The Christian patriarchy movement does not hide the fact that they believe they are the keepers of the Christian faith and are upholding a Biblical worldview for family and society that has been rejected by mainstream Christian culture. Documentaries such as the Gunn Brother’s The Monstrous Regiment of Women present the world as a place filled with feminists and socialists who are out to destroy the stay at home mother. The sacred duty of motherhood is stressed in the film as the only Biblical model a Christian woman can follow. The documentary creates a fantasy that seems plausible and spiritual to Christian patriarchy adherents and is persuasive enough to make more moderate Christians stop and contemplate the arguments presented in The Monstrous Regiment of Women. I’m going to give a brief overview of how the documentary attempts to be prophetic, but it falls short of its goals and then provide a transcript from a scene in the film illustrating the radical nature of the film maker’s agenda.
Not all prophetic messages are spiritually edifying
The Old Testament is filled with examples of prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah who were called by God to rain down judgment on God’s people when they strayed from their faith. Yet while Old Testament prophets were ordained by God to share their message, not all messages presented in a prophetic framework are correct. Sometimes the use of prophetic language is nothing more than a disguise for manipulating religious texts to promote a corrupt ideology. I argue that this is the case with The Monstrous Regiment of Women. Patton and Woods note in Prophetically Incorrect that all dominant ideologies whether Islam, Christianity, Marxism or Freudian theory require a justification system. Within the Christian framework that justification system is scripture. Yet, as Patton and Woods note, “Justification can be legitimate and ethical, but they can also be illegitimate and vile” (70). In the case of the Gunn brothers, there is a specific political and spiritual agenda they are promoting and justifying through Biblical passages that are taken out of the larger scriptural context. However when the verses stand alone, out of context, they appear to be extremely relevant and important to the argument the Gunn’s are presenting. Woven into their prophetic narrative is a radical agenda disguised as God’s inspired message to America.
The Monstrous Regiment of Women attempts to perform prophetic work but falls short, very much like the rhetoric of McCarthyism failed to achieve its prophetic ambitions. Darcy calls the quest of McCarthy to purge American society of communism an “apocalyptic rhetoric” that bordered on the fantastic. As Darcy illustrates in his book The Prophetic Tradition and Radical Rhetoric in America, “The fantastic is a modern analog to biblical apocalyptic, now divorced from a specific theology” (2752, Kindle Version). This rhetoric uses prophetic elements of justification to further its rhetorical agenda but provides no solid solutions to the crisis presented. Instead it relies heavily on fear, chaos and the threat of downfall that will occur if the rhetorical message is not followed. In The Monstrous Regiment of Women the threat is the demise of American society and the continual curse of God on a nation that does not follow the God-ordained natural order for gender roles. So, while the Gunn brothers attempt to use a prophetic framework for their film’s main premise, it can be argued that they never achieve their goal. Instead of true prophetic language they only go so far as to create rhetoric of fantasy and manipulation.
Working Women are a Sign of a Fallen Nation
In the final two scenes Amy Gunn, wife of one of Collin Gunn who directed and created the documentary with his brother Euan, discusses how working women have fallen into the trap of feminism. She interviews Stacy McDonald author of Maidens of Virtue and an ardent support of the Quiverfull lifestyle. You can see that Amy is attempting to take on a prophetic tone to her argument, urging Christian women to repent and return to their homes. However, the argument falls short of really reaching people who are not already supporting the Christian patriarchy movement. The rhetoric only serves to cause fear and passion in the patriarchy community and infuriate those who are not part of it. Here is what Amy Gunn and Stacy McDonald say in the final two scenes of the film:
Amy: As women we need to see if we are conforming to the patterns of this world or being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Maybe feminism told you that children were a burden. That for the sake of some money, a career or even some free time. You missed out on some or all of the children you could have had. Maybe feminism taught you egalitarianism. You couldn’t submit to your hierarchy so you tried to usurp your husband’s authority or control him. You belittled him. You certainly wouldn’t submit to him. Maybe feminism taught you your inner voice should guide you in your decision to leave your home. For a few dollars you sold your life in a private sanctuary for a lifetime under florescent lights of corporate environment. Maybe feminism left you with a fearless sexual ethic that objectifies you and left you feeling used. Feminism has brought a storm to the lives of American women, and its women who have been left out in the rain. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy but the good news is the Jesus says ‘I have come so that they might have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). And this is why we can now sing a new song. Return to your home. If you are wise you will build your own house. If you are foolish you will pull it down with your own hands. The home can be your sanctuary. A wonderful place of service, peacefulness and blessing. Return to your husband. Bring him down from the roof. Men are sinners too but they can a great blessing to you if you let them. Don’t believe how men are represented…The media has been preaching man-hating feminism to us for years. Its time to do something about it.
