An email I received said:
I am so confused. There seem to be so many beliefs about marriage and roles and one group villainizes another group for their stance, and vice versa. I’m particularly confused about what is called “patriarchy.” I thought that was another term for what the Bible taught about husbands and wives, but many Christians I know, who I agree with on things, are denouncing it. What do you believe?”
Frankly, I’ve been confused too. For years I would have agreed with this person about patriarchy. I wrote a post about it (which I have since taken down because the word itself evokes so much vitriol and I didn’t care for the keyword search attention it brought). In that post, I said that I believed in patriarchy, provided that patriarchy is the same definition as I find in the Bible about marital roles.
To quote one of my favorite movies, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” And I have come to understand that words change meanings over time and we can’t define our terms with them anymore. As such, I am not a proponent of patriarchy because it doesn’t mean what I believe.
To use an example, it would be useless for me to say, “I support being gay” if I meant that I support being “happy.” It wouldn’t matter what I meant by the word anymore.
The thing that made me realize I don’t subscribe to the word and therefore have to ditch it, is seeing other people (who don’t know me but think they do from reading my blog) describe me. They said things like, “Kelly is brainwashed, fearful and weak. She is in a cult. She can’t help it, she doesn’t know any better. She only does what she is told.”
Which is funny. Because that doesn’t describe me at all. (In a cult?! What even?) In fact, when my husband read it, he laughed. And not just chuckled. My husband has an infectious laugh so notorious among our friends, they try to catch it on video. That kind of laugh. I think I should be offended.
My detractors like to paint me as someone who is legalistic (at best), and therefore imprisoned by my own beliefs and living a sad and narrow existence. It is their grotesquely distorted descriptions of my proposed life that throws up big red flags about anything else they say. When once you see yourself being falsely maligned and defaced publicly, you aren’t prone to give their other words much credence. Just keep that in mind in this great big Internet gossip cess pool.
Here is what I believe about marriage: you can open your Bible at this point to find out. Genesis 2, Proverbs 31, 1 Corinthians, Colossians, Hebrews, Ephesians.
It’s the same thing I’ve ALWAYS believed. Wives are to submit to their husbands, but only as husbands are to love their wives as their own flesh, submitting themselves to God. Where a husband fails to do this, and exercises abusive power over the wife, she is freed by her submission to honor Christ. I don’t believe the Bible teaches a philosophy that allows women to be abused. She has, and should use her recourse of the local Body.
Admittedly, I’m married to a fabulous man. Not every woman is. My hearty embrace of what Scripture teaches is very easy because of my husband. He is a servant. That’s what real leaders are. There isn’t contention. We are a team and he prioritizes me above everything. His having a leadership role that God has given him doesn’t diminish me or remove my right to speak up about things, disagree with him or offer counsel. It only makes him more careful and tender.
And about women, roles, daughters and careers: from Scripture I see that a woman’s first calling and priority is her home and family. (Proverbs 31, 1 Timothy, Titus 2)
I do not think it’s a sin for a woman to work outside the home or attend college. (I have many close friends and daughters who do these things.) I do think it can easily become a snare, especially in our day, given the emphasis put on career and lack of it devoted to the role of women at home. Also, it’s difficult to shift gears once a couple is accustomed to living with two full time incomes and they are receiving little, if any, encouragement for her to make family her first job. I know, I’ve been there.
I certainly support women (young and old) working to help with the income, especially if that job helps them keep their families a priority, instead of enslaving them to a schedule they can’t control. It is getting increasingly difficult for a family to survive without multiple incomes, but I don’t think that fact negates our first duty to the calling on our lives. I offer caveats that I believe line up with Scripture’s emphasis on women helping their husbands, raising their children, keeping their homes and ministering to the community.
Where Scripture is silent, we cannot erect commands. Where Scripture speaks, we must apply it to our lives as clearly as we know how, submitting to the authority of Christ above all.
I hope this is helpful to others who may be confused.