This article comes from podcast notes from the 2nd series on patriarchy/patriocentricity. I came across them a while back as I was working on a project for publication and thought they might be helpful.
A couple years ago I happened across an interesting blog article written by an older woman, I will call Leanne, who lives in the Midwest. With refreshing honesty and engaging style, she shared about the two worlds she lives in. In real life, Leanne, explained, she has a husband and grown children, one who was starting to come around after living a life of total rebellion to her Christian upbringing. She lamented the fact that she had not homeschooled her children and that she longed to become a Titus Two woman for younger women but that no one was interested in what she had to say. On her blog she talked about her life in a small town, she shared delicious recipes, and wrote articles about her ministry to the elderly people in her church. In one quick glance through her pages, it was obvious that she spent time in Bible study and teaching Sunday school, in sewing and crafting and in doing all those things that she said she believes a Godly woman ought to be doing with her time. Even then, it was never quite as wonderful as her other world, her imaginary place on the internet, the “women of patriarchy blogs” world.
In Leanne’s idyllic world, women were more godly and wore only dresses and sometimes hats and had tea parties with chicken salad and cucumber sandwiches, being taught proper etiquette from Miss Janice, the certified tea educator. Their daughters were godly, too, so they would never go to college or even entertain a single romantic thought until their fathers had betrothed them to young men whose own mothers also blogged in Victorian whispers and while wearing lace. In this world, everyone homeschooled their large and happy families. All were perfectly behaved and if any of the mothers talked about these children, it was only to share glorious reports of their latest internship opportunities with some homeschooling leader who had everything well planned out for everyone for the next few centuries. In spite of the fact that Leanne was absolutely overwhelmed with guilt and discouragement each time she browsed through her magical blog roll, she found herself returning there day after day because it aroused something in her she couldn’t explain.
I sent a note to Leanne and we began an interesting correspondence. Because she came from outside the world of homeschooling, she asked me a lot of questions and shared her struggles with me. She told me that every day, as she read, she felt waves of depression wash over her soul and a sense of purposeless in her life made it really hard to function in her real world. So, I asked her why she kept reading the women of patriarchy blogs and she told me that, even though she knew she would never have what those women have, she could live vicariously through them and that gave her some satisfaction. In her own way, she thought she could have just a little of the perfect world these women have if she could wear dresses herself every day, occasionally have chicken salad, and step into their world through the wonders of the internet. Leanne admitted these blogs depressed her and yet she wanted what they had, believing that if she did enough of the everyday things they did, she might find happiness.
I did not fully understand Leanne’s response until I read another article, this time written by a patriarch wife who is also an older woman, a proponent of the return of womanly southern etiquette so, as she says “the south can rise again,” and a regular contributor to the Ladies Against Feminism website. In writing about the victims of Hurricane Katrina victims who were shown on the news, escaping their homes, this woman wrote:
“What does the phrase “die with dignity” mean to us? We have let the modernists liberal define this for us, making it completely contrary to real dignity. I’ve heard people say “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that outfit.” As a people, we used to be concerned with the impression and the influence we left others at our passing. I’m not suggesting we get all dressed up for a hurricane, but if those clothes which provide dignity and coverings are the only thing in our closets and the only thing available to us, we won’t be caught in a storm with the big shorts, saggy tee shirts and flip-flops. Tragedies always bring scenes of ripped and dirty clothing, but I think it is very telling about our morals and values when we allow our women to traipse about in nothing but garments that would have been underwear a hundred years ago. What a sight we are presenting to the overseas television viewers. I’m so embarrassed that these scenes are perceived by Europeans who look up to our country and admire us, as representative of us!”
The absurdity of this discussion suddenly brought it all together for me. Compassion toward those who had be forced from their homes and the grief they were experiencing during a life and death situation, these had escaped this woman who has been so widely promoted as a Titus Two mentor. All that mattered to her was the fact that the Hurricane Katrina victims were not properly attired according to her personal standards. It was the perfect example of glorifying the trivial to promote an agenda, of evaluating a person’s worth, values, and morals, by something as insignificant as her clothing.
