Monday, September 10, 2012

The Patriarchal Movement: Who Owns Your Faith?

I listened to Wade Burleson's eChurch at Wartburg Watch yesterday and was blown away by his sermon based on two verses of the Bible that he wrestled with.  Hebrews 11:11-12:

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.

I don't believe Wade was particularly focusing on the subject of Patriarchy when he was preaching, but my mind has been on that subject quite a bit lately because of our history in homeschooling and trying to put together the pieces of our puzzle of how we got to where we are today.  I think I would like to delve into that subject more deeply.  But first, I want to post Wade's sermon here.  I think this may ruffle some feathers.  In fact, I am sure it will ruffle some feathers at least privately with some people I know who are reading.  But I want to encourage you to do what Wade says:  wrestle with the text and see for yourself.

The Patriarchal movement is alive and well in homeschooling circles.  Doug Phillips of Vision Forum and Bill Gothard (Recovering Grace is a website dedicated to his dangerous teachings) are proponents of this teaching as well as Mike and Debi Pearl of Train Up a Child.  I believe Patriarchy is destructive in marriages and is a false doctrine.  

When you think of spiritual abuse, one tends to think of abuse occurring at one's church home.  This is different.  This teaching spreads quickly in homeschooling circles:  e-mail groups, online homeschool forums, homeschool conventions, homeschool speaking tours, homeschool magazines, podcasts, etc.  One family finds "good teaching on homeschooling" and spreads it to another.  You can essentially be in a very healthy church listening to very good teaching.   But when you get hold of this false doctrine, it can completely reshape your belief system.  

The homeschool movement is large and powerful.  They are vocal, educated, and very compelling.  These are the people who have convinced us homeschoolers that we are doing the right thing by educating our children at home.  They have told us the government schools are bad and we need to protect our rights to educate our children at home in a safe and Christian environment.  We want to align with these people.  They have been our cheerleaders in educating our children.  Some of them have paved the way for us, even helping to get laws passed that protect our freedom to educate our children at home.  So much of what they say is true, but there is an underlying current of false doctrine that is creeping in and has been creeping in for a long time.  There is a hidden agenda.  I'm going to expose it and Wade's sermon made me realize that I cannot be silent about it any longer because it is part of my story, too.

Here is a comment I posted on Wartburg Watch in response to the sermon.

Wade!!!!!!!!! I’ve been looking forward to this message since Deb mentioned a comment to me earlier this week. After having just listened to it, my brain is about to explode. You may not have been addressing this specifically to those of the Patriarchal camp, but this message has the capability to shut down that camp entirely.
The Patriarchal camp that I have experienced has the belief that my husband has control of my faith and is responsible for my faith. We’ve been taught that we must obey our husbands as the spiritual leaders of our families. We are under the covering or umbrella of his “protection”, that we are not to not question his authority, the man God has placed over us. No wonder the feelings of entrapment, the feelings of no liberty. So many women are in bondage to that philosophy, afraid to walk in the faith that God has given them for fear that it might surpass the faith of her husband and she might take the lead. This is clearly behind the common teaching that “women must not talk in church or ask questions” because if they do, they are preventing the husband from being the spiritual leader as God intended. Instead, the wife must ask the husband the question in private who then may ask the question on behalf of his wife. It forces him to look for answers himself, thus gaining more knowledge for himself so that he can better lead the family.
But is that not really forcing the wives to be manipulating and playing games? It seems to be implying that the wife’s behavior of wanting answers is responsible for her husband’s faith. So Patriarchal teachings actually acknowledge the power of a woman’s faith or influence, but treats it as the enemy causing strife in the home claiming she is trying to take the lead from the man.
It seems to me the Patriarchal camp is projecting and actually creating this strife between man/woman. I’m sure I will be thinking more about this, but those are my thoughts as of 9/9/12 :) Thank you, Wade, so much for this very enlightening message. I am certainly not done with this topic . . . . you can be sure of that.
I suspect most people may not want to listen to a 30-minute sermon when they are quickly reading blogs, but I would like to encourage you to do just that.   I've shared bits and pieces of my story of abuse in the church which included the lawsuit by my former pastor and now I'm discovering more abuse that we have been exposed to in the homeschooling movement.   I guess you are going on my discovery journey with me as I document what I am learning and open it up for discussion. 

