Enlightenment’s Patriarchalism and Women’s Suffrage
Modern voting is an act of war against an ever-encroaching state, trying to consume lives, liberty, and property. In such a war of protection of the home, there is no difference between men and women.
Welcome to Episode 74 of Axe to the Root Podcast, part of the War Room Productions, I am Bo Marinov, and for the next 40 minutes (a little bit longer, yes) we will talk about suffrage. You know, voting. Political voting, to be precise, but we may also touch the issue of church voting as well. Voting seems to be en vogue these days, and a lot of social and political energy, not to mention finances (you may call them distilled social energy, if you want) is devoted to discussing voting, or to organizing voting, or making voting serve certain political goals and purposes. It’s a big deal in America; and, to be honest, I am rather excited about it, given my own personal history. Having grown up in a country under a Communist regime, I remember times when people were obligated to vote, and there was only one option on the ballot. (I mean, in theory, you could always write in a second candidate, but the consequences wouldn’t be nice.) Of course, at a closer look, at the most levels of the American political system as it is today, you still have only one candidate – or, to be precise, one and the same policy represented by several names, some Republican, some Democrat. Still, as it sometimes happens, the American system does allow an honest man to get through the sift and actually make a difference – like Ron Paul, for example. So, some good can come out of that system, obviously – well, at least compared to the system in Communist countries. (Although, I am not sure how relevant such comparison can be.) Either way, voting – and especially political voting – is in the focus of many people these days. And in the focus of Christian preachers, as well, for different reasons.
Among these preachers, I have encountered numerous different theories what the Bible supposedly says about voting. Some, like John MacArthur, see all political activity as a waste of time at best, or, as “placing cultural and social issues above spiritual issues” (direct quote) at worst. (Because, you know, cultural and spiritual issues can’t be spiritual issues. As my friend, the abolitionist Todd Bullis, quipped, “if it was legal to murder gray-haired old men, you bet he’d be more balanced, don’t you think?”) Others – and that’s the majority of them – have simply adopted the modern secularist propaganda of representative republic or democracy or whatever, and see voting as a symbol of liberty in an America specially blessed by God. (She is specially blessed, but voting is not necessarily a token of it, I would say.) Still others come up with different theories about the nature of voting of the correct Biblical patterns of voting, many of them serving specific theological theories that such pastors have; some of these theories deserving serious consideration, others so outlandishly bizarre that one wonders how men of common sense and high intelligence could even come up with them.
Recently, I was asked to comment on one of those theories about suffrage, a theory that comes out of a movement that emerged in the last several decades, the so-called “Biblical” patriarchy. I have talked about patriarchy before, and I have explained why it can’t be anymore “Biblical” than Hinduism or Marxism can be Biblical; So I am not going to repeat myself here. Besides, as I have said before, patriarchalism in the Reformed churches reached its culmination a few years ago and has been going down the drain ever since, dragged by multiple scandals of abuse, as well as by revolt by children – and especially daughters – who have grown up under that ideological system.
Some of its teachings are still with us, however. And one of them is its teaching on suffrage, political and ecclesiastical. Specifically, that women should not vote.
Women’s suffrage has been in the cross hairs of almost every single patriarchalist speaker or leader, ever since patriarchalism raised its head again the evangelical and Reformed churches in America. I first heard of this doctrine back in the 1990s, and continued hearing of it until a few years ago when the whole patriarchalist movement started disintegrating under its own weight. Given that almost all of them have spoken against women’s suffrage, I won’t have the time to cover all of their writings in this episode. I will take on, however, a booklet that summarizes all these patriarchalist views on women’s suffrage: Universal Suffrage: A History and Analysis of Voting in the Church and Society, by Phillip Kayser, a pastor of a Presbyterian church in Omaha Nebraska. The booklet can be found on his online library, KayserCommentary.com. The reason I have to take on just a small booklet is because it is the most concise rendering of the patriarchalist position against women’s suffrage; there is no comprehensive treatment on this topic, and the majority of the criticisms against women’s suffrage are excerpts from sermons and lectures; and most of them are rather chaotic when it comes to exposition. Kayser’s booklet, however, is well-ordered, and the exposition is one straight logical construct from beginning to end. (Even if the arguments in its are rather deficient, as we will see shortly.) So it is that booklet that I will use to show why women’s suffrage in our day is not anti-Biblical or anti-Christian, and in fact, should be promoted and defended by the Church in our time, not as necessarily a “spiritual and Biblical necessity,” but as an expression of applied redemptive justice in times of temporary darkness.
