February 14, 2016 Matt Pennock

Do You Know What Patriarchy Means?

It wasn’t until my college years that I began to fully realize the hatred for “patriarchy” when people propped up signs and placards denouncing it as something akin to an abomination.

The word pops up quite frequently these days in literature and media and as far as I can tell, always with negative connotation. It’s used for a negative comparison in debates about gender roles or social inequity between the sexes much in the same way that Nazism is used to compare everything from political candidates to third grade teachers.

Even though the word is referred to in a lot of literature it never seems to be defined—as if we the readers already know what it means. If something is so used and so hated, maybe we should have a working definition? Here is what Patriarchy means according to Merriam-Webster dictionary:

…social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly:  control by men of a disproportionately large share of power

Source: Merriam-Webster

“Power” in this definition is not defined. Is it physical power? Social power? Spiritual power? Financial power? At least how the term is used today it is undoubtedly of the political type and to a lesser extent the financial type. It doesn’t take much thought to see the inherent problems with defining “Patriarchy” by today’s methods: If a few women have all the political power does it mean all women have political power? If a few women have all the wealth, does that mean all women have the wealth? The logical answers to these questions are no. Yet the illusion is that it makes more women feel like they have power. This is the essence of “identity politics”. Politics is about power over people. Identity politics is at essence about how power over people is distributed according to identity. Under this illusion the individual feels he or she has more when someone of their identity (whatever it is) has more, when the objective reality is their lives are no different at all, and possibly even worse. Answer this question honestly: If King Solomon has all the wealth and power does that mean men have all the wealth and power? It does not.

The subtly and craftiness of identity politics is incredible and that’s why it deceives so many. The vast, vast majority–as in 99%–of people, including men, that have ever walked this planet have had no power or wealth. At the height of slavery in America in 1850 only 8% of those living here owned slaves and that percentage includes Indians and Blacks who together owned tens of thousands of slaves. Several Native American Indians were very wealthy and owned hundreds of slaves each. Obviously, no one accuses Native Americans of being slave owners because the vast majority of Native Americans were not. How does it make sense to identify and so accuse 92% of American settlers who owned no slaves as though they did? It doesn’t. It is unjust. Equally, how does it makes sense to identify 98% percent of the male race who have had no power or wealth over the last five thousand years with the 2% who have?

God is passionate about justice, equity, and righteousness. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne” (Psalm 89:14) “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity” (Psalm 75:2). “The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob” (Psalm 99:4).

“Unequal weights are an abomination to the LORD, and false scales are not good” (Proverbs 20:23).

“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. (Deuteronomy 25:13)

A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight. (Proverbs 11:1)

Differing weights and differing measures, Both of them are abominable to the LORD. (Proverbs 20:10)

Pay attention to these scriptures. Equity and balanced scales are a serious thing to God. If we were to cast a blanket judgement on the Native Americans as being slave owners because a few tribes and individuals owned them, we would be speaking a false balance. If we speak of all men as being patriarchal or playing a part in bad patriarchy we are speaking a false measurement. If we seek to change the weights and measures of society to give advantage to women (or any group) in all spheres of life in an effort to “level the playing field” we are committing something that is abominable to the LORD.

The accusation against “the patriarchy” is base on a subtle but very powerful lie. There are some Islamic societies where women are still forced to marry against their will. This is a power granted to the men, obviously, by their belief system and it is a tyrannical, unjust patriarchy. But the vast majority of the population of the earth has had little to no power or wealth and it never will. The vast majority of the earth since the beginning has been equally subjected to the tyranny of nature, evil, and death and thus equally subjected to the same struggle against nature, evil, and death. It is Satan who pits people against people, men and women against each other, one nation against another, one race against another, distracting them away from the greater struggle against death, sin, and carnality. We fall right into his trap every time we get wrapped up and involved in one of these sex wars, race wars, gender wars, or nation wars.
Every time.

The Bible teaches fatherhood and that fathers have the authority. The Father in Heaven has authority and like father, like son. He expects his sons to be like him, “be ye perfect as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Reasonable women will want this and encourage their men in this authority. Why? Because this is what fatherhood, patriarchy, in the Bible looks like:

“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” John 13:8

Peter explains that it is oversight and setting an example without lording it over, controlling, or being reluctant:

Shepherd…exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples… 1 Peter 5:3

Your own head, or mind, submits to the needs of every member of your body. When a limb is hurt, wounded, or sick, your mind does not ignore it but submits to its needs. Your mind does not make decisions against what is best for your body. When you exercise, your body tells you when its tired. It tells you when it needs a shower. It tells you when it needs medicine or a hospital. It tells you when you eat to much or too little. Or when you have to go to the bathroom. Should your head not submit to these needs you’d be a dead or unhealthy person indeed! But, being the reasonable person you are, you give priority to your body over the interests of your mind every single day. Not only that you do it voluntarily with eagerness. And because it is your own body, you look to give it the best rather than exploit it. Biblical headship works in exactly the same way and this is what the Bible teaches.

This kind of headship of the father (and the Father in Heaven) is what will allow our families and communities to heal, grow strong and healthy, and prosper. Fatherhood is a trait that, if realized, will bring stability, protection, and prosperity to the “body” like nothing else. The question is, will you submit to the Head as a member and receive the benefits?

We can fight for fatherly headship, because nothing else in the world will keep us healthy or be able to help us fulfill our potential in a messed up world:

…the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction… 2 Cor. 1:3-4