The Impetus of Patriarchy

I read an interesting article at The Good Men Project about: The Hazards of Manhood

Despite some obvious political leanings away from my preferred direction, the article nails some important aspects about manhood and my gender’s incessant quest to attain it, which I think are absolutely true.

“Most American men know perfectly well the qualities they must display to be considered fully creditable as men: power, competitiveness, and toughness.”

That’s the prize, right there. You have to be “considered fully creditable as a man”. And the unspoken understanding of many is that you don’t just get that from having X and Y chromosomes and reaching adulthood. You have to earn your manhood, so as to be seen manly by those around you. If you can feel it, all the better, but in the very least you need to be seen that way.

“They compete for promotions, putting work first in their lives, lest they be seen as wimpy or wussy—sexist code words for “feminine” or “womanly.”

The thinking behind this: If you’re not a man, then you’re a woman. Female is the default gender. Little boys and little girls are virtually indistinguishable with their voices, body hair, and skin, but some of us grow out of that, attaining manhood. The rest remain in that lesser condition. So you can either “wuss out” (be a girl), or you can “man up” ( be a man).

And as the article above tells us, far too many men spend a lifetime reaching for that goal but never feeling they obtain it. (This is absolutely true, and one of the powerful selling points in the message of John Eldredge’s best seller, Wild at Heart.)

“This kind of manhood striving is driven by a contradiction: To be a real man in U.S. society, one must have or display power—the capacity to exert control over one’s self and the surrounding world—but the fact is that most men in a capitalist society have little or no power. For most men, striving for manhood status is an attempt to evade this contradiction, to escape the psychic pain it causes.”

And there you have it.

And if that’s true, that is ultimately what drives patriarchy: Men living in the pain of not “being the man”, which is believed to be “displaying power to exert control over one’s self and one’s world.”

As John Piper said, “Men are hard-wired to lead”.  And by that Piper means that if he is not leading, he is not being manly. Listen to John:

Ok wait. Let’s think this through…. The only difference between a “Complementarian” Christian and an Egalitarian Christian is that the Complementarian places men in authority and leadership roles over women.

And in the video above, when it comes to answering a little boy’s question, “What does it mean to grow up and be a man, and not a woman?” – John Piper says that Complementarians are the only ones of the two that can answer that question. Apparently the only difference between men and women that Piper can see and articulate is that men lead, women follow. So John Piper’s masculinity is inseparably linked to his authority and leadership of women.

This is made clear in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, “The Meaning of Masculinity” (2006 edition, pp36-45) and several other places. Piper says that mature masculinity includes a sense of responsibility to lead. (p36) “Mature masculinity does not have to initiate every action, but feels the responsibility to provide a general pattern of initiative.” (P 39).

And if a man can’t do that in the neighborhood, or the factory, or the office, or at the club, where can he do it?

At home. In the church, where he can still build his patriarchal kingdom and rule over his subjects. After all,

“A man’s home is his castle.” – Sir Edward Coke, 1628 AD

The church and the home are among the final bastions of officially sanctioned male power. This is true for a number of reasons, among them tradition and faulty Biblical interpretation. But from this brother’s perspective, there is another, more compelling reason.

I believe that fueling the reluctance to change or to even look deeply into the issue of male/female equality is, in the heart of many men,  fear.

Often people think it’s about selfishness or control,  and sometimes it is. But I don’t think most guys in the church are like that. It’s usually not a case that they’re bad men. Quite the contrary, most Christian guys just want to live their life, raise their kids and grandkids, serve the Lord and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” at the end. But many men, even the strongest ones, have a deep and abiding fear of not measuring up. I suspect that fear and insecurity drives John Piper and his theology of “Biblical Manhood” and his feelings that his manhood is being compromised whenever he is in the presence of a woman he feels is less than lovingly deferential to his “authority”. And I believe that theology plays into one of the worst fears of very many men: The fear of not being seen as manly.

