What is Christian Patriarchy? An Introduction

In a nutshell, Christian Patriarchy is the belief that God has ordained a specific family order, and that this family order must be followed. The husband leads, the wife submits, and the children obey.

There are two important aspects about Christian Patriarchy. The first is the belief in the importance of male headship or authority, and the second is the belief that men and women have vastly different roles to play. A third issue involves the role of children.

Male Authority

Christian Patriarchy holds that women must always be under male authority (or headship). A woman is never to be independent of male authority. First, she is under her father’s authority, and then under her husband’s authority.

(A widow would be under her son’s authority, or, if she had no sons or her sons were young, she would return to her father’s authority. If is not possibles possible, some argue that widow should place herself under the authority of a church elder or pastor.)

Many evangelicals use the rhetoric of “male headship” but see it as merely spiritual or figurative. For Christian Patriarchy, though, being under male authority includes obedience. This obedience is absolute; a woman is only excused from obeying if her male authority orders her to do something illegal and immoral (some dispute this, and argue that she is still required to obey, but that God won’t hold her accountable for any sins she commits at the order of her male authority).

I Corinthians 11:3 - 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.

Under Christian Patriarchy, the framework in this verse is extended to women in general. Every woman has a male authority, and that male authority looks to Christ as his authority. A woman is to obey her male authority, whether it is her father, husband, brother, or son, and he in turn is to obey Christ. By obeying her male authority, a woman is obeying God. This is seen as the natural and God-given order. 

Separate Roles

Christian Patriarchy holds that men are to provide and protect and women are to care for the home and the children. This is seen as the divine order for the family. The idea is that the two sexes are equal, but that they have different roles to play. Both roles are highly important, and neither sex can fulfill the role of the other. Men and women are simply different.

The man’s role is to hold a career and provide for his family, to protect his family, and to represent his family to the world in politics and in the church. The woman’s role is to bear children and raise them, to cook and keep house, and to support her husband, building him up as a man through her affirmation and obedience.

Hard core followers of Christian Patriarchy hold that women are never to work outside of the home in any capacity – even if their families desperately need the money. Yet just as with Quiverfull, there are plenty of families who are influenced by the ideas of Christian Patriarchy without being completely hard core. These families most often hold that married women, or married women with children, should not hold jobs outside of the home, and that it’s not women’s place to have “careers.”

Children 

Under Christian Patriarchy, all children are expected to offer their parents absolute obedience while they are minors. No disobedience is accepted, and children are taught that obeying their parents is obeying God, because God has placed them under their parents’ authority.

Daughters remain under their father’s authority until married to a man he approves of, generally through a parent-guided courtship. While under her father’s authority, it is the daughter’s duty to obey him and accept his will for her as God’s will. Many in the Christian Patriarchy movement reject college for girls, and the Stay At Home Daughter movement is growing.

Sons are under their father’s authority until they become men. The point at which this occurs isn’t so clear, but it definitely occurs sometime between when they turn eighteen and when they marry. Once he becomes a man, a son no longer need to be under male authority, and he becomes the male authority for his wife and children.

Some families in Christian Patriarchy have trouble completely letting go of their sons, however, and there is in some circles the idea that even an adult son should be obedient to, or at least highly respective of, his father’s desire. This is where you get Geoff Botkin’s 200 Year Plan (also known as Multigenerational Faithfulness).

Conclusion

The most important thing to remember about Christian Patriarchy is its emphasis on a hierarchical family order, which it regards as the natural order ordained by God. Men and women have different roles to play, the man as protector and provider and the woman as nurturer and homemaker. Women are always under male authority; daughters are to obey their fathers and wives are to obey their husbands. When everyone fulfills the role God has created for them, the family prospers.

The things I find most troubling about Christian Patriarchy are its emphasis on women offering absolute obedience to their male authorities – when you think about it, there is nothing really to differentiate this from slavery – and its emphasis on strict gender roles, which classes people by their sex rather than by their talents, interests, or abi.ities. Christian Patriarchy fails to recognize the huge diversity within each gender, and pushes people into prescribed slots based on their genitals rather than seeing people as individuals first.

The vast, vast majority of Christians do not hold to the teachings of Christian Patriarchy. In fact, many Christians actively fight against these ideas, arguing that they represent a fallen order of mankind and that Christ has ordained equality between the genders. However, it should be noted that even as some Christians fight these ideas others are unknowingly influenced by them, and that is what makes understanding the ideas behind Christian Patriarchy all the more important.

Why the Pope’s Recent Comments on Limiting Family Size Were Not Actually “Compassionate”
Crosspost: Fundamentalist Approved Feminist Literature
When We Expect More of Our Children than of Ourselves
Sorting Out the Good from the Bad
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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