Christian Patriarchy

Christian Patriarchy March 20, 2009

There has been some question about my endorsement of patriarchy and rejection of feminism. I should make clear that I do not endorse patriarchy as a system of government or culture in any way separated from an integrated Catholic theology. Patriarchy on its own is no better or worse than any other secular system of government, and just as likely as any other secular system to be abused and allow for gross injustice.

Christian patriarchy, on the other hand, is a different matter. Christian patriarchy is rooted in Christian theology and anthropology. The Christian (and I should really be saying ‘Catholic’ here because loads of Christians nowadays would not accept my views) understanding of God and man is that God is our Heavenly Father. This is not a cultural construct, or merely Judeo-Christian preference, but part of the Divine Revelation rooted in Jesus Christ’s own self understanding and his revelation to us of what God is like.
The first principle is that God is our Father and we are his children. As such, the Genesis story (affirmed by Jesus and St Paul) teach that men and women are created in his image. Both are created equal in his image. Equal but different. It is not good for man to be alone. He is to cleave to his wife and become one flesh. The are to be fruitful and multiply. Man is not independent of woman and woman is not independent of man. They are not only equal, but equally co-dependent. Furthermore, their purpose as man and woman is not only to come together, but to have children, and therefore to become mothers and fathers.
One of the results of the contraceptive culture is that we have forgotten the primary purpose and mission of both men and women. It is to be mothers and fathers. This is the divine plan. This is how they come to understand themselves, one another and God. Through the sacrament of marriage this is how the majority of the human race will work out their salvation with fear and trembling. This is how they will experience love. This is how they will experience forgiveness. This is how they will experience the need for self sacrifice. This is how they will learn to co operate with God’s grace. This is how they will share in his work of creation, redemption and sanctification of the world.
It is from these foundational beliefs that patriarchy arises naturally. Patriarchy is not imposed or constructed for social purposes. It is part of the natural order. It is written into the code of what it means to be man and woman living together as husband and wife within a sacramental system.
Within this Catholic understanding of the whole mystery of marriage and what it means to be man and woman patriarchy finds its natural and perfect home. But what is that patriarchy like? It is to be rooted in self sacrifice. To whom much is given, much is required. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her. Wives be subject to your husbands as in the Lord.
Therefore Catholic patriarchy is meant to be a patriarchy of service. The loving father never asks of his wife and children anything but what is for their very best. The loving father is the ‘servant of the servants of God.’ The loving father is constantly outpouring his love and creativity and goodness in service and self giving to others, and the wife and children respond to this constant self giving with mutual respect and self giving service back again. In this way the constant self giving of God the Father is reflected and pictured within the domestic church we call the family.
This is the ideal of Christian patriarchy. That this ideal is rarely reached is clear. That the ideal is often abused is obvious. That the ideal is little understood and little appreciated we must admit. That patriarchy without Christ has led to gross abuses of power, abuse of women and abuse of children must be admitted.
Nevertheless, we do not abandon ideals because they are not reached. Whenever we are tempted to abandon a seemingly impossible ideal, or an ideal which has not been met or which has been abused we must ask ourselves a couple of questions: first of all, did we really understand the ideal to start with? Second, if we did understand the ideal, might we have come closer to reaching it? Thirdly, if we abandon the ideal, what are we going to get in its place?
I’m essentially a conservative because I believe most of the ideals we have are good. We just have not been courageous enough, or reliant on grace enough to really try them.
What did the portly prophet say? “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has not been tried.”
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