WWJD? - Not Exclude Women in the Church - or Anyone Else


Fleshing Out …

Part 1

Dualism

Theory of Forms by Plato

Dualism is the view, originating chiefly from Platonic pagan philosophy [most notably from Plato's Theory of Forms (See discussion in Ancients section.)] that viewed the mind and the body as in conflict—as polar opposites. Because males were associated with the spirit (soul in Christianity), deemed positive, and females were associated with the body, deemed negative, the two genders were viewed as polar opposites of each other. That is, every member of a designated group is completely opposite from every member of a different designated group. In this consideration those groups are gender based, with all males constituting one group and all females constituting the ”other” group (from a male perspective).

As the product of ancient ignorance, superstition and egocentrism, the dualism of pagan philosophy was and continues to be a powerful and tenacious force driving the severely negative, harmful and hurtful attitudes toward women that result in the gamut of gender injustices from exclusion and the verbal to the deadly. Put simply, Group A here refers to all male human beings, and Group B refers to all female human beings.

Examples of Dualistic Thinking

As a member of Group A, if I believe that my group inherently has honor, then I believe that, as polar opposites, all people of Group B inherently have shame (because they are more likely to sin)..

If I believe that all of the members of Group A are inherently superior, then I believe that all members of Group B are inherently inferior.

If I believe that all of the members of Group A are highly intelligent, then I believe that all members of Group B are of lower intelligence.

If I believe that all of the members of Group A are inherently of strong character, Then I believe that all members of Group B are of weak character

If I believe that all of the members of Group A inherently have greater leadership ability than all members of Group B, then I believe that all members of Group A should always rule over all of the members of Group B, who should always be submissive.

If I believe all such positive – negative group characteristics, then I believe that the proper space for members of Group A is public space (where matters of politics and business are carried out) and that the proper space for the members of Group B is private space (the home, where tasks demanding lesser intellect, courage and character are carried out).

Etc., Etc., Etc

Fruits of dualistic thinking: This extremist and qualitative view of human beings produces the gender stereotyping that creates the gender roles that impose arbitrary restrictions and limitations on half of the human race, denying the fact that humans as individuals vary greatly in character and abilities and overlap with each other on the continuum and keeping so many people from being able to use their God-given talents and abilities, not only for themselves, but also for the good of others. Today, even in instances of absence of legal and physical barriers, there still exist psychological barriers ingrained for millennia and in the form of social stigmas that no less serve to reinforce the damaging dualistic point of view. The ability of each person to fully embrace his or her personal traits, abilities, interests and preferences is still curtailed by ancient false beliefs from non-Christian sources and their imposition of a false system of gender entitlement and the evils that it spawns. Most importantly, a thorough examination of the life and teachings of Christ by word and actions as delineated in the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in the New Testament reveals that absolutely no qualitative dualistic teachings about gender as believed and taught by the Church Fathers can be found—at all! Considering the sources of those false and insidious beliefs, their fruits throughout human history are not surprising. It is not surprising that of all canonized saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church, only about 25% are female.

On the flip side of the coin, matriarchal groups can be found in the non-Christian realm such as the Bijagos of West Africa and Tuareg of North Africa. Here, too, gender–based domination distorts the natural equal balance of human relationships that normalizes and maximizes the quality of life in the world. Not unexpectedly, the dominators minimize and devalue the dominated group. In those groups men are viewed as necessary mainly for their role in procreation and as associated with death in the cycle of life due to their inability to sustain for the required nine months within themselves the lives they help to create. Thus the issue is not which group dominates the other; it is the detrimental, unjust and unnatural effect it produces.

Explaining away obvious falsehood: The number of women whose lives and accomplishments have throughout history flown in the face of dualistic gender beliefs are beyond determining. How then has society historically come to terms with such a multitude of obvious flaws in those beliefs? The answer is as twisted and absurd as the erroneous belief system that needed to fabricate some kind of explanation in order to appear to justify and keep alive the system of false privilege for men. Ancient men explained the phenomenon of women who blatantly disproved the dualistic gender belief system by declaring that such exceptional women had "become men,” had “transcended the weakness of female nature,” or were “masculine” or other such demeaning acclamations. After all, what else could explain how people who were all inherently incapable of such character traits (e.g. honor, moral integrity, etc.) and great deeds of heroism, leadership (in public space), etc. possibly exhibit such traits and deeds? If only men could possibly possess those traits, then anyone who did had to be a man! Even in hymns to women saints, many of whom willingly accepted cruel tortures and martyrdom for Christ, in the ancient Christian Church are found such a belief system. The following examples are only a small representation.

“As long as a woman is for birth and children she is different from man as body is from soul. But when she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will cease to be a woman, and will be called man.”
(St. Jerome, Commentary on Ephesians, III ch. 5)

In a hymn to St. Eudokia of Heliopolis, martyred in the first or second century, (Feastday March 1), she is lauded for “preaching like a man.” (At least it is acknowledged that she preached.)

The renowned St. Catherine the Great Martyr (Feastday November 25) is hymned for “changing the weakness of female nature to masculinity” in her victory over the most highly esteemed philosophers of Alexandria in debate.

St. Marina the Great Martyr (Feastday July 17) is hymned for her “strengthening of female rottenness.”

The reference "the opposite sex" reflects and perpetuates the inaccurate and harmful dualistic view of gender, expressing a supposed "natural" oppositional relationship. More accurate and natural instead is the reference to the "the other sex," which does not imply a (false) naturally negative relationship, but defines it as one of mutual respect and human common ground.

