Friday, January 24, 2014

Chauvinism and Patriarchy in Christian Culture

Genesis 3:16 “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

For this next topic, I would like to address chauvinism and patriarchy in the Christian society.  Although chauvinism, patriarchy and male dominance has been prevalent for centuries, it has been particularly prevalent among Christians.  Even in today’s more egalitarian society, patriarchic and chauvinistic attitudes still exist.  I have read comments on very conservative Christian websites and forums and have been perplexed by the mentalities it has regarding men and women.  Among some, the basic mentality is that of male authority over women not just in marriage but even among fathers and daughters or male pastors and that men are above women in status. Women are limited to subordinate role where her only place is to be a wife, mother who runs the home.  That working outside the home, being a leader in the community, a business politics or any other organization should be preserved for men as men are better at these things than women. There are even the most ultra conservative groups like the visionary daughters, quiverfull movement, or Christian fundamentalists whose views are so outdated and patriarchal that even other conservative Christians would cringe.  Ideals like women remaining at home until marriage, expected to be obedient to their fathers, being discouraged from moving out and pursue a career, further their educations, live on her own or any other ambitions other than getting married and becoming a housewife.  

The common beliefs among these groups, are that an unmarried woman is under the authority her father until marriage then becomes under her husband’s authority and isn’t fully independent until widowhood.  Another example is women being banned from being in a position of power over men including being employers in the workforce or professors in colleges.  Some churches even go as far as ban women from wearing pants, or wear headcoverings, or ban women from speaking in church unless with her husband’s permission or even voting in church council’s meetings. Then there are the very traditional and patriarchic polygamous groups were a man can have more than one wife and often times the girls are underage being forced into marriages with men old enough to be the fathers where they are basically just to obey their husband and are restricted to domestic and child rearing in the homes.  I recall a comment I read from one pastor who complained that men have been lowered to being women’s equals implying that men’s design order was to be above women.  Another very conservative male wrote an article condemning the Christian homes for becoming more egalitarian and wanting to bring back patriarchy.  Even women have bought into these ideas, as I read comments from women also supporting the idea that women are beneath men and believing men and not are better leaders of the community or government etc.  

Many misinterpreted bible scriptures to justify their beliefs.  The verse Genesis 3:16 is often used by many to support the idea of male rulership over women as god ordained at least in marriage.  The basic argument is that women will be tempted to try to dominate the man but the man should master this by ruling over the woman as god’s designed order.  They feel this is a consequence of Eve taking the leadership away from Adam when she tempted him with the apple usurping his authority.  I’ve even read comments from males reasoning that because of this, women shouldn’t act on her own or else chaos will occur and blame Eve for not asking for Adam’s consent before eating the apple.  To further support these claims, many use the verse 1 Peter 3:7 that refer to women as the weaker vessel or justify other sexist arguments.  I have also read many argue that the term weaker vessel to imply inferiority of women from being more lead astray, too emotional, helpless that require male protection or being taken care of or even to keep women out of the workforce.  I recall from one forum, an arrogant male commenter used this verse to claim women needing to be taking care of and can’t make good decisions on their own, his attitude even angered other male commenters who rebuffed his sexist comments.  Another forum I found was fundamentalists that claimed that the weaker vessel meant that women were weaker than men in all things.  I already gave my reasoning on what the term weaker vessel means(go back and read my husband’s role post) and has nothing any of these ideas.  

Basically because of all these attitudes, there has been male dominance of women in the many believing patriarchy where men run the family, the government, the laws and the big businesses is natural order.  However, none is this was natural order or what god designed.  God didn’t view women as second-class citizens or subordinates. God viewed all human beings as equals in his kingdom regardless of race, religion, gender etc.  This is demonstrated in the verse Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  So where did such chauvinism come from?  It all started with the curse after the fall,Genesis 3:14-19.  Many have used this verse as a consequence for Adam and Eve's sins in which Eve disobeyed God's command to eat the apple from the tree of knowledge when she was tempted by the devil and then Adam listened to Eve to eat from the fruit against God's command.  They reason that because of this fall, male rulership is now god ordained but that women will try to resist by attempting to dominate men.  

