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As Doug Phillips and his Vision Forum ministry is sinking, stories of abuse among Christian Patriarchy are surfacing: domestic violence, wife spanking, etc, among other well-known circles such as RC Sproul Jr., etc.
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Warning: this is a heavy and disturbing article.
As Doug Phillips and his ship are sinking, his story is causing a ripple of waves of questioning, recalling of incidences, comparing notes, sharing of stories. The Christian Patriarchy Movement has common denominators which can include families who choose to homeschool their children, family-integrated churches, families who practice courtship, large families, etc. But there are differences in practices and interpretations. For example, teachings under one patriarchal leader, what godly fatherhood looks like or what a godly husband looks like in practice may not be the same among patriarchal leaders.
I have a few observations as I’ve been watching from my spiritual abuse blogging seat. We seem to have quite a few Christian Patriarchal leaders heading up their own groups/churches. Many of these leaders may have elders or church governance in place which gives the appearance of legitimate accountability for the church leaders, but as we see in so many spiritual abuse cases, these elders can be “yes-men” who do not challenge the leaders or turn a blind eye to the known abuses. This is what allowed Phillips to have a decade-long affair and continue in his “godly” fatherhood ministry, living in luxury.
But what about other abuses and practices that can go “unnoticed” or out of the public spotlight?
One of these known abuses going on in some Christian Patriarchal circles is wife spanking. The real label is domestic violence which of course is illegal. If the wife does not agree to spanking, it is not Biblical. Husbands do not own their wives and do not have the right to abuse them. Adding the adjective “Biblical” in front of a word like “discipline” does not make it in fact Biblical. Furthermore, when do husbands have the right to discipline their wives?
As I have reported on abuses within the Homeschool Movement, I have been the recipient of e-mails and subsequent phone calls from people who have shared their concerns about this ongoing problem. A pastor contacted me last year regarding this topic, naming names, groups involved, etc. What he shared with me (people involved and practices) lines up with the comments which will follow.
One of the difficulties of reporting something like this is that I wanted proof that wife spanking is taught before reporting on it. Everyone I’ve asked has said that we’re not going to find much evidence of wife spanking in print. The leaders who promote it are not dummies – they know there would be outrage if this kind of printed material got in the “wrong” hands.
I asked my source when this abuse is taught to men. I was told that wife spanking is sometimes taught at mens’ meetings, heads-of-households meetings, in one-on-one counseling meetings, or sometimes in marital counseling by church leaders or pastors.
Over at Jen’s Gems blog, several commenters have mentioned some of the key names I’ve been hearing/reading. While some will want to focus on the named man in the comments, it is important to look at the entire Christian Patriarchy system that is at work creating these abuses. Doug Phillips was not alone in his method of spiritual tyranny and preventing “godly men” from disclosing the truths they knew. This is going on elsewhere.
We must understand that Christian Patriarchy can easily set up a man to have a free license to abuse his wife. I am very concerned about pastors who teach men that they need to get their wives under control. I overheard my own former pastor say this. How he would propose doing this, I do not know, but the idea of a man using his authority to control could easily be taken to the extreme of wife spanking.
Christian Patriarchy is fertile ground for wife spanking and domestic violence and it’s time to shout the bullhorn on this abuse.
I’ve copied a few key notable comments from Jen’s Gems to note the abuse. The comments were condensed, so feel free to click on the links to go directly to the full comments.
December 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm
“Let’s get specific here.” Okay, Mykl, I’m game. Are you okay with wife spanking? R.C. Sproul, Jr. is, as anyone who *really* knows him knows. He regularly spanked his wife and he taught the men in his church to spank their wives. He was also abusive of his children, even the babies. He was deep into Gary Ezzo and blanket training. Just listening to his Basement Tapes won’t clue you in to that. You’d have to know him up close and personal, or have friends who are members of his church in Virginia, to figure any of that out.
I get really suspicious of men who jump to defend wife spankers and child abusers like R.C. Sproul, Jr. So are you in to wife spanking yourself? Blanket training?
December 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm
I wish I could agree. What comes out of R.C. Sproul, Jr every time he opens his mouth is hypocrisy. Same thing with Doug Phillips. Eloquence doesn’t make for integrity, and neither man have an ounce of integrity. R.C. Sproul Jr. spanked is wife, abused his babies, and drinks like a fish. Doug Phillips cheated on his wife for many years. Neither man’s name should ever be mentioned again with anything other than contempt. They are biblically disqualified from teaching again and you are a fool to listen to them.
Mykl you are either a very ignorant man or you are a deliberate promoter of hypocrites and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Hopefully it’s the former. If you have a personal opinion on Patriarchy then some of us might like to hear it. The problem is you just destroyed all your credibility with your ignorant name dropping, so now it will be a hard sell.
December 30, 2013 at 11:08 am
Mel, I can confirm Lindt’s comments about RC Sproul Jr and the wife spanking. We were members there years ago and witnessed it in his home. We were there in the early years of St. Peter Presbyterian Church. RC would sometimes invite families to his home for a meal, not so much for the regular folks, but if you were big donors to the church and Highlands Study Center like we were.
Ghirard then discusses a disturbing parenting concept taught in these circles called “blanket training” that Sproul practiced. We pick up the story on the topic of domestic violence as Ghirard shares what happened next at Sproul Jr.’s home:
After supper as we sat in the living room with RC and his children. Denise was cleaning up in the kitchen. RC got up to go in the kitchen. Denise must have done something to make him mad because he angrily told her, “Go to your room”. It sounded just like he was talking to a little child. Denise went to their bedroom and a little later RC went up and we could hear him spanking her. She stayed up there a long time before she came back down. The look on her face told all. She was humiliated and ashamed. It was the most awkward supper we’d ever had in anyone’s home. We didn’t accept anymore invitations from RC after that.
Another commenter asks Ghirard if he confronted Sproul, Jr. about this and Ghirard responded:
December 30, 2013 at 12:27 pm
It makes be sad to say it but I have to agree with you that Denise is better off. She was such a wonderful person and she had such a miserable life married to RC. Many doctors say that a very large percentage of chronic illness is caused by depressed immune systems that are compromised by severe stress, poor diet and lack of exercise. Denise Sproul’s life was tremendously stressful all thanks to RC Jr and he forced the family to eat a horrible diet. I blame Denise’s recurring cancers on him.
December 28, 2013 at 8:21 am
I once heard someone say that they were discussing these things with RC Jr. and that he said that if he were to tell his wife to go stand on her head in the corner, and she didn’t, then he would have her put under church discipline.
My immediate response was why wasn’t he put under church discipline for not loving his wife like Christ loved the church?
Seems like that route doesn’t come up with these guys….
I have no way of validating the comments above, but am convinced that this is indeed a problem in the Homeschool Movement combined with Christian Patriarchy Movement. Of course when we are part of a movement and don’t see the abuse, we want to say that it doesn’t happen, but it is happening. So what is a godly response to ungodliness?
Women are trapped in homes by their Christian Patriarchal husbands and being told that they are being treated the way God expects godly husbands to treat their wives.
Women are also taught that when there are problems they face and their husbands are negligent, they can turn to their church leaders.
Where is woman to turn when the abuse she is incurring from her husband has been taught by church leaders?
Where is she going to go when she’s been taught to never go outside the church – to police or governmental authorities – for help?
She is virtually held captive in her own home because her husband AND church leaders are abusers.
These women need our prayers and our help. We must expose this mess and put the public spotlight on this travesty. We have voices and must speak up for them.
Updated note: Slight modification of title and removed key words See note in comments.