What You Need to Know to Break Free From the Oppression of Patriarchy

by

Imagine attending a week long conference every single year for as long as you can remember. A conference that drills ideas into your head about God and human relationships. A conference that gives you simple, black and white formulas for success in every area of your life.

Imagine marinating in those ideas your entire life until they become the lens through which you view everything including love, marriage, parenting, decision making, and your relationships with God and others.

Imagine you get married, and your spouse dismisses you, neglects you, blames you, shames you, mocks you, and scapegoats you on a regular basis.

Imagine that the formulas you grew up with taught you that he is superior to you because he is your husband. That he must be respected even if his behavior is selfish and cruel. That your duty is to serve him and protect his reputation at all costs to your own personal needs. That you were designed to die to who you are as a person so that he might thrive and reign as king over you and your children.

Imagine that you live like this for two decades, groveling in false guilt, apologizing over and over for your negative reactions to his cruelty and neglect, begging God to love you and feeling that you are worthless and unlovable because you are female.

Imagine trying to cover up the pain in order to be accepted by other religious people who believe all the same “rules” about male and female behavior and relationships.

Patriarchy and the Oppression of Women

Is that you? It was me. The belief system I lived and breathed my whole life was Patriarchy.

Patriarchy is a caste-type of system that was prevalent in ancient times and is still used as a propaganda tool in Christian circles to elevate men and maintain control over women.

It creates utter confusion and pain in the lives of women because it squelches their God-given potential and prevents them from fulfilling the purpose for which God created them. Patriarchy does this under the guise of being “Biblical.” And who can argue with the Bible, right?

If someone wants to control a Christian woman, all he has to do is say, “God says so!” and if she loves God, she’s stuck. This is called spiritual abuse.

You might think patriarchy is biblical since the people who lived during the time of the Bible operated under its system.

But it’s not. It’s actually antithetical to all that God teaches us in Scripture about men and women and their relationship to one another and to God.

You might think patriarchy is biblical if your pastor and counselor and small group leader and Bible translators all operate under its biased system and have taught it to you for as long as you’ve been a Christian.

But it’s not. Patriarchy is a lie from hell rooted in prejudice, and it’s designed by the father of lies to keep half of the Church of Christ tied up and gagged. This has serious negative repercussions on the impact of the Church in the world.  Exactly what Satan wants.

What You Need to Know to Break Free From the Oppression of Patriarchy

The Key to Getting Out From Under the Oppression of Patriarchy

If the method of getting you locked up in the dungeon of patriarchy was a lie – then the key to getting out of that prison is the truth.

You need a complete overhaul of your belief system. You need to deprogram from the lies you were taught.

These lies are not just in the Christian community. Culture, at large, is saturated in patriarchal thinking. It’s such a deeply rooted part of humanity, tracing its roots back to the beginning of time, that we don’t even know just how intertwined its poisonous tendrils are within our souls.

If lies are what keep us trapped, Truth is what sets us free. But what if we’ve been told the Source of all Truth actually promotes this false, gender-biased pile of crapola?

That’s where education comes into play. I never knew the truth, because I never learned the truth. Nobody ever told me. Nobody around me knew it either, and nobody even wanted to know.

What about you? Do you want to know? I found a great resource that will help you get your head around this. It’s called The Equality Workbook: Freedom in Christ from the Oppression of Patriarchy by Helga and Bob Edwards.

Who Wrote This Workbook and Why?

Helga and Bob Edwards have been married for 21 years. They both have degrees in Religious Education and Social Development Studies and master’s degrees in Social Work. They specifically wrote this book “to help readers identify and remove patriarchal bias from Bible translation and commentary. This workbook also explores the following topics to help women recover from the harmful effects of patriarchy:

  • Overcoming the lies of shame
  • Suffering
  • The grief process
  • Freedom from codependence
  • Setting boundaries
  • Patriarchy and domestic abuse
  • Managing triggers
  • Healthy egalitarian relationships
  • Communication and problem solving
  • Overcoming negative patterns in relationships

What You Need to Know to Break Free From the Oppression of Patriarchy

Patriarchy has a False Foundation

How would you feel if you found out much of what you had been taught your entire life about marriage and male/female relationships was a lie? That you had made important life decisions based on that lie? Decisions that had tragic consequences not only in your life but also in the lives of your children?

