Gender Roles and Apocalypse
I recently attended a lecture on masculinity and femininity. The lecturer – a wise and deep man, and probably a beautiful wife and mother, – said that men and women have their own roles. God intended the man to be responsible, and the woman to help him and show beauty in this world. This is a traditional view in which sharp corners are smoothed out, deeply comprehended by a worthy person. But I absolutely disagree with him, and that's why.
I will begin with the Bible, to which the lecturer abundantly referred. A small example: today a large part of society is intolerant of slavery, and if you tell the priest that I keep a slave at home, then most likely he will advise him to let him go. And if for some reason the Church needed to formulate an official position on the issue of slavery, it would almost certainly have considered it unacceptable. But in the Bible we will not find a direct condemnation of slavery, but only some of its humanization: the anniversary years in the Old Testament, Paul's instructions to be good masters in the New, etc. Why? Because for the people who wrote the Bible, slavery was a natural part of their life, they did not see the world different.
Similarly, in my opinion, with a patriarchal order. “The wife is the head of the husband, and the husband is the head of God”, “the husband should love the wife, and the wife should be afraid of the husband” and even the image of a woman, created from the rib – all this, in my opinion, is influenced by the patriarchal discourse in which the authors of the Bible lived. And only the declaration of the apostle Paul “in Christ there is neither man nor woman” rises above him – a kind of prophetic picture that Paul describes, not fully imagining how it could be. It is noteworthy, by the way, that in the Gospel Jesus speaks of men and women as standing on absolutely equal positions.
A legitimate question: how do I determine what the Bible has to do with the spirit of the time when it was written, and what is “from God”? What is “temporary” in it, and what is its “eternal", inspired component? The answer is: with absolute accuracy – no way. Only a general principle can be formulated here, and in my opinion, it is this: it is worth focusing on higher “statements” and the general “spirit” of Scripture more than on the specific meaning of a single verse or passage taken without context.
In modern church practice, the idea of spiritual life, disciplinary requirements, and the practice of sacraments are exactly the same in relation to men and women (well, except for the notorious “uncleanness,” about which they have already written a hundred times). So if there is no difference in the main thing – communion with Christ, life in God, then why should there be a difference in the secondary?
So are there predefined gender roles? Of course, yes – but they are set by the society and culture in which we live, "initially it was not like that, but God created them man and woman." And this is both good and bad news. Good – because each of us received more freedom than the strongest of this world had 100 years ago, and we are called to freedom. Bad – because we lost the strongholds in the form of gender stereotypes, and now we are forced to build our own identities as men and women, think through relationships in pairs, etc. Refusal of freedom is a grave sin. Freedom is difficult, but with it peaks unprecedented hitherto are possible – in marriage this is a unique way of life for the two of us and the special closeness of the spouses, not littered with artificial roles and obligations.
When God expelled Adam and Eve from paradise, he uttered the so-called curses – new, painful laws for man, according to which he will now live on earth. The modern world, in which more and more people work "by vocation", as if overcomes the first of them – "you will eat your bread in the sweat of your face." Little by little, the second also begins to stagger: "your attraction to your husband, and he will rule over you." And in this tendency I catch a certain apocalyptic spirit – life becomes harder due to its imminent end, the structure of the world is changing, “the powers of heaven are wavering”, but this is the joyful release that every Christian is waiting for: “come, Lord Jesus!”
You can, of course, try to rely on the old crutches of gender stereotypes, learn from the patriarchs of the Old Testament, indicate to a woman her place and hang on a man full responsibility for the family. Moreover, I am sure that such a family arrangement can be useful for her at some stage – crutches are generally a useful thing. But in the long run, each individual family and our entire church rhetoric as a whole is the way to nowhere. “We are called to freedom, brothers” (and sisters), so we have only dialogue, attention to each other and trust – trust in the unlike and amazingly beautiful path that God opens for us here and now.
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