We will fight for peace, but we will do no violence.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What does Christian Nonviolence and Pacifism have to do with Gender Equality? Propoganda Parodies

Only the strong survive.

Might makes right.

Whoever has the gold makes the rules.

This world seems to operate on a certain set of principles. Typically, these principles imply and enforce a top-down power structure that keeps a few in control of the rest. Mythology and religious lore (and their interpreted texts) are likewise propagated by those on top and in power of cultures, communities—and their respected microcosms—creating a divine rite: baptising these structures as sacred, and thus, unarguable. And when there was an argument, ultimate decisions were (and still are) often decided through military might.  

Historically — and across almost all cultures — those on top are and have been men. Author Danny Silk describes this as the patriarchal paradigm. In his book, Powerful and Free, he says it’s the:
Pattern of men using violence to gain and preserve power, whether political, military, economic, or sexual [...] It’s the law of the jungle that says, ‘If you threaten anything I control, I will persecute you. I will hurt you. And even kill you if I have to” (40).

Silk seems wise in his word choice here. The patriarchal paradigm is really about control, isn’t it? Not love. Not ownership or possession. But control.

Throughout the ages, women have not been in control. Sure, there are some isolated examples, or the old adage about necks controlling heads, but by and large, this women have not been calling the shots.

This traces back to the Fall. As God predicts, the result of sin is Man ruling over Woman.
Throughout the ages, this has been true and men have enjoyed the unquestioned ability to “put women in their place.”

Sometimes, this gets physical. 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, as estimated by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Additionally, domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families (

I recently heard someone say, “If a fish floats belly up to the surface of a lake, you ask what’s wrong with the fish; if 100 fish surface, you better start to look at the lake!”

Something stinks in the lake water we’re all floatin' in. When we begin to look at statistics like these, it’s not enough to think there are a few rotten-fish husbands. What questions should be asked of the paradigms handed to and held by men to permit this behavior?
And is physical harm the only “violence” done to women?

It seems that the administrative board of the Institute for Basic Life Principles have chosen to place their founder—conservative Christian leader, outspoken advocate of family values, and homeschooling tycoon, Bill Gothard—on leave, “while the board investigates claims that he years ago engaged in sexual harassment and other misconduct.” That investigation of misconduct comes after the public critique and testimony of over 30 women alleging that Gothard had harassed them while they worked in his ministry.

What paradigms are in play to allow a man who devotes his life to upholding family values and conservative morality to be, in his words, “physically and emotionally defrauding his personal secretary”? This is a man who lived out his faith convictions in seemingly and by all appearances every other area in his life. On the one hand, it may be easy for those of us watching from the outside to toss out or dismiss all of his Christian credibility. On the other, it’d be easy to simply look at this as one moral failure, to be excused by “grace.” A more difficult path would be to examine what perspectives lead far too many here.

In San Diego, William Lansdowne, the city’s police chief of over 10 years, stepped down this week during controversy over a number of sexual abuse cases involving officers in his charge. All of this occurred on the same day former San Diego mayor plead guilty to the sexual abuse accusations for which he left office.

Could it be that a paradigm of control permits men to perceive women—and their bodies—as entities over which their control extends? Could it be that the measure of masculinity, lived out this way, is the extent to which one might exert this control over others?

Making this out to be, simply, a “man problem” might be too narrowly defined, as San Diego is also discovering. This isn’t a matter of men, but of the paradigms that persist to communicate "Control Equals Power—and might makes right."

Further, I fear that some Christians have baptized their theology on the shores of this pagan patriarchal paradigm. So, I humbly suggest that this is the lake we begin to examine a little closer.

Over the next few posts in this series, I’ll do just that. So let me ask: what questions or insight do you have regarding nonviolence and gender equality? Is this a “fish” problem, or a “lake” problem? How have you seen the patriarchal paradigm affect the world around you?

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