Children who attend complementarian churches that stress the authority of males, often end up with no recourse, no safety and no one to turn to when they have harsh, demanding, and impossible-to-please fathers. Some of them turn to their mothers for help, but when the mothers are also held in bondage by their church leadership, they are unable to do much beyond lend a sympathetic ear.
These children, with the help of church leaders and their fathers, are likely to understand Ephesians 6:1-4 something like this:
children obey your fathers in the Lord, no matter what: for this is right. This is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth instead of getting zapped by God.
Honor your mothers every Mother’s Day, unless your father tells you not to.
And ye mothers, do not provoke your children to rebel against their fathers: but when they come to you for sympathy, tell them to obey and subject themselves to the harsh demands of their fathers, for their fathers are attempting to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Children with this teaching, grow up with an erroneous view of God. They think of God as an angry, punishing being, similar to their own fathers.
When these children reach adulthood, many of them, especially boys, tend to copy their dads and take the authority teaching, which gives males permission to abuse, to the next generation. Many girls from these male-authority homes go into their own marriages with no self-esteem and expect to be doormats for their own husbands. Children who make these choices frequently stay in their male-authority churches.
Conversely, some children decide God is a tyrant and they want nothing to do with him or with the church and its tyrant leaders. Still other children decide the tyranny is the result of organized religion, and choose to maintain a close relationship with God, but divorce themselves from any and all churches.
Sadly, it is very difficult for children from male-authoritarian homes to figure out how to have loving, respectful marriages. As a pastor said to me, when people date, they have many role models to choose from. But after they marry, and things happen, their knee-jerk reaction tends toward copying the actions and reactions they saw over and over from their same-sex parent.
Thus, the current male-authority teachers, who all too frequently excuse abusers, are birthing and training the next generation to become wife and child abusers. By refusing to allow wives and children to leave their abusers, and by punishing them if they do leave, these male-authority teachers end up teaching children that domestic abuse is acceptable to God. That generation will practice domestic abuse in their homes and train the next generation to practice it, too. And on and on, generation after generation.
When are churches going to stop insisting that the sin of abuse will beget righteousness? When are they going to stop insisting that wife submission is the glue that holds marriages together? When are they going to stop insisting that "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church" means husbands must have authority over their wives? And when are they going to stop training the next generations to be wife abusers and beaters?
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel,"a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what. Please visit www.wanetadawn.com