Patriarchy Works for Me

Patriarchy Works for Me

a belated Father’s Day post for my theologically-minded Dad

In our culture, patriarchy – the social system centered around and continued through the male – gets a bad rap. That’s understandable. I have seen enough evidence in CNN headlines to convince me of the injustices that often accompany this system. But I have to tell you, patriarchy worked for me.

I don’t think patriarchy as a system is broken. The problem is that we have too many bad or absent fathers. Bad fathers abuse the intended beauty of a patriarchal system. Absent fathers wound their children in the deepest ways and the result is a widespread social crisis.

There is a story in the folklore of my family that goes like this. Between 30 and 40 years ago – we’ll just round it off, OK? – my Dad and my Mom went on their first date to Pizza Hut and ordered ham and cheese sandwiches.

They fell in love. At least, my mom was sold. (And when you hear the next part of the story you’ll know why!)

It was on this date that Dad told Mom that he wanted to name his first daughter Felicity after watching an old Western movie. Apparently, a beautiful woman stepped off the stagecoach in a new town and the ripples of voices collectively asked, “Who is that?” The answer was “Felicity” and my dad thought it was a perfect name.

So here I am – named by my dad and living in the blessing of his decision making ever since.

That was the significance of the father in Bible stories: identity, protection, blessing, inheritance, etc. You were known by your father’s deeds and conquests and character. This worked for me.

I’ve always loved the uniqueness of my name. I never remember wishing I had anything different. But I think it is more than just the arrangement of syllables. I loved this naming story as a child because it reminded me that I was thought of before I was born. I was wanted and planned for. No one flipped through a name book on the way to the hospital for me – my Dad gave me the prettiest name he knew.

And my dad didn’t just name me well. He provided for me well – he gave me a home; he taught me how to put myself to sleep; he walked me through decisions as a teenager, not just telling me what to do, but going through the implication of each possible choice and letting me come to my own guided conclusions.

Patriarchy worked for me. Happy Father’s Day!



15 Replies to “Patriarchy Works for Me”

  1. Works for me too. I have good patriarchs in my life. If there’s a reference here to patriarchal authority in the church, I probably need a little more of that peace from the ultimate Father. Still, this idea of a patriarchal community in general is definitely the one that feels most right to me.

    1. Definitely not making a larger church statement – although that would be an interesting discussion. I recently read a “Christian living” book in which the author spent an entire chapter talking about how patriarchy has made no room for women in leadership in the church. I couldn’t identify with her at all. I’ve always been given a platform if I wanted it . . . although I know that isn’t true for everyone. I’m more interested in the big picture discussion anyway.

      1. Yea, I don’t identify with that either. Though it seems I’ve known some women who would say it…. Weird.

        And I love the tweaked version! It’s personal and lovely. I love our dad. And I love how you got your name, especially because it led so well to mine.

  2. Well I was practically weeping when I read this tweaked post, and then I got to Charity’s comment and guffawed out loud! All I can tell you, Char, is that you obviously did’t hold these oversights against your father since you smiled at him seconds after I gave you birth!

  3. Patriarchy worked for us because we were both submitted to the God of our Fathers. I think that’s where the breakdown occurs, when one or the other isn’t submitted to Him. You kids have all done us proud. We watched you all decide that He was the purpose to life and we knew we were going to go from being parents to friends and fellow brothers and sisters. You kids are now some of the most admirable Christians I know. And Charity..your mother didn’t have to work very hard to convince me. Also you know daddy’s littlest girl always has a special place in his heart.(I would put one of those smiley faces here, but real men don’t use those)

  4. I love that story about your name, and what it meant for you. I also have a dad like that – one who protected, encouraged and provided for me. And I’m deeply grateful.

    So imagine my shock when, as a college student, I was told I couldn’t pray or lead a scripture in our public chapel service simply because I was a woman. I was furious. That kind of patriarchy – the thoughtless kind – doesn’t work for me at all.

    My feelings on this issue are clearly mixed. But I do love this post. Beautifully written.

    1. See, that’s why I didn’t want to address the church issue specifically. I’ve been so lucky in this area. Last weekend I preached the Father’s Day message in a church that was having their very first service in a new building! I can imagine being shocked by your experience, Katie. “the thoughtless kind” is a good way to describe it. So much to say on the subject of women in leadership in general, of course, but that’s more than I want to tackle here!

      1. Of course. I understand not wanting to go there – that’s a much larger, more fraught conversation! And I’ve since been a part of several churches that encouraged me to participate. Which is deeply gratifying. (And I would have loved to hear you preach that message!)

        1. It would be a fun topic to tackle together, over coffee, though. Surely the fates will align for that someday, right?! 🙂

  5. Awww, just read the tweaked version and I love it! My dad named me too! (while my mom was asleep, so the story goes) 🙂 I would have been Emily or Rowena Jean, which if you’re reading and that is your name — they are lovely — I just think Molly Rose suits me better. 🙂

    1. True story…but we had talked about it of course, from time to time over the nine months : ) I am so glad you are Molly Rose in every way ooxxoo’s

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *