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Even though Mary is Jesus’s blessed mother, her genealogy does not count. Why? Because she’s a woman. Her role is to be the loving, long-suffering mother of Jesus (and, especially in the Roman Catholic version of Christianity, to be a kind of “intercessor” for people in their supplications to God). But when it comes to tracing the lineage from the ancient patriarchs of the Jewish people down to Jesus, and to prove his right to be the Messiah, Mary doesn’t figure into it at all. Joseph does figure in, even though, according to the Bible, he had no part, biologically, in all this.20

For many people who have lived in a society in which patriarchy and male domination and the consequent oppression of women is an integral and indispensable part—a part without which the society in that form could not exist—one of the attractions of these religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) and of the fundamentalist versions of these religions in particular, in this period, is as a forceful reassertion of that patriarchy.  Why is there a felt need for this? Because patriarchy is being undermined in various ways. Not eliminated. Not transformed in a qualitative sense. But being undermined in various ways by the very functioning of the society. Even in countries where there are still very open and powerful patriarchal traditions, customs and conventions, the uprooting of people, and the changes that accompany this, tend to undermine aspects of the patriarchy. People are leaving—or being forced out of—the countryside in huge numbers and landing in the urban areas, often in the shantytown slums; families are moving from Pakistan to London, from Egypt or Turkey to Germany, from Algeria to France—and being confronted by a very different culture. The point is not to apologize for or to extol bourgeois society and its forms of the oppression of women; but, in some significant aspects, this is very different in these “modern” imperialist countries than it is in the countries where feudal relations and traditions, or remnants of them, continue to exert a significant influence, and where, along with that, patriarchal domination is more overt and more entrenched in a traditional form. That’s important to emphasize: in a traditional form. So, in these new circumstances, fathers who have had absolute authority within the family, suddenly find that their daughters are harder to control. And supervising the behavior of daughters is one of the main roles of the father in these patriarchal family relations (although the father is generally assisted in this by his wife, or often his mother—the mother-in-law of his wife—will play a significant role as an enforcer of this).21

In some ways this is similar to what happens when people in rural areas in the imperialist countries get MTV and the Internet. All of a sudden the kids don’t want to act any more in the ways that have been traditionally expected of them—or at least some of them don’t—and this gives rise to a lot of clashes within the family, even in an “advanced modern country.” Well, imagine people moving from Algeria to France—it’s a whole different culture and very different forms of oppressive social relations. It is not that in these imperialist countries the social relations are not oppressive, but in significant ways they are in a very different form, one which envisions and embodies a different role for women and a different way in which they are oppressed and degraded.

All this is very complex because, to a significant degree, the ways in which women are oppressed in a country like France, or the U.S., appears, especially to people coming from a traditionalist framework, to involve “an excess of freedom.” Women are not regulated in all the same ways and not required to wear traditional clothing in the same way, nor to act in the same “modest” manner. In reality, this “freedom” for women is part of a different web of oppressive relations, which often assumes extreme expression in its own way. There is pornography, soft or hard core, everywhere you turn. Advertising, to a very great extent, is based on the use of the female body to sell commodities—and the female body itself is, in very extensive and very degrading ways, treated as a commodity.

So the opposite poles once again tend to reinforce each other. Even people who aren’t steeped in traditional religious convention look at a lot of this exploitative decadence and justifiably say: “This is terrible. I don’t want my kids exposed to this.” And, especially if you are coming from a traditional patriarchal framework, you not only recoil at all this, you are inclined to all the more forcefully assert patriarchal authority.

Even if people in Third World countries don’t leave their homelands altogether and emigrate to an imperialist country—even when, instead, they migrate to the urban areas within their own country—these urban areas in Third World countries are very different, in significant ways, from the countryside. The way of life in the shantytowns is very different, including in its volatility, from what the situation was in the rural villages. In these circumstances there can be a powerful attraction to a form of religion which forcefully asserts traditional patriarchal authority and reinforces that patriarchal authority with a seeming supernatural power behind it.

And then, more generally, in a world that appears to be full of uncertainty and the unexpected, and seems threatening in many ways—economically, but not just economically (all of a sudden, in the U.S., you have September 11th, for example)—there is a strong tendency for people, proceeding from within an established patriarchal framework to begin with, to feel the inclination to gravitate to a powerful father figure who will protect them. This is something that, in the U.S., George W. Bush and those around him consciously play on: “I’m a war time president,” Bush continually repeats, with the implication: “I’m the big daddy, the big strong father figure who can keep you safe—if you just get in line with me.” And, at the same time, a religious fundamentalist outlook is promoted to reinforce this.

