Vision Forum: The Giant of the Christian Patriarchy Movement

While there are numerous organizations I would consider part of the Christian patriarchy movement one of the largest and most disturbing organization is Dough Phillip’s Vision Forum. Vision Forum’s influence is vast in evangelical and fundamentalist culture.  The organization has its own homeschooling curriculum, devotional materials for men and women, homeschooling conferences and the popular San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, which is Phillip’s brainchild. Perhaps, the name of the film festival doesn’t ring a bell, but if you follow Christian media at all you have probably heard of movies such as Facing the Giants and Fireproof – both of which are endorsed by Vision Forum Ministries.

In addition, Doug Phillips has been on the most vocal advocates for the Stay at Home Daughters movement. This movement encourages girls to stay at home until they marry. Girls are homeschooled, taught domestic arts and leave the decision of who marry up their father.  As Phillips notes on the Vision Forum website the mission of his organization is to fight against culture’s corruption of what he perceives to be the Biblical family. As he notes, “Every age has its defining crisis. Sin is always at the heart of the crisis. But the manifestation of sin expresses itself differently from age to age. The defining crisis of our age is the systematic annihilation of the Biblical family. The family was the first institution created by God and blessed by Christ during His earthly ministry. It is God’s primary vehicle for communicating covenant promises to the next generation. It is the basic agency of dominion on earth. Within the context of the family, the father is the God-ordained vision communicator. Minimize the father and the family will perish. Minimize the family and you have neutralized the church. The sad truth is that broken and weak families are the norm even within the most conservative and doctrinally orthodox church assemblies. This is in large part due to the death of Biblical patriarchy with its emphasis on father-directed vision, leadership, and self-sacrifice.” What is most disturbing about Vision Forum is its influence in evangelical Christian society. I doubt many evangelicals realize that Stephen Kendrick who produced Facing the Giants and Fireproof supports the beliefs of Vision Forum. Vision Forum has recently released their 2010 ministry report and included among the accomplishments they have achieved this year is hosting a “Baby Conference” remembering the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill release, and, in their opinion, the year the Biblical family began its decline. Michelle Duggar was honored at this conference for commitment to raising and producing a large Christian family. Other accomplishments include a 14th annual celebration dinner of the Christian Boys and Men Titanic Society. As the Vision Forum annual report notes, “The society seeks to honor the sacrifice of men and boys who gave their lives in 1912 when the Titanic sank to save women and children. The society stands for the proposition that strong must sacrifice for the weak and that great love hath no man than he lay down his life for another” (p.60-61).

If those statements from the annual report aren’t enough to convince you of the organization’s strong Christian patriarchy ties then perhaps the first two points from the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival will do the trick. As Phillips notes the festival seeks to “To encourage the production of films which inspire the highest ideals, the clearest and most noble biblical values, and which do so with a commitment to holiness. To motivate the next generation of Christian filmmakers to create “epistemologically self-conscious films” — films that reflect a distinctively and presuppositionally biblical worldview. We want our applicants to strive to bring “into captivity every [frame] to the obedience of Christ.”

Read on their own these statements don’t sound too bad, but let’s look at the broader rhetorical implications behind this statement – “Films that reflect a distinctively and presuppositionally biblical worldview” and films that “inspire the highest ideals.” Each of the films this festival has highlighted and gives awards to are very anti-egalitarian and down right illogical. One film I am currently working on for a rhetorical study of is called the Monstrous Regiment of Women, which won the “Jubilee Award” (essentially the same as the Oscar’s best picture award) in 2007. This film take its title from a pamphlet John Knox wrote in the sixteenth century against female Catholic rulers in England and Scotland who were persecuting Protestants. The film has translated Knox’s sixteenth century issues with Catholicism into a rant against feminism and egalitarianism in the 20th century. The film takes Knox’s views out of context and distorts the message of Scottish historians portrayed in the film to fit its agenda. I will go into more detail about this film in later posts as my analysis of it continues. However, the most important rhetorical point to note from Vision Forum is that they are not proposing their view is one of many ways a Christian family can function. They are saying it is the ONLY way. The more I look at the theology behind the Christian patriarchy movement the more evident it becomes that is an extremely fundamentalist Reformed interpretation about God pre-ordaining Christians to fulfill certain roles in this world. Similar to the radical views of pre-destination and spiritual calling of Westboro Baptist. The Christian patriarchy movement presents the view of Christianity and family as the only way a true Christian can live.  While Westboro Baptist is written off as a crazy sect, the views of the Christian patriarchy movement are much more subtle. My greatest fear is that by using film, media and other mainstream Christian culture platforms that the radically fundamentalist views of this movement will begin to chip away at evangelical culture. Evangelical Christians must begin to research and understand the views of organizations such as Vision Forum, Above Rubies and the Quiverfull movement if we want to preserve our diverse doctrinal heritage and acceptance of egalitarianism with Christian culture.

Recommended reading and links (not endorsing any of the views of the website, but highly endorsing Mark Noll’s book:

Mark Noll’s  Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

Vision Forum

San Antonio Christian Film Festival

Monstrous Regiment of Women

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2 thoughts on “Vision Forum: The Giant of the Christian Patriarchy Movement

  1. The bonds of “Christian” patriarchy can be subtle. I know many people who buy into them without understanding what they are really endorsing, let alone the people who DO understand and perpetuate it anyway. Have you heard the Sanctus Real song “Lead Me”? I can’t count the number of mainstream evangelical friends I have to sing it without really analyzing what it’s saying. It basically infantilizes wives, putting them on the same level as children, when the narrator describes how he perceives his family crying out to him to lead them. The wife in the song isn’t even able to communicate this verbally as the narrator says that he reads it in her mind. It reinforces the idea that a man must be in charge of a home and denies women their God-given place as equal co-rulers. But when I point all this out, people dismiss me and say I’m reading too much into it. It seems to me just one step removed from Vision Forum. Now THAT is what I call a “slippery slope.” Sigh.

    1. Hi Robyn,
      Funny you should mention the Sanctus Real song “Lead Me.” I love most of their music, but when I head that song I was like “Why, did you have to do this? You’ve almost ruined my love for your band.” Anyway, it is a major issue and I do believe most people don’t look at the real message behind those lyrics. A simple fix by adding a line about the wife and husband seeking God’s leading together would have been better. Once again, this song illustrates the prevalence of male-headship in mainstream evangelical culture. As you say, it’s problematic.

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