You might feel betrayed at first. I did. I was angry. Betrayal does that to a person. But then you might feel liberated to discover that you no longer have to live under those parameters. You are free to move into a brand new and beautiful relationship with Christ that is rooted in His Truth and love concerning women in general, and you, specifically!

The first thing the authors do in this workbook is to expose the truth about where the anti-female bias you read in the Bible actually comes from. (Hint: it wasn’t in the original words of Scripture!)

We believe the Word of God is inspired by God and is His written method of revealing Himself to humankind (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So it’s important to know if what is wrong is us, the Bible itself, or someone’s false translation and interpretation of the Bible. You will be relieved to know it is the latter.

When the Bible was translated into Latin (the official language of the Romans) in the fourth century, “the meaning of passages within the Bible concerning women began to change.” The translator, St. Jerome, was influenced by Roman culture (which was extremely patriarchal) and Neoplatonism which viewed humans and even the Trinity in terms of hierarchy. Other theologians including Origen, Augustine, and Chrysostom were all influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy and the result was a patriarchal shift in the way the Bible was translated.

How? Where the Bible said nothing about female subordination, these theologians would “INFER male authority from the text.” They brought their own assumptions and beliefs about men and women to the text and then read and wrote them into the Bible translations through small word changes and subtle sentence structure alterations which are still in our current translations today.

What if you could read the same Bible verses that Patriarchal teachers have used to subjugate and control women in their original language and context? 

That’s exactly what Helga and Bob do in this workbook. They address every single passage in Scripture that is used in a prejudiced and biased way against women, and they teach you what God REALLY wrote in the original language along with the incredibly interesting history and culture behind the passage.

It’s eye-opening. And when the workbook promises to set you free from the oppression of patriarchy, it delivers. For me, learning the truth about this one issue took care of so many confusing questions I had about the Bible. What used to appear to be contradictory now became beautiful and seamless truths that made sense on every level. God’s Word says the Truth sets us FREE. Suddenly I understood what that really means!

I’m going to write out just a small portion of one of the chapters so you can see how this book works. I hope this will whet your appetite to find out more.

What You Need to Know to Break Free From the Oppression of Patriarchy

Tradition Concerning Male Authority (Often Referred to as “Headship.”)

As for a husband’s alleged authority, this was traditionally based upon the notion that because Eve was created after Adam, she must have been subject to him. Chronology in creation was thereby associated with rank. The man was created first; therefore he was assumed to be the “leader.” Complementarians today refer to this as the doctrine of male “headship,” and it has been inferred from the following passage: “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3, NIV).

A tremendous amount of literature has been written about this verse. Much of it focuses on the meaning of the Greek word translated as “head.” The word Paul chose to use here is “kephale.” In the Greek language found in the New Testament, this word was often used to mean “source.” The human race was created through Christ (John 1:3); he is the “source” of “every man.” Adam, the first man, was the “source” of Eve, the first woman (Genesis 2:22). God was the miraculous source of Jesus’ incarnation as a human being (Luke 1:35).

On the other hand the Greek word more often used to mean “ruler” was “archon.” Paul chose kephale here for good reason. He is talking about God as the “source” of both women and men in I Corinthians 11:12. He also refutes the tradition of male authority by reminding the Corinthians that just as a man was the source of the first woman, so a woman is the source of every man. “Nevertheless [plen], in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. (I Corinthians 11:11-12, NRSV).

Is Paul teaching here that men are to be the archons of their wives in Christian marriage? A close examination of Paul’s language in its original context indicates that he is actually saying the opposite. A man may have been the “source” of the first woman, but the woman is the “source” of every man. If source means “ruler,” then women would have every right to claim to be the “rulers of men.” Source, then, is not meant to be confused with a superior rank. Paul is refuting a patriarchal tradition which had wrongly been inferred from the creation account.

