The political power of sacred texts is well known, and such power has been used and abused for millennia. Historical evidence points to patriarchal ideology, including religious patriarchy, as the main driver of religious violence and all manner of social and ecological injustice. When political ecology and industrial ecology are driven and empowered by religious patriarchy, social and ecological atrocities are bound to happen: wars, racism, sexism, debt slavery, pandemics induced by humans overshooting the human habitat. How can we stop this global insanity?
|Since the inception of human history, patriarchal ideology has driven human behavior in ways that are very detrimental to human relations and to the entire community of creation. It is increasingly urgent for humans to become more fully human, clean the toxic trash accumulated over millennia of delusional human supremacy, and rebuild human civilization as a natural subset of the natural world. The patriarchal ideology of male supremacy, now shown to be utterly unnatural, must be deconstructed and replaced by naturally egalitarian relations between man and woman, and by relations of natural mutuality between humans and the human habitat. To this end, it is essential to dismantle the patriarchal scaffolding that inhibits people from practicing the Golden Rule and internalizing the jewels of wisdom encapsulated in all the major religious traditions.|
Patriarchy, and the supporting patriarchal ideology of the gender binary, male headship, and mutually exclusive gender role stereotypes, has prevailed as the most pervasive culture since the beginning of human history. This in already attested in the Book of Genesis, 3:16, written ca. 1000 BCE, where the experience of the patriarchal culture in Israel is projected back to the beginning as the first, most nefarious, and most universal consequence of "original sin."
All dimensions of human life have been deeply affected by patriarchal ideology, including not only interpersonal gender relations but the development of languages, religious traditions, social norms, social aberrations such as sexism and racism, political institutions, economic practices, the entire culture. Modern sciences and technologies are no exception. The capitalism we know is patriarchal capitalism. The socialism we know is patriarchal socialism. Fascism and communism, and other forms of authoritarianism, even more so. Gender shapes the world and, therefore, everything we know, and everything we decide, and everything we do, is processed via a gender filter.
Consider the human relationship with the human habitat. It is, to a significant extent, a mirror image of the relationship between human males and human females, as succinctly described in Genesis 3:16. More specifically, visualize the domain of political ecology, the intersection of politics with economics, technology, biology, ecology, etc., as they pertain to human relations with the planet. What do we see? Most of what we see is patriarchal behavior manifested as human supremacy and exploitation, with little care for ecological consequences. Or visualize the domain of industrial ecology, focused on the flow of energy and other natural resources pursuant to human consumption. What do we see? Most of what we see is patriarchal behavior by way of choosing efficiency at the service of short term profits over resilience for long term ecological integrity.
COVID-19 is a case example of the consequences: "Our species has relentlessly expanded into previously wild spaces. Through intensive agriculture, habitat destruction, and rising temperatures, we have uprooted the planet's animals, forcing them into new and narrower ranges that are on our own doorsteps. Humanity has squeezed the world's wildlife in a crushing grip—and viruses have come bursting out" (quoted from How the Pandemic Defeated America, Ed Yong, The Atlantic, September 2020). As usual, the poor will suffer the most: "In developing countries, where safety nets are underdeveloped or nonexistent, the decline in living standards will take place mostly in the poorest segments of society" (quoted from The Pandemic Depression, Carmen Reinhart and Vincent Reinhart, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2020). How much longer will it take for men and women of good will to recognize that patriarchal ideology is not good for human ecology? What will it take for politicians, corporate executives, journalists, and especially religious leaders, to give up the delusion of infinite growth in a finite planet?
How can we transform our patriarchal ecology of abusive exploitation of nature into an integral ecology of caring and cooperating with nature, and this for our own good? A path of transformation is human solidarity, and the basic principle of human solidarity is the Golden Rule. In Laudato Si', Pope Francis articulates the concept of an integral ecology based on human cooperation rather than utilitarian competition. However, he recognizes that "a bold cultural revolution" is required (LS #114). This revolution is not a violent revolution. It is a revolution from patriarchal domination to collaborative solidarity as the practical norm of human relations in all dimensions of human life, including both the secular and religious spheres.
