Deadly Formula for Violence - Article by Barrington H. Brennen


A Deadly Formula for Violence

By Barrington H. Brennen, 2005


Question: 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 male leadership?

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:

  1. Return to the patriarchal family system.
  2. The husband is the head of the wife, as such he is the supreme ruler.
  3. The wife’s responsibility in marriage is to submit to her husband. Then the marriage will be happy.
  4. Men are born to be leaders and they must always lead. (Even if they do not have the skills)
  5. Women can assist men, but only in a subordinate position.
  6. Men are always expected to move up the managerial ladder of success.
  7. 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 violence.

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.

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: "He 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.

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 "What 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 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 is:

When rigid traditional

family values

are combined with

rigid traditional

religious beliefs,

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 or write to P.O. Box CB-11045, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit  or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002 WhatsApp.





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