So that is another way in which a form of patriarchy is asserted, amidst uncertainty, volatility and the feeling that there are constant, even if often vague, dangers. This feeling is not simply spontaneous—it is promoted and reinforced every time you turn around. If you turn on the news, anywhere in the U.S., what do you see? Crime, crime, crime. From this you would think that you are about to be jumped on by somebody every time you go out your front door—even though the probability of actually encountering crime, directly and personally, is very minimal if you are in the middle strata in a country like the U.S. But the constant barrage of “news” about crime, reinforced by “entertainment” which very extensively revolves around this same theme, adds to this general feeling of alarm. And, in a society which is steeped in a tradition, thousands of years old, of powerful patriarchal authority, what is a way to feel that you can get some security? Relying, once again, on a big powerful father figure, wielding big weapons, who will protect you—who is gonna get those “bad guys” out there before they can get you.

But just presenting such a powerful father figure in a human form is not enough for many people. So there is an aggressive assertion of an even more extreme and absolutist form of this father figure, in the image of an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God—for whom, lo and behold, the powerful head of state is a representative and for whom he speaks and acts.

Another major dimension of the way in which patriarchy is being threatened, and in which people feel it being threatened, is the whole gay question. In the U.S. right now this is rather acutely posed. It is not that something like gay marriage in itself is going to undermine and destroy patriarchy. So long as things remain within the confines of a system built on exploitation and oppression, patriarchal relations will assert themselves within gay marriage as well—and this is already the case in many gay relationships, even where they do not have the formal sanction of official marriage. But, at this juncture, the assertion of the right to marriage for gays and lesbians does, in some significant ways, pose a serious challenge to traditional patriarchy.

While Christian fundamentalists, from the U.S. President on down, repeatedly insist the Bible ordains that marriage must be only between a man and a woman, it is not at all the case that the Bible consistently presents things this way. In fact, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and his successor Brigham Young, as well as Mormon fundamentalists today, have plenty of evidence for their claim that polygamy (a marriage in which one person has multiple spouses) and more specifically polygyny (where a man has more than one wife) is justified in many places in the Bible.

If you look at First and Second Chronicles, which discuss all the supposed great kings (as well as the bad kings) of Israel and Judah, you will see that the greatest king of all, David, had more than one wife, and besides that he had hundreds of concubines. Now, let’s be clear: David is not condemned for this in the Bible. In fact, all this is presented as part of his majesty and glorious nature that is upheld and extolled in the Bible. And looking once more at the “begats” that I spoke of earlier (which in Matthew trace the genealogy of Jesus), these “begats” go from Abraham to David and from David down to Jesus—and once again the point of all these “begats” is to establish that the line of Jesus descends from David, which, according to the ancient Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament of the Christian Bible), was a necessary requirement for the Messiah. So David is hardly a negative figure in the Bible—on the contrary, he is highly exalted. Solomon, David’s son and also an exalted figure in the Bible, had hundreds of wives and concubines as well. Abraham, too, had more than one wife—and, when Abraham’s wife was apparently barren, he “went in to” his wife’s servant in order to have a child. As we see in Genesis 29 and 30, another prominent Biblical patriarch, Jacob, also “went in to” his wife’s servant in similar circumstances; and Jacob had more than one wife at the same time. In Deuteronomy 21, along with setting forth how, in war, if “you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry,” you may do so, there is a whole discussion of what should happen “If a man has two wives, one of them loved and the other disliked, and if both the loved and the disliked have borne him sons.” (See Deuteronomy 21:11-15 and 16-17.)

But, as we have seen, the Christian Fascist fundamentalists do not really strictly adhere to Biblical literalism—they, too, practice “salad bar Christianity” when it serves their purposes. And they misrepresent what is said in the Bible when that serves their purposes. Now, in their opposition to gay marriage and the ways in which they see it as a threat to patriarchy, they have fashioned this saying: “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Well, the fact is that God didn’t create either Adam and Steve or Adam and Eve. [Laughter] Human beings came into existence as part of the overall process of natural evolution, stretching back over billions of years in the history of life on the planet earth. And in the history of human beings, they have had different kinds of societies, and many different sexual relations and practices, both exploitative and non-exploitative, depending ultimately on the basic character of the society. A study of human society throughout history reveals a very great diversity of sexual relations, both heterosexual and same-sex. In the ancient Greek society of Plato and Aristotle, which was definitely patriarchal, a man—a real “man’s man”—had sexual relations with other men and boys all the time. My point is not to promote the notion of a “man’s man,” or any kind of “manhood,” in the sense of male supremacy and domination. What we need is for people—female as well as male—to assert and give expression to their humanity, and moreover to become emancipators of humanity, struggling to finally abolish all relations of domination, oppression and exploitation. My point is precisely to emphasize that there is nothing about heterosexual or about same-sex relations, which, in and of itself, is either positive or negative, or in some way more or less “natural.” And neither heterosexual nor same-sex relations, as such, constitute either an embodiment of, or a negation of, patriarchy. Rather, the essential question is what is the content of any intimate and sexual relation: does it embody and promote affection, mutual respect and equality between the partners—and contribute to the realization of equality between men and women—or does it constitute and further contribute to the degradation of people and the oppression of women in particular? But in a society in which patriarchy has been an essential and defining element, even breaking out of the more traditional forms of patriarchy—including by raising the demand for formal equality for same-sex relations—at particular junctures, such as the present one, can pose a serious challenge to traditional, oppressive relations, even while many of the individuals involved are simply trying to form traditional marriages. That’s one of the ironies and complexities of this situation.

