A Deadly Formula
By Barrington H. Brennen, 2005
Barrington H. Brennen
Dear Sir: Why are so many religious leaders telling us that to solve the problem
of violence we must return to the "old family traditions and values?"
They are telling us that we need "male leadership." Do we really need
Answer: As a counseling psychologist and minister of the gospel I must
say that your concerns are extremely valid. It is my opinion that the recent
appeal for us to "return to the traditional family values" and the
lifestyles of "good old days" is doing more harm than good. There is a
myth that the lack of male leadership in the home and society is the reason for
the corruption in society. History will verify that domineering male leadership
is one of the reasons for the prevalence of violence in the society and home.
Men have been leading for the past millenniums, even in their absence through
female supporters of the traditional patriarchal family management. Dr. James
Alsdurf, in the book Battered Into Submission, cites author Karen Lindsay
who challenges the myth "that if people would only stop worrying about
their own personal fulfillment and return to the loving bosom of the patriarchal
family, the world would be a happy place." She indicates that the
perspective that we need to return to the good old days before the breakdown of
the nuclear family is a myth. It ignores the issue of intra-family abuse which
has always been a reality. When was the golden age of the happy family?
She indicates that in reality there has never been a golden age. History reveals
abuses against women and children from the beginning of time.
In the Bahamas many ministers and social activists are telling us to go back
to those old traditional family values. What they really mean is:
- Return to the patriarchal family system.
- The husband is the head of the wife, as such he is the supreme ruler.
- The wife’s responsibility in marriage is to submit to her husband.
Then the marriage will be happy.
- Men are born to be leaders and they must always lead. (Even if they do not
have the skills)
- Women can assist men, but only in a subordinate position.
- Men are always expected to move up the managerial ladder of success.
- If a woman climbs the managerial ladder of success, it is only as a result
of the permission of male managers.
These ideas are being taught and perpetuated by religious leaders and
churches. That is what makes it so dangerous and deadly. Why? Because most
people trust their religious leaders implicitly and have not been taught to
think for themselves. They have accepted the teachings of the church over the
millenniums as "thus said the Lord," without searching the scripture
for themselves, researching the historical background in which statements were
made, and the original meaning of words used. Now that they are
"searching" the scriptures, they are reading their own traditional
beliefs and practices into the passages, thus creating a deadly formula for
You may be thinking that I am only talking out of my head. This is certainly
not so. Ancient and modern history is filled with abuses against the weak,
women, and children. Sometimes these abuses came in the form of "masked
violence" or "passive violence," which unless the eyes
are open one would not be aware that he or she is being trapped in a world of
false teachings that always lead to abuse and pain.
- HISTORY SPEAKS
In June 1984, the 14.1 million membership of the Southern Baptist Convention
in the USA passed a resolution which excluded women from pastoral leadership
because "the man was first in creation and the woman first in the Edenic
fall." The resolution clearly states that women are responsible for the
fall and that men are superior because they were created first. That was 14
years ago. It is unfortunate that a church body felt compelled to take such a
vote. But it was not the end. Fourteen years later, in June of this year (1998),
the same body of believers made another historic vote. They voted that "A
wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband
even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ." Why would
they vote such an action? Is it because men are intimidated by the progressive
leadership of women? Could it be it is a effort to keep women "in their
place" below men, so that men can control the wealth of this world and
monopolize apostolic and political authority?. It is taught that since men are
head of families, they receive a higher salary.
The practice of women’s exclusion from community and church leadership was
what motivated the women social and political movement which began on this date,
July 19, 1848, 150 years ago. On this date 300 persons including 40 men, marched
to Seneca Falls, New York, to protest the legal bondage of American women and to
demand full equality. They came together to rewrite the US constitution and to
sign the Declaration of Sentiments. On that day, they stated their
concerns about the treatment of women. One of these statements were:
allows her in church as well as state, but in a subordinate position, claiming
Apostolic Authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and with some
exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the church."
Women were of no value. They could not have an education, own property, sue
or be sued. In fact, they could not even claim guardianship of their own
children if the marriage dissolved. In the early 1800s, a USA common law stated,
"Husband and wife are one, and that one is the husband." In our
country women had to fight for everything they now own. They only started to
vote 36 years ago (1962). This was only made possible after a long struggle by
the women’s suffrage movement.
The ancient Greek philosophers have set the foundation for abuse. Socrates
(470-399) taught that "Being born a woman is a divine punishment, since
a woman is halfway between a man and an animal." Aristotle (384-322)
taught that "The courage of a man is shown in commanding, of a woman in
obeying." Aristotle also taught that "A female is a deformed
male." During the time of Moses women were of no more than sexual
property. Adultery was a violation of property rights since women were of
no more than sexual property. (Numbers 5:27, 31). In the Israelite camp a man’s
property included his house, garden, and wife. His wife was of no more value to
him than his garden. Dr. John Bristow explains that "Although a wife might
violate her husband’s marital rights, he could not violate hers, since she did
not possess any such rights." Rape was not a crime against the personhood,
emotions, or feelings of a woman. Rather it was a crime against property rights
(Exodus 22:16-17). The rape victim’s father had to be compensated by the
rapist. The rapist was required to marry the rape victim and she could not
divorce him. It was not her choice, but that of her father.
Reverend Marvin De Hann in the "Good News Broadcaster" states that
"The primary responsibility for a good relationship in marriage lies with
the wife. If the wife is submissive to her husband, they’ll have a good
relationship." Reverend John MacArthur states "Submission should be
the welcome response of Christian woman, to their husband. If a husband doesn’t
obey the Word, the wife should submit–submit anyway." Tony Evans, a
motivational speaker and preacher of the gospel states, "I believe that
feminists of the more aggressive persuasion are frustrated women unable to find
the proper male leadership. If a woman were receiving the right kind of love and
attention and LEADERSHIP, she would not want to be liberated from that."
The current president of the Christian Council, Pastor Simeon Hall, recently
stated in a public telecast that man is the original and woman is a duplication.
- ANCIENT TEACHINGS
These are examples of the teachings that our Bahamian men have been
following. These are also examples of how church leadership keeps women down and
do not treat them as equal partners. My solemn question is
qualifies a man to be the head of his wife when both of them are equally made in
the image of God, endowed with the same power of self-determination: to reason,
to think and to act?"
- THE DEADLY FORMULA
- The church is truly guilty of a passive violence against women and children.
A violence that turns its head in denial, a refusal to admit that abuse exists,
and that family abuse is a sin. Several years ago, while working as coordinator
of a treatment program for abusive men, I keenly observed that almost thirty
percent of the men I worked with indicated that they were active Christians. In
my interview with these Christian men, it was shocking to discover that for all
of them abuse began or escalated when they became Christians (when they were
adults), or when their parents became Christians (when they were children). This
brings me to the deadly formula. This deadly formula I have discovered through
countless hours of counseling, interviews, and working with families in crisis
When rigid traditional
are combined with
there is always abuse.
The church must then reexamine its teachings, traditions, and
practices that support the baser passions and drives for greed and power and
control. I call on our ministers to preach in their pulpits that husbands should
be servants instead of heads. Preach marital partnership and mutual submission,
not wife submission. If we do these, then and only then, will true healing take
place in our families.
Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and
board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your
questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or
call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.