Poor Leanne had succumbed to patriocentricity and was becoming a willing participant in its sins of triviality. Leanne did not realize that she was being encouraged to role play by thinking she could become a godly woman by “doing” all sorts of things that, in the big picture of life, are not that important, though they have been made to look as though everything in life, perhaps even her very salvation, hangs upon them. Leanne was being exhorted to “tithe mint and rue and every herb,” and yet to “neglect justice and the love of God,” as Luke said of the Pharisees of Jesus day.
In James 3 we are told that true wisdom that is from God is not only free from partiality but free from hypocrisy. And hypocrisy is rampant within the patriocentric movement. Many of those who pronounce the harshest words on anyone who disagrees with them, do not hold everyone to the same standards and, in fact, they do not even hold themselves to those same standards. For example, their rules that say “women are never to teach men” don’t apply to women like Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Elisabeth Elliot, who are not necessarily patriocentrists but whose writings and ministries are used to support patriocentric ideals. Even Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin talk about their opportunities to counsel both mothers and fathers. Conservative activist, Phyllis Schlafly, was awarded the Mother of the Year award by Vision Forum, whose articles call working outside the home a sin, and yet she has worked outside her home as an attorney for most of her life. Author and promoter of patriocentric ideals, Jennie Chancey, authored a piece for Vision Forum on her opposition to women’s suffrage, yet campaigned for presidential candidate Ron Paul and worked hard on her own husband’s political campaign, admitting in a 2008 news piece that she does, indeed, vote. And sometimes the hypocrisy simply comes through the manipulation of husbands behind the scenes. One patriarchal writer publicly defended a patriocentric book his wife was promoting though he privately admitted never having read it himself!
Hypocrisy can also be described as role playing. In fact, the Greek word for hypocrisy in James 3 is the same word used to describe what actors do in plays. The world of wives in the patriocentric culture is completely based on role playing, where a script, a costume closet, props, and even a certain character to step into has been defined for “godly womanhood” and living outside the prescribed standards places someone “outside the camp.” It is a type of bearing false witness, really, telling the world that we are godly women by following an earthly paradigm rather than by what the Word of God commands, attempting to make all women use gifts and talents that they may feel they don’t even possess and to ignore gifts they do have because someone has determined some gifts are girly and some are not. It is creating a role or a part that all women are supposed to perform and on a stage prescribed by some person who claims to know the will of God for each and every woman. It also sets both men and women up for failure because it is idolatrous and turns their hearts toward the superficiality of life that is lived within a paradigm rather than organically. It is a 1950’s or 1860’s or 1790’s interpretation of what someone has decided godly womanhood looks and acts like.
As I pointed out in the first podcast, the sin of partiality as demonstrated by an unbiblical view of hierarchy is the foundation of this movement and idealizing those times in history where it was blatantly practiced, is obvious. A pre-occupation with post World War Two suburbia in the United States or with the pre-Civil War south, for example, is rampant in the matriarchs of patriarchy world. Both of these were eras where women played roles that neither represented true Biblical womanhood nor nurtured positive relationships in families and yet they are two of the most favored settings for role playing in patriocentric neighborhoods.
Let’s take a look at patriocentricity’s “core curriculum” for women, if you will, written and recorded materials that are used to advance this role playing and let’s see how how they erroneously teach that only one particular “role” has been prescribed for all women from the earliest of ages through their golden years. Though there are several other books I could have mentioned, such as Pearl’s Created to Be His Helpmeet, the Botkins’ So Much More, and Stacy McDonald’s Raising Maidens of Virtue, along with other books, CD’s, and DV’s Like Return of the Daughters and The Monstrous Regiment of Women, I have chosen just three books in the patriocentric arsenal, to examine this time. For more information other than what I have presented today, please visit my website and type one of these titles into the search.