Pastor Kayser has three main arguments against women’s suffrage. I will just mention the first two in passim and show why they are deficient, and then I will focus on his third argument, which I believe is the most substantial argument; and it is also the argument that clearly shows that both Kayser and the rest of the patriarchy movement have failed to think covenantally and to apply the Biblical standards of the Dominion Mandate to our modern times in a way that would honor the justice of the Law of God. But more about this later.
His first argument against women’s suffrage is an argument from history. He points to the fact that voting used to be restricted by several factors, and in fact, not only women, but also slaves, people of color in general, men without property, and other categories of citizens were excluded from voting. Kayser appeals to the fact that voting will always be restricted; and therefore, we shouldn’t be so surprised if he says that women shouldn’t vote.
That argument from history, of course, is fallacious on its own. Before we turn to historical precedents to refute or support some modern idea or ideology, we need to make sure several things are in place. The people who were behind those historical precedents, were they motivated by the Word of God, or were they motivated by paganism that has remained in Christendom? Was the historical situation analogical to the modern situation? (As we will see, it wasn’t.) Do we interpret the precedents based on the mindset and expectations of the contemporaries, or are we introducing our modern bias? Etc., etc., etc. History doesn’t teach us anything of value before we have a system of values to apply to history. Just because someone did something in the past doesn’t mean it is necessarily good. Time doesn’t sanctify anything.
His second argument is one of the most illogical arguments I have ever read in a Christian book: He says that women’s vote “undermines family role in the church,” and, I would add, by implication, in the state. Unfortunately, Kayser has omitted giving the reasoning behind this claim; he doesn’t explain how in the world the family’s role is undermined if the family can cast two votes instead of one. He just makes the claim and leaves it there, without any explanation why. I spent some time trying to figure out his logic, and I wasn’t able to come to any conclusion. How is my family’s role undermined if my wife can cast a second vote for my family, if we are counted as two votes instead of one? How is two votes less than one vote?
When you dig deeper, the logic becomes even more bizarre. A functional and harmonious family where the husband and the wife are in perfect agreement gets one vote. And then a dysfunctional family where the husband and the wife don’t agree on anything, including principles of church and civil government, also gets one vote. So dysfunctional families are equally represented as harmonious families, and that strengthens the family’s role??? And if the husband in that dysfunctional family is a scoundrel, he gets to be represented while his righteous wife gets no representation? And that strengthens the family’s role? Under universal suffrage, a harmonious family gets two votes, while a dysfunctional family gets zero votes (wife’s vote would cancel her husband’s vote). While under Kayser’s proposal, dysfunctional families are actually encouraged by giving them the same representation as harmonious families. Of what I see, logically, Kayser’s proposal only subsidizes broken families, ecclesiastically and politically. How is he not capable of seeing that?
But it gets even worse. Explain this, if you can: a widow with children has zero votes, while a single man without a family has one vote. How does this strengthen the family’s role? (Well, Kayser may want to argue that only family men should be eligible to vote, but then he would have to exclude Jesus, Paul, and Timothy from being eligible to vote in church elections.) But that’s not the worst part. Listen to this: If two men live together in a “household,” such “household” would have two votes, while a normal family would have only one vote, and a widow with children would have zero votes. (The men don’t have to be in an illicit sodomite relationship, just living as single roommates who share a house. Although, if they did have such illicit relationship, they would be protected against prosecution under the Law of God, as long as they kept it secret.) So by what logic does Kayser claim that women’s vote undermines the role of the family? Looks to me that, contrary to his beliefs, it is his proposal that would undermine the role of Biblical, solid, harmonious families, and would give disproportional representation to non-families, or even to perverts. He never makes the effort to explore the ramifications of what he said; but those ramifications show that his proposal would rather diminish the role of the Biblical family rather than strengthen it. The only possible logical explanation for Kayser’s position is that he doesn’t really believe that the wife is a legitimate part of the family; he only sees her as an external addendum who has no lawful share of her own in the family, and therefore cannot represent the family as a family. A single man, still being a man, is a family. A widow with children is not a family. Thus, the family is identified with the man, and the woman is just an outsider, all her life. Perhaps Kayser didn’t mean to say this, but this is the only logical conclusion from his position.
