Follow-up on Huckabee and “Chicken Patriarchy”

As a follow-up to ECS’s post on Huckabee and “Chicken Patriarchy”, I thought I’d link to this post which explains in more detail how “submit” is discussed in evangelical circles and how Huckabee’s recent explanations do seem to be either a substantial revision of evangelical beliefs or a deceptive way of making evangelical teachings more palatable to the masses:

Here’s a quote that Majikthise takes from the official SBC website:

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. 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. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

Despite the discussion of “equal worth,” the quote clearly sets up a hierarchy–woman is to man as man is to God, and it doesn’t even have the sentence like we have in our own “Proclamation on the Family” that “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” In the Baptist world, it seems as if the wife is the one who “helps” her husband.

A couple of additional notes:

*I was surprised how much of a resemblance there was between the Baptist statement on the family that Majikthise links to and “The Proclamation on the Family” (they’re not identical as the quote I pull out clearly shows, but there are definitely echoes).

*She talks a little bit about how in Baptist culture women often get their way through persuasion and manipulation. And it got me thinking about how much I see that happening in the Mormon world (and how Mormon women often get critiqued for their indirectness and manipulative tendencies). Her post got me thinking about how women’s manipulative behavior often stems from being in systems and relationships where they have little “hard” power. While I don’t think manipulation is ideal under any kind of circumstances, the development of women’s tendency to being indirect and manipulative seems connected in part to patriarchy and its practices.


  1. This is slightly tangental, and I refuse to link directly to it, but for a more extreme view of Christian marriage and submission, google “Christian Domestic Discipline.” No, that site is not a joke or fake.

  2. I was just thinking how interesting it is that we have a GA on record (Elder Hafen, Aug 07 Ensign) calling that specific creed of gracious submission “an extremist attitude.”

  3. While Elder Hafen is certainly correct in his observation, I’m not so sure there’s much of a difference between the SBC statement and the Family Proc. The Family Proc uses the word “preside”, while the SBC uses the word “submit”. Two sides of the same coin.

    The Family Proc’s inclusion of “equal partners” confuses the issue, but it’s clear that men preside over women in the LDS church. And you can’t have a presider without a submitter.

  4. ECS, I don’t have any interest in having this discussion again, but there are lots of us who think that there is a world of difference between the SBC position and the LDS one.

  5. The “equal partners” language in the Proclamation seems like a clear attempt to soften or even countermand the “submision” interpretation.

    It’s also worth noting that the Proclamation is essentially a committee document — it likely represents a compromise between different views held by various members of the Twelve. Some probably feel the Baptist “submission” view is correct and scriptural (even if LDS leaders don’t feel they can publicly avow such a conservative view, so the “preside” langauge is used), whereas others may feel that “equal partners” better describes the correct view.

  6. Dave – that’s a fair explanation, but both views can’t be right. Meaning, the partners are not “equal” if one partner “presides”.

    Like Julie, I’m not interested in rehashing the equal partners vs. presiding argument, but unlike Julie, I don’t see much difference between the SBC and Proclamation language. The SBC clearly states that men and women are “equal”. They just leave out the word “partners”. Perhaps their’s is the more honest statement – recognizing that the patriarchal hierarchy of the man “presiding” or ” leading” over his family is fundamentally incompatible with an “equal partnership”.

  7. Oh, goody! Another joust over wifely submission! And to think I was worried my lance would become dull.

    What I think remains unexplained about the evangelicals’ doctrinal position on marriage as stated above is why, if husband and wife are of equal in worth, they are not equal in power; what is meant by “worth” exactly, and what is the basis for translating equality in value into a hierarchy of power? Two different models are invoked to account for these variant doctrines: both partners are created in God’s image, but the husband represents Christ (the superordinate) and the wife the Church (the subordinate), for reasons that are left entirely opaque. Subordination is not bad in itself–obviously there are all sorts of situations in which it’s necessary. But it sounds like equality of value is being used to justify hierarchy, and I fail to see how exactly.

    It’s rhetorically strategic for Mormons to finger the evangelical position as a negative model for marital relations, but it also strikes me as disingenuous. If anything, the difference between us is not qualitative but quantitative: we’re as evasive as Huckabee when it comes to owning up to our advocacy of marital hierarchy, but it’s not as though our doctrine is entirely lacking in such elements.

    Dave’s contention that our doctrine is being crafted by committee (the FamProc in particular) is intriguing. If this is the case, though, it seems like we should admit to its fundamental heterogeneity. There may well be advantages to a doctrine-by-committee policy that allows multiple voices to be heard, if we accept its pluralistic nature. (The problem is that this runs entirely contrary to our belief that the Church makes absolute truth claims.)

  8. Ok, moving from Dave to ECS to over here, let me share something, not all Southern Baptists are conservatively equal in their doctrinal beliefs (sort of what I experience with LDS friends).

    ECS quotes Mohler. Guys, Huckabee is not as conservatively astute about doctrine as Mohler.

    In exploring the big SBC, make sure you all, to explore the nuances.

    I think it would help some in this funny theme of “chicken patriarchy.”