Can you imagine Jesus deriving his personal sense of manhood from his authority over and leadership of women? Neither can I.

We shouldn’t be drawing our theology from our fear of inadequacy, nor let such fear hinder our quest for the truth.

23 thoughts on “The Impetus of Patriarchy

  1. This is excellent, Greg!! What he says in the video is very disturbing.

    I clicked on the link to follow your blog by email but I’m not sure it worked (since no form came up to fill in my info). It might just be my internet connection, which is rural satellite and not always reliable. I’ll try again later.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Your conclusion drives home the point so well: “We shouldn’t be drawing our theology from our fear of inadequacy”. Our understanding of God comes from the Word and prayerfully following the Holy Spirit in wisdom and grace. There is no inadequacy in that at all.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. In the video, Piper thinks he has come up with a “gotcha” question for egals. He agrees there are human virtues, but what can you say to a boy about being a man that is NOT true for being a woman? His answer is that a man leads and a woman follows and that this is God’s plan. It used to be the case that this was said by some of white/black relations, a white leads and a black follows and that this is God’s plan. In fact, it is for their own good (flourishing) that blacks are commanded by whites. If it was racist in the latter case (and it was) then let’s us call it what it is in the former case, sexist. John Piper is a sexist and should repent of his sexism. He should take off his “blue glasses” that distorts what Scripture teaches about equality.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Excellent, excellent, excellent. Very well done, my brother. 🙂 We need men in the Body of Christ addressing these issues among men.

    It is interesting the Piper complained about a woman praising her husband for Christian human qualities because they could be found in women as well. He wanted to hear something that set him above women. And that is the crux of the problem.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Excellent analysis.

    Thinking in terms of fear as motivator: I also find it odd that complementarian/patriarchalists tell women that they need to constantly stroke their husband’s ego or he will fall apart. Apparently if people don’t tell you you’re manly non-stop, there’s no way for you to know.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Exactly, Sarah. And they nullify her ability to truly “help” the man in any meaningulful way.Rather than being a true, Godly and equal “helper” who will tell a man what he needs to hear, they turn her into a “people pleaser” who tells him what he wants to hear.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I’ve raised a son and daughter, who are now 19 and 21. And at age 8, neither of them asked me “Mommy, what does it mean to grow up to be a godly man? (Or woman)” I’m just saying. I do remember my daughter, at about that age, asking if a woman had ever been president of the United States. When I told her no, she said, “Well, if one isn’t by the time I’m old enough, I guess I’ll have to run.” 🙂
    In fact, all through their teen years, neither my son nor my daughter asked John Piper’s imaginary question or anything like it. They asked a lot of questions, just not that one. Questions like, how do you love your enemies? Why is there injustice? What are we really saying when we talk about God? They engaged full-on with theology (figuring out how to talk about God and live out their faith). They asked, what does it mean to discover my spiritual gifts and engage them to further God’s kingdom? They asked, how can I share my faith with others, serve the poor, love Jesus?
    And even before they had the complete answers, they just walked forward in faith and did those things, trying as best they could, imperfectly but beautifully. They loved their neighbors (and their classmates at school), and even tried to love their enemies. But they never asked that question–because it’s a question hierarchists have made up, to try to shore up their position. My children only asked, “how do I follow Jesus, and live as he would if he were in my place?” It’s really the only question any of us need ask.
    Great post and it’s wonderful to have you joining the conversation. Your voice matters!! Thank you.