Returning to the specific issue of head coverings, did Paul agree that a woman must shamefully cover her hair, submit to a man’s authority, and even take responsibility for the sins of fallen angels? No, he did not. On the contrary, he tells the church that a woman’s hair is her glory, and that men owe their existence to God…and to women. Freedom, love, and equality are the principles espoused by Paul, and he tells the church to stop being contentious about such things (I Corinthians 11:16.)

To a large extent, the church has not listened to Paul. Rather than rejecting oppressive oral traditions and hierarchical pagan philosophies, church leader from the 3rd century forward have confused the teaching of fallible human beings with the revelation of an infallible God. An entire theological system has been based upon the notion that women had to cover their hair in public worship. On the basis of this inaccurate reference, women are often told that they require the spiritual “covering” of a man to keep them from error. Women in the church are told that they must submit themselves to the “covering” of male pastors and priests. Wives are told to subject themselves to the spiritual “covering” of husbands. The idol of masculinity is lifted up as that which will guard the church against sin and error. Men assume the role of mediator between women and God.

The doctrine of male authority as a “spiritual covering” for half of the human race stands in direct contradiction to Paul’s words concerning Jesus’ role as the exclusive mediator between God and all humanity: “There is one God. There is also one mediator between God and human beings – and human, the Messiah Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5, ISV). Due to an ancient error in theology, the apostle Paul’s words against oppressive traditions have been turned into an endorsement of them.”

Now, wasn’t that freeing? And it sort of ticks you off to realize that what God was trying to communicate got twisted into its exact opposite message. Sounds like the influence of the upside down king of darkness, huh?

If this is an area you feel confused about and you would like to learn more, I encourage you to get a copy of The Equality Workbook and find out what God’s Word REALLY says about men and women.

What You Need to Know to Break Free From the Oppression of Patriarchy

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    So I grew up in Southern California and in the evangelical church, pretty unaware of the Patriarchal movement. What kind of conferences are you talking about?

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      If you’re not in the Bible Belt, be glad. That’s where patriarchy thrives.

      Reply
    • Avatar

      Actually, the whole bible is a lie. A moral god would never deceive anyone. And any god that requires a blood sacrifice is not a god I want to worship. If the god can’t do better than that, then it is not god, because a god makes the rules, not its creation. Religion and gods are the greatest downfall of mankind, not the other way around.

      Reply
      • Natalie Hoffman

        All of those sentences are simply thoughts. Just like the thoughts “God is real. The Bible is inerrant. People go to hell.” All optional thoughts. In episodes 105 and 107 of the Flying Free podcast, I talk about reconciling God and abuse. How different beliefs (or thoughts) about those two things create different feelings and actions, and subsequently results in our lives and in the world. If you’re interested in the concepts I teach in those episodes, you can find them here: flyingfreenow.com/105 and flyingfreenow.com/107

        Reply
  2. Avatar

    Thank you for this blog and links to a few must reads!!Very helpful.

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    Can you help men who are being controlled, manipulated, lied to and oppressed by their wives? Or is the equality you try to discuss, like everything else in our education system since the 1940’s, just about women? Maybe read the “Trouble With Boys” by Peg Tyre, and have you heard of Dr. Louann Brizendine? She is a member of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the National Board of Medical Examiners, and a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. She is founder and director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic. This is her article to CNN

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/03/23/brizendine.male.brain/index.html

    Some of the conclusions I found after reading these is our school systems are designed for girls and boys by the age of 15 have the equivalent of two gallons of testosterone running through their bodies every day. Now imagine a sitting in a school designed for girls, where you are made to sit, and there is little to no empathy or consideration for the 2 gallons of testosterone running through your body, instead, you are minimized and told you have ADHD because you cannot sit still so they give meds to keep you under their control.

    The women with real strength that I know are the Peg Tyres and the Dr. Brizendines of the world who actually know what equality really is, by including men in the fold, even when we are different, and provide “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, because against such things there is no law”. Galatians 5:22-23.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      I agree. I’ve got five sons, and our culture is messed up in ways that adversely affect both girls and boys. Thank you for your comment.

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    I plan to order the book, but in the meantime am curious to know what they say about Genesis 3:16b….”and he shall rule over you.”

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      That was the inevitable consequence of sin – certainly not a command of God. As believers, we are free to live differently (free of sinful pride and desire to “rule”) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

      Jesus said in Matt 20: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    Natalie,

    I don’t disagree with most of the spirit of what you are trying to explain, and I am sure you and only you know what you have been through and what is helping you heal. Simply knowing that a man led by the Holy Spirit will lay down his life, in humility, counting others better than himself, in loving his wife as himself ought to be sufficient truth.

    The linguistic gymnastics necessary to make “kephale” mean “source” not “the knob at the top of your neck” is not necessary. Christ used “kephale” when He said we could not turn one hair on our “kephale” black or white. And that is the way the word is used in the rest of the New Testament. clearly not tyrant, ruler, king or lord, but clearly not “source” either.

    Please be careful, because you seem to be as enthusiastically recommending this particular interpretation of scripture, as you used to endorse the patriarchal interpretation.

    The truth is both more simple, and subtle than either.

    Reply
  6. Avatar

    Are you familiar with Dr. Katherine Bushnell and her “God’s. Word to Women?” Published in 1921, exposes the same twisting of scripture. . “A biblical affirmation of the integrity and equality of women. ” Dr. Bushnell was a medical missionary to China, as well as a Bible scholar.

    Reply
    • Natalie Anne

      I haven’t! Thank you for the recommendation! I just purchased it for my Kindle.

      Reply
  7. Avatar

    Unfortunately, my daughter’s teacher is dating an abusive man. He was allowed into the classroom recently and drew on the board for the class all about courtship and how man is subject to God, the woman subject to man and the kids subject to the parents. I was FURIOUS! First of all, I don’t want him around my kids and secondly, I don’t want my kids to hear that because it’s bogus. Not sure how to proceed…..

    Reply
    • Natalie Anne

      There isn’t much you can do to control a situation like that, however, you can teach your kids the truth so they will recognize the lies when they hear them. This world is full of liars and lies. It’s a good skill for all of us to have.

      Reply
    • Avatar

      You are well within your rights to discuss what happened with the teacher and the principal of the school.

      You can start by asking the qualifications that the speaker had. Hopefully, he’s got something a bit stronger than “I’m dating the teacher.” Are his qualifications appropriate for the denomination or mission of the school? What was the purpose of his presentation? Is this a portion of the curriculum in religion or family life? If not, what was he supposed to be speaking on?

      I attended Catholic school from K-12 and my schools generally screened any theological speakers with a fine-tooth comb, but we did have a few unfortunate speakers who went into weird territory. Parents called the school and calmly explained where the speaker went into strange or problematic territory when we were small; by high school, students themselves were capable of objecting to problematic teachings.

      Reply
  8. Avatar

    This book is eye-opening and freeing. It answers so many questions and removes shackles.

    Reply
  9. Avatar

    I read this book. It is fantastic. I wish I could have a Bible study with young (and old!) women with this book. I pray that this could be a Sunday school curriculum in churches. I bought it from Amazon and I noticed that the author listed was Bob and not Helga. Even though she is listed FIRST on the book cover. Patriarchy in retail, anyone????

    Reply
  10. Avatar

    THANK YOU!! for posting this…and for doing your part in addressing the abuse issue. From this mom, ex-wife to an abuser, and from my 4 sons, for whom I’m continuing to learn, so that THEY won’t perpetuate this problem in their own relationships, including their relationships with me…

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Is It Me?

Is It Me?

Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage

A Christian woman’s guide to hidden emotional and spiritual abuse.

Learn More

Get the first chapter of my book PLUS the first chapter of the companion workbook FREE when you sign up below!

(Psst...your email is TOTALLY safe with me. Plus you can unsubscribe anytime.)

Is It Me?

Companion Workbook

Guiding and Supporting You Through Each Chapter

Learn More
Is It Me?

The Sisterhood

An online coaching, education, and support community for women of faith in destructive relationships.

Explore the Sisterhood
Is It Me?

Is It Me? Small Groups

Read through Is It Me? with a trained facilitator and other women in a small group.

Join a Group
Is It Me?

Flying Free Podcast

Experts, Survivor Stories, Interviews, and More

Listen Now!

Latest Flying Free Articles

Amazon Affiliate Disclaimer

Flying Free is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.