Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Abi is a non-patriarchal conservative progressive egalitarian

Things have been very quiet at this blog -- for lots of reasons.  But I finally have the strength to speak to an issue that has been slowly bubbling on the back burner of my over-stimulated brain-on-fire:  I have to really disagree with the use of the word "egalitarian" to describe the opposite of "patriarchal" or "complementarian".

There, I said it.  I am starting to feel better already, but I will continue and explain myself some.

My dear mentor, S. Scott Bartchy, PhD., is still in the process of the final edit of his long-awaited book:  Call No Man Father.  I long for it to be finished, but in the meantime there are a few links to articles he has published which can give you some of the general background.

Who Should Be Called Father?
Undermining Ancient Patriarchy
Secret Siblings

On page 145 of his article "Who Should Be Called Father?", Dr. Bartchy addresses the third of three barriers to understanding how Paul has been misunderstood as supporting patriarchy (and with it, hierarchy) in the section entitled Egalitarianism Is Not the Opposite of Patriarchy.

The problem is that is has become common to blur the distinctions between two ancient Greco-Roman social institutions:  politics and kinship.  They are not opposite ends of the same social-political spectrum.  They are on completely different spectrum.

Patriarchy belongs to the semantic field of kinship -- the realm of the family.  Egalitarian belongs to the semantic field of politics, referring to things like equal access to the vote, to positions of public leadership, and to ownership of property. The opposite of patriarchal dominance is not egalitarian anarchy/cooperation.

Because of this ongoing confusion, we have not assigned a proper term.  We must slog along with, um, non-patriarchy.  This is the term used where the power of the fathers and males has been undermined in favor of the Heavenly Father's leadership of his Kingdom Family of siblings who follow Jesus as First Born, Lord and Master.

In the same way, the opposite of egalitarianism is not patriarchy but monarchy, oligarchy or despotism.  And part of the confusion came from Roman Emperors who disguised their monarchy behind a kind of public patriarchy -- the pater patriae, the father of the fatherland.

Understandable yet regrettable...and, ultimately, something that must be made right by those who call Jesus Lord and no man Father but God.  Jesus, and Paul, turned the power of the patriarchs on their heads.  There was no longer an entitlement to power over ... but a command to love and serve as Jesus loves and serves.

Jesus, and Paul, called on the men to give God's place back...to let God be Father of those who accept his amazing offer of adoption as siblings of, and joint heirs with, Jesus Christ.

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In a really funky way, the polarized politics in America is caught in this same kind of semantic problem.  Stay with me all the way through, please...so you understand where I am coming from:

  • Conservative means faithfulness to the "status quo" -- and is meant to apply to the Constitution as intended by the original authors.  The Framers have the same problem as the Apostle Paul as folks try to twist and expand and change the original meaning of their writings.  Conservatives believe that the Constitution cannot mean today what it did not mean when the Framers wrote it.  This requires diligence with regard to historical and linguistic and social and political distance ... because history and language and society and politics have changed over the past two centuries.  
  • Progressive means adapting to the changing meanings of history and language and society and politics -- and is meant to apply to learning from history, updating colloquialisms, removing barriers to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in society and seeking peaceful unity in politics.  If this requires amending the Constitution, there is a policy in place that is to be followed.
I find it interesting that American politics has continued the Roman error, where many on both sides of these terms see them as opposites.  Some Conservatives yearn for a kind of Political Patriarchy that gives lip service to a kind of Christian Monarchy.  Some Progressives yearn for a kind of Political Oligarchy that gives lip service to a kind of Social Patriarchy.  

But the American experiment is one where neither of these scenarios fit.  We are honored to have a Constitution to which we are pledged to be faithful.  It is, indeed, our "status quo" and it must be conserved.  And as a free people, we are honored to be self-governing and choose our representatives.  We need to continue to progress as we learn better what justice and mercy and rule of law look like, so that we can build on the Framer's Foundation.

We conserve the contents of the Constitution for everyone's benefit.  We make progress as a society and a republic by following the rule of law and practicing responsible freedom at home and abroad.  Neither of these endeavors are aided by methods of coercion that leads toward patriarchy or oligarchy.

It's still true that power does tend to corrupt -- and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  This is why God's power is made perfect in our weakness.  When we submit to one another in cHesed -- looking out for the best interest of the other, according to the covenant -- the world sees that we live in a different Kingdom.  A Kingdom where Jesus is King and God is Father.  Lording it over others has no place in the lives of those who follow Jesus Christ -- not in their home life, not in their business life and not in their political life.  Life is messy and it takes time and humility and good humor to "...listen one another into free speech."

Those who try to make politics a subset of religion err.  America is not an experiment in Christian Theocracy as an upgrade of Hebrew Theocracy.  America is not an experiment in Christian or Marxist Collectivism, either.  America is an experiment in being a Representative Republic made up of many Sovereign States -- of the people, by the people and for the people -- where there is tremendous freedom for progress toward a more perfect union and freedom from oppression in all its forms -- especially those known as patriarchy and oligarchy.  Out of many States we forge the United States of America -- and we need to respect and value each person and each state to the best of our ability.  And when we are wrong, we need to repent and progress toward that more perfect union -- the one the Framers envisioned.

Those Americans who are also followers of Jesus have an opportunity to join this wee purple abbess as she endeavors to live as a non-patriarchal conservative progressive egalitarian.  

O, that would be glory, indeed!

Be blessed....