Growing older means going through a series of awakenings. Some big, some small. A deep and implicit assumption is shaken loose, and your understanding of the world tilts a little. Your eyes are opened, and now you can’t un-see something that had actually been staring at you the entire time.
I’m going to talk about two issues I ‘woke up’ to fairly recently. Firstly, sexism. It is everywhere. It’s more than just everywhere. It’s embedded, deep in the foundations of every culture we’re subject to and are a part of. Secondly, and more importantly, the restorative, transformative power of Jesus Christ.
It may not be immediately obvious how these two things fit together, but, bear with me.
For a while now, I’ve been trying to reconcile my faith with the negative connotations connected to patriarchy. To me, the Church and messages I heard from the pulpit seemed just as sexist as the messages I was hearing in the world. Expectations about women being demure, deferent, and the all-consuming mission to find a husband. Sermons about jezebels and husband-stealing women, policing women’s behaviours and preaching we were nothing without our chastity. I noted that there wasn’t the same emphasis on men remaining faithful or wife-stealing men, men protecting their chastity and being careful not to tempt women with their behaviour.
Come on now, we know men can tempt.
Patriarchal norms and thinking have oppressed men and women especiallythroughout the ages, and this is no different in the Church past and present. And that does not make sense. If the church is called to be salt and light (Matt 5:13-14), and we’ve been explicitly told that we “are not of the world” (John 17:16), then why, in this respect, do we resemble it so much?
I believe that this is where the restorative power of Jesus Christ comes in. Jesus came to reconcile us to God the Father. Through Adam and Eve’s mistakes in the Garden of Eden, sin entered the world, creating a void between humanity and God. Romans 5:16 tells us that man’s sin (the Original Sin) brought condemnation to the world, but verses 17 and 18 tell us that, through Jesus, we have a “free gift of righteousness” and we are saved from the consequences of sin.
How is this relevant? Original sin and the Fall of Man go some way to explaining modern patriarchy. In Gen 3:16, God spells out the curse for Eve; one line struck me in particular: “Yet your desire and craving will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
So, as a result of the curse, man has power over the woman. She will desire him and he will dominate her. The curse introduced the power imbalance we see today.
Couple this with Genesis 1:26-28: God purposes to make mankind in His image and likeness, giving mankind dominion over the earth. Mankind means both male and female – it says ” male and female He created them”. In the Garden, at no point is woman referred to as something to be dominated, subdued, repressed or oppressed. In fact, both men and women are to have dominion and sovereignty over God’s creation, not each other.
26 God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts, and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth. [Ps. 104:30; Heb. 1:2; 11:3.]
27 So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. [Col. 3:9, 10; James 3:8, 9.]
28 And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves upon the earth.
Jesus came to restore us and deliver us from the effects of the curse. If the gender power imbalance originates from the Curse, and the fallen nature of mankind has exploited it to oppress and subjugate, then we need to realise that Jesus came to deliver us from this too.
Jesus is our bridge to the Father, and coming into a loving relationship with the Him is meant to be transformative. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect).” The heart, mind and soul are the sum of who we are, and to love God with each of these is to see them all change in response to Him. Too often, the patriarchal belief system is used to justify particularly damaging behaviours and practices in the Church, with no real scrutiny. If this is also the same belief system that is used to hurt women and men outside the Church, can we say that the love of God has truly changed us?
Personally, I’m at the beginning of a journey with Christ – discovering my purpose and what it truly means to be a woman of faith. I have questions, doubts and theories. I’ll need to let go of some of my deeply-held beliefs and unquestioned assumptions to fully embrace what God has for me. We should all be prayerfully questioning where the foundations of some our beliefs lie and asking God to liberate all aspects of our thinking.
This brilliant post was written by Blessing Inyang. We encourage our readers to explore their faith and write about it. If this sounds like something you’ll like to do, visit our submission page – here
Views expressed by guest writers do not reflect that of Black Sisters Network.