Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Connection Between Christian Patriarchy and Sexual Abuse in the Home

I have written the Foreword to Jon Zen's new book No Will of My Own, a short treatise on the connection between sexual abuse and Christian patriarchy. The Foreword, reprinted below, gives you an indication of the importance of Jon's new book. Newspapers are headlining with stories of sexual abuse in patriarchal homes, and it is incumbent upon those who love Christ and follow the teachings of Scripture to not remain silent in the face of such abuses caused by the error of patriarchalism.

"I am embarrassed to write the Foreword for this excellent little book by my friend Jon Zens for a couple of reasons. First, the person who should be writing it is Paulo Fuller of the Philippines. Paulo serves as the Director of Renew Foundation, a ministry devoted to help women and children escape the sex trade in Angeles City. Unfortunately, due to the publication deadlines for this book and Paulo's non-stop work in Angeles City, Paulo just does not have the time to write this Foreword. Jon Zen's wife, Dotty, and Bonnie Jaeckle from the United States are assisting Paulo in Philippino Filipino bar/street ministry for four weeks in early 2011. Paulo is far more qualified to talk about No Will of My Own. I am a pastor who understands intiutively and theologically the problems associated with patriarchy, but Paulo is on the streets and understands them experientially. For those of you who may be doubt the connection Jon Zen's makes between particarchy and sexual sins behind closed doors of Christian homes, Paulo's ministry and the dozens of others like it can sadly confirm what Jon writes. Many of the girls who wind up in the sex trade come from patriarchal homes.

Second, the content of this book is not easy to read. What Jon writes is important to read and understand, but it will not be comfortable to digest. To write a foreword for a book that deals with incest, sexual abuse and other forms of immoral behavior in the Christian home is something I'm not proud to have to do. Were it not for the false belief system that serves as the underpinnings of patriarchy, there would be no need for this book to exist.

Patriarchy is the belief that men have complete authority in the home, and that husbands should rule over their wives and children. Most conservative Christians who advocate patriarchy base their views on what God told Eve when she rebelled and God, pronouncing judgment on Eve, said:

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

Patriachalists say that the last portion of Genesis 3:16 means that (1). God commands that a woman should display sexual desire for her man (i.e. “your desire shall be for your husband”), and that (2). The male is to be the head, authority and ruler over the women in his home (i.e. “and he shall rule over you”). Women should be subservient to the men, and the Christian home ought to be governed by men, because God commands it to be that way, say those Christians who hold to patriarchy.

However, using basic principles of interpretation, one can easily see Genesis 3:16 is a consequence of sin and not a commandment from God. The woman’s desire for her husband in Genesis 3:16 is not, at least linguistically and contextually, a sexual desire. The word translated "desire" (teshuqah) is used in the next chapter, Genesis 4:7, where teshuquah refers to sin’s desire to control Cain. Thus, letting the Bible interpret itself, the word “desire” in both both Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 4:7 means “a desire to control.”

Simply put, sin causes a desire to dominate or control. The curse of sin becomes a constant battle for control. This is not how God created relationships between men and women to be. Many conservative Christians, though, have made the mistake of interpreting Genesis 3:16 to teach that God commands the woman to stay home, give sexual fulfillment to her man, while God has given the man complete authority to control and govern the women in his life. This theology of male domination can, left unchecked, lead to incest and sexual abuse.

When the God of all grace, however, gets a grip on the home, no longer will there be a fight to see who dominates and controls the other. Rather, there will be mutual submission between the husband and the wife because there is mutual equaility (i.e. Ephesians 5:21 – “submitting to one another in reverence to Christ”). Mutual submission, with no thought of control, is God's design for the home. It should be the effort of every Bible-believing church, pastor and teacher to instruct husbands and wives on the sinful nature of any husband or wife who seeks to dominate the home.

Dr. Richard Hess, Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Denver Theological Seminary comments on Genesis 3:16. Dr. Hess said all Christians should attempt to pull down any patriarchal system of domination and control in the Christian home, and then responds to those who object to any attempt to end patriarchy:

"It is no more a sin to end this consequence of the fall than it is to use weed killer to end the promised weeds and thorns in the following verses. No, the emphasis (in Genesis 3:16) is on the terrible effects of sin, and the destruction of a harmonious relationship that once existed. In its place comes a harmful struggle of wills."

In No Will of My Own author Jon Zens gives evidence how patriarchy's warped view of male dominance can lead females to the dark place of having no will of their own. My prayer is that pastors and Christian people will read this book and find help to resist any involvement in the patriarchal movement that purports to be from God but gives experiential evidence to the contrary."

Wade Burleson
Emmanuel Baptist Church
Enid, Oklahoma, January 2011