Challenging the patriarchy
Patriarchy is on the rise again and the church needs to resist this, writes Michael Shaw - we need to be on the forefront of instigating a Kingdom of God that is not based on gender, race, or physical ability
This is a tweet posted recently by Owen Strachan, an American “anti-woke” theologian.
Then we have the recent Sunday Mail story featuring Angela Rayner.
They both appeared over the weekend, and they are connected. They are connected by patriarchy, patriarchy that has been rooted in our society and in all our institutions and especially in our churches.
Patriarchy is the oldest form of injustice, stretching back thousands of years. Just when you think it has been defeated, it rears its ugly head.
The story of creation in the Bible is often used to defend patriarchy, women are created from men, and even a few months ago an ex-church attender said to me that God was male, because Adam was created in his image, he left the church when I corrected him (Adam doesn’t mean man but mankind), never to return!
Throughout the history of the church, women have often been in leadership positions, only to be forced back into their place. This cycle began within a few hundred years of Jesus’ death. Women took on key roles in the early church, which we see in Romans 16, with Phoebe, Junia and Priscilla, but within a few years, men reasserted their “roles”!
One of the key passages has always been Matthew 5:28-29, where Jesus says “anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart
”. While the very early church saw this passage as placing the burden on men not to look lustfully, this was soon superseded by the onus on women to not dress seductively. The early church fathers, like Augustine, were quick to make this switch, mainly because, “they” could not be the problem. So in the early years of Christendom the image of Eve as the temptress was made popular, with Mary, virginal and therefore good, contrasted with the sexuality of Eve.
I live in Plymouth where last year an openly misogynistic man took to the streets, firstly shooting his mother, then shooting anyone who was near, in an act of terrorism not based on religious fundamentalism but based around misogyny. We are in dangerous times, where a culture war is beginning, and many in the church, like Owen Strachan, are key players.
In America there is a growing rise in TheoBros on social media. These are men, often young men, sometimes pastors who are making more and more extreme content, especially podcasts, that are creating an image of Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood at odds with the story or scripture and the words of Jesus. The church still mistrusts ideas of feminism, even though the core aims of feminism is equality, and weaponise a few verses in scripture to justify this position.
While this is happening in the USA, social media means that many of those ideas are crossing the channel, and the danger is that men will try to re-assert that power. The church needs to resist this: we need to be on the forefront of instigating a Kingdom of God, that is not based on gender, race or physical ability. The history of the church is that rather than offering a radical way of being human, we have fallen back into behaviours that look just like every other part of society. Rather than leading, the church has followed, but only through digging its heals in.
We need to be the ones who take Jesus seriously when he turns the world on its head, when he said, if you look at a woman lustfully, it is your problem not theirs! It is time to take Jesus’s words seriously on this issue!
Thumbnail Image | Monstera | Pixels
Michael Shaw is the minister of Devonport Community Baptist Church, Plymouth
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