Doug Phillips and Vision Forum Ministries were prominent in the Christian Patriarchy Movement, so their recent scandals have brought fresh attention to the movement. On October 30th, Doug Phillips resigned from his position as president of Vision Forum Ministries, and shortly thereafter, Vision Forum Ministries shut down. Some commentators have used the scandal as an opportunity reflect on how Christian Patriarchy ideology unfairly silences women, fails to hold men accountable, and creates a world ripe for hypocrisy.
Unfortunately, one commentator seemed more interested in defending Christian Patriarchy ideology than reflecting on what went wrong at Vision Forum Ministries.
In a November 13th commentary at Blog & Mablog, Doug Wilson discussed the closure of Vision Forum Ministries following Doug Phillips’ October 30th resignation. He called the closure “fitting and appropriate”, admitting that “the effects are devastating” when a man like Phillips fail to behave responsibly.
Unfortunately, he devoted much of his column to defending the supposed virtues of patriarchy, in spite of Phillips’ misconduct. Wilson dismissed feminists who criticized patriarchy, accusing them of “screeching”. He lamented that the word “patriarchy” has been tarnished in the eyes of “saps” who have absorbed “feminist indoctrination”.
“Feminists diligently labor to represent any form of father rule as inherently bad, or at least as bad as a relativist can make it out to be — which is pretty bad since the case need not be based on careful reasoning, but rather just screeching. Screeching goes a long way these days.
So, after a generation of saps has gone through the feminist indoctrination that we call the university system, all you have to do is use the word patriarchy in some unapologetic way, and everybody stares at you like you were a six inch cockroach or something.”
Wilson defended patriarchy at length, citing Bible passages that gave husbands authority over wives and fathers authority over children. He called patriarchy “inescapable”, arguing that our only choices are for men to act as responsible patriarchs and receive “blessing”, or to fail at their calling and bring down “humiliation and chastisement” upon themselves.
Throughout the commentary, Wilson refused to admit that male dominance in and of itself was problematic.
He admitted that some “machismo patriarchalists” may have “gravitated to Vision Forum circles, and found what they thought was adequate cover there.” However, he quickly added that “many marriages have been saved as a result of the things learned from Vision Forum”, clinging to his belief that it is abuse of patriarchy, not patriarchy itself, that is the problem.
When a powerful man “with lots of testosterone” takes part in adultery, Wilson sees a sleazy, manipulative Delilah at work.
“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.”
Phillips was not a shaved, blinded Samson, but a man who made a conscious choice to engage in infidelity.
What message does this send to the world about the woman Doug Phillips was involved with?
We don’t know who she was or what the nature of her contact with Phillips was. To boot, Phillips was a powerful man in his subculture, and we don’t know what, if any role that power played in his inappropriate relationship. (HA note: We know more as of yesterday.) If his misconduct involved force, threats, or relations with a minor, rhetoric about Delilah and “sexual jiu jitsu” would be victim-blaming.
Let’s get all the facts before assuming that the woman in question was some wily Delilah.
When an institutional crisis strikes, it’s sadly common to see people circle the wagons rather than admit that systemic problems may exist. Any ideology, including Christian Patriarchy ideology, that arbitrarily gives one group vast power over another group will produce injustice and lack of accountability. Patriarchy is intrinsically unjust, and it becomes doubly toxic when propped up by religion. The Phillips scandal demands that we confront patriarchy.
I’m disappointed that Doug Wilson fails to understand this.