On November 13 Douglas Wilson, the controversial and periodically scandal embroiled pastor of Christ Church in Moscow Idaho posted an article entitled Patriarchy, Vision Forum, and All the Rest of It. Like so many other Doug Wilson blog posts, this one is timely, and clearly addressing a current event. In this case the event is the Doug Phillips sex scandal and resignation, and the announcement of Vision Forum Ministry’s closure.
Doug Wilson uses the opportunity to define his own kinder and gentler form of Patriarchy which, he alleges, is nothing more than “Father rule. That’s the good part.” I’ll leave off, for the time being, addressing the numerous manifestations of Doug Wilson’s own ecclesiastical tyrannies and abuses, and various and sundry scandals he’s been embroiled in. After all, this blog is dedicated to Doug Phillips’ Ecclesiastical Tyranny and Abuse. I’ll leave it to someone else to dedicate a blog to Doug Wilson (oh, wait, there’s already been several of those).
What I do want to address is the propensity in what I term “Hyper-Patriarchy” (among whom I count Doug Wilson), that so often have implied that when a great Christian leader falls due to the sin of adultery, it’s the woman’s fault. Clearly, this is what Doug Wilson conveys in this article. In Doug Wilson’s world Doug Phillips isn’t necessarily responsible. More than likely he was led astray by his own masculinity and by a seductive woman’s blandishments:
Testosterone is a good thing, and can be used by God as part of His gifting men for leadership, but it is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. God uses gifts, but He blesses fruit.
A man with lots of testosterone is in a position to start a dynamic ministry that speaks to thousands, that fills conference halls, and that rivets people to their seats. Taking a hypothetical, that very same man is also in a much better position to succumb to the blandishments of a stripper with a stage name of Foxy Bubbles, and all in the settled conviction that his sin will not find him out. How could his sin find him out? He rivets people to their seats.
Samson eventually had his eyes put out, but even before he lost his eyes he was not able to see what Delilah was doing with and to him. The thing that God was using against the Philistines, his strength, was also the thing that Delilah was using in a series of sexual jiu jitsu moves against Samson. It is an old trick, and it still works very, very well.
Quite often these Hyper-Patriarchs will not just blame the other woman, they’ll also blame the wife: She didn’t keep herself up. She should have stayed pretty for her husband. She let herself go. She put on weight. She loafed around the house all day. She lost interest in her husband and didn’t want to do anything with him anymore. She got preoccupied with the kids and left no time for him. She stopped dressing pretty, putting up her hair and doing up her face. She wore a frumpy denim jumper around the house all day. She stopped putting out.
Now where these problems with a wife are true (and such things do sometimes happen) it’s time to seek marital counseling, or take the wife on a romantic date (or better yet a vacation, minus the kids), not use those excuses to justify seeking emotional and sexual fulfillment outside of the marriage.
Though Hyper-Patriarchs like Doug Phillips would never admit it publicly, and they would certainly never teach it, in practice Doug Phillips has proven himself to be a Victorian in his view of marriage: The wife fulfills her conjugal duties to be fruitful and multiply, but as she ages and has more and more children and isn’t quite so thin and shapely anymore, and because of being consumed and fatigued with raising children, the husband uses these to rationalize seeking out love and affection from a beautiful young mistress. The Victorians, for all their alleged virtue and morality, were notorious for marital infidelity. Victorian men held that you obtained a wife to have your children and secure your family lineage, but you kept a mistress for love. Victorian wives quietly accepted the arrangement because there was nothing they could do about it. Likewise, the wives of the Hyper-Patriarchs believe they too are powerless to do anything about the injustices in their marriages.
This Victorian pragmatic (loveless) view of sex in marriage is especially well put forth by Doug Wilson: “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.”
Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1999), 86-87
In response to Doug Wilson’s article I posted the following comment on his blog:
Pastor Wilson, I appreciate the fact that you permit dissenting views, even from those who are less than tactful toward you. I’ll do my best to remain diplomatic. In your article “Doug Phillips’ Resignation from Vision Forum”, I posted several comments, one of which included, “Another article from you is in order, but I hope it will be considerably more circumspect and insightful than this one was.” You’ve done well in clarifying the biblical model of Patriarchy. It all sounds rather benign, and if in practice it really were that benign then I could largely agree with your interpretation. Doug Phillips too would claim to also fully ascribe to your interpretation that “Patriarchy simply means ‘father rule’.” But in orthopraxy it also means far more to Doug Phillips and his ilk.
