America Alone was a wake-up call for me. I immediately began searching for corroboration. Maybe this Mark Steyn guy had it all wrong. Ever the academician, I scoured the internet for social commentary and economic articles on demographics or declining birth rates. I was soon introduced to Phillip Longman, Sr. Research Fellow with the Economic Growth Program and Research Director of New America’s Next Social Contract Initiative, through his Foreign Policy article entitled “Why Men Rule” subtitled “And conservatives will inherit the earth.” This latter part was right up my alley. So, Mark Steyn wasn’t alone. I learned of Phillip Longman’s 2004 book The Empty Cradle: How falling birthrates threaten world prosperity and what to do about it. I also found a less academic, but interesting none-the-less article called “Birth Dearth” by Michael Meyer published in Newsweek. It’s subtitled “Remember the population bomb? The new threat to the planet is not too many people, but too few. How the new demography will shape the coming century.” And finally, an article on the return of patriarchy by Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called “The Return of Patriarchy? Fatherhood and the Future of Civilization.” Now I had a new rabbit to chase down. Patriarchy.
The term patriarchy caused me to immediately conjure up an image of Abraham, Isaacc, and Jacob, the well-known patriarchs of the Bible who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel. I found my initial gut reaction to patriarchy was one of disdain. I envisioned a misogynistic culture rampant with polygamy and abuse towards women. But patriarchy in its purest sense, I learned, is about Biblical male headship. A patriarch in this sense is a man who is the husband of one wife, as opposed to one who refuses to bear the responsibility of marriage or worse one who marries one after another, moving on to greener pastures if and when he pleases. A patriarch is a father who takes responsibility for the provision of his children in every sense of the word: economically, educationally, emotionally. He loves the wife of his youth unconditionally. He never leaves her or forsakes her. He embraces the responsibility of a family, rather than shunning it for his momentary pleasure or creature comforts. He works hard for the ones he loves and doesn’t resent them for it. He leads, yes, but as most good leaders do, he serves the very ones he leads and counts it an honor.
I may not have been raised quiverfull, but this brand of patriarchy was something I understood. My father embodies all these noble qualities of a patriarch and it was something I wanted for my family. My husband and I had decided early in our marriage that I would go back to school and work as a means of supplementing our income. We didn’t need the money or the benefits, but we wanted them. And the truth is I didn’t want him to be my head. I wanted equal headship. So in the process of trying to be free I made myself miserable. I resented him that I worked two full-time jobs, as all working mothers do. But at this point in my journey I began to wonder whether I, we, might be happier if I quit my job and stayed home. True, it would free up an enormous amount of time for me and we would be able to home school our children which appealed to us. I wouldn’t be so stressed and hurried and I could finally be the homemaker I was always dreaming of, but what about the extras that my working gave us? It wasn’t just about money for me, either. I have to confess that it was a blow to my pride to give up an identity outside of my family, and to give up the shared provision for our family and decision-making abilities (read spending) that conferred. Thankfully, my husband had been independently arriving at this same conclusion through his suffering both as the forgotten member of the family whose needs were pushed to the back of the priority list and as the guy who had to moonlight as Mr. Mom whenever I was at work. So we made the decision two years ago that I would be a stay-at-home mom.
I’m not trying to step on any toes here. Remember I was a working mom, too and I know how deeply I loved the Lord and my children. I love them no more now than I did then. Let’s stand back for a moment and look at the big picture. Surely we can all agree as to the benefits of patriarchy as a cultural norm. Imagine if there were no single mothers and no fatherless children. In fact, Biblical patriarchy also extends a man’s responsibility to the dependents of any deceased brothers. So even in instances where a man dies leaving a wife and children, they would be cared for by his surviving brothers. Biblical patriarchy includes the idea that a man cares for his parents, as well. Are you seeing the public policy implications here to everything from social security and health care to welfare and subsidized daycare for single moms? The economic ramifications alone of a cultural abandonment of Biblical patriarchy are staggering and this is just what our nation has done. Now think of the social consequences. Divorce and dysfunctional families become the norm. Many couples choose to delay or forego marriage altogether in favor of remaining free from family entanglements. Children grow up without their fathers in many instances and with unavailable fathers in many more. I soon realized we would be better off as a society to love patriarchy, rather than loving to hate it.
The mental image conjured up by a society held captive by feminism of a caveman hitting a cavewoman over the head with a club and dragging her back to the cave by her hair is a gross misrepresentation of Biblical patriarchy. Of course there have been abuses just like in every area of life. God sets a standard and man breaks it. This is how it’s been since the garden. Just because we’re sinners and don’t live in Utopia is no reason to throw out all ideals. It’s understandable really why the world wants nothing to do with patriarchy. But it’s alarming that the church has also largely replaced patriarchy with feminism. The church is becoming indistinguishable from the world on far too many fronts and this is one of them.
I hadn’t realized how firmly I’d been entrenched in feminism until I initially reacted with repugnance to the concept of patriarchy. I have to confess it took me by surprise when I found security, meaning, and freedom within the tenets of Biblical male headship. You may be wondering at this point what patriarchy has to do with being quiverfull. Under the system of Biblical patriarchy women are freed up to devote themselves fully to their families. The birth rate in our country and the rest of the western world fell when women went into the workforce in mass droves, which in turn was made possible by the pill. See the connection? Both patriarchy and quiverfull ideologies depend upon the embracing of Biblical manhood and womanhood. And this sent me back to the Bible to finish my journey.
What do you think of patriarchy? Do you think women are victims or beneficiaries under this type of system (if practiced properly)?
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.