Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Holy Nihilism (Excerpt): Gender Relations


From observation alone, it would be impossible to deduce that men and women are “equal” to each other. To start with, men and women vary in biological function: women bear children. Men do not. Perhaps because of this key difference, men are slightly larger and significantly stronger than women. Men, it seems, are disposable, relative to women, because eggs are biologically expensive and raising a child is a time and energy-intensive undertaking. Sperm, on the other hand, is all but free. A single man could, in theory, impregnate thousands of women. The reverse simply does not work. And so the more dangerous tasks — hunting, fighting, building, etc — fell to men, and our bodies and minds adapted to the demands of our respective roles.
To say that men and women are not “equal” is not to say that one sex is “superior” to the other. They serve different roles for the preservation of the same lineage, and to even begin discussing one as “better” or “superior” to the other is to commit a category error; the two are symbiotic opposites, and neither can exist without the other[1].
But today, it is commonly accepted that men and women are, in some sense, “equal.” What sense is this, and how did it come to pass?
Naturally, both men and women were created in the image of God[2], so there is a theological basis for equality — literally from the very beginning.
However, where the Bible and gender are concerned, it is quite a bit more complicated than this. Let us begin with a few key passages:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
1 Timothy 2:11-15

The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
1 Corinthians 11:3

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word
Ephesians 5:22-23

In Ephesians, Paul describes something like a healthy balance between the sexes — an exchange of love and respect — though it is clear that the woman is obliged to submit to the man, for the man is above (superior to) the woman, supposedly in a similar manner to the way in which God is superior to man.
But in Timothy and Corinthians (also written by Paul), the emphasis is more clearly upon the superiority of man over women, and not the reciprocity between complimentary roles.
The Bible is not short on praise for women. Indeed, Song of Songs is practically pornographic in its depiction of an ideal wife[3]. There is Galatians 3:28, which proclaims the eradication of distinction between male and female in togetherness with Christ. And of course, there is the example of Jesus, who seemed to treat women with a familiarity that was wholly foreign and uncomfortable among first-century Jews.
The apparent contradiction is obvious. Holding women both as equals and as inferiors to men, simultaneously, is preposterous.
This is not to say that no explanation could exist. We could imagine, for example, that Paul is, in his letters, attempting to correct against the disastrous errors of equality in this world, but in doing so, oversteps the natural and reciprocal balance between the sexes, in favor of men. But such an explanation is not clear from the text, and an explanation like this leads to greater problems anyhow. How, for example, can we separate our spiritual equality from the inequality in our day-to-day life, if we shape our spirit through our actions, and yet we are to act in this world?
But there is a more incisive question to ask here. If Christianity is guided by spiritual equality, where does Paul’s disdain for women come from in the first place?
It is obvious that there is an inherent inequality in the way that men evaluate women, especially where beauty is concerned. Likewise — to the consternation of men across the ages — there is a complicated but clear inequality in the way that women judge men. The very premise of Christian equality is undermined by the relative inequality of men and women’s relative evaluations of one another.
Men tend to be more mechanically-inclined and logical than women. This fact is often portrayed as a complete and whole good in men’s favor, but very often, it means that men are more likely to persuade themselves of something absurd because it appears to make sense in the abstract. It follows that women would therefore be a greater threat to the doctrine of Christian theology, if their intuition was allowed to influence the heavily logical teachings of the early Church, which followed like clockwork from the false premises on which it was based.
Perhaps, then, the wisdom of women’s bodies posed too great a threat to equality for the church to ignore. For the preservation of equality before God, women had to be made unequal, and inferior before Man.

Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, there stands a mighty ruler, an unknown sage-whose name is self. In your body he dwells; he is your body. There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom. And who knows why your body needs precisely your best wisdom?
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Whether or not this speculation is accurate, the living contradiction itself remains: women are somehow equal yet inferior — to be respected, and also kept silent and obedient.
I cannot imagine a more perfect recipe for the greatest intellectual lunacy of the modern age: Feminism.
Feminism is defined by two beliefs: first, that men and women are equal; second, that for all of history, men have conspired to control women, at the expense of women, and for the general benefit of men. This conspiracy is colloquially called “the patriarchy.” Both of these beliefs are false, but one can see a cause for suspicion of their truth within Christian theology, and if the premise of equality is accepted, then the belief in a gender-conspiracy follows almost necessarily, merely from the observed presence of distinction in treatment between the sexes.
As with liberalism more generally, feminism can only be understood as an outgrowth of Christian morality, but detached from the theological basis from which Christian morality sprang. Grabbing hold of the absurd notion of equality, and with equal grip, of the heavily-controlling verses of Paul — speaker of the faith that dominated Europe for centuries — it is easy to see how female resentment could accumulate, and then — when the age of the printing press arrived — metastasize into something truly cancerous.
Feminism has been catastrophically destructive to the Western family, in terms of reduced empathy between the genders, divorce rates, decreased fertility, and — ironically — less sex[4]. It has made both men and women less happy… and yet, perhaps, it reflects a kind of resentment worthy of respect and further thought.
Historically, women have never been warriors, and only rarely been rulers. These were roles reserved for men, on the basis of their biological design for the demands of those roles. However, women did serve roles as prophets, seers, priestesses, and matriarchs, whose opinions were valued, and whose influence was often great. They possessed a uniquely feminine variety of power, and with it, worked for the benefit of themselves, their lineage, and their nation, just as men worked towards the same ends with a uniquely masculine power.
In an older age when families had as many children as possible, and in which the woman stayed home while the man went away to work, we can imagine the power of women was dramatically amplified by their influence over their children, who were both more numerous and less exposed to competing, outside influences than today. The role of mother was, in itself, a kind of queenship, to a degree we can hardly imagine today. Motherhood must have been — in a true and experiential sense — power.
But Christianity robs women of the social influence they once had, in their social and spiritual realms of expertise. By placing the child in the care of God and the Church first for spiritual instruction, it robs the mother of her power exerted through her children (often — and ideally — for her children). And in its distrust of the flesh and bodily instinct, Christianity fears woman, who is not merely at home and perhaps intuitively superior in the evaluations of such things to men, but is also a symbolic embodiment of these qualities to men.
What kind of self-respecting woman of beauty, intelligence, and familial ambition could not resent Christianity, or “the patriarchy,” (which is closer to existence than God himself) in such a culture? They have been taught to pursue qualities valued in men, as though men and women were equal: aggression, career ambition, and a certain disdain for the opinion of others — even, in some cases, the pursuit of a more masculine fashion and physique. And when men of quality continue to prefer more feminine women, it is easy to see how they might feel tricked, or worse, that the entire society is, in some murky and malicious manner, rigged against them.
Having written at length about women, I would be remiss to neglect mentioning at least some of the damage Christianity has done to men. Honor is a core component of masculinity, and I have already described the impossibility of honor in a worldview where all interactions with others are mediated, as is the case morally and spiritually within Christianity. But there is a deeper and more powerful cut that Christian theology delivers to men as a group, one that relates to love and to hatred.
I once asked a Catholic priest if there was any room for hatred within the faith. His answer was “no.” He said that Christians may hate the sin but must love the sinner; there was no room for hatred against other people, who are — of course — made in the image of God. But what struck me was his reasoning. He said that whenever we are inclined to hate, it is because the object of our hatred reveals some weakness within ourselves, and we hate that revelation. In hindsight, it seems clear to me that given his explanation, within the Christian worldview, identity and trust in God removes all possibility of hatred, because what can harm God? What can reveal a weakness in an all-powerful creator?
For men, one of the greatest expressions of love is combat. This is, no doubt, true of women as well, particularly where the safety of children is concerned. But as a generalized rule, it is especially true of men, because violence has always been a part of men’s role as men, in a way that it has not been for women. Throughout all of history, men have demonstrated a love for their family, their city, and their nation, not by going off to die, but going off to kill. The possibility of death was real, but the purpose was not to die; it was to protect against a threat. Male violence is, and always has been, an expression of love. Perhaps a love of self — as alluded to by the priest — but often not. If a man’s young daughter was raped, I could not imagine the disconnected, unempathetic, arrogance required to suggest that the man’s hatred for the rapist is merely a reflection of his own insecurity, or was somehow selfish, or a revelation of personal weakness. The violence a man is willing to do for others is intimately tied to his love for others. This is even true at a chemical level: oxytocin is tied to love and warm feelings, but is also closely correlated with hatred, xenophobia, and schadenfreude.
Enter Christianity, and with it, perhaps the cleverest perversion of moral psychology in history:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
— John 15:13

Death is permitted here, but not violence. The ideal is not the warrior, but the martyr — Jesus accepting his death and peacefully cooperating with his own execution. After all, how could someone “lay down his life” if he is, at the same time, fighting for it?
The martyr-ideal is genius because it captures the most romantic aspect of the protector-ideal, which is the possibility that the man fighting to defend his family or his city might die in its defense, and that he is willing to bear this risk. That is nobility of a classical kind. It embodies the emotional association of what is so attractive about the protector, while in fact prohibiting the violence that makes the protector.
What Jesus says in John 15:13 is descriptively false, however romantically appealing it may sound. Put truthfully: ‘Greater love has no man than this: that he destroys what imminently threatens what he loves, even at the risk of his own life.’
But Christianity prohibits hatred, and some understandably believe that it prohibits violence altogether. Even where it does not expressly forbid violence, it encourages a spirituality which is antithetical to the possibility of violence.
In this way, Christianity rips out the heart of masculine love, leaving in its place a male soul that is meek, merciful, peace-making, persecuted, poor in spirit, and — perhaps as a result — mourning.  It corrodes the fiery spiritedness in men that made them men, which made them loveable to women, and admirable to other men.
It leaves me wondering if the feminist hatred of men might not come from the patriarchy at all, but rather from the enfeeblement of the men who are supposed to love and protect them, but instead love God and resist the temptations of hatred and vengeance — and with these, resist the possibility of the deep, masculine love that so many women want more than anything else.

[1] This would not be to imply that there is no conflict between men and women. Males and females generally have different reproductive strategies, and in their collective efforts to capitalize on those strategies and maximize their own chances of genetic success, they may put pressure on the strategy of the opposite gender.
[2] Genesis 1:27
[3] That said, many scholars argue that this is in fact a metaphor for the body of the Church, which is a metaphorical bride for Christ. How the vivid sexuality fits into this metaphor, I leave to the reader to ponder.
[4] Ingraham, Christopher. “The Share of Americans not having sex has reached a record high.” The Washington Post. 31 Mar, 2019. Web.

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