Patriarchy, when it’s done right

There was a large and interesting conflict between Doug Phillips of Vision Forum and Boerne Christian Assembly (a small San Antonio church where he was pastor) and a parishioner named Jennifer Epstein, a conflict that was all about submission and asymmetrical rules. The condensed version is that Jennifer Epstein’s husband Mark had problems with anger and Phillips simply kept telling her to be more and more and more submissive; she tried to argue her case, and Phillips ended up throwing both of them and their children out of the church.

Epstein met her husband when both were in the military.

She’d thrived under military discipline, memorizing long lists of rules and regulations, willing to submit to such authority, she says, as long as she understood the reasons for the rules. That this need to understand the rationale behind regulation indicates a desire for discussion and debate more than a readiness to submit seems evident in the wake of Jennifer’s experiences at BCA, where she attempted to grapple intellectually with the logic behind the rules as she had in the Army. [Quiverfull p 110]

That’s a key point, you see, because there isn’t any. That keeps cropping up throughout the book – it’s not about logic or reasons or fairness. People frame it that way at times but only as long as it works; the bottom line is always just “God said so”; Titus 2; Proverbs 31; it’s for Jesus. You can use reasons around the edges, while the sun is shining, but god-said-so always trumps them. Always. Joyce quotes Phillips saying exactly that early on, in that Vision Forum talk.

You are a helpmeet. The Bible says that man is not made for the woman but the woman is made for the man. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the Creator, not Phillips. I’m just quoting. [p 8]

Nothing he can do, you see? It’s out of his hands. So logic is ultimately beside the point, as is thinking, as is discussion.

And that’s why it’s so foul. Humans are a discussing, reasoning, thinking species. It’s a terrible contortion and stifling of our nature to block that by claiming it’s all been decided by an absent god and the boys are “just quoting.”

Epstein never does seem to grasp that, even though she got her face rubbed in it.

She argues that patriarchy, when it’s done right, in a heart-driven, grace-inspired way, makes women want to submit to their husbands because their husbands lead the way, by loving them as Christ does, not because it’s a system imposing a set of rules from without.

But then that’s not submission! If you’re doing it because you want to, it’s not submission. It’s sprinkling flower petals on a bucket of rotting garbage, to pretend that the really nice kind of patriarchy can make women want to submit.

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