Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Patriarchy is Easy – For Everyone but the Victim

Eph 5:22  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Patriarchy has great appeal. It appeals to pastors, to many men and women who profess to be Christians, to counselors and others. Obviously it does have this appeal because so many churches embrace it.
Patriarchy is the teaching/philosophy that men are superior to women by nature. That God has created men and women with the intent that men are to rule over women. Men are in charge. In marriages. In local churches. And if you are a theonomist type, in government and society. It necessarily needs to be so because women are inferior to men in their very essence. More prone to temptation. Weaker. And with an evil bent of being a Jezebel to tempt righteous men to sin. Women are constructed to bear children, be mothers, workers at home, and for the most part leave the real stuff to their hubby.
Now, as in most any kind of false teaching, there are elements of truth in all this, right? Men and women ARE different. Women, generally speaking, are smaller and physically weaker than men. Women are the mothers of our children. And, like men, women are born into this world as sinners. Many erroneous false teachings we see today try to get around all these things by insisting that men and women really are not different at all. Yeah, right.

But what IS the appeal of patriarchy? I can tell you.  Patriarchy is EASY. Patriarchy removes the “messes” we face in life. For instance, let’s say a husband and wife come to a pastor for counseling. They are butting heads over some issue. Solution? Well, if the pastor adheres to patriarchy, eazee peezee. “Wife, do what your husband says. The problem here only exists, wife, because you are not obeying your husband. You need to repent and submit.” Understand?
Patriarchy even protects pastors and church members from having to get their hands all dirty by getting mixed up in some nasty, abusive marriage. No need to stand for the victim against a wicked spouse. No need to pay a price for standing against evil. Nope. All that needs to happen to solve the problem is for the wife to submit. Stay in the abuse like a good suffering Christian saint, and submit. In fact, her failure to submit is regarded as a root cause of the abuse. Pushing his buttons, you know.
Patriarchy is easy and therefore it is alluring. As a pastor, I have had many husbands and wives come to me for advice in regard to some conflict they are having. It is particularly difficult when you pastor a small church because these “counselees” are also most likely your good friends. Over the years I have lived with the fear of losing my friends over things like this. I don’t like it. I sometimes envy the professional counselor who doesn’t even know his/her clients, gives them 50 minutes and when the timer rings, session over, invoice send in the mail. But then, I am digressing.
Patriarchy makes counseling a no-brainer. And believe me, there are a lot of men standing in pulpits who are eminently qualified for such mindless “ministry.” Wive, it’s on you. Submit. Obey. Let your husband lead. Problem solved.
But we know the problem isn’t solved, is it? Life is far more complicated than that. Many times the answer to a conflict is for the husband to let the wife lead. Why? Because she happens to be, for instance, the one who is most gifted to maintain the finances. Or in another case the husband is the most qualified, because of his particular makeup, to deal with a child-rearing issue. And then, of course, there is the whole evil abuser scenario. Sides must be taken. The evildoer must be confronted and put out. Enemies are made. Separation, divorce, and the courtroom come into play. Why, a church might even have to support the victim and her children financially.
And then there is the whole matter of having to re-examine our long-standing traditions that just may turn out to be the word of man instead of the Word of God. Take those two passages quoted at the top of this article for instance. How do we interpret and apply both of them in light of the other? Wives submit, and yet there is this equality business in Christ that seems to fog up the supposed clarity of patriarchy, you see. Hmmmm.
No, can’t have all that. Just give me that good old- time patriarchy. Now where is my bowl of hand-washing water?


Where Should we Expect to Find the Enemy?


A Reminder – You are invited to Christ Reformation Church (no matter where you live)


  1. no one down here

    more hurtful yet is when the man is believed over the woman in every situation for no apparent reason, leaving the woman to speculate if it’s this same gender bias.

    • Jeff Crippen

      NODH – Very true. If you compare the Pharisees and their system with what goes on in these churches today, you will see an incredible number of parallels. The Pharisees oppressed the widows and orphans. There was an obvious male cult culture that oppressed women. Think of the account of the woman taken in adultery being dragged before Jesus to see what He would do. Where was the man? They wanted to stone her, but the man? That is what is going on in churches in our day. Same thing. No matter what, the man is believed. And when you have that kind of thing, you can know that it is a false church which Jesus has nothing to do with.

