Complementarian Caricature -- By: Nathan A. Finn

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 15:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: Complementarian Caricature
Author: Nathan A. Finn


Complementarian Caricature

A Review of Kathryn Joyce, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Boston: Beacon Press, 2009.

Nathan A. Finn

Assistant Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina

Complementarians are scary people. They want to take away virtually all the freedoms that women have gained in the past century and replace those freedoms with babies—lots of babies. They want to do away with American democracy and impose a patriarchal theocracy on American culture, which, by the way, they are convinced is what the Founding Fathers would want. They eschew public schools and use homeschooling as a means of training their children, especially their daughters, to be culture warriors who will advance the patriarchal cause. They are pawns of the Religious Right; they are almost uniformly Caucasian and Calvinist; and they delight in oppressing wives and daughters, exercising corporal punishment, and arranged marriages. Doug Phillips of Vision Forum is their leader, and an American Geneva is their endgame.

Such is the view of complementarianism that you will gain if you read Kathryn Joyce’s recent book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Joyce’s book is based upon her own journey into the heart of the “patriarchy” movement through attending conferences, reading relevant works, and interviewing leaders and devotees alike. While her tone is mostly amiable, she attempts to demonstrate that there is a vast conspiracy made up of Southern Baptist moms and Presbyterian dads that want to use their families and ministries like The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) to take over America. This, of course, paints a picture that fails to represent the vast majority of complementarians, a fact that seems lost on Joyce.

The most interesting aspect of Joyce’s book is that she has spent time with a lot of diverse people who claim to adhere to biblical views of the family and gender roles. Her book is structured around twenty chapters, most of which involve a vignette where Joyce spent some time with individuals whom she believes are key to understanding modern American patriarchy. Many chapters offer fascinating glimpses into the lives and ministries of individuals who have exercised considerable influence among certain segments of pro-family conservative evangelicalism. Joyce clearly did her homework. However, the hitch is not with her research, but rather with her interpretation. Joyce simplistically lumps almost all complementarians into one camp, thus missing the nuance among those who claim to hold to traditional Christian views of marriage and family. Of course, the heroes of her story are in...

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