His third argument is the most important of the three: namely, that the Bible never mentions women’s voting. Kayser’s claim is that this is because voting is an issue of “leadership” (the perennial excuse of all tyrannies, by the way), and since women are not allowed to “have leadership or authority over men,” therefore women are not allowed to vote. He misses the fact that Deborah was a mother in Israel (clearly a position of authority), and that Jesus Himself mentioned that the Queen of the South will be at the judgment of a whole generation of men, thus exercising authority over them (Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:31). From other writings, Kayser’s excuse about Debora is that her rise was for the shame of the men in Israel who failed in their leadership – but such claim is extra-Biblical, given that no verse in the Bible supports it. And even if he could make that claim about Deborah, what about the Queen of the South? Was Jesus confused about “gender roles”?
The artificial, non-Biblical obsession with “leadership” and submission aside, however, Kayser’s main problem with his argument is this: While it is true that women’s suffrage is not mentioned in the Bible, this is still not an argument to bar women from voting today. Why? Because – and this is where Kayser has failed to do his diligence and analyze the topic comprehensively – not only is women’s voting not mentioned in the Bible, but our whole modern system of voting is not mentioned in the Bible. In order for him to use the silence of the Bible and apply it to modern political or church voting, he needs to first prove that modern voting is, indeed, in the Bible, and therefore whatever applied to Biblical voting, must apply to our modern voting today, in church and state. But he never makes such effort. He just makes conclusions from linear, direct analogies between things that are not the same, and not even close to being the same. And in order to understand where he has failed to do his homework, we need to understand the nature of the modern political system and compare it to the Biblical political system. We will have to do that in the context of the Dominion Covenant, and understand the underlying covenantal issues at stake in the modern political system and the nature of voting, and only then decide whether women’s suffrage in our day is Biblically justified. We want to avoid making superficial analogies, as Kayser did, because such superficial analogies may help us feel good about our supposedly “Biblical” ideas, but in reality, may actually take us far away from the worldview of the Bible.
Where do we start our analysis? From the Dominion Mandate, of course.
As we as Christian Reconstructionists should know from our application of Covenant Theology, modern “spiritualized” pulpit Christianity notwithstanding, the Biblical covenant was economic, from the very beginning. We like to make it all spiritual and diminish and denigrate the economic aspects of it. The early Reformed theologians added somewhat to the confusion by giving a super-spiritualized name to that original covenant, “covenant of works” (as in salvation is through works). But as the Dutch theologian Klaas Schilder mentioned, a better name for that original covenant would be a Covenant of Work: God commanded man to work, to take dominion over the earth and subdue it, which means, make it productive for the purposes of an expanding mankind. It is not that that task was not spiritual: in fact, that was the spiritual task given to man in the Garden, and it will always remain the most spiritual task ever given to man: to improve the economic value of the resources given to him. The ethical-judicial restraints God placed in the Garden were not meant to be separate from that spiritual-economic task; they were supposed to protect man in his ability to take dominion over the earth. Man was created to take dominion, that is, to work, and the command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was meant to keep man capable of fulfilling his task of work.
When we closely examine that command – to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – we notice that it was actually a command concerning property boundaries. It was about lawful and unlawful use of resources. “From any tree of the Garden you may eat freely, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” As Gary North pointed out in several places in his economic commentary on the Bible, the definition of property rights can be boiled down a simple right: the right to exclude other people from the use of certain resources. When God legally excluded man from using the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, this was an exercise of property rights. But this was not the only example of property rights in the creation account. There is one more: And that was Adam’s property rights. When God put him in the garden, He gave Adam two task: to serve the garden (cultivate it) and to protect the garden. The word for “protect” here means to “establish a defensive perimeter” around the garden. Just like God exercised His property rights over the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by barring others from using it, Adam was supposed to exercise his property rights over the garden by barring God’s enemies from using it.
Property rights, therefore, are a foundational aspect of dominion in general, and of the Dominion Mandate in particular. One can’t exercise dominion without property rights. And those property rights need to be established under a divine charter: they must be sacred so that no earthly power can have a legitimate claim over them, or, in other words, any kind of resistance and rebellion would be morally justified in case an earthly power decides to touch them. As I have argued before, contrary to von Mises who says that property is not sacred (mainly because there is nothing sacred to him), property rights must be sacred and must be inviolable by any external human agency, except in the case of crime. Dominion without property rights is impossible to even define theoretically, let alone apply in practice.
But there is more to the relationship between dominion and property rights. It is not only that dominion is impossible without property rights; it is also that wherever property rights are granted, dominion under God is delegated as an ethical imperative. To exercise dominion, you need property rights; but once you are granted those property rights, you can’t escape the task of dominion; it becomes the standard by which you are judged. Jesus’s parable of the talents in Matt. 25:14-30 (and the corresponding passage in Luke 19:12-27) is very clear about it. The master (Jesus Himself) grants ownership of certain resources, and He expects a return on them. If such return is not produced, the person is judged for his failure to produce even the slightest return, equal to the general interest on bank loans. Without the resources given, dominion can’t be achieved; but once they are given, each servant is under judgment for what he has produced with those resources. So we can clearly declare that a person is as much empowered and responsible for dominion as is the value of resources they are given by God. The more property you are given, the more dominion responsibility is placed on your shoulders. Under the Biblical Law, your property rights are sacred (they come from God and can’t be lawfully violated by a human agency) but they come with a divine mandate.
Once we have understood this, the next question is: Can women own property? Does the Bible allow women to exercise property rights? Is there any difference in the Bible between men exercising property rights and women exercising property rights?
The importance of this question should not be underestimated; it is actually central to understanding the nature of the family, and the functions of the two spouses in the Dominion Mandate. If the wife is not permitted to have property, and all the property of the family belongs only to the husband, and property rights are exercised only by the husband, then the logical conclusion from this would be that the wife is not charged with the task of dominion. At best, she is only a servant to her husband, an addendum to his dominion ministry in whatever area of life. If she has any dominion functions, they would be second-rate and derivative, not any better than the dominion functions of domesticated animals. She doesn’t have her own place in the Dominion Covenant; her place in it depends on the whims of the man, to whom she is attached as a “helper,” which, in this type of thinking, won’t be the Biblical helper, but rather a housemaid in the modern sense of the word. (Not a mate, but a maid.) But the logic doesn’t stop there. If dominion over God’s creation is what defines the image of God in man (because that is what is given as definition in Genesis 1), then the woman, as having no dominion task and purpose of her own, is by definition a lesser bearer of the image of God; or, she has it in an unequal measure. Let me repeat the logical sequence: it all starts from property and its relation to the Dominion Mandate. If the woman can’t own property, then she is charged with no dominion responsibilities of her own; if she has an unequal share of the dominion covenant, then she has an unequal share of the image of God. She is a lesser being.
If you imagine that no one has such views today, think twice. As a matter of fact, the majority of the patriarchy movement (or whatever debris are left of it today, after the numerous scandals of abuse in the last one decade) shares such views of the lesser measure of the image of God in women. Most patriarchalists agree with John Knox that women are not in the image of God compared to men, because they are not allowed to have dominion over men. (In this, Knox is amazingly un-Biblical, given that the Bible doesn’t allow dominion of human beings one over another, only dominion over God’s creation.) There was a sermon discussed recently from one of those patriarchalist preachers who declared that women are not equally created in the image of God. That his church didn’t excommunicate him on the spot as a heretic is only another evidence that even our “conservative, Bible-believing churches” have become dull and anti-Biblical to the core. Anyway, this for another episode.
But if the woman is permitted to have property, then, by the logic I mentioned above, she is charged with dominion responsibilities as much as the man is. The parables of the talents and the minas are then addressed to men only generically; they apply to all women who have been given property. Women are equally responsible for the stewardship of their own property, and there is no way to declare that women are unequal in dominion. And if they are equal in dominion to men, they are equal in the image of God. Property is the great equalizer (ironic, huh?). If property rights are equal to all, then all human beings – men and women – are equal. And therefore, egalitarianism would be a Biblical doctrine, contrary to some idiotic babblers today who speak against egalitarianism without knowing what the word means and what the Bible says about it.