Another common argument is that Eve usurped Adam's leadership when she tempted him to eat the apple and that Adam renounced his leadership by giving in. However, another theory among traditionalists is that male rulership was god ordained from the beginning and Eve usurped that when she tempted Adam into eating the apple.  I don’t believe any of these arguments and feel sad many scholars and pastors have used these theories in churches and Christian communities.  The Hebrew word for desire is “teshuqah” which means longing, craving, and yearning.  This word is also used in Genesis 4:7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”  It is also in Song of Solomon 7:10 “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me”.  Many believe that this word is referring to the women’s desire to control, dominate or usurp their husbands while others have argued weather this word was referring to a sexual desire.  

According to a female blogger and author of the Practical Theology for Women, Wendy Norger Aslup, the word is referring to women’s unhealthy desires for their husbands by being too needy or clingy for men to fulfill all of their needs, placing men as the center of their lives rather than god.  This does make sense the verse states that the woman’s desire is for her husband not against, not dominate or control.  Besides, in the past and today many women to become to needy with the men in their lives, relying too much for men to fulfill them, defining their worth in relationships even forming unhealthy relationships they are better off without in their desperate need to have a man in their lives.  These actions come at the expense of placing god as the center of their lives, relying on the lord to fulfill them, to love them unconditionally and always be with them no matter what not men.  Regardless, the word teshuqah convoys something negative.  

As for the men’s part, he will rule over thee.  The word rule in Hebrew is “mashal” which means dominate,  to have ruling power, to master, superiority in a mental action, to be like, comparison, parable and proverb.  New scholars theorize that the word implied that the husband is to be like his wife, to be parable and in comparison, however I doubt this since it doesn’t have a negative connotation which is result of the curse.  I believe it means that just as wives will have a desire to be too clingy, needy or dependent on their husbands, the husbands will have the urge to dominate and control their wives rather than respect them as equal partners in the marriage.  This problem still lies as in the past and today, men have treated women as possessions, objects and second class citizens and women have formed too much dependence from men.  

In Ancient times, male dominance persisted where women had little rights not even in their homes, the men ruled over their wives and children.  Even early Ancient scholars supported female inferiority.  There was Socrates, an ancient Greek philosopher, who although supported equal education for men and women in guardian classes for the benefit of the city, he believed women were inferior to men in almost every tasks.  He also often referred to women as the “weaker sex’ claiming being born a woman was a divine punishment since women were halfway between a man and an animal. He also accused men who plead for their lives in court no better than women. Socrates’ student Plato, also a philosopher and mathematician shared some of the same views.  Like, Socrates, he supported equality for men and women as guardians and philosopher rulers and equal education. He even believed that female guardians were superior to both males and females in other fields.  However, Plato also believed that the majority of women were inferior to men.  He also argued women were a degeneration from a more perfect male human, since souls were originally implanted in male bodies.  

A man who lived cowardly or less virtuous can be reborn as a woman. Plato also claimed that women are overrun by emotions to think reasonably and they value their physical appearances over improving one’s soul.  Another Greek philosopher was Aristotle who viewed women as defective men and therefore inferior to men in everything which he justified male rulership over females.  Other philosophers who taught women’s inferiority were, Philo, Josephus, Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century Italian Priest.  Even 16th century pastor and theologian John Calvin claimed of women’s inferior role.  

In modern times, there is rise of bringing back the patriarchy movement. Pastors like Mark Driscoll, Voddie Baucham and Jesse Lee Peterson skewed sexist philosophies. There even secular sites and blogs that hold chauvinistic and misogynistic languages. Some women are so put off by these ideologies in the Christian faith, that many have turned away from the religion altogether, either becoming atheists and feminists or spiritual people who don’t have a particular religion while many join the new age goddess movement that is more matriarchic where they can feel less oppressed and more freedom and comfortable in their own skins. Even for the women who remain in the Christian faith join what is known as Christian and Evangelical feminism. Luckily, the Christian society has gradually strayed away from the patriarchy with the outdated and chauvinistic attitudes embracing the more equal society that secularism has already endured.  Of course, Christians and society in general still have a long way to go but the first step is except that reexamine the verses used to justify women’s inferiority be it in status, position etc.  Recognize that we are all equals in god’s kingdom, thus we should be equal in worth, value, status and position and treated with equal respect and regard by letter go of male dominance. 