I do want to wrestle with the scripture about these issues.  I am responsible for my faith - no one else is.  This movement says that the father is responsible for his family's faith.  It's interesting that the Patriarchal movement uses Abraham as one of their primary models of patriarchy and this sermon just blows that out of the water as far as his ownership of Sarah's faith.  Sarah had a mind of her own and a faith of her own.  Her faith was her gift from God.  It did not come through her husband.  It was her faith that caused her to conceive at the age of 90, not Abraham's.   Did you read that, homeschool moms?  This is so important.  Our faith is our own!  Praise God that He has opened my eyes.

Thank you, Pastor Wade for giving me permission to post the sermon here.  I so appreciate it.  


  1. Is is just me, or are there "technical problems" at Wartburg Watch? hmm... Coincidental? Or patriarchs at work?

    1. Pastor Wade's server also "cannot be found".

    2. Wow, you had me concerned for a sec. Evidently a lot of the internet is down, Dave. GoDaddy which hosts a lot of blogs is down. Someone just told me this on Twitter. It may not be a conspiracy this time!

    3. Must have been just my device-- both sites now working for me-- getting paranoid with "twittergate" going on. Now listening to great sermon.

    4. There was Twittergate and there was also the incident where both FBCJacWatchdog's site and mine were down simultaneously for readers who use Norton anti-virus.

  2. Thanks for this post Julie Anne. It needs to be said--clearly and often.

    Recently I heard this saying, which I have latched onto:

    Listen to what God makes known, NOT what people make up!

    This boils down to revelation not fabrication!

  3. Thank you for your continued boldness on these difficult subjects and for going deeper beneath the surface to try to find the root causes of spirtual abuse and heavy handedness. As a single woman, being a part of one of these churches that emphasized men's and women's roles more than other more important (and more clearly defined in scripture) doctrines was suffocating. When an idea becomes a movement and then becomes the social norm (homeschooling, women not working outside the home, etc) in church, those who are faithfully living out their walk with God in a way that doesn't fit the social norm are wrongly ostrcized and even encouraged to reconsider their personal choices (such as working mothers being talked to about their priorities, and single women being talked to about preparing for marriage more than focusing on serving the Lord with the gifts He's given them.) And those who fit the mold but actually have strong opinions like JA are wrongly labeled as not being submissive, rather than valued for their unique insights. It has been a process unlearning these sexist values that were detrimental to my faith and learning what God's word really says about me and about us as women.

    1. RP: I sent Jeff's letter to Alex of Calvary Chapel Abuse blog and look at one of the comments.

      Wow, I was moved to tears.

    2. Wow- so sad. And sadly not surprising. Women suffering silently in fear behind the mask of a godly submissive wife. This teaching is so damaging and yet so widespread. I wonder what it would look like if pastors all over did what Pastor Jeff did, and if men repented for not valuing the women in their lives, and if women were actually affirmed and even asked of their opinions and thoughts for how churches could be healthier

    3. It seems so basic, doesn't it, RP?

  4. Julie Anne,
    I too applaud you for looking for the deeper, structural causes of spiritual abuse. Though there are probably some pastors that are abusive from beginning to end, I suspect most enter the ministry with a sincere desire to serve God and the church. For those that loose this heart, what seduces them along the way? What eats away at their souls? Could it be, in part, the trap of seeing, in service to what is thought to be a Biblical teaching, people as less? Institutionalized sexism would certainly fit that bill.

    1. Craig - I really had not ever personally encountered sexism until this year when I spoke with pastors regarding my case. In fact, my mind was trying to dismiss it as I couldn't believe brothers in Christ were really treating me that way.

      I worked until our first child was born and never experienced any sort of sexism. I heard about sexism in the media and I expected it in the world, but not in church. What is going on here? Why does it exist in church? How can they reconcile that behavior? The pastors I spoke with were respected pastors. If respected pastors are treating women like this privately and in public, what message is that sending to other men and women? I think I need to publicly share my story.

  5. Julie Anne,

    Interesting enough, the Perls have actually spoken out against some of the excesses in the Patriarchy movement, especially concerning courtship & betrothal. I recall reading this in an article by Michael himself about a decade ago.