The first book I want to examine that I believe has attempted to clarify the roles of women in their patriarchal world is Passionate Housewives Desperate for God written by Stacy McDonald and Jennie Chancey and published in 2007 by Vision Forum. Laying out what they call a “fresh vision for the hopeful homemaker,” the role they declare is “the glorious picture painted for us in Scripture” they use phrases like “rightful place in God’s created order,” “God-ordained womanhood” “biblical directives to women to be wives, mothers, and keepers of the home”, “our respective roles given to us by God” “God has created women to fulfill the unique role of homemaker. That’s all we need to know to rest in our callings.” “God has given women a sphere that is naturally and wonderfully their own to manage and wisely govern.” “Why is God’s role for women so important? Because God says when we reject it, we blaspheme His Word.” “We can walk confidently in the role God ordained for us since the beginning of time.” And homemaking is a woman’s “glorious duty.” All of these phrases make it clear that being a wife and mother in the home is God’s undisputed calling for all women without any qualifications or exceptions. If there is still any question about the role of women in God’s eyes, Jennie Chancey explains why not being a homemaker is a sin in an article she wrote for Vision Forum in response to Pastor Andrew Sandlin who has critiqued these teachings on several occasions. She said: ““What truly amazes me is that Rev. Sandlin can state so confidently that the Bible does not call a woman leaving her God-given, home-based occupation for work outside the home “sin”..…. blasphemy is sin, whether it is spoken verbally or lived before a watching world.” Please do not miss what is being taught…The role for women is being a housewife and not being one is blasphemous and therefore a sin.” There is no exception. All women have to be homemakers like Jennie and Stacy to be godly women.
And what do these authors say about Christians who disagree with their teaching on this subject?
In a section of Passionate Housewives called “The Evangelical Feminist: The White-washed Kind, they say: “There is a more clandestine form of feminism which has crept into many modern churches. Observers have dubbed its adherents ‘evangelical feminists.’ These feminists claim to hold Scripture in high regard, yet they do not accept the biblically defined role distinctions between men and women, and they reject male authority to varying degrees. While some ‘evangelical feminists’ admit to their belief in the limited authority of the Scriptures regarding their role, others simply try to twist the Bible’s meaning to fit their lifestyle. This more subtle version of feminism is particularly dangerous due to its beguiling cloak of Christianity, because, at its core, it is no different that its ‘secular’ counterpart. While its face may be more polished and its manifestation less extreme, in essence, it is nothing more than white-washed feminism……Consequently, the biblical directives given to women to be wives, mothers, and keepers of the home are minimized or set aside as quaint or unnecessary options.”
Then, in a later section they predict where the rest of the evangelical church is headed if it does not fall in line with patriocentricity: “The Church today is jumping on a train whose engine has already gone over the cliff! Instead of getting out and turning around, we’ve decided the train car will be just fine if we paint it a prettier color or call it by a different name. But feminism is still feminism; and the results of feminism will be just the same for the Church as they have been for the world—possibly worse, because we should know better. Quite simply, there is no such thing as ‘Christian feminism.’ We either embrace the biblical model and call it ‘very good’ (just as God did after He created it), or we reject it and plummet over the cliff with the rest of the passengers on the runaway rail car.” To these authors, it appears that there are two choices, patriocentricity or damnation.
Tragically, these Passionate Housewives chose to draw a line where none should be drawn if we study the whole counsel of God. They have purposely taken a word like “feminism” which conjures up pictures of bra burning baby killers, one that is certain to get the desired response from impressionable homeschooling moms and the insecure men who lead them, and have slapped that label on everyone who doesn’t agree with their patriocentric ideals. And even worse, they have divided the body of Christ by needlessly making martyrs and victims of homemakers, causing some to even question for the first time if they are valued by others by imposing a “them against us” mentality between moms. From my own experience as a passionate homemaker for the past 35 years, I have had overwhelming support for having raised and taught 6 children. Being a wife and mother is valuable, is honorable, is a sacred calling, but it certainly doesn’t need to exalt itself above other callings God has placed on other women in order to make me feel validated or to see God’s kingdom flourish.
