By Lee Van Ham
No matter how many modern-day seers assure us power struggles are not an effective model for human relations imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchal culture continues to insist that domination must be the organizing principle of today’s civilization. — bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (2007) page 116
The solution to countering patriarchy is often sought through gender equality. But to be equal in a patriarchal system only means women and men are more equal participants in that system. Despite the effort and laws, patriarchy’s rewards, opportunities, and demands still favor men. Consequently, all the changes that have been made in gender equality in the past century have not budged the patriarchal system, healed men emotionally, or reduced violence and shaming by men.
The alternative to the patriarchal systems gripping the world must be far more than gender equality. OneEarth masculinity is part of nature’s life-giving better way. Among those practicing OneEarth masculinity, men, women, children, animals, and plants all benefit. Among its advocates, the uprising of Jesus in the first century Middle East is seldom posed as an uprising against patriarchy’s lethal grip. Yet it is precisely that.
(1) Jesus refused to accept that training (indoctrinating) boys and girls in patriarchy was good for them. Psychotherapist Terrence Real, parent to two boys, calls this ongoing training in patriarchy the “normal traumatization” of boys. Girls, as well as boys, are to understand that the real power in their world is with men. But Jesus taught, “Let the children come to me.” And “unless we become like children we cannot live in the Kingdom of heaven.” That Kingdom was Jesus’ language for OneEarth living.
(2) Jesus refused to be a leader in the domination patriarchal system because it would require him to be a dominator. He rejected that dominators were true leaders. Those who saw him as the Messiah expected him to rise up and re-establish the monarchy of David, dominating the empire of Rome. He rejected this role by holding up a lily he plucked from the field and astonished his listeners by assuring them that the glories of monarchy, even as exhibited in Solomon the great dominator, couldn’t hold their own up against the beauty and power of nature’s wild flowers. The meaning of Messiah was changed forever for all who had ears to hear. He further rebuked his followers for pursuing leadership in the patriarchal model by pointing out that whoever wishes to be greatest in the alternative he lived and taught needed to be “the servant of all.” Narcissistic leadership, so prevalent today, could not work in Jesus’ alternative.
(3) Jesus lived vulnerably in relationships, showing it to be a strength in relating maturely. Patriarchal men fear showing vulnerability regarding it as weakness. In patriarchy, strength is about dominating one’s emotions and those of all others. But in OneEarth masculinity, emotions are energy and power, not to be feared but assertively and freely expressed. Men who live by patriarchal norms become emotional cripples, able to express anger and rage but suppressing other emotions essential to healthy living. Jesus generated awe among people as they saw him relate to sex workers, hated tax collectors, military officers, lepers, and temple leaders. People in patriarchal power feared him for his fearless uses of emotional presence, showing how powerful emotions are. Jesus vulnerably served others, showed love strong enough to break rules, weep, and have women as confidants. He called himself a Truly Human One (Son of Man).
(4) Patriarchy perpetrates violence and shaming around the world. Peace is trusted mostly when it is “peace through strength.” Interdependence and cooperation, when used, are carefully proscribed agreements within peace by domination. Jesus insisted on non-violence, refusing to shame or be shamed. He saw how patriarchal masculinity perpetuated a loveless world. He urged us, instead, to love one another as he had loved. It was a high, vulnerable standard. It is beyond what happens in a patriarchy-led world. Jesus was confident that such love was a strength stronger than violence and could generate peace beyond what the patriarchal world knows.
The uprising of Jesus is not limited to these examples. Should you be inclined to read the Gospels, read them as an uprising against patriarchal domination. How that is described and lived is astonishing. And it needs to be practiced everywhere today.