Structural Patriarchy’s Dilemma for Women

“I think it is fair to say that most of us (men included) have encountered spiritual abuse in one form or another and for the most part we endure and press on. But the structural patriarchy that suffuses so much of the evangelical community is not a mere insult or inconvenience; it is a death-trap for women. Here is what I mean. Structural patriarchy thrusts women into a bewildering dilemma where their responsibilities to ‘rule and subdue’ as image bearers of God Almighty are subverted into subservience to male authority—and this subversion is declared to be essence of feminine godliness. The end result is confusion and, in the worst cases, divine authority is replaced with male authority.”

—Frank A. James III

Here is the complete series on Spiritual Abuse:

Dr. Phil Monroe on Spiritual Abuse:

Also by Frank A. James:  Structural Patriarchy’s Dilemma for Women
Mary DeMuth:  Spiritual Abuse: 10 Ways to Spot It
Rachel Held Evans:  Series on Abuse

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15 Responses to Structural Patriarchy’s Dilemma for Women

  1. Andrea says:

    Thank you Frank! It is refreshing to hear from a man. It cannot be said any more succinctly. It is so succinct that I encourage all to re-read it.
    Then I ask, how do we connect with the heart of Abba God to break through confusion and yes, males who usurp God's authority? How do we do it without becoming shrill, usurping God's authority ourselves or becoming hopeless.


  2. Frank says:


    I sense this is not a question in the abstract, but one that is very real for you. I do have a few thoughts that may be helpful.

    First, I would say be who you were created to be. Carolyn’s work has been especially helpful in reminding women that they were created to be ezer warriors for God’s kingdom.

    Second, I would ask: who defines what is “shrill”? All too often those who are seeking to preserve their power within patriarchy, employ such words as a means to undercut genuine dialog and ensure silence. It is never “shrill” to speak the truth in love and with dignity.

    Third, it takes a ferocious courage to be an ezer warrior for God’s kingdom. No one said this would be easy and it is not. It is rather messy, but still the ezer warrior has the responsibility to speak truth to power.

    Fourth, by the very nature of the case, the ezer warrior is seeking to advance God’s kingdom—not their own kingdom nor that of male authority. There is only one kingdom and that belongs to the King.

    Finally, I would remind you that the King who reigns over all, will not and cannot be deposed. Because she serves the great king, the ezer warrior knows that the victory is sure. This victory is more than a hope; it is assured.

    I trust this is helpful and even encouraging.



  3. Dr. Dawn says:

    And within this confusing context the church binds half of its warriors from ultimately Kingdom work. We are all left with less impact.

    One can also say that having to subdue particular gifts given to women by the Holy Spirit causes disingenuousness of person and a sense of aphaving to hide who God intended them to be. In a sense, shaming particular women when God has gifted them to be an I credible blessing to the church and the world.

    It also causes an abundance of pride issues for men as they see themselves as gatekeepers of fallen women who have not learned their subordinated positions. No wonder male pastors end up on the DSMIV with overly exaggerated egos! We encourage them to do so as “heads” of others!

    Mind you, these comments are all theory and have no connection to my own experiences…


  4. Linda says:

    Well said, Frank (and Dr. Dawn)!

    I spent years wearied by resistance of my brothers in church leadership to the gifts God decided to give me. I struggled to submit to their restrictions, but was never very good at caring for children in the nursery nor was I satisfied with preparing and serving food for church socials. I spent years believing there was something wrong with me since I preferred and was good at leadership. I was called “unsubmissive” when I challenged (in private and with respect) erroneous interpretations of Bible passages for consideration and change.

    I had some good experiences in church leadership also and am currently in a good place with men who are less concerned with my gender than with my gifts and ability to contribute to what God is doing among us.

    I am thankful for the progress I've seen overall in my 46 years of service to the body of Christ.

    Women are not the only victims, as you pointed out, Frank. My dad has suffered abuse as an elder in three churches. He has been marginalized and slandered for speaking the truth in love and boldness. The overly exaggerated egos Dawn mentioned were at play. Time proved he was right, but the damage was done.

    Thank you, Carolyn, for this series. I've opened deep places in my heart for review. It has been painful and liberating.


  5. It is also a spiritual and theological death-trap for men, this hyper-patriarchal system. It narrowly constrains any man in leadership beyond his family–in or beyond his household–to exposit dogma that has to struggle deceitfully with the wealth of Scripture in order to keep it within cheap, narrow, and untenable teachings. This also, I've observed, includes ignoring huge portions of history in the Christian Era and sometimes writing false histories. The writings of Church Fathers are likely unknown, for instance, by many pastors, who live only in the interpretations and ideas of a recent few centuries or indeed just in a recent few decades. This intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy, which holds any woman back from being what she was made to be, also holds any man back much the same. For the woman, it is the force of the church's dogma against her. For the man, the force of the dogma that defines his authority. In both cases (male and female) the members of the church are deprived of life.


  6. …beyond his family–in or beyond his household–

    That's what I get for editing my comment and not proofreading it well enough. Well, I hope it's obvious enough what I meant. That is, the problem infects men who lead either in or out of their homes.


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