The women leaders in the patriocentric movement establish a one size fits all model for women. They have given them one role, that of homemaker and pronounced it “God’s role.” They have assigned a sphere, their homes, some of the leaders making Proverbs 7:11 which describes a harlot as a woman whose feet do not stay at home’ apply to any women who work outside the home. But consider this for a moment: by establishing the housewife and mother role as the only one acceptable to God, they have brushed aside most of the women mentioned in the New Testament who followed Jesus as well as those who worked alongside Paul. In fact, I can assume that some of them WERE wives and mothers, though Scripture didn’t think it was important enough to mention so we don’t know. We do know, however, that their involvement in Christ’s ministry was important enough to make it into the holy script. The patriocentrists have dismissed missionaries like Gladys Aylward, Amy Carmichael, and Elisabeth Elliot. Through this model, they have marginalized single women not to mention single mothers. They have pierced the hearts of women who are barren either from birth, because of illness, because of a husband’s infertility, or because they have gone through menopause. In reality, given the fact that a woman is able to bear children for only about 40 years of her life, what are we to make of the fact that God, in His sovereignty, planned for women to be barren for half of her time on earth? How do these women whom the patriarchs often call “non-normative” fit into God’s plan? Who are they to presume to tell us what is normative for everyone and what is not?
And then let’s consider the cultures outside of the westernized or Americanized world we live in today. How can the harsh realities of living in a third world country where women are just trying to survive every single day fit into the patriocentric model? There are over two billion people in the world who have incomes of roughly $425 dollars or less each year, many of them with all family members working just to provide the few moldy potatoes, rice, or dried beans they have in their huts. They have no running water, or available medical treatment, or books to read. Transportation might be an old bicycle. This point was brought home to me when I read the thoughts of that same patriocentric woman blogger who was upset about the clothing styles of the hurricane victims. In describing the life of a slave woman in the antebellum south, that happy time she so longs for, this woman painted an idyllic picture of carefree slave children playing at their mama’s feet while she went about her business of caring for her little slave cabin waiting for her husband to finish his shift in the cotton fields. Talk about superimposing your own paradigm on top of reality and somehow thinking you are getting it right!
Another dose of this can be found in McDonald’s first book, Raising Maidens of Virtue. Recommending that moms train their daughters to have both a morning shower and an evening bath with essential oils and sweet-smelling powders in order to present themselves as godly young women with the proper testimony, McDonald says that physical cleanliness can be an outward sign of inward purity. So what about the 3 to 4 million women in Africa who suffer from obstetric fistula, a chronic vaginal hemorrhaging and total loss of bowel and bladder control as a result of complications from childbirth? How can these women practice “godly womanhood” when they have been made social pariahs by a system that has also told them there is only one role for women, that of being wives and mothers? Can these women who are doomed to a life of uncleanness have any hope for spiritual purity? Is all hope for them to have a radiant testimony as women lost forever? This is what happens when a paradigm becomes the standard, when the more trivial aspects of life are spiritualized and certain tastes and styles are taught as “Christian decorum” and godly womanhood.
Perhaps showing some cultural naivete, the authors of Passionate Housewives don’t seem to recognize that there has been a trend toward stay at home motherhood in evangelical and even secular 20 somethings for more a couple decades now. The love and delight of being a homemaker and all the skills that go along are the topic of dozens of cable television programs, tone websites, and across blogs from one theological end of the spectrum to the other. Given these facts and seeing that there is no real Biblical foundation under girding their premise that God’s role for women is to be homemakers, I believe this book, rather than being an apologetic for genuine biblical womanhood is better seen as part of the larger agenda of the dominionist, reconstructionist agenda that must have women in their home full time having many children in order to be pulled off. In fact, in commenting on the use of the phrase “white-washed feminism”, Doug Phillips has stated: “we must present an alternative vision, a vision that sums up the burden of male headship under the cosmic rubric of the gospel of Christ and the restoration of all things in Him.” In other words, he is saying that patriocentricity is the standard taught in the Gospel and defining being a wife and mother as the role of women is crucial in world dominion. I believe Passionate Housewives is a strategic part of this patriocentric vision.
