This week’s post is a continuation of last week’s (Women Near and Far) on violence against women. One of the ongoing human battles is over status – who is above whom? Where am I (or where is my group, gender, race) in the order of things? How do I move up the ladder to a higher status with more power, prestige, and privilege?
The question of women and violence is part of this larger question. It also touches on race and class and ethnicity. A friend has also suggested that one of the reasons that some of us struggle with same-gender relationships is that they can’t figure out who is in charge if both partners are the same gender (which presumes, of course, that men are over women).
As you might expect me to say, this struggle for place goes back to the beginning of all things. After the Fall (Genesis 3), God says to Eve —
“‘I will make your pregnancy very painful;
in pain you will bear children.
You will desire your husband,
but he will rule over you.’ (Genesis 3:16 CEB)
While I know this Scripture has often been used “to put women in their place,” I wonder if it is not a reflection on the sinful state of affairs more than a judgment on Eve? In other words, Eve desires her husband but rather than mutuality and love what will hold is a new relationship (and not the best one) of status and power? I am not an Old Testament scholar but it seems to me that none of the consequences of the story as we have it are God’s intentions – including an order of things that has always led to corruption and abuse and violence.
And the story goes on… and on… and on. Cain and Abel fight over whom God loves more. Men with multiple wives find themselves in squabbles over which wife is more favored. Jacob and Esau end up in a blood feud over who has the birthright – in other words, who is the one who inherits not only the stuff but the name and the title! And that is only the first book of the story. Let’s just say it doesn’t get better from there.
And then comes Jesus. Who turns things on their heads. Whose mother, Mary (a woman no less!) says of him before his birth:
“ He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:52 CEB)
Jesus’ humbles himself to the point of surrendering his life. God’s purposes come to fruition not in Jesus exercising power or asserting his status or taking control. But in humility, in submission, and in love. In forsaking the perks and privileges and powers of his status.
Too often we apply these ideas to our personal lives rather than seeing them as God’s ideal for broader human life and culture. It’s why we (we collectively and we men) can mouth the words but fail to see and prevent and speak against the violence against women (and children and people who are of other races and ethnicities too). It’s also wrong… and so clearly not God’s will as revealed in Jesus Christ.
One more week on this and then on to other paths.