This is a two part series, if you have not read the first post, please visit it here.
On Wednesday we began to look at the first two of four great philosophical enemies of Biblical masculinity or manhood. There are many individual enemies of masculinity (porn, pride, perversion, passivity, etc) yet most of these and many others will fall under the umbrella of the four big ideas: prolonged adolescence (fear of responsibility/pursuing pleasure), reckless machismo (hyper-fascination on toughness and taking what you want through force), stubborn chauvinism and redefining feminism. Today we will dissect that latter two philosophical ideas brutally destroying Biblical masculinity.
In the fall both man and woman are cursed by God because of their sin. The woman is told “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen 3:16). Unfortunately some have taken this phrase as the proper dispensation of God’s order and a description of the way things should be. Yet this is a curse that fell on men and women, in response to man and woman failing each other in sin. Adam failed in selfishness, by focusing on his own independence and not protecting Eve from the serpent, Eve failed in selfishness by rushing ahead and making her own independent choices apart from Adam. Both were called to be “one flesh” and to be inseparable, and yet both broke that oneness and separated in selfishness when Eve sinned and Adam was nowhere to be found. We can assume that Eve, in following the Serpent’s urging towards “godhood” was not thinking about Adam, but ticking her own selfish desires. We can likewise assume that by Adams absence, he was not thinking of protecting Eve, but rather about his own selfish desires and fascinations, which were elsewhere in the Garden. Both were enamored with the self, rather than the other, and thus the unity of “one flesh” was broken.
The separation of this oneness into two separate independent people, who did not protect one another and did not share deep intimacy with the other is uniquely one of the hallmarks of the world’s fall into sin. It is quite a telltale mark that the strained selfish relationship between men and women was first visible precisely AT the exact moment of the first sin. So in God cursing them, He was not forcing innocents to bear a curse against their will. No, he was allowing them to enjoy the full fury of their own selfish desires for independence and control. Thus Eve was cursed with a desire to control and manipulate her husband, to try to lead him with her independence, just as she had done by eloping with Satan and choosing to sin. And likewise Adam was cursed with the propensity to rule (Hebrew ‘mashal,’ meaning domineer and dictate) his wife by drawing all of the attention, value, and importance upon himself, not her; just as he had done in the garden.
And so, as far back as we can see, men have thought of themselves as better, smarter, stronger and etc. In the history of the world, and in early Judaic religion, we can find many examples of men treating women as though they were beneath men in value and worth. In addition women were treated as property. There are many examples of this happening in the Scripture. The famous love story of Jacob and Rachel actually portrays Laban as a father who exchanges his daughter in return for seven years of labor. (Gen 29:18-30). In this narrative the assent or dissent or Rachel is never portrayed, instead her choice is completely ignored on this issue. I wonder what we would think of a father today that would attempt to exchange his daughter in return for a few years of labor from a very distant relative, one whom she had never met before, and had no choice to reject? There are other strange, perhaps even abhorrent depictions of inter-gender relationships and comparisons that are recorded in the Scripture (Lev 12:1-5; 27:6; Num 5:11-31; 27:8-11; Deut 21:10-13; 22:13-21; 22:28-29; 24:1; Jud 19:16-30). Were these passages and these types of relationships God’s final say, and God’s perfect plan for men and woman, todays modern person might have the moral high ground on God. Fortunately the Scripture gives us the whole story, starting from the blissful union at first creation, to the fall of mankind in which everything became corrupted, and culminating in Christ coming and the ultimate restoration of all things.
The Old testament is filled with many harsh examples of the battle between men and woman, that same battle that started in the garden. And it is precisely in response to these skirmishes of selfishness that God laid down certain rules, many of which we wholly disagree with today, such as divorce. The act of divorce is never what God intended, and indeed God actually hates it (Mal 2:16), however it was given permitted as a final resort because of the hardness of our hearts. Matthew 19:8. I think the NLT paraphrases the words of Jesus on this topic very appropriately: “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.” And thus, many of the things that happened in the Old Testament, including every single act of misogyny or patriarchy was not what God ideally wants, but what God permitted due to the hardness of our hearts. Ultimately men are equal in value to women, and ignoring or forgetting this leads to a gross misunderstanding of masculinity. Men who think they are better or more valuable than a woman are living in the same stubbornness as the men of the Old Testament, whom Moses allowed divorce. Men who want to embrace God’s revelation and the ideal form of masculinity to the fullest would do well to peer to the cross to see the ultimate example of manhood, Christ who did not think himself too high and lofty to die for his filthy bride.
I pity the countless mountains of women who have been abused, mistreated, and neglected by their husbands, boyfriends, lovers, owners, and men in general. There is a river as wide as the Nile, composed of the tears and blood of abused women, and I wish that every abusive and unrepentant man would drown in it. Every time I think about abuse my blood boils with anger. I understand the generational fears, frustrations, and pain of women. It is in response to this that the modern women’s rights and feminist movements rose up. I would argue that most “modern feminists” (those of what is called the “second” and “third wave” in the 1960’s and beyond) know far less of abuse or mistreatment and appear to be more abusive rather than abused. Whatever the case is, after thousands of years of individually fighting or permitting injustice, women as a group rose up to claim equality with men, and beyond grasping for equality in value, personhood, and worth, the feminist movement is barreling forward to claim equality and more in form/function.
Most people would assume the feminist movement is a very new thing in world history, and in terms of the current movement as a whole, they would be correct, however, feminism in some shape or form has always existed. From the writings of the Greek geographer Strabo and historian Herodotus we read of tales of mysandist women, often called the amazons, who led their society and dominated men. Beyond that there are many historical records and documentations of (matriarchal) societies that were led by women. (1) But beyond actual societies that operated on out of a feminist or matriarchal mode of thinking, feminism does not need to be a widely accepted philosophy, it may be a feeling harbored by individuals. And indeed women often view men as rough, aggressive, thoughtless, impulse driven, sex-hungry brutes. Just as this type of man-lowering thinking is eminent today, I would extrapolate it to women of every age, especially those undergoing physical and emotional abuse and marginalization in a very male chauvinist society.
Today many feminists do not understand modern day Christians, especially those who are complimentarian, and assume when we talk about one gender bearing more responsibility we want to make that person more valuable and worthy. This is hardly true, instead we wholeheartedly agree that women and men are completely equal in value, personhood, and worth. In fact, while human society was broken by sexist separation, engaged in a dire tug of war between men and women, Jesus came to announce true gender equality. Scripture says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Yet in that radical equality of worth, Paul also reminds us of the differentiation in roles and functions (Ephesians 5:25-33). Before Christ came on the scene, men and women were engaged in fighting for their gender roles, in order to prove their gender as better or having more value and worth. After Christ men and women can rest in their ultimate equality, knowing they are both equally valuable, and yet still enjoy their unique role and function. The feminist movement tries to blur this line, destroying the uniqueness of masculinity and femininity.