On Patriarchy, “Intentionality,” and Manipulation Through Books

December 3, 2008 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

A day or two ago, reader and commenter “Kindred Spirit” posted the following comment:

During the holiday season, I usually have opportunities to observe and interact with various SG families.

It’s always the same…”patriarch dad” calling the shots, telling his wife and kids (even college-aged & twenty-something kids) what they “will and will not do” during the long Thanksgiving weekend. Who they’re allowed to socialize with and what they’re allowed to do. Whether it be shopping on “Black Friday” or going to the movies, dad MUST approve it all, mom has absolutely no say so.

Many of these dads take great pride in their power to control their families, and unfortunately some enjoy “jerking their families around” and abusing their authority. Their approval of requests depends on their mood, and many times they’ll renege at the last minute, leaving EVERYONE exasperated.

How sad. I’ve posted many times on the abuse of some “patriarchal husbands and fathers”. Unfortunately the patriarchal system is very attractive to dysfunctional, abusive men. My prayer this holiday season is that EVERY family that suffers under an abusive “patriarchal man” will get a little reprieve this holiday season. The holidays are a volatile time for such families due to the instability of such a man.

Please join me in lifting these families up this holiday season and that God will ultimately deliver them all.

Then last night, a new commenter, “Skeptical,” showed up and responded to “Kindred” with the following:

Kindred, exactly how many of these supposedly patriachal men did you observe, and why would you think such behavior would be acceptable to any pastor in sovereign grace? What is your definition of patriarchal? Are you aware of the intentionality of leaders within Sovereign grace to eliminate any such behavior from the men in SGM churches? For example, I know Covenant Life and many other churches have gotten rid of Doug Wilson’s marriage materials for that very reason.

Here was my response to “Skeptical’s” comment:

Hi, Skeptical, and welcome to the site. Thanks for your comment.

I’m not “Kindred,” so I won’t attempt to answer your question about patriarchy.

But I do think that your comment reflects an interesting mindset that I’ve noticed among SGM people. I actually was going to write a post about this, but I never could quite piece it all together. Now your comment has provided an excellent illustration of the mindset I was going to address. Maybe I can flesh out my thoughts right here.

The first thing about your comment that struck me was your use of the word “intentionality.” Within SGM, there seems to be an awful lot of talk about how “intentional” leaders are, and how everything they do is done deliberately. Several people have shared with me how the word “intentional” is a big SGM buzzword.

And now you’re even saying that SGM leaders exhibit “intentionality” in the way they seek to eliminate certain behaviors among SGM people.

I guess what I wonder about is this: if SGM leadership is so “intentional” all the time, then why is the, “They just didn’t know any better” excuse offered up as an explanation for their spiritually abusive behavior toward their people?

And also, if it truly is as you say, where SGM leadership has “intentionally” set out to “eliminate” certain behaviors among their people, then why don’t they “intentionally” address the issues raised here on this site?

Also…does anyone else join me in thinking that there’s something downright creepy about a group of leaders getting together and discussing behaviors they wish to “eliminate” among their people?

“Skeptical,” I’d be curious to know how you think they went about this process of “eliminating” the behavior you speak of. I mean, did they address the errors of patriarchy DIRECTLY? Openly? Honestly?

Or did they seek to change behavior by changing what was sold at the book table?

I mean, if this is really the case, that they manipulated the contents of the book table (or book store, as the case may be) in order to “eliminate” a certain kind of behavior, doesn’t that just serve as a prime illustration of how SGM’s heavy use of “approved, suggested reading materials” is one of the ways that SGM leaders attempt to control people?

Please note that I’m actually NOT “skeptical” of what you are claiming about SGM’s way of dealing with the errors of patriarchy. I find what you are saying to be completely believable. In fact, it’s believable because it illustrates precisely what this site has come to be about: the notion that SGM trains its pastors to take on a heavy-handed and controlling role in the lives of their people…to the point where people are manipulated and even brainwashed through techniques such as the “suggested/approved reading list”…and when people stand up to this control, even in small ways, they often find themselves “disciplined” and disfellowshipped (or, as DB likes to say, “dismembered”).

Thoughts, anyone?