    An online friend of mine who is very interested in the movement (but does not agree with it) has often wondered why this movement gained so much traction within the Reformed churches, but not so much so elsewhere. Is it the theology or culture or some combination of both that is a breeding ground for it? If so, what particular aspects?


    1. Matthias: It always cracks me up how I am working on a post and then one of my readers asks me a question about the same thing I'm working on. I take that as a green light from God saying: GO, post on that, JA! :) I'm going to deal with your 2nd paragraph soon. I have an answer for you.

      Regarding your first paragraph - I hate to admit it, but we have been to at least two of the Pearl's workshops. We owned most of their books. I subscribed to their newsletters. I think I threw all of it away. I'm still going thru boxes from our move a year ago (ugh). It's funny because now I wish I had some of that material so I could look up some of the crazy ideas to use for quotes on the blog. Anyway, Mike Pearl is no dummy. He reads the letters from naysayers, he hears all the dissenters when they show up at their workshops and I'm sure he has seen his name on the internet. He knows how to say things the PC way - he's been on national news, too. He may say what he wants, but the proof is in the pudding. Debi wrote the book: Created to Be His Help Meet. If you read the Amazon reviews, there are about 125 reviews which are rated 1 (1 is the lowest rating). Read this part of a review written by a husband. I love that a husband wrote the review, btw. And tell me if this does not fit exactly with the topic of this post regarding what Wade is talking about.

      Point 1: CTBHHM takes away the very heart of a woman's identity as a child of God, created in His image, by Him and for Him. It takes a wife's God given role - being a help meet to her husband - and asserts that for every woman, being a help meet (as defined by Debi Pearl) encompasses her sole purpose for existing and her only true identity. It goes so far as to state that Eve was created in the image of Adam rather than in the image of God.

      Point 2: It presents a woman's husband as a mediator, a kind of high priest, between herself and God.

      Point 3: It consistently asserts that a woman/wife bears responsibility for a man's/ husband's sins, going so far as to say a husband's complete sanctification and deliverance from temptation is provided to him through his wife and her actions. It seems to teach that women are deceived by Satan but men are not, and that men's primary weakness is their desire for (or to please) women. Therefore, women cause men to sin (or not) by their actions and submission.

      Point 4: Its use of Scripture often seems wrong or out-of-context--so often that we frequently feel as though the author is stretching to find scriptural support for her own pre-determined conclusions. We feel it is more appropriate to first study the scripture and let it guide the conclusions.

      Point 5: It discourages women from spending time in prayer, Scripture study, or meditation on Scripture, hinting that a woman's spiritual connection to God is primarily determined and built through her actions towards her husband. It asserts that that there is no woman in Scripture who is commended for doing "spiritual" things (i.e. praying, reading Scripture, etc.)

      Point 6: The book itself is full of inconsistencies and can be very confusing.

      Point 7: CTBHHM advice to women involved in an abusive situation (it advocates enduring in silence for the glory of God) is not only Scripturally suspect, but is also potentially lethal. The book also suggests that when a woman is abused by her husband, it is usually her fault.

      Point 8: The writing often lacks grace and compassion towards those struggling, calling women names that should never be used to describe human beings made in God's image.

      Pearls are full-fledge into Patriarchy despite what words you might see them say in articles. Debi spills it very plainly.

    2. It's hard to tell with the font in my comment above, but the words in the last paragraph are mine.

      Here is the Amazon link to take a look at all of the reviews of Created to Be His Help Meet rated as a "1": Reviews Rated as 1

    3. that Amazon review from a husband--Wow! Is this what's being peddled in these camps? My heart goes out to the women and children and also to the husbands that are feeding off these... (dare I call these teachings) doctrines of demons! This is sick stuff believers are subscribing to!

      i listened to Wade's msg. so very true and timely! thank you, ja, for your ministry here.

  6. WOW~sounds eerily familiar, just saying. Thanks for sharing this patriarchal abuse. It is so insidious, just shows how important being in the Word and trusting God not men....or more exact 'extra' biblical teaching. I can see how this movement 'crept' into my home and we didn't even see it!

