Friday, 25 February 2011


Does Christianity today help maintain vestiges of patriarchal culture or does it help mitigate it? Although in most countries, class status transcends gender, institutionally the Christian church in the community, in town, in the nation and globally plays a catalytic role in perpetuating stereotypes and traditional roles in gender politics of identity. This does  not mean that Judaism or Islam are much different; on the contrary, in some respects similar in others betters, and in some much worse.

For the Catholic Church, for the Eastern Orthodox, for fundamentalist churches across the vast spectrum of Protestantism, patriarchal elitism is alive and well in societies that define themselves as 'democratic and pluralistic', thus exposing the hypocrisy that exists beneath the veneer of equal rights. If the Christian Church remains an obstacle to social change rather than a vehicle to progress, is it one of the significant institutions that serves to preserve the social order by engendering social conformity and redirecting the faithful from institutional injustices to focusing on personal quest for salvation from eternal damnation?

Institutionalized Christianity as an inequitable, unjust, and discriminatory ideological system and process that may be supported or opposed by both men and women also has aspects of charity, humane support for the individual and the community, and serves an important role to afford cultural identity and continuity. General and specific discriminatory practices may be a microcosmic reflection of the larger society. However, if these practices persist in contemporary western societies that are increasingly secular and theoretically adhering to social justice, the institution itself that has been a servant of the elites for centuries will gradually lose its mass following. If the church as a major institution engendering societal conformity plays an increasingly less significant role in society, will society be better off and achieve greater social justice, or lose an advocate of social justice?

Drawing largely from Greek philosophy, values, and culture as well as doctrines of Judaism, Christianity as an eclectic religion with a heterogeneous ethnic and racial base and born during the reign of first Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar became the base of patriarchal culture in the Western World. The apostle Paul and St. Augustine provided the doctrinal foundation for the patriarchal religion that rejected the pagan world's spiritual elitism while maintaining all other forms of traditional patriarchal culture in the Mediterranean world.

In the early era of the Church Fathers, Christianity, a religion that originally appealed to the poor and dejected, entered the ranks of the upper classes in the Roman Empire through the wives that were attracted to the faith partly because it preached equality before God, the human soul transcending gender and accepting the intrinsic value of woman. As Christ transcended gender because he was the Messiah, and as he respected and loved the church, husbands must respect and love their wives, according to the New Testament; a doctrine absent in paganism.

Just as Christianity accepted slaves as spiritual equals, women too were welcome as such, finding spiritual emancipation through faith. However, just as slaves were to obey the master and seek spiritual salvation in the Kingdom of God, similarly women were to accept their earthly role and seek spiritual transcendence. In short, Christianity from the primitive era to the growth of the institution that male priests controlled and defined remained opposed to social, economic, political, and gender emancipation. Nevertheless, the promise of eternal paradise of spiritual bliss where all are equal remained the religion's appeal. This earth is damned awful, especially for women, but at least the next one is something to look forward to.

Once the church became an integral part of society and thus the state, Christian doctrine reinforced 'Father' worship, forcing women to seek comfort in the cult of the Virgin Mary. Resting heavily on the writings of apostle Paul who was influenced by Greek philosophy and Judaism, the upper clergy through the ages preached that woman was made from man - an extension of the male; woman should not speak in church, or wear head scarf and she should accept a subordinate place to their husband; woman is a reflection of man's glory thus lacking an identity for herself.

Original sin attributed to Eve more than Adam, accounts for another deeply ingrained idea inculcated into the minds of Christians that evil flows from females, and that anything other than the Virgin Mary prototype is unholy. By affording legitimacy to monogamy, the Church also stigmatized divorce and sexual activity outside marriage as sin, and did the same for homosexuality and lesbianism. If the wife and daughter do not subordinate their will to the husband/father, as he subordinates his will to God, then disharmony and sin follow. Rooted in sexuality, female sin is invariably associated with guilt and low self-esteem for women, a trait that the church reinforces thus encouraging confession as spiritual cleansing.

Sin and guilt have always been used to condition women to accept inferior status and to internalize what are natural tendencies of their human sexuality and its expression. By subjugating the mind of women in this manner, conformity becomes easier at every other level, thus denying women their humanity. Once the woman doubts her worth and questions self-esteem, she is already convinced that she is undeserving of social justice.

The one institution that presents itself as promoting the ultimate form of social justice (Eden) based on the divinity of Christ, the one institution claiming to dogmatically oppose elitism continues to be an instrument of social and gender elitism today as it has been in the last two thousand years. One of the oldest institutionalized religions on earth, Christianity has always been heavily politicized, thus an integral part of the broader societal institutional structure rooted in elitism that helps to preserve the status quo, and doing so in the name of God and the illusion of eternal salvation.

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