In the secular sphere, the patriarchal culture of dominion is manifested inter alia via political economy, political ecology, and industrial ecology. A political economy of dominion prioritizes efficiency rather than resilience. The criterion of efficiency is the maximization of profit or minimization of cost in the short term, usually quantified in financial terms, with practically no attention to fostering the common good, social cohesion, human rights, and support for life now and in the future. A political ecology of dominion is driven by the same priorities without due regard for the care of the human habitat, as if our embodied life could be supported in isolation from natural resources. The resulting industrial ecology is all about the maximum power principle, i.e., maximizing energy throughput, with power generated from fossil fuels as long as they last, and by humans as minimum wage energy slaves when necessary.
In the religious sphere, the patriarchal culture of dominion is manifested in aberrations such as the crusades, the inquisition, proselytism by brute force, and the sexual abuse of minors. It has insidious effects on religious language, religious doctrines, and the structure of religious institutions. In patriarchal cultures, divinities are male because, "if God is male, then the male is God." This is by far the biggest religious travesty in human history, with nefarious consequences that propagate worldwide. Can you think of anything bad humans can do that does not derive from patriarchal domination, especially when exacerbated by fundamentalist religious bigotry? Homo sapiens may be flawed until the end times, but may God deliver us from institutionalized patriarchy:
"Besides that Aristotle held that women were not complete humans (On the Generation of Animals, 729 a). He believed that woman was, at best, a mutilated male (Idem, 2.3.737a27-8). Consider how devastating the effects of “the Teacher’s” blind spots (Politics, 1254b13–14) here have been. Even saints and doctors of the Church were affected by these blind spots. Just read Augustine and Thomas Aquinas or various Islamic thinkers. That one about women has quite an enduring shelf-life and distribution. Don’t believe me? Go read Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Go read John Paul II or Benedict XVI about why women can’t be ordained, and even discussion of this is forbidden. And then go ask William Morris, former bishop of the diocese of Toowoomba, Queensland, about what happened when he dared to raise the subject." Blind Spots Ruin Christianity, Fellow Dying Inmate, Patheos, 7 August 2020
Given that culture and religion are tightly coupled, it is time to dispose of the cultural trash generated by patriarchal theologies.
Religious traditions are instrumental for shaping human behavior and human development. However, when they become fossilized by inertia and resistance to divine signs as they emerge in the events of history, religions can actually become an obstacle to healthy human development and a viable human ecology. Religious traditions are living traditions, not just dead legends from a distant past. They are dynamic, not static. They need continued refreshing and deep reformation when it becomes evident that ancient errors are being perpetuated. The truth makes us freer if we are free to keep digging and discarding errors and bad practices inherited from past ignorance.
Given the current social and ecological situation of our global human civilization, there can be no integral human development, and there can be no integral ecology, as long as political economy, political ecology, industrial ecology, and all other threads of human activity, remain driven by the patriarchal ideology of human supremacy over nature, which in turn derives from the delusion of male supremacy. In this regard, specifically in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, it is imperative to let go of patriarchal hierarchies rooted in misogynistic philosophies and theologies that no longer make any sense.
Aristotle was a man of his time. As to his humanity, Jesus of Nazareth was a man of his time. Thomas Aquinas was a man of his time. But the risen Christ is not a racist, or a nationalist, and certainly not a misogynist. After the resurrection, the patriarchal stone has been rolled away from the tomb. The assumption of Mary is a clear sign that patriarchal gender ideology is utterly irrelevant for apostolic succession. Since Mary is the Mother of Christ, and therefore the Mother of the Eucharist, and therefore much greater than the twelve apostles and all their successors taken together, why is it that baptized women cannot be ordained to the priesthood and the episcopate? Patriarchal misogyny, plain and simple.
Thankfully, the 'New Jerusalem' is coming, undeterred by patriarchal barriers: