Why the Distance Between “Christian Patriarchy” and “Complementarianism” Is A Sleight Of Hand: Rebecca Irene Gorman’s Thoughts


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Also by Rebecca on HA: “The No True Homeschooler Argument,” “I Was Beaten, But That’s Not My Primary Issue With Homeschooling” and “‘Fake Someone Happy’: A Book Review.” 

My pastor was the director of the Chalcedon Foundation and the other teachers I studied under were Mark Rushdooney, President of the Chalcedon Foundation, Doug Wilson, Howard Phillips (father of Doug Phillips) etc. Ground zero of the ‘Christian Patriarchy’ movement.

The context in which they use the word ‘patriarchy’: It’s not always capitalized. It’s not always typed as ‘Christian Patriarchy’. They don’t think of ‘Christian Patriarchy’ as the name of their movement. Yes, they do think that patriarchy is a good thing, and say so explicitly. They love to talk about the Biblical patriarchy, and are often happy to capitalize Patriarchy as a value essential to Biblical Christianity.

If you ask them what their movement is called, they’ll probably tell you ‘Biblical Christianity’. They might go on to mention the Reformers or covenentalism or Reconstructionism or postmillenialism or paedobaptism, because all of these things are central to their identity. Which ones they mention is purely personal preference. If you ask them what they believe about gender roles, they’ll say: ‘complementarianism’. NOT ‘Christian Patriarchy’.

For these people at ground zero of the ‘Christian Patriarchy’ movement, they talk about ‘Patriarchy’ as a positive thing, method behind taking dominion, the reason for quiverful beliefs, beliefs around baptism, communion, etc. While their promotion of this word is very telling about their objectification of women, it’s not what immediately comes to mind for them when they’re thinking about gender roles. What immediately comes to mind for them when thinking about gender roles are various Bible verses and stories that make up the culture’s dialogue about gender roles, and when they have to boil their gender role perspective down to a term, they think of it and talk of it as ‘complementarianism’.

It’s disingenuous to say ‘I’m not a Christian-Patriarchalist, I’m a Complementarian.’ Show me a person who claims to be a Christian Patriarchalist, or a Christian-Patriarchalist who doesn’t define their gender beliefs as ‘Complementarian’, and I’ll show you a fairy. NOBODY claims to be a Christian-Patriarchalist. Claiming to be a Complementarian ‘because that’s what the Bible teaches’ IS the definition of what we now-outsiders call Christian Patriarchy, end stop.

Saying ‘I’m not a Christian Patriarchalist, I’m a Complementarian’ is like saying ‘I’m not a giraffe, I’m a large African mammal with a very long neck and forelegs and a coat patterned with brown patches separated by lighter lines.’

10 thoughts on “Why the Distance Between “Christian Patriarchy” and “Complementarianism” Is A Sleight Of Hand: Rebecca Irene Gorman’s Thoughts

  1. Headless Unicorn Guy April 28, 2014 / 10:26 am

    Ever heard of the term “spectrum disorder”?

    At best, “Complementarianism” and “Patriarchy” are two points on a Male Supremacist spectrum, with the Taliban defining the top end and “Patriarchy” a bit farther up the spectrum.

    At worst, “Complementarianism” is just a long pseudo-intellectual word (and latest coat of camouflage paint) for “Patriarchy”, AKA Total Male Supremcacy.


  2. matt April 28, 2014 / 10:56 am

    Having been raised in the same brand of crazy as Rebecca, I would add that the leaders in the Christian Reconstructionist movement are very good at masking their long term agenda. If they came out and stated explicitly what they really believed, they’d lose too many of their moderate (by their standards) followers.

    Bill Einwechter made the mistake of taking off the camoflage too soon back in the late nineties when he published his article “Stoning Disobedient Children?” in the Chalcedon. Suddenly, non one wanted to be identified as a “Christian Reconstructionist” — sort of like how no one wants to be identified as a “Biblical Patriarchalist” today.

    Best to avoid these leaders altogether… they’re very sketchy.


  3. Lana April 28, 2014 / 11:00 am

    I think in mainstream culture there is a different. Both are sexist, but I know complementarians who are perfectly okay with a mother working and putting their kids in day care, and they never say daughters have to submit to their fathers. So there is a different, yet both are sexist.

    However, yes, most of these leaders are being ridiculous. They are patriarchal.


  4. concerned mom April 28, 2014 / 12:38 pm

    I agree that this is a slight of hand. In Swanson’s blog he emphatically states that he is not a patriarchalist but he has spoken so much and there is so much evidence of what he truly believes. I wish i had the time to link them all. His own words from his own radio programs show his true color. There is a definition war but evidence is evidence.


  5. Retha April 29, 2014 / 5:07 am

    Can I mention one technical problem with an article I find worthwhile – and agree with -otherwise? You mention “pseudobaptism” as one of the ideas central to their identity.
    Pseudo- is an adjective meaning false or pretend, having the appearance of something while not actually being it.
    The only people who speak of “pseudobaptism” uses it to say some people think they are baptised, but are not really. Users of this word may, for example, believe that Christians have to be baptised when confessing faith, therefore calling pedobaptism (infant baptism) pseudo-, or fake, baptism.
    To say “I believe in pseudobaptism” is to say that you believe in fake baptism. Nobody believes in something and call it fake at the same time.


  6. Becca Irene April 29, 2014 / 10:58 am

    Retha, that was a typo, should have been “paedobaptism”. Sorry!


  7. John D. Chitty April 29, 2014 / 7:36 pm

    The difference between patriarchalism and complementarianism lies in the fact that the Bible teaches mail headship in the home and the church, but doesn’t prescribe it for society. Patriarchalists think it does. Complementarians believe women have the Christian liberty to work outside the home, or not, based on their inclinations and opportunities.


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