Sex & Death; or, Patriarchy & Sacrifice

The faithfulness of fathers is the most important factor in the faithfulness of their adult children. This according to a 1994 Swiss study published in 2000,[1] and discussed at Touchstone in 2003, which I learned about thanks to a comment a few weeks ago at Thinking Housewife from a frequent commenter over there (and sometimes here at Orthosphere), Jesse Powell.

From Robbie Low’s article in Touchstone, the essential amazing and counterintuitive fact:

If both father and mother attend [church] regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

Why are kids swayed most by their fathers’ religious convictions and practices? Why are men the priests of their families, as well as the kings?

OK. Who slaughters the bull or the enemy captive at the sacrifice? The father. You don’t put your weaker sex on the job of slaughtering bullocks, right? I mean, that’s almost as stupid as putting women into combat, or into the woods as loggers. Ditto for slaughtering enemy soldiers captured in battle.

Who serves as executioner, as enforcer? It is always a man, or a squad of men.

To live, we must kill. The fundamental acts upon which all human existence depends are violent – the hunt, slaughter of domestic animals, war, the execution of justice, the distribution of food to the clan, and thus the decision who is in the clan, and who is not. So the sex that specializes in violence is the one that, as specially fit for violence, deals with matters of life and death. So men pass and execute judgement; and men are therefore charged with particular influence in respect to the ultimate matters of life and death – to Law, Economy (literally, the Law of the House; the “lord” of the house being originally its “larder,” able to enforce his judgements about food with lethal force if need be), and to Religion.

It is the man who executes justice. Is the angel of death female? No. Men deal death.

We do not often consider this plain fact, but it is the man who holds the power of life and death over his entire family. He could destroy them all in a moment, if he wished; they therefore continue in existence at his sufferance, and by his will. And without the protection of his lethal violence, they would be at the mercy of the next man to come along. This is why the father is the family disciplinarian of last resort; he is the executioner of the family, is the one who executes justice, is the executive.

Being the one in the family who is especially concerned with death, the father is naturally also the one who is especially concerned with religion. After all, he is the one who is going to have to kill, or die in trying, to protect his beloved and their children. He is the one who will kill to feed them. The moral penalty for killing therefore falls first and foremost on him. His is the first and greatest responsibility for inflicting damage on the rest of creation for the sake of the lives that he himself loves. He himself, in providing for and protecting his family, is the first and greatest sinner; all the sins of his family are enabled by his prior sins. He has therefore the greatest need of expiation and atonement. Naturally, then, he is most personally concerned with such matters; with Law, duty, righteousness, justice, mercy, and forgiveness; and with consecration to the gods of the sacrificial victims necessary to the life of the city.

So in the family, the father who is the Lord of Life and Death is the Priest. The priestly office involves sacrifice, itself a consecration of the violent evil of the slaughter by whose products the people are fed, and at Yom Kippur the High Priest must make atonement first for his own sins, before he can preside at the atonement of the sins of the polis. And the atonement of the High Priest entails his own willingness to die a victim; when he enters the Holy of Holies with the basins of blood and incense, he does so in fear and trembling, expecting to be blasted to smithereens by the Most High whom he expects to find there. The little bells on the hem of his vestment were indications to his fellow priests that he still moved and lived within the Veil.

So as the husband and father is the priest, and the executioner, so also is he the first victim.

Men cut, women weave. “Woman” is a corruption of “weave-man,” while “man” is a corruption of “weapon man.” Men analyze, women synthesize. Men as cutters are in charge of drawing distinctions and setting limits. They set the limit of the polis, decide who is within and who without the pale. They defend and maintain the pale, without which there is no polis. They mediate both communication and excommunication.

NB then that the very first and most fundamental limit men must set is the limit on their own violence, which would otherwise destroy society. So fathers teach their sons to control their tempers, to exercise, to exercise discipline. So likewise also fathers teach their sons that their fundamental duty is to sacrifice themselves for the good of the women and children.

None of this is really optional. It’s wired in; it follows ineluctably from the greater size, strength, endurance and lethality of men. Men are intended to deal in death, and this is plainly evident in their design. We ignore or repudiate these facts at our peril; or rather, we delude ourselves if we think we can possibly ignore or repudiate them. Everything in us – in men, and women, and in children – is ordered in their terms. And this goes back to before we were homo sapiens. You can’t fool Mother Nature.

To the extent that women are involved in the procedures of justice, they do so, as also they first live, at the sufferance of men. Feminism is a movement among men, to indulge women with more authority in the determination of public life. Men allowed feminism; they may disallow it whenever they see fit. Who would stop them, other than men? So even feminism is an operation of patriarchy. This alone does not make feminism either wrong or right. It is, rather, a mere fact about the conditions under which alone feminism can exist. You can’t pass a law to make men less powerful in society that will make them actually less powerful than in fact they are, any more than you can make π = 3 by fiat. At most, such legislation can get men to pretend that the confabulations they propose are veridical.

But children – and women, too, when it comes to the motions of their guts – are never fooled by such foolishness. Children look straight at the world. Children know perfectly well where the ultimate danger – and, therefore, the ultimate, terrible authority – truly lies. Thus it is that for them, it is what the father thinks – of the world, and of them – that will preponderantly influence what they themselves think.


[1] Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000.

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7 thoughts on “Sex & Death; or, Patriarchy & Sacrifice

  1. Pingback: Lethality:Power::Mass:Gravity « The Orthosphere

  2. Pingback: The Thinking Housewife › Patriarchy and Nature

  3. This view of patriarchy certainly fits with the ancient era displayed graphically in A Game of Thrones. Doubtless it still pulls at our psyche. Those roots go very deep. But so does the so-called reptilian brain. Does not the gospel call for a greater respect for women than ancient systems that massively discriminated against women in favor of men? Under such primitive impulses, men had the right to beat or kill their wives. Women had little or no right to divorce, while divorce was easy for men. Adultery was strongly punished if committed by a woman, while often unpunished if committed by a man. Women had little or no property rights. Yes, the children, especially the daughters, certainly got the picture, a picture that still prevails in some societies. It is not an appealing picture. Is it one we want to base our sacraments on? I believe in patriarchy, but is this the model of fatherhood and patriarchy we wish to remember and emulate? Does not the gospel offer a different vision? Should we not treat our wives as queens and priestesses to complement kingship and priesthood?

    Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:11).

    • I will suggest that if the alternative is feminism we have no other choice but to emulate that.

      But we do have another choice. One that respects men and women in their proper roles. That choice is the historic Christian civilization that prevailed throughout Europe and places for more than 1000 years. That is what we can follow, and we know how to follow that because it was lived and embraced. This was a culture women chose their husbands, learned Latin, and composed great music. We can embrace and live in that culture again.

    • Should we not treat our wives as queens and priestesses to complement kingship and priesthood?

      Queens, yes; priestesses, no. This for rather the same reasons we would say, equivalently: queens, yes; soldiers, no. The woman is not meant to be herself the sacrificial victim. The priest and soldier are.

  4. Pingback: Feminism Inverting Itself: Just Another Illustrative Story | Resting in Apricity

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