  2. Anonymous

    A young mom kept telling my husband (her pastor) that they needed marriage counseling and his reply every time was, “Just submit to your husband and things will be okay.” (Her husband was one of our elders.) I stood by silently because of course, I had no voice, and had to support my husband in all he said. Since I could not support, I chose silence. I need to go to her and ask her forgiveness for my silence which enabled her husband to continue to hit her, something I found out after my husband was removed as pastor and the church closed.
    Jeff, would you be so kind as to explore the various meanings of the word “submit” in the NT? I did my own word study but I’m no Greek scholar. I did see that the word translated “submit” has different Greek words when used in terms of wives v slaves. Unfortunately, I think the “wife” word is too often understood as the “slave” word.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anonymous – Thank you for sharing part of your story. If you ever want someone to listen to the whole thing I would be glad to (swordtrowel@gmail.com).
      Here is what I have found in respect to word studies on “submit.” The answer is not to be found there. Rather, we have to look at the context of these scriptures such as Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 2-3. And first and foremost, we must understand that in a Christian marriage, the wife’s submission is ALWAYS in the context of a godly, loving husband who is truly following the Lord. If the husband is not such a person, then this entire scenario does not apply. After all, what is the church to do with a man who claims to be a Christian but he abuses his wife? 1 Cor 5 tells us – he is to be put out of the church. Handed over to Satan. Are we to believe that his wife must continue to submit to him? Of course not.
      Peter, in 1 Peter 2-3, says some things that are often twisted for the benefit of the abuser. No matter how evil he is, she must submit to him. Wrong! Peter is dealing with scenarios which existed in his lifetime. 1) A Christian living under an evil Caesar, 2) A slave with an evil master, 3) a Christian wife with an evil husband. Now, ask yourself, what were the choices such people had in those days? Rebel against Caesar? A slave tells his master to take a hike? A wife tells her husband to get lost? I don’t think so. So how, the question is, do you handle situations from which there is no escape? Peter tells us. Be godly. Work hard. Honor the king.
      But what about situations, as in our day, when you CAN get free of the abuse? When you CAN take action? The police can be called. An abused wife can (when circumstances permit) leave. Yes, there are times today when we are “stuck” at least for a time. And there ARE people in this world in other countries and cultures who are still very much in the same situations as in Peter’s day. But to tell abuse victims that they are required by the Lord to remain in the abuse, to remain with the wicked employer, to never speak against the evil King, is ridiculous. And yet this so often is how Scripture is twisted and victims are further oppressed in their churches.

      • Change Agent

        It seems as if in general there is a complete absence of compassion in those who speak so callously. Then there are those who claim to be against demoralization, abuse (in any form) and disloyalty but are silent in the face of circumstances that require action. I appreciate your comment Anonymous and hope that others will take action. As one who was told just to wait it out by some and to seek refuge by others I know there is an awakening in the hearts of those who choose truth over tradition. All lives matter.

  3. Riley

    Using your definition of patriarchy, “Patriarchy is the teaching/philosophy that men are superior to women by nature” – it utterly amazes me that women sign up for and choose to be a part of the movement. I’m not completely ignorant of it all… I had to live in the movement. It was the only church-related anything that the abuser-ex would allow us to be a part of. It fit the lifestyle the abuser wanted, where wife and children basically had to worship him, and were not allowed to question anything. I left the abuse before the largest patriarchy cult leader fell from favor a few years ago; but I always felt sorry for the women in the movement, largely because I was wondering how many were being abused like I was.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Riley – I think that women get drawn into patriarchy just like so many genuine Christians do. A real Christian wants to serve the Lord. And if you are raised being taught that these human traditions are in fact God’s Word, then you are willing to make any sacrifice to obey Him. The thing is evil and it is incredibly deceptive. Satan knows how to counterfeit. I think that once we wake up and realize that we have been taught lies paraded as Scripture, we all tend to kick ourselves a bit for being so gullible. But then, that is the nature of evil. A seducing lie.

      • Riley

        I wonder sometimes, if the ‘works’ portion of religious groups (like patriarchy) gives people some form of accomplishment, or some level or comfort? So they check the boxes that some man says they need to check (in this case obeying/submitting, following the so-called correct form of counseling, supporting the abusers, shunning the victims, etc.).
        And I appreciate what you said about being raised to think that human traditions are in fact God’s Word, and then making a sacrifice to follow that. (Sadly they’ve never been allowed to question tradition, or man’s word. Then if someone does wake up and realize the lies, as you’ve said, it’s easy to feel guilty over being so gullible.)

  4. no one down here

    There is another principle at play, which I feel is the strongest argument. God will always defend His righteousness. It may not be immediately (Why do the heathen rage… why do they prosper… I am confused, God… then I remember their end… no confusion. God’s righteousness will prevail.)
    When you have a “Christian” man who is abusing someone … God’s name is defamed. This is blasphemy against Holy God. The man claims God in public and in private, but in private consorts with demons. The man claims Christ, but has no love toward the family. The man shows the evidence of being the Proverbs fool. Railing, angry, refusing to control the spirit, arrogant…
    God will come to the rescue of His sheep who are being oppressed by a wicked, blasphemer. Again, it may not be immediately … Judgement might be slow, or it might be swift. It might be total, or it might seem partial. But, no matter what, God will defend His name. Reference a huge percentage of the Psalms. Psalm 18 really hit me hard when I understood the truth of what God does for the sake of his righteousness. I am God’s child… He looks at me and sees the righteousness of Christ. There was someone oppressing me who claimed the name of Christ. The vileness of the oppression was so deep and the true nature of the man so insidious, the oppression could be called nothing but blasphemy against Yahweh. In faith, the call of a child reaches the Father; the Father comes down in righteous indignation and rescues the child who has no other hope.

  5. esbee

    Patriarchy is a monster that cannot be satiated. No matter how many rules that are made, there are always more rules to follow. and most of these rules are for women based on the very narrow role of wife, mother, homebody. From there the rules cover just about every area of a woman’s life, dress, how to keep home, how to raise the kids, the amount of education restricted to the very private things and all of them with the caveat…you will only be pleasing to God if you do these things.

    And now the practice of spanking “disobedeint” wives is growing ????????? I shudder to think what rules will come next.

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