Another book that, perhaps more than any other publication, has set the agenda for the role playing of patriarchal husbands and wives, is one of the most unbiblical, bizarre, and offensive, to both men and women, books that I have ever read. On the pages of Fascinating Womanhood, which was written in 1963 by Helen Andelin, you can find nearly every single catch phrase of modern day patriocentricity. Defining the role of men as sad sops who need to be better than women at everything, desire their wives to be childlike in both manner and dress, and are easily manipulated for their own good, Andelin instructs wives in patriocentric Stepford Wifism better than just about anyone else. Andelin began by teaching classes to women around tables in church basements, and quickly her message of what she calls “true femininity” spread to adult education classes in YWCA’s across the country. She soon became the champion of homeschooling moms who loved her emphasis on the godliness of becoming domestic goddesses, and devoted wives and mothers.
Andelin proudly guarantees that every woman will see positive results if she only follows the fascinating womanhood principles, reminding readers that the burden of a happy marriage and home life is on the wife. In what I call a treatise on feeding a man’s fleshly desires, Andelin’s book is 380 pages of feminine manipulation and role playing at its finest and she even admits that women must become accomplished actresses in order to please their husbands. Andelin admonishes women to never be more intelligent than their husbands, to dummy themselves down if they must and to never offer an opinion on manly subjects like politics, current events, math or science. She reminds women that fathers own their children and that mothers, in spite of what the law says, do not. Therefore she might have to acquiesce to a husband’s methods of teaching and disciplining, while using feminine wiles rather than logic to persuade him to her way of thinking. She says that young women ought to prepare for marriage and housekeeping rather than college and that they are to see themselves as under the authority of even their brothers. She believes that women are somehow more flawed by the fall than men, leaving a woman with impaired judgment, she says women are more emotional than rational, should never speak out in front of men, that employment outside the home is an abomination, and that a man’s ego is sacrosanct and must be maintained at all costs. And the silliest notion of all, women are exhorted to become childlike to please their husbands because we all know husbands find little girl behavior much more attractive than being married to an actual adult woman. Andelin suggests that women visit the little girl’s section of a department store to find clothing styles to copy, like ruffles, lace, and ribbons. She says that even unattractive women, like those whose faces are marred by freckles, can be attractive to their husbands if they are careful not to blur the lines between maleness and femininity by never dressing in man’s clothes, that is, jeans, or doing man’s work around the house, like mowing the grass or using a screw driver. Even more important is to never ever allow your husband to do any of your chores, like laundry or dishes or running a vacuum cleaner, especially since your sons might see this and become homosexuals. And if you aren’t already amazed enough, here is perhaps my favorite quote in the book from her chapter on how women are to practice and perfect using childlike anger which she says husbands love. “Learn childlike mannerisms by studying the antics of little girls. Stomp your foot, lift your chin high, square your shoulder, pout, put both hands on your hips, open your eyes wide, mumble under your breath, or turn and walk away briskly, then pause and look back over your shoulder. Or beat your fists on your husband’s chest…describe him as a big brute, or a hairy beast. Say to him, “How can a great big man like you pick on a poor little helpless girl like me?”
As alarming as these quotes and sentiments from this book are, I shared them for several reasons. First, Fascinating Womanhood is another great example of how a lifestyle or paradigm from a certain period, where the sin of partiality in men and women relationships was so prevalent, is made to appear to be the epitome of godly womanhood, in Andelin’s case, 1950’s America. I am guessing she wrote it in part as a reaction to the 2nd wave of feminism that hit US shores without even critically examining the reasons women were speaking out in the first place and obviously not to offer any real Biblical counsel to women who might have been struggling. Instead, she drew conclusions based on her preferences and combined them with teachings of her church to build a paradigm and then a theology.
Secondly, it helps us see where some of the key teachings within patriocentricity were first introduced to the homeschooling community. As a result of Andelin’s popularity and the desire to re examine everything else alongside education, homeschoolers opened themselves up to extra biblical thought in her book. Now we see teachers who frantically try to find Scripture taken out of context to attach to these teachings to claim that they are Biblical.
Thirdly, there are some leaders in the patriocentric movement who have promoted and even sold Andelin’s book, have endorsed her on their websites, and have even plagiarized her in their own writings. You should beware that when you read patriocentric thought, you may be reading Andelin. And this is especially important to know: Helen Andelin was a Mormon and central to her worldview are the teachings of the Mormon Church which is a cult that denies the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible.