 I truly believe god’s plan before the fall, was men and women to be on equal standing as shows in Genesis 1:27-28 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” I think it’s time to fight the curse by going back to god’s original plan by continuing to fight against chauvinism and any inferior status and mistreatment of women.  I will end this post by quoting 17th century Scottish minister, Matthew Henry The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Men and Housework, Child rearing, and Stay-At-Home Dads

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men"

For this next topic, I was originally going to write two separate posts.  However, I decided to discuss the issues concerning men’s duties inside the home regarding chores, work or stay home and what the means in modern times all in one post.  We already discussed the issues of women’s roles in the home regarding housework and child rearing and working outside the home, now it is time to discuss the men’s role in all of this. 
Even in today’s society as we are moving forward accepting women working outside the home juggling career and family in both the Christian and secular society, we are also excepting the changing roles for men in family life.  However, despite some of these changes, there is still a debate among many whether men should do house chores, child rearing or even be the stay at home parent. This debate is more prevalent among the Christian community who still believe housework and child rearing are women’s duties even if the woman works outside the home working the same hours.  In fact, some churches even tell men that these tasks are not primary their jobs nor should they be expected to perform such chores even when both spouses work full time.  I even read from pastors who go as far as delegate chores in the home based on gender, such as yard work and car maintenance is the man’s job and cooking and cleaning is the woman’s jobs. Then there are articles posting around by Christian men declaring real men don’t do cleaning or even in secular articles discouraging men from housework.  Lately, there has been a couple of articles floating around on Christian blogs regarding men and housework.  The first one claiming men who do traditional women’s jobs are less likely to have sex, after studying couples between 1992 through 1994.  However, this article doesn’t try to discourage men from doing housework claiming, women are more satisfied feeling an amount of fairness in the marriage if the men contribute to the housework.  Another recent article claims a study done by a Norwegian man that in marriages where both couples share of the housework are likely to divorce.  Yet, his reasoning has little to do with the housework itself, but the fact that couples who share the housework are likely to be more modern and have a less traditional attitude about marriage commitments. 
 Despite this, some Christians and secular people alike have used these articles as proof to reject the idea of men doing housework.  Even when men are encourage in the Christian community do contribute more in household chores and taking care of the children it is often viewed as a favor men do for their wives and not something that is required of them or part of their job at home.  But other recent articles are saying that marriages are actually happier when men do contribute to the housework and few years back an article claimed that men who do housework actually have a better sex life than those who don't, contradicting the earlier article that claimed the opposite.  New studies also claim children today are better off with more fathers being more active in the child care than previous generations where child care was almost mainly left to the mothers.  I even read from blog by a complementarian pastor who is also a stay-at-home-dad give a convincing post on the subject matter contradicting many of the misinterpretations other Christians claims that condemn the practice.  Still many Christians can’t get past the idea that housework and child rearing are the women's job.  Many think that scriptures in the bible support this, although I have posted my conclusions on this argument in a previous post( Christian Working Women part 1).  Regardless, there is nothing in the bible that states these tasks are preserved only for women and that men shouldn’t be involved. In fact, during ancient biblical times, there were a number of men participating in tasks considered traditionally women’s work.  Men were tailors, weavers, laundrymen, cooks and bakers.  During festivals, men cooked and prepared food and in Ancient Greece, they roasted meat over coals or on spits. Jesus himself cooked fish and bread for his disciples in John 21:9-10 “So when they got out on the land, they *saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus *said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 
In modern times, due to cultural changes it has become more acceptable for men to contribute more in the household chores and caring for the children and even encouraged especially in homes where both spouses are working to earn a living.  I definitely believe it is ideal for couples to share or split the chores and child care fairly when both parties work outside the home, working together as team for the common goal in their homes.  Even if the wife stays home and primary cares for the house and children, husbands still can help out doing some tasks around the house other than the typical man’s job of mowing the lawn or working in the garage, as well help out with child care.  That brings up my next topic regarding men being the primary caregivers of the children and home.  Today not only men are doing more around the house, but more men are staying at home and taking care children and managing the domestic affairs leaving more women becoming the sole breadwinners.  However, many rebuke these cultural changes especially Christians. Some churches even go as far as to condemn such practices and order church discipline for the men.  Even well-meaning pastors have discouraged men becoming stay-at-home dads believing that the man’s responsibility is to financially provide for his family, even if the wife works too. The popular argument is that the bible instructs the man to work to support his family using the scripture 1Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”. 
