Worshiping the Man: Christian Patriarchy as Idolatry

I just realized something that should have been obvious a long time ago. Christian Patriarchy is idolatry.

See, Sarah Over the Moon recently wrote a piece in which she argued that picturing God as male, in the shape of a man, and speaking of him as king or father is idolatrous because it makes God into a man, brings God down to an earthly level, instead of understanding God as “an analogy that aids human understanding and breaks earthly power structures.” In other words, patriarchy lowers God to man. The opposite is also startlingly true: patriarchy makes man into God.

Let me make this painfully obvious with a couple of perhaps startling quotations. This one is from a young woman who grew up in a Christian Patriarchy family and newly married:

My loyalties have had to undergo a change. I was used to thinking Dad knew best. Now I needed to learn to think that Pete knows best. I used to do things and invest my time in projects according to what I knew Dad would want me to do. Now I needed to be guided by what Pete wanted me to do. When faced with a problem or option I couldn’t think “What would Dad have done in this situation?” Now I had to think “What would Pete do in this situation?” These were exciting times and difficult as during this state of flux—learning to replace one man’s vision with another—the devil would come around and say, “But what about what you want? What about what you think?”

You know that old fad from the 1990s, those “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets? In Christian Patriarchy the reason becomes “what would daddy do?” or “what would hubby do?”

Here’s another quotation, this one from a marriage guide:

The Scriptures say a woman must ignore her “feelings” about the will of God, and do what her husband says.  She is to obey her husband as if he were God Himself. She can be as certain of God’s will, when her husband speaks, as if God had spoken audibly from Heaven! 

I could wrap this post up right here and right now. The literature I read as a child repeated these things over and over again. I was told that when I obeyed my father and his desires for me, I was obeying God. When I did something in my father’s timing, I was doing it in God’s timing. When I submitted to my father’s will, I was submitting to God’s will. This was all true because my father was listening to and directly hearing from God. Therefore, my father’s beliefs, and my father’s plans for my life, must come from God.

Christian Patriarchy put my father in the place of God. It made his will God’s will and his views God’s views. Pleasing my father and pleasing God became one and the same thing. Believing what my father said was synonymous with believing what God said. Disobedience to my father was disobedience to God. My father’s voice and God’s voice had somehow combined and become one.

And it wasn’t just me. This happens over and over and over again in Christian Patriarchy, for wives as well as for daughters. And you know what? This isn’t something that happens accidentally! It’s what is preached in the marriage manuals and booklets! Obey your father/husband! By doing so you are obeying God! Over and over and over again!

And let me repeat this one line, because I think it’s important, and it is something that is overtly stated again and again in the manuals and advice books of the Christian Patriarchy movement:

Pleasing my father (or later, husband) and pleasing God became one and the same thing.

Christian Patriarchy is idolatry. It is worshiping man in the place of God because it equates an individual man’s will and views to God’s will and views. God and man combine and become one, and the women are left trying to swim in a swirling cloud of authority where what is human and what is divine has become too closely related to separate and even, indeed, one and the same.

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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.


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