Doug Phillips runs a power cult and what he preaches is not what he has practiced. The same goes for his fellow Patriarchy movement leaders. The problem you face in championing Patriarchy is that men like Doug Phillips have loaded the term “Patriarchy” with so much extra-biblical baggage that it’s forever tainted, if not ruined. The fruit of Patriarchy is that it’s directly responsible for driving many from the Christian faith. They didn’t stumble because of a healthy grace-filled interpretation of the holy Word of God. They stumbled because of a performance-based interpretation of Patriarchy which claims to derive its authority from the Word of God, when in point of fact it’s just modern day Phariseeism.
Various Christian leaders recognized this several years ago and sought to distance themselves with a more moderate and grace-filled form of patriarchy. They rebranded it with that “squishy” term you appear to dislike, “Complimentarianism.” I don’t believe their efforts have been particularly successful in winning back the stumbled. But it takes more than a polished marketing campaign to successfully call back the many sheep that were driven from the fold by domineering men and prideful manipulative women. Winning back the thousands, likely tens of thousand (and I’m in no way exaggerating here) of lost sheep — “little ones” as our Lord called them — home school kids that grew up under “Patriarchy” (I use the scare quotes deliberately because the very term is scary to them) and are now cynics of the Christian faith, will require a large doses of grace and compassion.
Yet all too often I see comments like ttpog’s: “They obviously have unresolved issues in their lives that has caused them much pain, but their angry insistence that is the fault of someone/something else at this point in their adult lives is quite juvenile. It is past time that they grow up, lay it at the foot of the cross, forgive and move on!” It pains me to see that, and I’ve seen such spiteful comments too often. All such comments serve to do is confirm in their minds that Christians are hateful, unloving, and that their God must be hateful and unloving too. ttpog goes on to ridicule the blog owners of http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com because they choose to be anonymous. What ttpog and your readers likely don’t know is they, and many others like them, have good reason for their anonymity — Doug Phillips is an attorney, as are others in the Patriarchy movement (such as Don Hart), and they routinely threaten litigation to silence opposition. Doug Phillips’ legal threats have silenced countless victims. The anonymity of those few who are publicly speaking out now isn’t bitter cowardice but prudent courage.
But there are other victims too besides the children who grew up under Patriarchy. I think especially of the mothers who bought into Patriarchy, many with good intentions of wanting to improve family life by obeying the Bible. They struggle as many wives have with coming to a healthy understanding of “Wives submit to your husbands.” Their own pastors usually fall short in explaining, so they look to some Christian guru that claims he or she has the answers. Doug Phillips and his cohorts claim they do, as do others such as Kevin Swanson, James and Stacey McDonald, and R.C. Sproul Jr. Many of these seeking women jump into the Patriarchy movement without any mention of Patriarchy, let alone any coercion, by their husbands. I dare say that the first place many Christian men hear of “Patriarchy” is from their wives.
Doug Phillips himself has acknowledged that well over 80% of his sales come from women. That would be consistent with what all Christian publishers say, including Focus on the Family. The vast majority of family and relational books, CDs, DVDs, homeschool conference tickets, etc., are purchased by women. I’d be interested to know Pastor Wilson what your own sales demographics look like. Women order the books and videos, go to the homeschool conferences and hear the lectures, and before you know it they’re caught up in all the extra-biblical baggage that goes along with it. The heartbreak these women face today is overwhelming as they witness first-hand the ruined lives of their children who have, because of the legalism and performance based acceptance, rejected any and all semblance of Christianity, rushing headlong into carnality as a direct result of Patriarchy.
