Persis Lorenti at The Alliance Of Confessing Evangelicals —
    http://www.alliancenet.org/mos/housewife-theologian/why-doesnt-she#.VmeBeuOGSko

    That should keep you going!

  2. I’ve done a lot of research and reading this last year. I’m working on a book on patriarchy and its influence on the Reformed world. I’d recommend some books from those who practice and teach patriarchy. Some suggestions: So Much More by the Botkin sisters, What He Has to Be to Marry My Daughter by Baucham, Joyfully at Home by Jasmine Baucham, Created to Be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl, Created to Need a Helpmeet by Michael Pearl.

    I have a longer list of ideas if you want them. Feel free to contact me.

  3. Thanks for the comments and the recommended reading! Appreciate it!
    shane

  4. Steve says:

    It sounds to me like the author is failing to understand the “leave and cleave” commands which Moses commanded and our Lord Jesus Christ repeated. As a woman /daughter gets older, the more should she be taught this principle which is officially sanctioned at the wedding ceremony.. Before I was married and still in college I found a book by David Martyn Lloyd Jones and exposition of Ephesians 5. This was of tremendous help to me and continues to be a help even to this day. I have been happily married for thirty seven years., You can check it out at https://www.google.com/? gws_rd=ssl#q=Lloyd+Jones+book%2C+ephesians+5 . I get no money for the referral.

    • Hey Steve, hope you’re doing well. Are you still in the Grand Rapids Area? We’re having a mild winter so far on this side of the Lake!

      Anyway, I’ve often missed this in that “leave and cleave” or ‘leave and hold fast” phrase – it’s actually speaking about the husband. Perhaps that is what you meant; I admit I didn’t quite understand your point (I could be slow today!).

      Also, thanks for the link – it didn’t work in your post, and I tried to fix it but can’t, sorry!

      Blessings!
      shanehttps://www.google.com/? gws_rd=ssl#q=Lloyd+Jones+book%2C+ephesians+5

      • Steve says:

        Hi Shane,
        No, I am not in Grand Rapids anymore. I am suffering down here in West Palm Beach, Florida; it has been about four years. I am sorry about the bad link. Lloyd Jones book is everywhere. I know the command is for the husband to leave and cleave but the principle is that she also is to cleave to him; it is a new nuclear family. The woman changes her child allegiance to her father and gives allegiance to the new head in her life, her husband. I remember when reading Lloyd Jones Book, Life in the Spirit, Ephesians 5, that something that stood out to me when reading it for the first time. He used this verse for the leaving and cleaving, Psalm 45:10, 11
        Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father’s house.
        The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord NASB).

  5. Truth2Freedom says:

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

  6. Angela Wittman says:

    I suppose I’m speaking as an older Christian woman (married almost 40 years to the same man, who is not a believer or a patriarch), and a concern I have is for those opposing “patriarchy” to not swing too far the other way. I’ve seen first hand how submission to my husband (even when I didn’t like it) has been used by the Lord to soften his heart toward me and Christianity. It is for this reason I take a cautious approach toward sharing articles and books written by women “exposing” the movement. And as far as daughters and fathers – I see the wisdom in young women remaining under their father’s headship until marriage. Of course, we don’t want the daughter to take the wife’s place, but she should feel comfortable knowing she doesn’t need to rush into a marriage or a “living together” arrangement. Thank you for reviewing this book and allowing comments. :)

    • Hey Angela, good to hear from you, and thanks for your comments. And “Amen!” on swinging the pendulum too far. Good points!

      I suppose it is helpful to note that someone (like myself!) can believe in male headship and leadership but not practice patriarchy.

      Blessings,
      shane

  7. […] Presbyterian Church and services as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with […]

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