A person. They exalted the man, the flawed (and sometimes duplicitously wicked) man, the husband/father or sometimes the pastor or another leader, to the place where Jesus Himself should be. They looked to the man to give them the words of Jesus Christ, to stand in His place. God will surely see how much we honor the man He put in a place of authority over us, and all will surely be well, He will surely bless us.
“Everything came to a head in my mid-twenties,” she was saying. “So that’s when I finally got out.” She balanced her child on her knee as she spoke. “I want to help others get out.”
I was having tea with a daughter of patriarchy.
She told me one story after another, about her own life and the lives of others, about control and domination and refusal to allow independent thinking and for some, eventual escapes.
“So of all the ones you know who got out,” I asked, “how many are still following Christ?”
My new friend paused, figuring. “I guess three out of about thirty that I know for sure.”
Three out of thirty. Ten percent were still following Jesus.
She was one of that ten percent. She was one of the small minority who had left this system but still looked for freedom and hope and truth in the Christ who is shown in the Scriptures and through the Spirit.
I thought about the young people the parents of patriarchy used to be, when we all sat in homeschool conventions together in the 1980s and 1990s, the air crackling with the energy of hope and optimism that we would raise up a godly generation.
What had happened in those intervening years? How had so many of them gone so far astray as to think oppression, manipulation, threats, and control were part of the right way to raise their children, especially their daughters, in godliness?
“My father told me so often that God works through men to reveal his will for women. My parents nailed me with it before I left home: ‘You can’t know God’s will without a father or husband. Women are too easily deceived. They cannot trust their own hearts.’”
I don’t mean to be saying that oppression, manipulation, threats, and control this extreme are present in every patriarchal family. . . . But it’s been the case in the majority of the ones I’ve heard about.
But the root problem . . . the root problem isn’t that oppression.
The root problem of God’s Old Covenant people
God’s Old Covenant people were oppressors too. Their sin of oppression is described in the Old Testament prophets—Isaiah 1 and Jeremiah 5 give just two examples. (And as a side note, among the beautiful promises God made in this book is that those who mourned—that is, the oppressed—would be comforted.)
But what did God say was the root problem?
You have left Me.
The root problem of patriarchy
The root problem in patriarchy for many of its adherents is that while lip service was being given to Jesus Christ, He Himself was removed from the place of centrality and supremacy in their individual lives, their families, and their churches.
Maybe many of the people who followed patriarchy said, “I did all those things wrong when I was a teenager, so now I’m going to follow in this path, and then my children won’t do any of those wrong things. They won’t make any of those mistakes.” Maybe they put a system in the center of their lives where the Jesus Christ belonged.
So, in my mulling and pondering, I remembered a significant incident from my own life in about 2002, around fifteen years ago.