    Liked by 8 people

    • That’s awesome that your kids did all that and asked all those questions. Maybe they never asked about biblical man/womanhood because that kind of nonsense was never shoved in their faces for them to worry about. Maybe Com0lementarian’s children do ask those kinds of questions because they start hearing about as babies. From your comment, I gather you saw your kids as humans first.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m constantly astonished/irritated that a man whose demeanour seems to suggest wisdom and stability, is actually so completely out of touch in terms of the most basic emotional intelligence. His lack of awareness of his own faulty and prejudiced arguments inform the opinions of so many others, who are also lacking in basic awareness of what it is to be free.
    It’s hard to understand how he explains people like Condoleeza Rice, Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, and so many many other women who clearly hold the highest leadership roles in their nations and organisations…
    I’ve observed that men who propagate this kind of doctrine are often (although not always, of course) on the back foot at home – not in an equal relationship but with a wife who is domineering.
    Thanks for your thoughts on this subject, Greg.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: The Impetus of Patriarchy | Down to Earth

  9. Do these people — Piper and his cronies — not have physical bodies? Are they so locked into their ivory towers that they are out of touch with what it means to live life as opposed to pontificate upon how others should live it?

    My six kids never asked such a question, although they asked a number of questions about life, men, women, families, and more. I’ll admit that I probably over-sheltered them at times. But they weren’t THAT sheltered.


    • My kids never asked such a question either! Somehow the boy turned into a man and the girl into a woman.

      Did you happen to see the post this week in the Junia Project on the full Piper video? Kate Wallace wrote a very powerful article that refutes him very well. You can see it here–>> LINK

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Standing Up for our Sisters at the Men’s Retreat | This Brother

  11. Wow. Greg, if indeed you have nailed it on the head (and I suspect you have) when you wrote, ” …most Christian guys just want to live their life, raise their kids and grand kids, serve the Lord and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” at the end. But many men, even the strongest ones, have a deep and abiding fear of not measuring up.” –then there is a simple answer to be found, but only in Christ. Surely, a deep and abiding fear shows us where we are not relying on/trusting in Christ. A fear of not measuring up must mean that deep down I am relying on myself (abilities, skills, will power, performance, track record, or the like) for acceptance rather than on Christ and what He’s done for me. Maybe many men trust God for forgiveness and their salvation, but not for righteousness. It is true for everyone of us that, “I don’t measure up.” Jesus said that without him we can do nothing. He is the vine we are the branches. Paul said that with Christ he can do all things. God and Jesus never ask us to go it alone and accomplish a big long list of things to do. But that is how I act by default. I have to reprogram myself to take into account what God’s Word says. Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees for loading people with all these burdens (laws) and not lifting a finger to help them. If we think that we are on our own to obey Christ, we indirectly accuse him of being a harsh taskmaster like the Pharisees. It isn’t true. He is with us. We cannot fail. That He is with us is what ensures and defines success. There is a verse about David that says something like, “And David had success where ever he went because the Lord was with him.” !!! Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.

    This is a faith battle. Where we need to get God’s Word into our head, and when it is only in our heads, to get it deep down into our hearts. We need to stand on, lean on, rest on these truths. Other believers who seem to have a better handle on this type of thing: Neil Anderson (Freedom in Christ Ministries), Watchman Nee, Major Ian Thomas, Paul (especially Romans), Hudson Taylor, and probably everyone who talks about the “sufficiency of Christ.”

    Let’s not stop at enjoying only a limited part of our salvation, bought for us by Christ. Let’s seek to stand in and enjoy the whole thing, and all what it entails!! Jesus, help us, lead us into all truth by your Spirit!!


    • Amen, Sheri! Everything you wrote is a good antidote for the hopelessness that patriarchy has fed so many men. And of course, in addition to the truth you shared, it will also help a lot if we recognize those lies for what they are. Thanks so much for sharing.


  12. This just popped up in my FB feed. Piper’s comments are deeply troubling. “Men are wired to lead” – what about Angela Merkel, Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, and Golda Meir? And in the Bible, what about Deborah and Miriam? Were these women not also wired to lead? As far as his question about a child asking “what does it mean to be a man / woman ?”, my response would be to imagine you had a son and a daughter. What would you want for your son that you would not want for your daughter? And what would you want for your daughter that you would not want for your son? It seems that, for Piper, being a man requires you to control women, and that scares me.


  13. Pingback: On John Piper & Manhood - The Junia Project

  14. Pingback: On John Piper & Manhood – The Junia Project

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