Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

Karen D asked on A Travelogue of the Interior if there is a difference between complementarianism and patriarchy. Here is what I think:

IMO, there is a spectrum difference. I think 2 ideas are enough to qualify the holder as complementarian:

1) Some church tasks are restricted to men.

That is a spectrum in itself: Mild complementarians say that being head pastor is the only thing women cannot do, while others draw the line at all preaching in church. Some say women should not be pastors or elders, others pastors, elders or deacons. Some say women are not even allowed to make an announcement in church.

2) Husbands lead, wives submit.

That is a spectrum too: Some would have wives submitting to everything, even when asked to directly sin. Others pay lip service to submission, but live pretty close to egalitarian in practise. I actually wish the lip-service complementarians will state what the limits of submission ought to be, because if they do not, I think even “mild” complementarianism can be too harsh on those actually practicing it – as opposed to paying lip service. *

Because complementarianism seem to be based on 2 pillars, I see the possibility of being half-complementarian. It is entirely possible to believe in marriage without hierarchy, but in restricted church roles. Or in hierarchal marriage, but to have no problem with women in every possible form of church ministry.

“Christian” Patriarchy, or “Biblical” Patriarchy, also include these ideas (the more of these ideas someone believe, the more patriarchal (s)he is):

Stay at home daughters; no college for girls; “courtship” that means fathers screen potential suitors even before daughters spend time with them; home schooling not as a option but as mandatory for Christian families; falling in love as impure; physical punishment from babyhood upwards to break the will of the child; extreme “modesty” rules related to (almost always female) clothing; women not working for a salary; women not involved in politics or even voting; women as a class submitting to men (as opposed to wives submitting to only their own husbands) and even sisters submitting to their brothers; not taking steps to stay away (or keep a wife or children away) from an abusive father because he is their “God given authority” and it will be sin in their view to leave the authority God gave you; no birth control.

The terms “Biblical manhood” and “Biblical womanhood” were coined by the same people who coined the word “complementarian”, but is used by Patriarchy supporters too.

What do you think? Feel welcome to agree, disagree or add to the definitions.




* I think “mild” complementarianism is still too harsh:

Comments on: "Is there a difference between complementarianism and “Christian” Patriarchy?" (6)

  1. I’m not sure homeschooling qualifies as an increasing patriarchy factor since there are all sorts of people who homeschool, many not religious at all let alone patriarchal, and on the other side I don’t think a family who homeschools because of their patriarchal belief is intrinsically more patriarchal than one who has, say, a restrictive church school environment to reinforce their patriarchal beliefs. (We had some neighbors who attended such a church and school.) Maybe “controlled education setting” might be a more accurate description of what you are trying to say there.


  2. I agree that home schooling as an educational choice is not patriarchy by itself. Home schooling as an obligation (gender role) placed on mothers – the idea that this is the only Christian choice, together with some of the other ideas (“bricks”) in the list, all placed on the pillars of wifely submission and “women should not do [fill in the blanks] in church”, is patriarchal.
    But it is, of course, common to be patriarchal in many or some ideas on the list that includes home-school-as-doctrine, but not all or none.


  3. Agree. I guess you could say not all home schoolers are patriarchal but all patriarchal families are home schoolers. Not to mention that the curriculum is basically focused on passing on patriarchal values to the children.


  4. I like your illustration, but I’m wondering if it would be more illustrative to add a third pillar to the patriarchy side: women restricted in public life. A lot of the blocks piled on top of the two pillars on the patriarchy side (daughters stay home, women don’t work for money) are actually components of this third pillar. In short, patriarchy restricts and subordinates women in ALL areas of life, while complementarianism restricts them only in the church and home.

    I also don’t think child-rearing principles properly belong to the categories being defined. While homeschooling and corporal punishment are often part of patriarchy (because they are the means to the end of indoctrinating the children into the lifestyle), patriarchy and complementarianism are about gender hierarchy, not child-rearing.


  5. Kristen, thanks for that comment. A third pillar – restriction in public life – sounds very right.
    Those child rearing principles are mostly part of the “tenets of Biblical patriarchy” that was part of what Vision forum taught as a group, and which other such groups also taught.

    But the bricks that may be part is on another level than the pillars, and I think you are right: Public restriction (politics, work, etc.) are a 3rd pillar, these other things are optional bricks.
    I may post a revised version for another blog entry.


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