Christian Patriarchy to Men: You don’t have to grow up!

What are the qualities we generally associate with maturity? The ability to see things from others’ perspectives? The ability to accept that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and that things don’t always go the way you want them to, and that you just have to deal with that? The ability to cooperate with others, to communicate and find compromises that everyone can be happy with?

Yeah, under Christian Patriarchy, a man doesn’t have to do any of that. Because he’s the head of the family, dammit!

What he says goes! God speaks to him, after all, and everyone else should listen and heed what God tells him! He’s the one who gets to make the decisions for the family, and for the children! Period! In other words, a man is allowed to act like a willful, spoiled child who always expects to get his own way. And if he doesn’t get his own way? Expect a reaction of confusion mixed with anger and righteous indignation.

It’s incredibly ironic that the movement insists on training any sort of willfulness out of children completely, but turns around and fosters it in its men. The truth is that in Christian Patriarchy men are allowed to act like spoiled children while women and children are expected to just roll over and acquiesce.

While not every man following the teachings of Christian Patriarchy will respond in the same way – there is a good deal of variation based on personality – these teachings, quite simply, are the perfect recipe for amplifying every bit of willfulness, selfishness, and inability to compromise a man might have. They amplifying all of a man’s bad qualities, and the more of these qualities a man has to start with the worse the amplification will be. A man whose tendency toward wanting his own way might have been balanced by an assertive wife will suddenly morph into a micromanaging dictator.

And the worst part is that there is no check on this.

If a woman goes to her pastor and complains that her husband is being an unreasonable dictator, she will be told that it’s her role to submit even if her husband seems unreasonable. In fact, in some cases this is what she will be told even if she goes to her parents for help.

By telling men that they are to be in charge and make the final decisions, and that God has mandated that their wives must submit and follow their lead, Christian Patriarchy creates a situation where men have no need to communicate, cooperate, or compromise. Or, you know, grow up.

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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.

  • machintelligence

    As bad as the Christian Patriarchy movement is, you can see what happens to a whole culture when it heads this direction. Take a look at Islam. (Actually the fundamentalists in all of the Abrahamic religions share this problem, and possibly other religious traditions with which I am not familiar.)

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Yeah, patriarchy is everywhere and it’s always going to foster a sense of childish entitlement in men. How could it not? It’s got nothing to do with the Abrahamic religions per se, those are just the examples that we’re most familiar with in the West. (Not that most Americans really know jack shit about Islam or Judaism but whatevs…)

  • Rob

    In my experience as a former husband in a Christian group like this — which taught an extreme form of the doctrine of submission — there is a related issue. The married men are required by the leadership to be the “heads” of their wives and families, but these same men can’t make their own decisions about their own lives (or the lives of their family members in their care) because they themselves are required to “submit” to the leadership, and thus get permission from that same leadership for everything they do. They are considered to be “in rebellion” if they dare to make decisions and take action on their own, without getting permission from the group (really, from the group leader) first. So, this is another reason why these men never grow up, never reach actual adulthood — they remain children psychologically, needing permission and the approval of others to do things that real adults can freely do, like change jobs, buy a car or house, take a vacation, you name it. They become virtually unable to make decisions on their own; they become dependent on the group and plagued with uncertainty in their own life. And then when the wife of such a man (predictably and understandably) rebels or acts out against such nonsense and won’t “submit” to him, the husband then gets accused by the leadership that controls him of being feminized, manipulated, emasculated, dominated by his wife, etc. These husbands are just as trapped by the mind-forged manacles of their bizarre beliefs as their wives are, and they are every bit as miserable. And they don’t dare talk to anyone about how all of this makes them really feel — least of all, to their wives — for fear of even more recrimination, condemnation, criticism, and so on. The whole thing is indescribably sick. But because they believe that this is how God wants it, they don’t dare leave. I know that what I am describing sounds insane to those who have never been there; indeed, it is insane and absurd to me now, looking back at it — but I remember what it was like to feel hopelessly trapped in that situation, yet terribly afraid that God would bring fierce judgment on me if I left.

    • Kevin Alexander

      ” I know that what I am describing sounds insane to those who have never been there;”

      For those of us who study evolutionary psychology what you are saying makes perfect sense.
      Other primates may live in groups but they don’t actually have anything like a society in the human sense. That demands co-operation and, unfortunately so far, that needs a leader to function smoothly. The whole dominance-submission thing is built into our genes.
      You and Libby and others have seen that this is unfair and absurd and have escaped but there are many others still trapped in it. Many if not most accept it and will testify that they are happy in it. They aren’t lying. They are just going along with their nature.
      Libby and others talk about brainwashing as the source of this but I think that the indoctrination only reinforces a natural tendency.

      • Scotlyn

        Dominance is not a necessary part of human interaction. Hunter gatherers, as described here show how play can be effectively used to counter any such dominance tendencies in humans. (I would also point to our other near relatives, bonobos, who have discovered much the same thing, only their “play” is often extremely sexual).

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Yeah, it’s not as simple as just dominance/submission. We are far from understanding the way our evolutionary past influences the way we think, despite the (frequently trumped up by popular media) claims of “evolutionary psychology,” which many evolutionary biologists and experts from other disciplines consider to be little more than a pseudo-science.

      • Caravelle

        Indeed if I’m remembering my Jared Diamond correctly (and if Jared Diamond is right), the more “primitive” (in the neutral, evolutionary-biological sense, I know you can’t really use that word neutrally but I couldn’t think of an alternative) a human society is the less hierarchical it is. Now he looks at political hierarchies, not interpersonal ones, but I think the two are linked.
        In particular band societies, the smallest unit of human society there is (and probably the most ancestral), don’t have much in the way of leaders at all.

      • jose

        Oh boy, biological determinism. You have a lot of catching up ahead of you. My recommendation.

  • ThirtyFiveUp

    Joke with a kernel of truth.
    Question to husband at 50th wedding anniversary. What was it that made your marriage successful?

    “Well, we decided long ago that I would make all the big decisions and she would be allowed to make the little decisions. So far there have not been any big decisions.”

  • perfectnumber628

    Wow this is a good perspective- I haven’t heard it put that way before- that Christian men are told that they make all the decisions and don’t have to listen to anyone else. This kind of reminds me of why I am a feminist now, and why I am questioning things that I always thought “this is the way it is because the bible clearly says so.” Because I realized that Jesus’ command to love others means listening and being humble enough to understand that my point of view isn’t the absolute right one. And that just makes way more sense than not being able to challenge/question.

  • smrnda

    The notion that even Christian men are not allowed to make decisions on their own may have just shown me, perhaps, a reason for why religions exists and what ends it serves.

    Some people can live and let people live their own lives with only as much interference as necessary. Some people can’t seem to let anyone live without providing unwanted advice. Religions probably give people like that a place where they can position themselves as leaders that everyone else is obliged to ‘humble themselves’ before and listen to their ‘wisdom.’ This is probably also why there are so many religious ‘how to’ books on every aspect of life. It’s like the culture is trying to scare people of making decisions on their own.

  • Pragmatic Atheist

    Religion is analogous to insanity.

  • WMDKitty

    That… might explain a LOT about my ex, and certainly didn’t help any when the beatings began.