Headship, Submission and Fear-based Logic

patriarchy-anger.jpgKeep alert for Dr. Steven Tracy’s writings on this topic. I have read his two most recent papers presented at the Evangelical Theological Society meetings of 2005 and 2006 and he presents balanced and cogent arguments for the reasonableness of patriarchy. He promotes both the ideal of a servant-leader, to who submission is pretty easy, as well as the limits of submission, which keeps women from becoming second-class citizens. It seems to me that the arguments against male leadership are based on a logic of fear and false inference. St. Paul faced the same problem after writing Romans 6 in which he states that grace abounds where sin is prevalent. He anticipates the fearful reaction that the message of grace allows for sin and could lead to a life of license. To that extrapolation and implication, he says “May it never be!” Similarly, does patriarchy lead to abuse? May it never be! The solution to license is not to eliminate grace, but to understand grace properly and practice is faithfully.

Dr. Tracy wrote “Headship with a Heart: How biblical patriarchy actually prevents abuse” for the February 1, 2003 publication of Christianity Today. Here’s part of it.

. . . A man in my congregation confided in me that years ago he had physically and sexually abused several of his children. He had been arrested and participated in court-mandated counseling but had skillfully manipulated the system. His wife tried to protect the children, but the abuse continued for some time. When I asked him why he continued to abuse the children while he was on probation, his answer took my breath away. “I guess I did it because I was the head of the family, and it was my right to do whatever I wanted to my wife and kids.” . . . I wish this were the only time I have heard a man use male headship to justify abuse. . . . Few phrases are more explosive in our culture than male headship. Feminists claim that patriarchy (the affirmation of male authority over females) is the basis for most social pathology and for virtually all domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault.

I think woman get angry about weak male leadership as well as about abusive male leadership.  Rather than trying to solve this problem by abolishing male leadership altogether, I think the real solution is for men to learn how to be strong servant-leaders.

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