Finally, I would like to share one more book in today’s trilogy of patriocentric dogma for women. The first introduction little girls often have to patriocentric womanhood is found in a collection of books called the Elsie Dinsmore series, written between 1867 and 1905 by a woman named Martha Finley. Though Findley was raised in the north and lived much of her life in Ohio, scholars categorize the Elsie series as part of the body of literature that promotes the Lost Cause Myth. Wanting future generations to look back on the Civil War and see it as anything but a lost cause, writers during this era glamorized the antebellum age and rewrote history, portraying the war as being fought over states rights rather than slavery. It is important to note that the idea central to maintaining the way of life they loved was a hierarchical system of slavery and patriocentricity and the Lost Cause literature was the key ingredient to reclaiming that social order. Historian Victoria Ott noted that “the promotion of a domestic ideal that touted men as the patriarchal head of the family legitimated the reassertion of the pre-war status quo.” Putting the Dinsmore books into the context of the Lost Cause agenda helps us understand why Elsie is an important figure in modern patriocentric literature.
Promoted and sold by Vision Forum and recommended on dozens of homeschooling websites, Elsie Dinsmore is certainly the chosen role model for young girls in the patriocentric paradigm. There are 28 volumes of the Elsie Dinsmore books and you can also get Elsie dolls and a complete wardrobe with accessories to accompany her. Elsie is a young girl whose mother has died and who is raised by her black slaves while living on her father’s plantation in the deep south. Though Elsie is touted as the perfect role model for girls to emulate, there are dangerous lessons for girls woven throughout these books and even some that could send many inappropriate messages. Elsie’s father is a mean and unregenerate man and Elsie’s virtue rests in her complete obedience to him, even in one situation where her father is about to beat her with a horse whip for something she did not do. She is the object of affection, even at age 8, for an older man whom she eventually marries. When she marries, she grieves and weeps because she has to leave her father. In fact, the father-daughter relationship is central to the story in each book and the perpetual childlike adult Elsie never appears to become a true grown-up. Detailed descriptions of her sitting on her father’s lap and kissing him long and hard on the lips may not shock some parents but I found it creepy and distasteful.
Aside from these concerns, the stories are sprinkled throughout with racist thought and hierarchical propaganda which should be reason enough to avoid them. Elsie is the perfect picture of what some men in the 1870’s thought a woman ought to be but to see her as a role model of godly womanhood is a stretch. She acquiesces, she cries, she is physically and spiritually perfect and through that perfection she is able to have significance, including bringing about the salvation of her father. The message is clearly given to little girls that if they are perfect enough, they can be loved and accepted by both God and man. In no way does she represent a real woman addressing the real issues of life. Instead, Elsie is a characateur of the perfect patriocentric woman, a model for wimpy womanhood, in many ways the embodiment of Andelin’s perfect woman and the beginning of such indoctrination at a much younger age. How much better it would be for young girls to be introduced to the biographies of missionaries and to the great women in the Bible.
In contrast to the books I have discussed today, true and genuine biblical womanhood is found when a woman trusts in Jesus Christ alone for her salvation and not by any perceived righteousness that came from her own hands. It blossoms under sound doctrinal teaching that encourages her to trust the Word of God alone as a source of truth and has no agenda other than glorying God. Real woman are sure and strong and capable helpmeets for their husbands. The Hebrew word for “help” to describe a wife is “ezer,” which is rich and full of the imagery of God who describes himself as our “ezer” the one who comes alongside us in battle, who rides across the heavens to come to our aid.
As Christians we are engaged in a terrible spiritual battle in a world that is hostile to the Gospel of Christ. In Ephesians 6, we are called, all men and women, to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, to take up the whole armor of God, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Our husbands and our sons, who are also our brothers in Christ, need us, as women to be prepared to come alongside them in spiritual battle. They need for us to put aside the trivial, to grow up into the fullness of our salvation, no longer role play at being little girls and to stop manipulating and feeding their egos. Let’s repent of the sins of partiality and triviality and become real women, by God’s grace.