Men, and patriarchy in the church

Patriarchy is a word we’re all familiar with, often used in the context of cultural dogma of “The patriarchy”. This implies a hidden social structure threading through history, elevating men and suppressing women.

One institution, in particular, is singled out for feminist ire. The Christian Church. According to feminists; Christianity, like all Abrahamic faiths, elevates men above women.

But does it?

The existence of a male priesthood, and a male-headed nation state (the Vatican) both seem to support the feminist conception. But we are all aware of the frontman fallacy; because there is a man in the front, it does not follow that the frontman uses his power to benefit other men. Because Christianity has a male priesthood, is headed by a man and uses masculine language to refer to the God and humanity’s savior, does it necessarily follow that Christianity is male favoring?

In Christian tradition of the last two millennia, the books of the New Testament provide a foundation for the spiritual identities of men and women – based on the life of the son of the creator of the universe, born of a virgin mother, and redeemer of all human beings who accept him. Of course, the apparent son of God, who in some variations of the doctrine is the human incarnation of God, fathered by himself on a virgin mother – this is a male avatar of the God on earth.

The masculinity of the Christ is usually taken as evidence for male supremacy fostered through the church and it’s long influence on Western culture.

However, simply acknowledging the sex of God’s son, or his avatar doesn’t justify automatic assumption of male elevation. For men, spiritual identity is tied to service in the form of conformity to the doctrine of the Christ. While men may find a model for identity in the character of the son of the God, according to the books of the new testament, figure had no sexual life. This absence leaves no spiritual connection between the masculine body and the divine.

The Christ is sexless; presumptively masculine, but never actually engaging in any activity unique to his masculine body.

This stands in contrast with the story of the Virgin Mary. She, unlike the Christ, was a human woman who had a relationship with the divine mediated through her own feminine physicality. The Virgin conceived, gestated, gave birth and nursed the Infant Jesus. Absent a human father, Mary’s conception, pregnancy and birth of God’s avatar on Earth are all deeply and supernaturally rooted in the female body. As the mother of the Christ, Mary was the one human being who came closest to God.

The implicit stricture of making the female body the vessel of Holy Spirit while offering no corresponding connection between the divine and the male body creates a spiritual caste system with women on top and men on the bottom. But this is not the only or even the worst form of virulent misandry in Christianity.

The birth of Christ is without sin because, quite simply, it did not involve a penis. The entire mythology around the birth of Christ implicitly indicts male sexuality as the vector of original sin from generation to generation. This is not explicitly stated, but the conclusion is inescapable.

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430 C.E.) was a principal theologian and philosopher of the early Christianity, and credited with responsibility for the merging of Greek philosophical tradition with Judeo-Christian religious and scriptural traditions[1]. A seminal member of the early church, Augustine denigrated male sexual desire and turned the Fascinus[2] into the demon rod.

“the organ was a lever of sin: “the demon rod.” Semen itself was a toxic glue, effectively damning both men and women to a state of sin, a neat one-two punch that rendered sex dirty by definition. Erections were less spiritual highs than demonic jolts, an interpretation that was to ripple through much of Western culture.”[3]

Augustine’s wrote City of God to discredit and undermine existing pagan traditions which did not denigrate male sexuality and were in direct competition with the Church for the hearts and minds of the citizens of Rome. In City of God he stated:

“when sexual intercourse is spoken of now, it suggests to men’s thoughts not such a placid obedience to the will as is conceivable in our first parents, but such violent acting of lust as they themselves have experienced.”[4]

Forget Eve. Forget the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the Serpent. If all human women, tomorrow, conceived and gestated and gave birth without ever coming into contact with a penis, our race would be purged of original sin.

Would anyone care to speculate where Radical Feminists got their ideas from?

Indeed even mainstream feminists cling to their insistence in blaming all the world’s ills on men. Not just patriarchal oppression, but domestic violence, rape, child abuse, war, financial crises; all original sin can be laid at the feet of men. Or their penises.

In Christianity a woman’s experience of her body’s uniquely feminine characteristics (sans male influence) brings her closer to God; a man’s experience of his body’s uniquely masculine characteristics drives him into damnation.

By contrast, the pagan traditions displaced by Abrahamic monotheism provided a path to spirituality for men and women through the experience of their own bodies. Women, quite obviously had then, and still retain a naturalistic spiritual identity as creators of life through the act of childbirth. This is preserved in the mythology of the Virgin Mary. But in most pagan traditions, men also have a connection to the divine through their own bodies, semen and the penis itself were both seen as symbols of divine generative power. It is this aspect of the spiritual masculine which is excised by the mythology of the Church.

“We speak of things which are now shameful, and although we try, as well as we are able, to conceive them as they were before they became shameful, […] For since that which I have been speaking of was not experienced even by those who might have experienced it—I mean our first parents (for sin and its merited banishment from Paradise anticipated this passionless generation on their part)—when sexual intercourse is spoken of now, it suggests to men’s thoughts not such a placid obedience to the will as is conceivable in our first parents, but such violent acting of lust as they themselves have experienced.”[4]

Christ, the asexual model of male virtue did have a female disciple, specifically Mary Magdelen. However, the gospel of Mary although it exists today in fragmentary form, was excluded from cannon. The gospel of Thomas, also excluded mentions that Mary was the favored and closest disciple of the figure we know as Jesus. Why then would the testament of both Mary and Thomas be omitted? If Christ had a scripturally acknowledged intimate relationship with a woman, this might represent a recognition of the acceptability of male sexuality.

Our culture’s war against masculine identity, male sexuality and fatherhood is an old one. That war arguably began as we adopted a faith which marginalizes the role of men in procreation, idolizing a story that removes them completely from the process. The exemplar of male virtue in this theology is a man who had no natural sexual expression, although his character is designated as male. And his primary purpose was to be flogged, literally tortured for the “crimes” of others, and then bound and nailed through his limbs, still alive to an erected cruciform scaffold, to die from shock and exposure on a hilltop. And we somehow manage to claim that this religion elevates men over women?

Rather than supremacy, Christianity provides to men the role of asexual stewards of women’s benefit, and sacrificial penitent, preaching the gospel of a female-deifying, male-demonizing faith. It is true that women have not historically been allowed to front this farce, but mostly because that would make the message too obvious.

But we continue to ignore all of this, and we entertain the farce that our religious institutions constitute a male-elevating, female oppressing patriarchy.

Yeah, tell us another one.

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/augustine/
[2] the phallus was seen as the bridge between man and the creative force of divinity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascinus

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/22/books/think-tank-the-penis-as-text-for-serious-thinkers-be-careful-what-you-wish-for.html

[4] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120114.htm

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