Patriarchy in the Church and its Effects

By Sara VanScoy 6-30-2010

In this month's issue of Sojourners, Anne Eggebroten's article "The Persistence of Patriarchy" takes on the new generation of male headship theology. Below, one of the women quoted in the article shares more of her first-hand experience of how that theology is harming women's lives.

I have both an MD (psychiatrist) and master's degree in divinity; I grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Jonesboro, Arkansas. My congregation likes to think of itself as moderate -- and I guess that we are, in Baptist circles. But we don't ordain women, we don't have women deacons, and we will never call a woman "pastor." What we do have is women who do most of the grunt work, and women who teach and lead children and youth and a few adult Sunday school classes.

The prophet Joel said that when the Spirit comes, sons and daughters would prophesy (that is, preach). Peter proclaimed the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, once and for all abolishing any ordering with regard to gender. But I really think it starts much earlier -- Genesis records that God created men and women equally in God's trinitarian image. Any sort of gender ordering is the result of fallen humanity. When churches regard women as second-class citizens, they are espousing an ideology that is less than God's ideal!

Now for the psychology. As a board-certified psychiatrist, I have to say that there has been more harm done to women -- young women in particular -- in the name of "biblical manhood and womanhood" than anyone can possibly imagine. Clinically, I see time and time again that women stay in abusive marriages because "the church" says they must -- women who are little more than slaves for the men in their lives. And the daughters these couples raise fail to realize their God-given potential, all because a certain thing is "man's work" and others are "woman's work."

Has anyone who actually follows Mark Driscoll (or John Piper, or anyone else of their ilk) actually read his writing? These same people who cling to a literal interpretation of the pastoral epistles fail to use that same hermeneutic when reading Matthew 25 (whatever we do for the least of these), John 4 (the Samaritan woman at the well's encounter with Jesus and her subsequent evangelization of an entire village), or the prophet Joel and the apostle Peter (which tell us sons and daughters will prophesy). Why is it that only certain portions of Scripture are interpreted literally?

My dad was an enlightened man for his era; he raised me to believe that I could do anything or be anything I wanted if I worked hard enough to do it. Every young girl needs a dad like that. I am the mom of three amazing sons -- I truly hope each of them, in contrast to Driscoll's followers, and following the example of their dad, has enough respect for himself to marry a strong woman. Their dating habits suggest this will be true, and my husband and I are both very pleased.

Sara VanScoy, MD, MDiv, is a psychiatrist in Jonesboro, Arkansas. In this month's issue of Sojourners, Anne Eggebroten's article "The Persistence of Patriarchy" takes on the new generation of male headship theology.

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