The answer to the question is this: The Bible contains no provisions against women owning property. To the contrary, women in the Bible own their tents and houses, own land, own businesses, trade real estate on the markets, manage servants, make decisions about supporting ministries without asking their husbands (ever thought about the fact that rich married women followed Jesus and supported Him from their own estates?). Etc., etc. I have talked in a previous episode of Axe to the Root about the excellent wife (or, literally, the army wife) of Proverbs 31: the woman described there is every bit a dominion person as any man you know . . . and more than many men I know. That is, women are every bit equal to men in the task of the Dominion Covenant (contrary to our modern patriarchalists). Women own property, and therefore women are charged with the task of dominion, equal to men, period.
That means, however, that women as property owners have the same sacred rights to their property as men. If a woman owns property, it is hers, and no earthly institution can lawfully take it away from her: such attempt would be a direct attempt on the image of God in her, that image of God that is defined by the task of dominion. And when I say no earthly institution, yes, I mean also the family. A woman’s property is her property, and it is divinely protected against her family, her church, and against the state. Even when she was adopted in another family with her property, her property remained hers, and she and her children had the right to inheritance in that family. This is the reason why the closest relative to Naomi and Ruth refused to redeem their property and adopt them in his family, because he would have to split his inheritance with Ruth in the name of her deceased husband (Ruth 4:5); “it would jeopardize my own inheritance,” he said. Property was divinely sanctioned in the Law, and women could own property, and their ownership of property was just as divinely protected. There was no lawful way to deprive a woman of her property – not even her husband could do it.
That sacredness of property rights was expressed in the Law of God in two ways – as a principle, and as legal and political practice. As a principle, it was given in the Eighth Commandment: “You shall not steal.” The Commandment is clear, however, what is not so clear is the multiple practical ways of stealing, some of which are not always obvious to all of us, because of inherited cultural bias. For example, we all understand that private theft is forbidden, but in our own culture, we seldom think of government theft as a real theft. But the Eighth Commandment forbids that theft also, and the practical and legal practice it has established in the Law of God is that the Law never sets up an executive branch of civil government. The civil government in the Bible is all judiciary, never executive. There are no government departments of roads, health, education, economy, tariffs, immigration, labor relations, etc. There is not a single verse that charges the civil government with taking care of any of these.
I have talked about this in my lectures at the Freedom Conference last year in Tucumcari, New Mexico. You want a true Biblical civil government? Pay attention to the system in the Law of God: the only government institutions there are the courts, and a court is only convened when there is a dispute or a crime to resolve and punish. This government system, where the government has no other functions but a judiciary, is the only system that can prevent the government from using its power to steal private property – simply because there is no one to steal it for. Only when the government is executive, that is, it is a “family” of its own, with its own property and ambitions and economic decisions, private property is not protected.
For many years after the fall of the Roman Empire, that’s what Christendom had as the ideal government: a government that was limited to being a judiciary. The kings and governors had their own property that they ruled as private owners, and their subjects had their property that they ruled as private owners. Property was thus legally protected against government confiscation. There were wars and invasions, provinces changed hands from one ruler to another, but the inhabitants of those provinces kept their properties, and the systems of ownership seldom changed. For the average property owner in France in the 14th and the 15th century, for example, it barely mattered whether his province was under the King of England or under the King of France, or under the Duke of Burgundy; he would still own his land and would produce on his land. The only thing that changed was the judges he had to go to in case there was a crime or a dispute. In such a system, a property owner didn’t have to meet any government officials all his life, and didn’t have to worry who was a government official in the first place. Voting was held for local village and town councils, but even there, who or what party was in power didn’t mean much: property was protected, period. As I pointed out in a lecture many years ago, “Europe as a Mirror to America,” even the Parliaments in medieval times were rather a judicial authority, sort of a supreme court, not a legislative or an executive authority.
