The Threat of Christian Patriarchy

The Christian patriarchy movement is a fast growing fundamentalist/evangelical movement that is not easy to define.  While mainstream media has     drawn attention to the Quiverfull movement and pop cultural representations of this lifestyle, such as the famous or infamous (however you want to phrase it) Duggar family from 19 and Counting, there are other branches of the patriarchy movement which are not well known nor well researched. Therefore, for the next few blog posts I’m going to try to break down the various organizations associated with the Christian patriarchy movement to help us better understand why mainstream Christian society should be alarmed by the practices and Biblical interpretation of this movement.  I can see some readers wondering why it’s so important to understand a fringe faction. The danger lies when the fringe becomes the norm. I’ve written in earlier posts about how we have debated gender roles in Christian culture for centuries and the threat continues to narrowly define the role of men and women in Christian culture. Walk into any mainstream Christian bookstore or browse on Amazon for Christian literature for men and women, and I guarantee you won’t find many books geared toward the working, Christian mother or the stay at home dad. Instead you’ll see books about women being gentle, nurturing spirits with the role of women most often defined by her family and marriage – not by her career or a combination of her career, faith and family. This is where the influence of the Christian patriarchy movement is becoming mainstream. If mainstream evangelical authors such as Dobson and the Eldredges’ write books that support narrowly defined concepts of gender (which they do), then the fringe becomes (or is becoming) the norm. Thus, we must understand the Christian patriarchy movement if we are going to be able to discern how this movement is influencing mainstream, pops culture Christian thought.

The movement first began to gain traction in the late 1980s through the writings of anti-feminist Mary Pride and her book The Way Home: Beyond Feminism and Back to Reality. Pride preached that the decline of the Christian family was a result of women seeking jobs outside the home and allowing other people to have control of their children’s schooling and upbringing.  Pride’s book was a push back against what the Christian patriarchy movement calls the influences of feminism and secular humanism. According, to Pride, women are encouraged by the feminist movement to give up their God-ordained role as homemakers and mothers and enter the work force.  This notion of secular humanists out to destroy the Christian family still propels the movement today. In a recent documentary The Monstrous Regiment of Women this concept is reaffirmed by an interview with a stay at home mother Jennie Chancey, who is listed as part of the organization “Ladies Against Feminism.” Chancey notes, “The goal of feminism from the beginning has always been to change the family unit. We don’t want the father in charge earning the bread; the mom staying at home with the kids. We want it flipped. We want mom to go out into the workforce. In fact, we’d rather have both parents gone and the children in the hands of the state, and again that just traces right back to Marxism and socialism, and socialism is far better for the state to run everything and decide how our lives will be then for individual families to have that autonomy.” That is a slippery slope fallacy if I ever heard one!

Historically Pride’s book could be called the beginning of the organized Christian patriarchy movement. Soon after Pride’s book came out Nancy Campbell, and her husband Colin founded the international organization Above Rubies. Originally based out of New Zealand, the Campbells support Christian patriarchy and publish a free magazine encouraging male headship, motherhood, natural family planning and parenting and other concepts associated with the Christian patriarchy movement. While the Campbells’ organization is not specially part of the better-known Quiverfull movement, it definitely is supportive of concepts embraced by Quiverfull adherents.
As I begin to outline and explore this movement, I do not want anyone to believe that I am opposed to stay at home mothers. I am opposed to the idea that women MUST be stay at home mothers, that they cannot be called by God to both work and have children and that there is only one God ordained role for each gender. As a researcher, I strive to draw attention to alarming rhetoric and trends in Christian culture, and I hope that this series of posts will begin discussion on what it means to define gender from a Christian perspective.

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4 thoughts on “The Threat of Christian Patriarchy

  1. Having been a mother who alternately “stayed at home” and worked part time during financial crises, I can identify with many of the issues you brought out in this installment. The “guilt” that was placed on young mothers during the hey-day of the quiver full movement was sad. During the recession of the 80’s, I watched my husband try to catch fish in the middle of a frigid winter to feed our family. How could I remain home and not use the skills and brains God gave me to help my family? Yet, I still felt imposed guilt because I wasn’t home with my children around the clock. Yet, Dorcas has always been my favorite Bible character. She was a savvy business woman, hard worker and charitable.
    We then believed homeschooling was the answer to our children succeeding in this corrupt world. Homeschooling proved to be a wonderful experience for our family….or so we thought. We have one adult child who feels he was short changed (though that is a fairly recent revelation he revealed in his 30’s) and one who feels she had a wonderful childhood.
    I guess where I am headed is ….people seem to look for formulas and distinct “plans of action” to solve lifes difficulties. These things come and go. The conclusion I have had to come to is seek the Lord, read His word and weigh every new “fad” against His Word.

  2. Excellent. I’ve been looking for something exactly like this that defines and critically analyzes the stances of patriarchy movement. I’ve read some quality exegesis on the Christians for Biblical Equality blog, but I have a feeling that your analysis will be more systematic, and I’m really looking forward to reading it. I’m especially interested in the way children are channeled into their “God-ordained” roles.

    As a side note, I’m the mother to 2 children. I’ve been at home (no income earned) with them, worked full time, and worked part time. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can be a good mother no matter what my employment status. As long as I’m obedient to God’s call in my life–including his call to my “outside the home” teaching vocation–it doesn’t matter one lick what anyone else thinks.

  3. I am concerned that preordained roles become concrete with no flexibility as life circumstances change. My wife was a stay at home mother while our children were small. That was her choice. As they became older she went back teaching part time which she enjoyed and now with our kids all left home she is working virtually full time.
    I become annoyed when others label others as christian or not a good christian or not even a christian at all based on their own interpretation of what a “good” christian does or does not do.

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