“There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus.”Galatians 3: 28
One of the biggest differences separating the ways of the world and the ways of God has to do with the radical equality of persons in God’s Beloved Community. From the beginning of recorded history it has been the rarest occurrence for humanity to refrain from establishing top down hierarchies. The temptation to grab and secure power over others is irresistible and so common that humanity has accepted this behavior as normal. Even Christian Churches, which should have known better, could not resist the temptation to establish hierarchies.
The practice of hierarchies arises from the discovery that a person or group of persons can force submission on other persons. Even when clothed in rituals, titles, and honors, the underlying substructure of hierarchies is violence. No matter how we dress it up, there is violence hidden underneath every hierarchy, invisible until challenged. While contemporary hierarchies do not usually use physical force, though this can occur, there are other forms of force that prove quite effective in keeping underlings in line.
The origination of all hierarchies is the foundational ordering of male over female. This ranking is the original power structure and it is not difficult to understand the dynamics at work when physical strength can force submission. This forced submission was enculturated through rituals, rules, and customs. Whenever this particular power structure is challenged, escalating violence ensues. The threat of violence is never far from every woman’s life, even in today’s world.
The persistence of this basic building block of injustice reveals how durable the temptation to have power over others is and how difficult it is to overcome. In our country women still do not have equal rights and domestic violence is predominately a male reaction to a woman’s failure to properly submit. Yes, women, too, can commit domestic abuse, but let’s admit this does not happen on the same scale as with men, and comes from a different dynamic.
Power is a wonderful gift and it is neither good nor bad. It is a force, an energy, an authority that a person can control. It is up to each person to choose how this gift of power is used. Power can be used to force others into submission or to lift them up to stand alongside oneself. It can be used to create slaves or to emancipate slaves. It can be used to create hierarchies, or to create the Beloved Community of God.
There is a beautiful song in the Gospel of Luke. It is known as the Magnificat or the Ode of Theotokos and is spoken by Mary, the Mother of Jesus. You can find it at Luke 1: 46-55. This song reminds me of the civil rights song, We Shall Overcome. Occurring in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel this canticle reveals the revolutionary nature of the coming of Christ Jesus into our world. I suggest you listen to the YouTube version of this song The Canticle of the Turning.
Soon we will celebrate Advent, the anticipation of Christ and the ways of God coming into our world. What people don’t seem to realize is that Christ Jesus came to earth to change things and to bring us back to the original plan for humanity, before humanity decided to stop doing things in God’s way and to go its own way. The ways of the world have proven disastrous for many of us, bringing suffering and pain, violence and cruelty, hatred and wars upon us. We need to be saved from ourselves and this is exactly the plan God has for us through Christ Jesus. But we have to hear the good news and implement it, or nothing happens.
All the “-isms” — sexism, racism, classism — are rooted in the misuse of power, and this creates injustice and inequality. I suggest we could start by working on that foundational building block of injustice — the ranking of males over females — and begin to tear down all these hierarchies. As long as people believe they have the right to expect submission from any other group of persons, God’s way of doing things cannot happen and we cannot bring God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.
My beloved ones, celebrate and rejoice in our oneness and equality in Christ.