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conservative groups like the visionary daughters, quiverfull movement, or Christian fundamentalists whose views are so outdated and patriarchal that even other conservative Christians would cringe.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.” 

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