Further, how ironic that the dualistic thinking in Christianity was completely blinded to the fact that no such belief could be found anywhere in the teachings of Christ. If one subscribes to such belief, is that the only explanation for the fact that none of the women who followed Christ ever betrayed, denied or deserted Him during His Crucifixion and Resurrection? (Since the men did betray, deny and desert Him in cowardice, one must suppose that they became women).

Ambivalence and the “But-not-really” Syndrome

St. Thecla
St. Thecla

Ambivalence toward the reality of women who showed themselves to be opposite to the negative gender stereotypes was necessarily a conflict, grave confusion, between the false system of gender belief and the realities that blatantly contradicted them. Ambivalence essentially Involves praising women for admirable qualities and deeds that were believed to be possible only for men, then minimizing or in some way contradicting the praise in order to satisfy the need to maintain the dualistic belief system with obvious flaws. One such example is the Church’s official recognition of certain Christian women as apostles (See St. Paul’s designation of such women co-workers of his, such as Jounia and Prisca in the Book of Romans.) or “Equal-to-the Apostles,” such as St. Thecla, recognized as the first woman Christian martyr because of the many severe tortures she suffered and endured for her faith—yet minimize remembrance of them, implying that they were apostles or equal-to-the-apostles—but not really equal. Perhaps the implication was that they could be only some sort of pale shadow of the “real thing.” The title of Equal-to-the Apostles is bestowed upon a few canonized saints who, like the male Apostles themselves, proved to be exceptional in witnessing and proclaiming of the Gospel (Good News of the Resurrection of Christ). To recognize such female saints as thus truly exceptional, then at the same time treat them as if they were not really (less) so is akin to speaking with a "forked tongue".

Mary Magdalene encountering Christ
Mary Magdalene
with the risen Christ

Perhaps the most notable of the “But-Not-Really” Syndrome is Mary Magdalene, to whom Christ first appeared after His Resurrection and commissioned to be the first person to proclaim the Resurrection. She had to inform the male disciples that the greatest divine act for humanity had occurred; because, unlike Mary and the other women disciples, they had betrayed, denied and abandoned Him in His most wrenching hour and had thus been deprived of experiencing the singular event themselves. Since ancient times the Church has recognized Mary Magdalene as the “Apostle-to-the-Apostles,” yet whenever there is reference to “apostles,” she is assumed not to be included in the reference.

This positive/negative treatment of Christian women is very present in many ancient Christian hymns still used in the services of Eastern and Roman Catholic churches today. Examples include hymns praising renowned women saints, such as Sts. Euphrosyne and Eugenia for their Christian virtues, while in the same hymn using such phrases as “How did you conceal the weakness of women?” and “turning to male activities.” The list goes on and on.

An Example of Dualism Today

A stark example of dualism in very modern times is the Promise Keepers Movement.

It is a “men’s movement” begun in 1990 and experienced growth throughout the rest of the decade, declining in the earlier part of the next decade and recently is attempting to rejuvenate. Although the premises of the movement can appear worthy initially and on the surface, closer examination reveals glaring flaws and sinister agendas. A para-Church movement, its general ecumenical objective is to bring Christian men of all Christian faiths together to reverse, through reclaiming “biblical manhood,” the increasing tide of absence of male presence and especially God-ordained leadership in the home and churches requires seven promises Promise Keepers must make.

Promise Keeper Rally
Promise Keeper Rally

The extreme dualism of this fanatical movement is blatantly apparent throughout. Coming out of the heavily Pentecostal and Evangelical Charismatic Vineyard Church, founder, Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney, was head football coach at the University of Colorado. The movement is characterized by huge rallies that are a combination of sports events and revival meetings held in stadia housing sports teams. They make heavy use of sports terminology, especially football, along with many other symbols of “male bastions,” such as one of the leaders riding out into the stadium on a motorcycle. Until the recent attempt to resurrect the movement, the only women who were allowed at the rallies were simply there to work the concessions or other such supportive activities not directly part of the rally. Currently the men are encouraged to bring their wives, sisters and daughters. Of course, the objective is while indoctrinating the men to demand a dominating family leadership role in the home, indoctrinate the females to accept a servile and submissive role. Here is a strong example of the misinterpretation, twisting, of biblical “proof texts” used to buttress male supremacy. Although the group promises to honor Jesus Christ as a role model of (human) masculinity, none of its patriarchal male supremacist beliefs can be found in the teachings of Christ, nor are they compatible with Gal. 3:28 ("There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.") or the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:11-13). One of the fallacies is that they greatly emphasize His maleness of the flesh, rather than His humanity that was what was important in effecting salvation for human souls. Men are encouraged to bare their sins and most intimate feelings and needs to each other, embracing each other and weeping together, in accordance with the tender side of the “man’s man” Jesus. The severe dualism with its gender paranoia (gynophobia) should be clearly evident. It is not difficult to recognize this and other such movements as the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

For further detailed information, see the following representative articles:

“WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE PROMISE KEEPERS?” by Matt Andrews

“Promise Keepers & PsychoHeresy” by Martin & Deidre Bobgan

“Sinister Promises: The Promise Keepers--A dangerous movement for male Domination”

“Promise Keepers: Christian Men's Movement Making a Comeback?” By Bill Berkowitz

Seven Promises of the Promise Keepers

Today the categorical exclusion of all women from the highest levels of church leadership and ownership is widely practiced. Its strength and longevity are more difficult to eradicate than worship of Hera and Zeus.

Zeus
Hera and Zeus

In both society and church, make a point of knowing what the debilitating stereotypes are - and make a point not to live by them.