Stacy McDonald: God calls children a reward and a blessing and our culture calls them a burden. Don’t have too many because you can’t afford it and you won’t have time for yourself, and they’re too expensive and you’ll have more fun with them if you don’t have too many. All these reasons why we should have too many children, but God calls them a blessing, he calls them a reward. He calls them arrows in the hands of a warrior and I believe that’s exactly what they are. We are called to raise up Godly seed for his glory.
Amy: When we researched ten of the leading feminists in America we can up with a combined total of 7 children. The total between our ten commentators is an amazing 60 children. As the monstrous regiment seeks empowerment. True influence is given to the faithful wife and mother who obeys the Lord. ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth’ (Matthew 5:5).
Amy: I might not look to a feminist like a liberated woman but freedom hasn’t been won for me by the ballot box or protest or convention. True freedom means being free from the bondage of sin. Free from the curse, freedom from condemnation and freedom from feminism. I am free to be a woman, wife, mother and homemaker – all the blessing that God intended me to have. My daughters will know this too, and, like me, they will aspire to the highest calling of a wife and mother whose worth is found far above rubies or worldly gain. As women we might find that when we look for liberation it quite surprisingly comes to us through a man who was also truly God. Therefore, if the Son makes you free you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).
Instrumental music from class hymns plays over these monologues as pictures of laughing children flash across the screen and scenes of playgrounds and a beautiful fountain are used to illustrate the peace and serenity that comes when you submit to your God-ordained role. The attempted use of a prophetic tone acts a guise for what is really fantastic, radical rhetoric that attempts to promote a very specific ideological agenda. There is no room for compromise or alternative theological interpretations. The film is meant to create a fantasy vision that will spur Christian patriarchy advocates into action and encourage them to continue the quest to convince American Christian society at large that God has and will continue to curse us until the dominance of man is re-established and women are put back into their only role – as wife and mother.
2 thoughts on “A Closer Look at The Monsterous Regiment of Women”
Nice write-up! The subject of your article aside, I think that saying “within the Christian framework that justification system is scripture” is inaccurate. Within Evangelical Protestantism that is certainly the case, but in historic Christianity the Church is the ‘justification system.’ It was the Church that created the Bible as we know it, so it’d be somewhat silly for the thing organized by the Church to be the justification for the Church and its beliefs/life. I’m coming from an Orthodox Christian perspective of course, but I think Roman Catholics would have a similar perspective.
Fellow Free Methodist here!
Just stumbled on your blog a few weeks ago and am loving it. Love the passion, love the thoughts and would love to continue dialoguing with you about it. Didn’t know if you and your husband were going to General Conference, if there is time, would love to meet up with you both and hear more about it all.
I am in full agreement with your posts. Love the tradition of Free Methodism and the stance it took for women. I loved B.T. Roberts “On Ordaining Women” thought it was brilliant and so ahead of his time. Too bad it took almost another 100 years.
Anyways, great review. I don’t know if you follow Scot McKnight’s blog but he just reposted a write on the the Seneca Falls Two convention about abuse in Christian homes tied to patriarchy: http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/04/19/seneca-two/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PatheosJesusCreed+%28Jesus+Creed%29
Also, have you read any of professor Ben Witherington’s books on women in the ministry. I have him at Asbury and he is a genius of NT scholarship, world renown. His doctoral thesis and first few books were on this and he is considered an expert in the exegesis of scripture on this matter. Would love to know your thoughts on it.