    1. Meaghan - - - and that we all responded the same way and soaked it up is what I find really creepy. Kool-Aid, anyone?

  7. That stuff sounds so etheral, meaning so very delicate, so highly refined, so heavenly, and so biblical.

    Then when couples hang out in groups that believe this, then it MUST be God's Word. By then, the water has been heating up in the pot and the froggies are suckered!

    When there appears to be only 'one voice' on this, and all other voices are suspect, then you get what you get! And it is pretty crappy!!

  8. And when single women hang out in groups that believe this, we are told that our value also lies in this sole purpose of being created as someone's helpmate, and the subtle message becomes "you are not yet whole". Nevermind the sacrificial serive of single men and women in the mission field and in the secular mission field known as the workplace in the U.S. All the Scriptures about being a light to the world and seeking out the lost somehow become blurry and secondary to those about gender roles wen you are immersed in a hard core patriarchal church culture. So happy to be done with the Froggy stew and happily serving where the Lord has given me much joy and purpose using the gifts He's given me out in the world. Yup, the world! With sinners!
    Side note- thank you, anonymous husband whose book review hits the nail on the head. Thank you for valuing your wife for who she is, and for valuing all women with your words. So encouraging and well said.

    1. Recovering - - - God is prompting me to deal with your specific issue and has brought others to my e-mail sharing similar stories. I have been very selfish and in my own little world and not realized what has been going on in the church regarding single women - whether that be single by choice, divorce, separation, death, etc, it seems the church is doing a poor job of taking care of singles. Thank you for speaking up here because your comment most likely represents many others who don't feel like commenting. I know that for a fact from my e-mail box. Thank YOU!

  9. Dear Julie Anne,

    I've been meaning chime in here for the past day or so. A few of my fellow commenters have wondered aloud what contributes to sexism and patriarchal thinking in the church. I wonder whether it might be the standards of the world (especially the developed Western world) creeping in.

    Your last few posts remind me of a book I've read recently by a psychologist named Dr. Terrence Real. (I realize some Christians take a dim view of psychology. In the spirit of Pastor Jeff Crippen's letter, I ask all such friends to bear with me.) In this book, Dr. Real writes a great deal about modern gender roles, and how they can exacerbate emotional problems. Much of his writing on this subject matches my own experience, and makes sense to me (speaking as a layman, mind you).

    According to him, modern gender roles often force men to sacrifice their "hearts" (i.e. vulnerability) and women to sacrifice their "voice" (assertiveness). As a trade-off, men are (tacitly) allowed to dominate women, and women are permitted to manipulate men. I was thinking of exactly this while reading the transcript of Edwin Young's tirade ... er, sermon. The way he seems so content to browbeat the women, and be manipulated by his wife (as long as she doesn't actually confront him).

    If Dr. Real's thoughts on this are accurate, it may simply be that a broken world's notions of gender are infecting the hearts of God's people, clergy included, and being dressed up as "godliness", making it all the more heinous.

    Sorry for the rambling post. Any thoughts from those who understand these things better than I?

    1. Very interesting, Serving. I hadn't even thought of it as far as society is concerned. I'm wondering how gender roles are working themselves out in Japan?

      Japan is so close in proximity to the Philippines, but they act worlds apart. We lived in the Philippines (with US Navy) for 2-1/2 yrs and in my discussions with my maids (pretty much everybody had a maid there, the military housing had maid's quarters and you were expected to have one), there was clearly stereotypes going on there that I had never heard of in the States. For example, if you were to drive around mid-day, you would see men sleeping in the shade beneath trees for an hour or so before getting back to their job. You would never see a woman taking a siesta. I loved my maid, Ampy. We weren't supposed to be "friends" with our house help, but Ampy was my friend. I remember one time driving on base and she was in the passenger seat. She saw a group of men sleeping beneath a tree and without warning, she reached over to blow the horn a few times, yelling to them, "Get up, you lazies!" I was sure not expecting that. I laughed my head off at her response. That conveyed a clear message to me about the conflict between gender roles in that country.

  10. I really like the stance and the accountability it allows women to have - and their role in the house and family...which I think gets under-played a lot by churches.

    I think, and this is my opinion, is that pastors should lead churches alongside their wife - as co-partners speaking to the issues of the day - for the whole church. I have found that men do not quite understand women's thinking and way of being...been my experience.


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