  9. Kiskili darling, I so love you. Humor and a durned good parsing of nuance, topped off with an implicative question.

    What are the alternatives to a heterogenetive POTF composition? That God handed down precise diction? While I could suspend my disbelief regarding that possibility, seeing as how faith demands the suspension of belief on much crazier notions, it does seem at odds with how GAs themselves describe contemporary processes of revelation. Perhaps I’m aberrant, but I’d always assumed it was, as you say, “crafted by committee” and had assigned this neither inborn negative or positive value (good arguments could be made for either, though I’d bet whoever wrote the thing, be it God Himself or a committee of 200, weren’t employing the word “essential” as does the academy). What I and many others see as dissonance within the document itself points–or at least I hope points–to our wrestling with these issues at even the top levels. Is it so dreadful to think a prophet and his counselors might not be precisely sure how presiding husbands and submissive wives would construct egalitarian relationships while keeping the Christ/hubby–Church/wife analogy to which you allude? That they could wrestle with the notion that souls enjoy equal worth before God but may not have the same practical value as assigned by a hegemonic structure?

    Our belief in absolute truth claims needn’t extend to every word that comes from SLC, nor need we believe that inchoate Truth gets magically translated with precision into the flawed language used to convey it. Water of life, cracked glass? But I’m threadjacking. And perhaps being quite niave.

  10. Thanks, Janet! Nice to see you over here.

    What fascinates me about the FamProc is that since it sets itself up as a normative standard incumbent on everyone (member and non-member alike), it seems entirely unself-conscious of internal contradictions. I imagine people at the top levels are indeed wrestling with these issues, but then why give the conglomerate product of their wrestling the sheen of an absolute unequivocal standard?

    Of course, why limit our speculations to the top level of the Church? Maybe Heavenly Father and Mother themselves are struggling with this. 😉

  11. Fair enough, Todd. I once met a woman who was a Southern Baptist studying for ordination.

    But I think it’s still quite clear that Huckabee is changing his position to fit what his audience wants to hear.

    If he’s not “conservatively astute” enough to understand the implications for the document he signed (affirming that wives should submit to husbands), then perhaps he should not have signed it. If he’s changed his mind and no longer supports the position of the Southern Baptist Convention, why not be honest about it?

  12. If he’s not astute enough to figure out the problems with the statement, perhaps he’s not astute enough to be a good president, no?

  13. Kiskilie (#10)–Ack! Now I’ll be embarking once again on the question of what “eternal progression” means! Durn you 😉

    You make a good point. I’m too brain dead to process it right now, but the question of “sheen” has a lot to do w/linguistic limits and human assumption, yes? Sheens ain’t substance, anyhow, even though they can alert someone to substance.

  14. Dave – that’s a fair explanation, but both views can’t be right. Meaning, the partners are not “equal” if one partner “presides”.

    Except that a lot of us don’t see a contradiction. You can cite dictionaries all you want, but I am not sure they apply in this context. And who is to say if the church meaning of preside is not the “true” one, and other definitions corruptions?

    I don’t see a problem with partners being equal, and yet one presiding. This is a hard thing to explain in mere words, but I see presiding as having to do with how one little family is linked to the rest of the generations and to God. I imagine it as the husband having one arm scooped around his family, and one arm linked up to God and all other generations, with his arm acting as a conduit for the power of the priesthood.

    Within the family, he and his wife are equal. But it is his job to reach up and use his priesthood to protect and connect the family.

  15. Naismith,
    That is a nice image, the husband with one arm around his family and another reaching to God.
    However, when I think about it longer, it only seems to work with a young family. Once children are grown and married, then it’s only a couple. Somehow the image doesn’t seem as warm and comforting to me when I think about a husband with his arm around his wife reaching to God with the other arm.
    That said, I do appreciate your viewpoint as I feel a lot of confusion about these issues. It’s nice to hear from a woman who has considered both sides and chooses to be supportive of the way things are.

  16. I have NEVER heard ONE explanation from anyone, GA or not, as to what it actually means to PRESIDE. No wonder we are all up in the air about this “doctrine” if it is doctrine. Does PRESIDE mean the husband gets the final say in a disagreement? Even Elder Packer had something to say about that – something about “if you ever pull Priesthood rank on your wife you will have failed”, etc. So what DOES it mean? My experience is that when women get more economic power, they get more power in relationships. This is pretty well born out by international studies that show that when women in 3rd world countries are empowered economically, they get more power over their sexuality, their lives and their children’s lives all improve, there is less violence towards women, less HIV infections, etc. I am not sure how this fits into the POF.

    So what does the Church MEAN when they use the word PRESIDE? Any comments?

  17. Thanks for all the comments. I think I tend to come down somewhere near Dave on the whole equal partners/preside language. Like ECS, I think there are resemblances between us and the SBC, but I do think the “equal partners” thing was put in to mitigate the preside/submit message that has been part of the language for so long, and I do think it’s a step further than saying “equal worth.”

    Still, I think we’re doing something similar with our language–we get to say we’re egalitarian without having to do a complete upheaval of terminology and ideology that is built into the Christian tradition. Of course, I’d rather we just rid of what I see as problematic terminology, but that’s a discussion we’ve been over a number of times elsewhere.

    Chimera, most of the people on this blog (i.e. us ZDers) have a really difficult time making sense of the church’s language on preside, so you’re not the only one–just do a search on “preside” on our blog or over at Feminist Mormon Housewives, and you’ll see heated debates over what preside really means.

    And thanks, Dave (and others) on the thoughts about the Fam Proc being a committee document. I hadn’t ever thought about it in those terms before.

  18. I just didn’t see the need to mix religion in politics, but very interested for all of this I came back to to read about “preside” but couldn’t stand it. It also reminded me that when I was looking about polygamy about 4 months ago in I just could see a RESULTS NOT MATCHED, now after all that religiuspolitic thing I found a LOT of information, well ,while writing this I figured out it’s not so bad to mix them, at least the topics that concern some of us are being talked about more and I feel that the other denomination’s members will be also debating about their internal conflicts with their own doctrines.


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