Thursday, October 06, 2005

Patriarchal Christianity and Culture

I know there is much (justified) strong feeling
about this subject, it's possible I can add a
little light to a subject where there is so much
heat. I can only hope that you may find something
useful here and treat the rest as the tares which
Jesus spoke of in The Parable of the Wheat and the
Tares (Matthew 13:24ff).

No one can dispute the systematic and brutal
suppression suffered by the female half of the race
through the patriarchal system that has dominated
Western religion and culture through the ages.
But to know all is to forgive all (for us religious
types), and there is a lot unknown about it as well
as all the horror of it.

Sukie Colgrave, a Chinese Brit and Oxford scholar
and Jungian analyst has an unusual mastery of
Chinese (and other) ancient history. She
describes those early days as basically

It was through great turmoil that the pendulum
swung in the second millenium BCE. (Many
primitive cultures even today still exist at the
matriarchal level.)

The O.T. was written in the midst of that
monumental transition. One may read the history
of the Hebrew Commonwealth with deeper
understanding once she/he realizes that the Hebrew
religion was deeply involved in the struggle.

In Canaan over a period of several centuries two
primary gods competed for primacy . The generic
term for the matriarchal culture of the Canaanites
was Baal. The Hebrews combated this endemic
nature religion with Jehovah. Call them a mother
god and a father god. We know of course how the
struggle came out.

For good or evil we who are embued with Western
culture live under the shadow of that outcome.

What to do? There's a homely southern maxim that
suggests: don't get mad, get even. And the
smartest women in our society have been going at
this full bore for some time.

You can beat the men at their own game. But
there's a better way. Don't replace your natural
femininity with a crude imitation of men. Be who
you are, and you will win.

My wife is very comfortable with her station in
life. She likes for me to take a 'dominant' role
in our relationship and in social activity. (The
natural course of events shows that this becomes
less and less true as we mature.) She has taken
the helm in innumerable ways. I rationalized that
she would have to fend for herself (at least for a
while) after my graduation from material life, so
she now does most of the things that a man is
expected to do.

But the natural course of events is not soon
enough for a lot of women, and deservedly so.

Speaking generally the woman is the master of love
(the disciples of Jesus should have been women,
and probably were, although that situation was
erased in the conventional histories.) My wife is
miles ahead of me at love, and I mean agape.

In the natural course of events if all goes well
the husband becomes more loving and the wife more

It is certainly appropriate for women to agitate
and bring pressure in any way they see fit to end
the artificial and overbearing hegemony of men in
society; but it's important to hold on to the
love. One can be assertive and loving; that's the
secret. (I know women like that, and likely you
may also; you may be one.)

So we have a thesis: matriarchy
and an antithesis: patriarchy.
The synthesis is something wonderful (I don't know
what to call it, but I see it emerging here and

For example: my youngest son, a high achiever: law
degree, worked at the White House (in the previous
administration). Now he's studying psychology and
serving as a house husband. His wife brings home
the bacon.

They have one child, and Rob is actually best with
him. Julie is good at "improving their life style".

For this study I suggest two books:
Uniting Heaven and Earth; Sukie Colgrave has the most
rational and fairminded response to the problem of
patriarchy that I know.

Till We Have Faces: C.S. Lewis wrote this near
the end of a dedicated and productive life. He
dealt mythopoeically with the subject in a way
that Ellie and I found inspiring.

(Look also at
Till We Have Faces
for several discussions of this book.)


Twyla said...

thanks for the good thoughts. And for the book recommendaions. I like your idea of sythesis. I don't like the sound of the word domination. I like the sound of the word inculsiveness.

Peace to you, friend.

Twyla said...

ps, I'm really, really looking forward to the Lewis book!

Paul said...

To me the big question as far as religion goes is: do we accord full spiritual stature to women or not?

Personally, I've never noticed that men in general are spiritually superior to women. I'm sure biblical passages can be cited against women being ministers or priests, but then I remember ministers quoting verses in the sixties to support continued legalized racism.

Culturally, a lot has changed since biblical times. A lot exists now that didn't then. If we're to view the Bible not just as primary spiritual inspiration but a recipe for culture, I say it's time to get rid of the cars and computers and take up donkey-farming in earnest...

Jon said...

I was glad you referenced "Till We Have Faces," which might be Lewis' least-appreciated and one of his most valuable works.

Larry said...