Next we have the mothers/wives who embrace Patriarchy out of pride. These women cause the most harm of all and, my personal observation informs me that they are more numerous than those men who jump into Patriarchy seeking “biblical” justification for their preexisting entitlement to authoritarianism. I don’t speak as an outsider but as one who was in the middle of a Patriarchal power cult that was heavily influenced by Doug Phillips, Kevin Swanson, James and Stacey McDonald, and R.C. Sproul Jr. I’ve often heard it said “Women don’t dress for men, they dress for other women.” That same competitive pride drives Patriarchal women to compete in church through “militant fecundity”, submission to husbands through modest apparel (no jewelry, long dresses worn everywhere including while gardening, and headcoverings being the ultimate indication thereof), homeschooling, remaining silent in church, agrarianism, blanket training, breaking the child’s will with daily “discipline” (code language for beatings with welt-raising pain-inducing objects that might even include 1/4″ plastic plumbing hose), etc. Later when the kids go off the rails and rebel, she’ll engage in historical revisionism and blame her husband, telling the children, “It was all your father’s idea. He made me do it. I was just submitting to him.”
This social structure is far more Japanese than American. The public image of Japan is Patriarchal, but within the Japanese home it is Matriarchal. On the typical Japanese street you’ll see wives dressed modestly, walking subserviently behind their husbands, heads bowed low, hands folded in front. She is the very image of an obedient wife. She’s submissive because she looks submissive. But it’s all for show. Enter the home and you’ll see quite the opposite. She rules the roost and wears the pants. Papason comes home on payday and hands her the paycheck. Mamason makes all the family decisions.
This is the reality of many so-called Patriarchy homes, including the McDonald home (albeit not Doug Phillips or R.C. Jr. — theirs are “machismo” as you term it). Prideful women jump in and drag their passive husbands along for the ride, claiming all the while she wants to be biblical and submit to her husband. They boast (ever so humbly) to their friends in their “women’s prayer meetings” about how submissive they are to their husbands, boasting about all their children’s home school science fair accomplishments, and a plethora of other accomplishments. Their husbands are a mere fixture in the home. Everything really revolves around her. The children exist to make her look good through their accomplishments which she takes full credit for. It’s the epitome of performance-based acceptance. The leaders of this system are women like Stacey McDonald and Jennie Chancey.
Then there are the easiest targets of all for the wrath of the “gleeful feminists” — the chest-thumping (“men with lots of testosterone” as you put it) Patriarchs. I would be remiss though in failing to point out that “gleeful feminists” are also your easiest target and one which you habitually stereotype and reflexively throw anyone into who objects to Patriarchy (however it’s defined), regardless of the basis for their objections. To my knowledge, you have never addressed the matter of the women Patriarchalists that I’ve identified above. Nevertheless, I agree with your assessment that “some of the machismo patriarchalists that I described above gravitated to Vision Forum circles, and found what they thought was adequate cover there.” Where else are they going to gravitate to?
Vision Forum attracts many well-meaning people, but it inescapably attracts many unhealthy men (although you failed to mention the far more numerous unhealthy women it’s attracted). Not only is there adequate cover for abusive men, but Doug Phillips himself is such a man, as are his partners in Patriarchy. One needs to look beyond their eloquent home school conference speeches and see it in action to recognize it for how extra-biblical it is, and even toxic and destructive of healthy family life.
Especially problematic are your two paragraphs devoted to Foxy Bubbles and Delilah. Perhaps you didn’t intend to say what it sounds like you’re saying, but the inevitable takeaway is that you believe that Douglas W. Phillips didn’t woo and seduce a young lady (barely of legal age when the affair started), in a power-cult structure Phillips called “Patriarchy” that made it impossible for her to refuse his advances. Rather, in your view, by her female stripper-like “blandishments” and “sexual jiu jitsu“, and because of Doug Phillips’ “good thing” “gifting men for leadership” testosterone, Doug Phillips is an innocent victim of his God-given “strength”, taken advantage of by “an old trick, and it still works very, very well.”
On the whole your article provides ample evidence that you just don’t get it. Worse yet you completely blew a golden opportunity to serve as a peacemaker, calling back to the fold of God the thousands of victims of the Phillips/Swanson/McDonald/Sproul brand of Patriarchy. You fail to follow your own advice: “If you don’t want them whacking you, don’t hand them the stick.”