The Enlightenment changed that. It is during that period that the old pagan concept of the government as an executive force made a comeback. It was specifically expressed in Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws, where he spoke of his idea of the “separation of powers” between legislative, executive, and judicial. It was not a real separation of powers, not by a long shot, given that he still vested all these powers in the state. But the new thing that most modern commentators miss is that he talked about the government having an executive power. That means, the government developing as a separate person, a self-contained expression of the “general will” of Rousseau, and as a surrogate family (or clan) of the society, devouring all other institutions and making decisions for them. The first signs of such ideas in Christendom came way before the Enlightenment, of course, and were the reason for the Puritan Revolution in England: Charles I’s attempts at monopolizing commerce in the hands of the Crown were a matter serious enough for the Puritans to take arms. But it was the Enlightenment – both left-wing (France) and right-wing (Scotland and England) – that fully restored the old pagan concept of the state as a self-existing executive agent, entitled to the lives, liberty, and property of its subjects . . . er, pardon me, citizens. When the French Revolution started, this issue became very clear from the very beginning: no private property was safe and sacred anymore. I won’t go into details, but on this issue, you have to read an article in the Louisiana Law Review by the New York attorney and historian Maurice Wise, titled “Requisition During the French Revolution.” Ironically, one of the main grievances from before the Revolution, quartering royal troops in private homes, which was only sporadically applied by the royal government and almost always successfully resisted by the local population, was made into a law under the Revolutionary government: no one could resist it. For the purposes of requisition, commissars were appointed by the government who could requisition any private property they wanted without any compensation whatsoever. Universal conscription – the infamous levée en masse – was instituted, something France had never seen in its history before. (Under the monarchy, the final word on whether a young man could be conscripted belonged to his father; if the father refused to let his son become a soldier, no one could conscript him.) The Enlightenment envisioned a government that would be the expression of the “general will” of the nation; when that government really took shape, its first concern was to start stealing the private property, incomes, and productive time of the nation’s individuals and families.
Under such government, no property owner was safe. All of a sudden, a property owner was now in a position to fear the government even if he hadn’t committed any crime – because an executive government always considers itself entitled to private property, whether a crime is committed or not. In fact, not only that, but now the very act of evading surrendering your property to the state was made into a crime. (Yes, that’s the true origin of the IRS and the IRS Code: straight from leftist ideology of the Enlightenment.) Even worse, no woman who was a property owner could be safe. Under a strictly judiciary government, there still may be corrupt judges, but there is no government apparatus that is busy confiscating property; so a woman who is a property owner is generally protected. Under an executive government, even if all the judges are crystal pure and moral and honest, they can’t do anything if the government, under its new laws, decides to take a woman’s property; after all, the judges can only use the existing laws, and the executive state makes its own laws independent of God’s Law. When the state changes from judiciary to executive state, the family is now supplanted with the new greater family, the state. And everyone is a child to the state, and their property belongs to the state.
Women were then placed in a very precarious position: they had no influence on the legislative process, and yet, that very legislative process was now designed to pass new laws to take away their property. To make matters worse, the Enlightenment also restored the patriarchal ideology of paganism. (Yes, contrary to what Phillip Kayser believes, his patriarchalism comes straight from the paganism of the Enlightenment; it has nothing to do with the Bible.) Women, who previously, under Christendom, were considered equal to men and were property owners, business managers, insurance agents, even rulers, were now, under the Enlightenment’s ideology, considered to be lower than men and incapable of taking care of themselves, let alone of property or business. Rushdoony speaks about this resurgence of patriarchalism in the Enlightenment, in his Institutes, Vol. 1, pp. 349-353. The Enlightenment, by postulating the women to be little more than children and imbeciles, resulted in wheat Rushdoony called a “legal revolution,” in which women were deprived from all social rights under the disguise of “protecting” them. In the US, such influence came through William Blackstone’s Commentaries. Rushdoony quotes different sources of the time, and all of them declare that in marriage, the wife, no matter how much property she has had, surrender all that property to her husband. Listen to this quote from Roper’s Law of Husband and Wife:
It is not generally known, that whenever a woman has accepted an offer of marriage, all she has, or expects to have, becomes virtually the property of the man thus accepted as a husband; and no gift or deed executed by her between the period of acceptance and the marriage is held to be valid; for were she permitted to give away or otherwise settle her property, he might be disappointed in the wealth he looked to in making the offer.
