Patriarchy Matters

Patriarchy Matters August 20, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 1.39.37 PMThe title of this post comes from Carolyn Custis James’ title to chp 2 in her book Malestrom, and this paragraph gets us going:

At a time when patriarchy is in decline and increasingly deemed passe in progressive western cultures like our own, when global opposition to patriarchal tenets is mounting as gains in education and human rights empower women and girls and male/female relationships become more egalitarian, the subject of patriarchy remains a powerful global issue. Despite these cultural changes, it persists as a divisive topic in evangelical circles in large part because patriarchy is on virtually every page of the Bible. The question is not whether the Bible contains patriarchy, but does the Bible affirm and require patriarchy for the followers of Jesus? (61)

She explores the patriarch of patriarch’s special way of being counter-patriarchal: Abraham, who left his father and home to strike out on his own. This is not the way of patriarchalism.

There is in the Bible a dark side to patriarchy. Abraham’s story illustrates the silencing of women and owning other humans, including slaves and women, and primogeniture, which is the power of patriarchy, favors males and creates sibling rivalry. Twice the patriarchal Abraham used his wife as a human shield, handing her over to others to protect himself.

Patriarchy is undone in the Genesis stories and in the Bible as a whole: or, at least, the grounds for its undoing are provided. They become “one flesh” and she is the ezer kenegdo. Primogeniture is routinely upended. Abel and Seth, not Cain; Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau.  Et al. In other words, the world’s system is patriarchal but God has plenty of surprises. And Jesus upends what kingship means because it’s not about ruling but serving.

The core of patriarchy is rule and the core of Jesus is service.

Carolyn’s focus in this chp is a reading of the Abraham story to show how flashes appear where patriarchy’s grip is loosened and broken — all wrapped in patriarchal narratives.

Baptism as a democratic action undoes (male) circumcision, which was a wound that rendered male power impotent until healing occurred (70-71). She thinks it redefined manhood.

In the summons to surrender his son Abraham cracks the powers of patriarchy again.

Do you find it hard to accept that a patriarchal narrative is not the final word in the Bible about the relation of males and females? Why do some think the patriarchal culture of the Bible is a revelation of the kind of culture God wants?

Why, for example, is the cruciform reality of Jesus not a powerful challenge to patriarchal systems?

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