“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome.
In the past year or so I’ve done a lot of thinking about Patriarchy. Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, I’ve had a sense that this is about much more than just holding past transgressions of men against women to account. I have seen it as a much larger reckoning of the system of Patriarchy. Patriarchy is so steeped into dominant culture for so long that I have been largely blind to it. Even when I have been suspicious of it I didn’t know it by name and thus couldn’t call it out. But now I’m starting to see it and do the work of learning about it so I can unlearn the ways in which I have been shaped and conformed by it. This work has led to a renewing of my mind to what I believe is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Here’s an example of what I mean…
I’ve started seeing things in the Genesis 2 creation account that I didn’t notice previously. Note that the Genesis was written in the ancient Mid East. Even in the modern Mid East women are viewed as property belonging to fathers and then the family of her husband if she marries. Marriage in the ancient Mid East wasn’t about purity and holiness it was primarily a business transaction where goods and property were exchanged—your daughter for my livestock. If woman’s husband died she didn’t automatically return to her parents. On the contrary her deceased husband’s parents still had the rights to her. If the in-laws were dead too then she was inherited by the eldest of her deceased husband’s brothers. Therefore marriage in the ancient mid-east when Genesis was written wasn’t about love and commitment. Marriage was primarily a business transaction where goods and property were being exchanged.
With that in mind here is what has started to jump off the page to me in Genesis two.
One, Adam’s response to seeing Eve is an expression of oneness and complete solidarity. He doesn’t see her as belonging to him, secondary to him, or complimenting him. He expresses oneness and solidarity, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. She’s not the lesser or fairer half of himself. She is another whole of the image bearing in the likeness of God humanity that he is.
Second, the “so what” in the passage is “for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother”. Given what I’ve already stated this would have been very counter cultural, because typically the opposite was true. Women left their fathers and mothers and cleaved to their husbands. Men didn’t leave their fathers and mothers because they were the source of their inheritance. Nor did they cleave to their wives because their wife was their property gifted to them by their father. They didn’t cleave to their wives anymore than they cleaved to the livestock their father gave in exchange for their bride.
Lastly, the “therefore” is “they were naked and unashamed”. Patriarchy typically is averse to the type of vulnerability that could be described as naked. Instead of solidarity and oneness being the foundation upon which there is no shame, Patriarchy then uses masculinity as more than just a way of grouping things associated with males but instead as a tool to protect patriarchy from perceived threats, “Men don’t cry. Be a man!” Masculinity is not in and of itself toxic but it can be turned toxic when weaponized. This often results in shame, specifically shaming the woman. Shaming the female form. Shaming expressions of emotion associated with femininity. Shaming female endeavor into pursuits reserved for men. The list goes on.
There are many of us men who don’t have to live in fear that our lives will become a casualty of the Me Too Movement. However, there are many of us, men and women (myself included), who need to identify the ways in which we have been conformed to this world in the ways we think about women. In order for a transformation and renewing of my mind to take place I need to, amongst other things, continue recognize how patriarchy has shaped it. Then I will be even more equipped to discern what is good, acceptable, and the way things ought to be. It is discerning good and beyond acceptable to not view women as objects possessions or secondary to men. It’s perfect.