Seriously, this was in the law books of the time, all influenced by the Enlightenment. Some simply said, “The wife is only a servant of her husband,” in plain text, and even used Biblical verses to support it. Others deprived the wife of the right to even make a will, or to contest the will of her husband if he didn’t provide any support for her – even if he made his fortune out of the wealth she brought into the marriage. By the middle of the 19th century, women were legally deprived of almost all social rights they had won under Christendom – all under the pretext that they were being “placed under an umbrella of protection,” of course. And especially of the right to own property. The laws that did that were written by men, voted on by men, and enforced by men. Women were the weaker vessel and were treated like wartime spoils – a source of enrichment rather than partners of equal dignity and value. That’s what power religion always does: it postulates inequality (on the Great Chain of Being), then it postulates the “need for protection” for the “lesser” beings, but on terms set by the “greater” and more powerful beings, and ends up in pure exploitation and injustice against the “lesser” beings. That applied to Ameican slavery. It applies to patriarchy as well.
It is in this context that the first movements for women’s rights started, as Rushdoony points out. The cause was righteous: by depriving women of their rights, they were deprived of their ability to be agents of dominion, according to the creation mandate. The church took the wrong side on that, again, as Rushdoony points out: it took the side of the patriarchalists in power positions, not the side of justice. That was the sole reason the feminist movement eventually got hijacked by the enemies of God: not because women’s rights are inherently bad, but because the church abandoned and even opposed a righteous social cause. (Which is why ideas like Kayser’s view on women’s suffrage will lead to even more victories for the enemies of God.) But things got even worse; from men trying to steal their wives’ property and inheritance through legislation and court action, the ideology of the Enlightenment moved to its final goal: men using the government stealing the property of everyone. And not just property as estate, but also property as labor. Income tax was gradually introduced in all Western nations, and eventually, it was made universal, and also graduated, so that the more productive a person is, the higher percentage they pay. The cycle was complete: from Biblical government which is only judiciary and protective of property, to government that taxes – that is, confiscates – property, to government that allows men to confiscate the property of their wives, to government that claims full ownership over everyone’s property and labor and liberty. This is where Phillip Kayser has lost the logical connection: the civil government we have today has nothing to do with the civil government in the Bible. And therefore we need temporary mechanisms to at least mitigate some of the destruction this modern pagan civil government does.
Modern voting, therefore, developed not as an extension of Biblical voting, but as a phenomenon entirely within the framework of the revived pagan concept of executive government – or, a government that has made itself into a surrogate family for the nation. It was to create at least some checks and balances to such a government – not perfect checks and balances, but then again, we are talking about temporarily mitigating the evils of an already evil system. No taxation without representation. Yes, I know, it is a faulty principle, but it is at least something in the context of a government that can use laws to take away your property. At the beginning, it was only property owners who voted, but then again, only property was taxed. Women were also property owners, and they were on the wrong side of the system, victimized by both the state and by their husbands (through the courts); therefore, women’s vote was necessary to give the women the same representation to protect their own property against both the state and against their own husbands. Eventually, the state moved to tax also income; and that made it necessary to include income-earners – even if they didn’t have any property. At every step of the state moving in to confiscate property and income through taxation, a new constituency of voters had to be instituted to create a counterbalance to the thieving gang of bureaucrats. Not perfect, of course, but something.
Modern voting, therefore, is not the Biblical voting. The Biblical voting was voting to maintain the peace: a judicial system that revolved around a fixed judicial Law. Life, liberty, and property were protected by that Law, so the results of the voting did not affect the rights of anyone. Modern voting is an act of war – ideally, by design, if not in practice – against an ever-encroaching state, trying to consume lives, liberty, and property. In such a war of protection of the home, there is no difference between men and women. So if Kayser wants to find modern voting in the Bible, it is not in the mechanisms for electing judges, but in Judges 9:53, where a woman threw a millstone from the wall and crushed Abimelech’s head. Modern voting is protection of property and liberty in a world of injustice. A specific system of oppression requires specific ways of protection of justice. It is this fact that Phillip Kayser and all the patriarchalists who want to bar women from voting are missing. In modern voting, just as in Biblical defense of the home, where women could and had to participate, it is not only permitted for women to vote, but they should be expected to do so, in defense of their property, their families, and their inheritance. Contrary to Kayser, women’s suffrage today doesn’t diminish the family. It strengthens it against the executive state. It is Kayser’s own fallacious interpretation that diminishes justice and opens the door for injustice.
Of course, most of Kayser’s thesis is about church voting, and he applies it to civil voting only as an extension. Unfortunately, however, things have changed in church voting as well. It is not the same voting as described in the Bible, and it is not even the same voting as it was several centuries ago. In the church, as well, executive church government has sought to replace family government; and church leaders have changed the very meaning of “church” into an institution that lays claims to people’s property and income while trying to avoid checks and balances that control the use of resources. The church has always relied on financial support from women. This is not just in history outside the Biblical narrative, it is also mentioned as a standard situation in the Bible: wealthy women followed Jesus and His disciples and supported them from their wealth (Luke 8:3). By their decision to support Jesus’s ministry from their wealth, these women did have certain power over how much money the ministry would have, power that Jesus and the apostles didn’t have. (Besides Jesus’s divine power, but that’s a different issue altogether.) There was no institutional executive power to tell these women how much of their wealth or income they were supposed to donate to the ministry in order to consider them legally “members of the church.” There was no executive power in Jesus or His disciples to apply sanctions if the women didn’t pay enough, or a certain percentage. There is no mention in the New Testament of Jesus or the Apostles voting what to do with church funds; and there is no mention of the tithe being a condition for institutional church membership. Women could be church members, and still controlled how much they were giving to the church; and by this controlled, they also controlled what the funds were used for. If the church used the funds for the wrong purposes, the donors didn’t have to give; there was no duty on them to subsidize ecclesiastical waste. If men voted, they voted on matters of doctrine and ministry. The donors decided if they wanted to support it.
Such is not the case today. The churches have become the same executive governments as the state. Their main concern is money, and how the money is going to be spent. In addition to it, membership is now made conditional upon tithe payment. I have been in several Presbyterian churches where membership was conditional upon payment of tithes, and families had to present their tax return forms to assure the church leadership that they had paid their tithes. One church, when I asked them about their support for homeschooling families (after I found out that the elders were funneling tithe money to a local private school, in which all of them had a stake), replied that homeschooling families were eligible for help only after they presented all the proof that they had paid their tithes. The churches – and especially those supposedly “Reformed” and “conservative, Bible-believing” – have turned into the same greedy monsters as are our socialist political masters. With their powers of manipulation, no one’s property is safe, just as it isn’t safe under the executive power of the modern state. That, again, is missed by Phillip Kayser in his thesis.
Again, in the context of churches that have turned into independent executive powers, laying claim to people’s property and income, voting in the churches has changed its very nature and meaning. It is not voting for maintaining a system of law and doctrine anymore. It is a constant war for spoils: how much property and income can be robbed from the subjects, and how much of it can be re-directed for the purposes of the church elite. The churches are not the same as those in the Bible, the government of the churches is not the same, and therefore the voting is not the same, in meaning and in purpose. Therefore, the Biblical voting doesn’t speak to our modern voting. In the same way, voting in the church today is similar to women fighting to protect their homes and their property against invaders or tyrannical rulers. There is no good Biblical reason to stop women from voting in the church. If Kayser wants to return the things to the Biblical pattern, he first needs to argue for a full removal of all financial and economic decisions from church leadership, and leave them to the voluntary work of the donors. And have the elders only vote and decide on matters of doctrine and prayer, as in Acts 6:4. Only then the church would be restored to its Biblical function and meaning, and then Kayser can argue for no vote for women. But as long as property and incomes of church members are at stake, and as long as there is manipulation by the church leadership as to donations and decisions about money, women – who are property owners and produce income – must be allowed to vote, in order to protect their property and income.
This week I will assign not a book but a series of lectures I delivered at the Freedom Conference last year in Tucumcari NM. Specifically about the difference between an executive state and a judiciary state. That difference is very important for you to understand, given that without it, you won’t be able to properly understand modern state and church government vis-à-vis the Biblical view of government. If you don’t understand that modern governments are not even close to the Biblical view of government, you may always end up defending political and ecclesiastical paganism in the name of Christ. And when you understand it, always make all your other assessments of modern government and politics in its context.
In your prayers and giving, remember Bulgarian Reformation Ministries and our work of building the intellectual foundation for the future Christian civilization in Eastern Europe through translation and publishing of books that apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every area of life. Including politics. Including voting. Including helping the people of Eastern Europe have an understanding of government that is informed by the Bible and therefore build their political and social action on Biblical principles. Visit BulgarianReformation.com, subscribe to the newsletter to learn about our work, and donate. God bless y’all.