However, this verse isn’t directed at husbands to work and provide for their wives and children but more adult children or grandchildren to take care of the elderly widows in their families rather than burden the church to provide for them.  In that way, the church could focus more on taking care of the elderly widows who don’t have any relatives to look after them.  This duty isn't reserved only for men, as women are also instructed to take care of widows in her home in the verse 1Timonthy 5:16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.”  Basically as Christians, we all have a duty to look after the wellbeing of the elderly in our families and see that there are taken care of  when they are no longer able to take care of themselves be it a parent, grandparent or another relative.  Many bible verses do support working hard and discourages laziness. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  Psalm 128:2 “”You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.”  Proverbs 12:11 “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”  Proverbs 21:25 “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.”  Proverbs 22:29 “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” 
 Working hard is just about earning money for a living.  There are other ways to work and not be lazy.  Running a home that includes doing domestic tasks, cooking and preparing the meals, running errands that include grocery shopping and buying other necessities for the house, tending to the children and chauffeuring them around when needed is definitely hard work.  Although, I like many others, support the idea that men should be the providers and the protectors of the home, I don’t believe providing means only financially.  Men can provide spiritually, economically, mentally for the needs of his families and still be hard-working devoted husbands and fathers.  I also want to point out that despite the myth of the traditional breadwinning husband and homemaking wife on the past, during biblical times this concept wasn’t commonly precedent.  In fact, in the ancient times, what was now known as the cottage industry where skilled people did their work inside the home usually as family-based businesses was more common.  People during that time worked mainly as carpenters, potters, tailors, weavers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, blacksmiths, cobblers, bakers etc.  Many were shopkeepers who lived above their shops.  Other workers were farmers who grew crops and raised livestock, or herders who travelled around with their flock living in tents.  With the exception of fisherman,  traveling merchants and traders, servants/slaves, shephards, or herders,  working from home was quite the norm for many of the residents.  Even Jesus's stepfather Joseph worked as a carpenter and likely ranhis business in his workshop inside his home.  He would also train Jesus inthe carpentry field as well. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution, that many of the men started to leave the homes and work in the factories or mine especially in the western society.  By the mid-19th century the typical family unit with men as the primary breadwinner became the norm.
In my own home, both my parents worked and shared in the household chores and both had been unemployed at least once while I was growing up and took on the primary caretaker role. I recall as small child my father was unemployed for year and became a stay-at home dad during a period such a role was rare and he took prepared me for school, made breakfast, drove me to and from school.  Over the years, even when both my parents worked, they never invested too much in gender-specific household chores.  My father cooked breakfast and dinner as good as my mother and even today does most of the cooking before  retiring from work, although my mother hasn’t worked full-time in years.  Both are comfortable in their roles and never worried about the man’s or woman’s job regarding domestic tasks.  Despite my belief that on an average women tend to be more suitable as the primary caretaker of the children and home, this doesn’t mean that men could never or should never be in this type of role.  In fact some bible verses mention fathers being involved in bringing up their children.  Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers,[a] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The problem lies in outdated gender stereotypes and unfair biases on cultural norms.  Just as working women have been unfairly seen as and neglectful, stay-at home husbands and fathers are seen as lazy. 
Of course there are some men who are too lazy to work and gladly sit back and allow their wives be the sole breadwinner as well as come home and cater to them, cooking their meals and do their laundries while they hardly did anything around the house. There are breadwinning men who have wives who also worked full time, in some cases the men expect their wives to work, yet still come home do the housework, cooking or tending to the needs of the children while they just relax on the couch.  In these cases, I can understand many concerns of the of the lack of motivation on the men’s parts.  Despite this, there are men who are opened-minded enough to be willing to take over the non-traditional role of the primary homemaker, maybe even work from home, taking care of the house and children, leaving his wife to pursue her career.  Other cases could involve the husband being unemployed for whatever reason, loss of job, illness or disability forcing the wife to be the main breadwinner.  Just as women have evolved, so have men and they shouldn’t be judged to whatever works in their home being it a breadwinner or stay-at-home parent.  Men also have the responsibility to make their family their primary priority as a husband and father and in past, have been guilty of neglecting this role, in favor of their career ambition, climbing the social ladder or outside pursuits.  It’s good that in the Christian community has evolved some as well as the secular society since more Christians today are relaxing some of restrictive gender roles in the home. 
Many no longer view housework and child rearing as women’s work nor working and paying the bills as men’s work.  More pastors are encourage couples to decide what chores or duties regarding housework, managing family budget and paying the bills based on who’s gifted rather than gender.  This is a good thing, although we still have a long way to go.