And the fact is that opposition to gay marriage is not simply an election gimmick to get more Republicans elected. Yes, some Republican Party functionaries have used this issue in that way. But what is involved is much more profound than that and has much bigger implications. The real objective of the Christian Fascists around the issue of gay marriage, and their condemnation of homosexuality in general, is to enforce “traditional morality” and all the relations of oppression embodied in and enforced by that traditional morality—including patriarchy and the oppression of women, the subordinate position of women in society, and their essential role, as the Bible presents it, as breeders of children within the confines of male-dominated marriage relations, sanctioned not only by the church, but also by the state.

This is all very deeply rooted, but in a real sense today it is being challenged at every turn. Not yet in a way that is going to lead to its abolition, but in a way that does undermine some of the forms in which it has traditionally existed. And the Christian Fascist offensive around this is a forceful and absolutist reassertion of these oppressive relations.

This has also found sharp expression in the contention around the raising of children: what should be the relationship in the family between children and parents? In this regard as well, there is a forceful reassertion of patriarchy. Among the religious fundamentalists in the U.S., there is a definite current that insists that one of the main reasons for (and one of main manifestations of) the fact that, in their view, the country is going to hell is that, for several decades now, parents have not been able to beat their children so freely. After all, what does the Bible advocate? There is that familiar saying from the Bible, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” (or, as it actually says in Proverbs 23:13-14: “Do not withhold discipline from your children; if you beat them with the rod, they will not die. If you beat them with the rod, you will save their lives from Sheol”—or, in the more classical English version: “Withhold not correction from the child, for if thou beatest him with the rod he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”) This is what a lot of these Christian fundamentalist leaders are actively promoting.

Here I have to say that, as much as I love Richard Pryor, I have never enjoyed his routines that seemed, in the final analysis, to uphold the beating of children to keep them in line. This was treated in a somewhat contradictory manner in the routines that he did where this was the subject, but it does seem that there was always a certain element of drawing the lesson that, “after all, when my grandmother beat me with a switch, this did have the effect of keeping me from getting completely out of line.” In any case, sentiments like this are echoed even among people who are in many ways advanced politically and revolutionary-minded; even among such people, one will sometimes hear the complaint: “Things are all messed up now because you can’t beat your kids anymore, can’t get out that switch like grandma did and beat the kids back into line, so they do right.” And it should be said that even though, as in the case of Richard Pryor, it sometimes might have been grandma who was wielding the switch, this was still done as part of an overall assertion of relations marked by patriarchal domination—relations in which a strong father figure would be the ultimate authority in disciplining the children and, with regard to daughters in particular, would ensure that they remained virgins so that their value as property, to be realized at the time of marriage, would not be diminished or spoiled. This is thoroughly embedded in the Christian tradition, every bit as much as the Islamic traditions which lead to the horror of “honor killings,” where family members, and brothers in particular, are sent out to kill their sisters if it becomes known that they are no longer virgins before marriage—even if this occurs as a result of rape. While not, in itself, as extreme an expression of this, beating children (“sparing not the rod in order not to spoil the child”) is part of the same overall package of oppressive patriarchal relations.

Let us be clear: female children, and children in general, should not be seen and treated as the property of their parents, and their father in particular. That is not the world we are aiming for, not a world worth living in. This is the way it has been for thousands of years, and this has been embodied in and promoted by religious scripture and tradition, but this is not how we want the world to be, and not how it needs to be. Yes, children need discipline. But they don’t need to be beaten with a switch or a rod in order to be disciplined, and to have a sense of purpose. They need to be led—inspired, and yes, at times, taken firmly in hand—as part of an overall vision and goal of bringing into being a radically different and much better world. And, as they become older and more conscious of this objective, and capable of acting consciously to contribute to it, they can increasingly become a part of that process. But even before they are capable of being consciously a part of this, the principles that apply to bringing such a world into being should apply, in a fundamental sense, in relating to children—your own and others. Children are conscious human beings, even as their consciousness is in a process of development. They can be and need to be reasoned with—and yes, at times, they have to be told, “that’s the way it is, and you just have to do it this way, because the ability to understand this, and why it has to be this way, is beyond you right now.”

Now, at the same time, it is not hard to see why many people gravitate toward “spare the rod, spoil the child”—toward the logic that if you don’t beat kids to keep them in line, they will turn out badly—because there are all kinds of things pulling kids in terrible directions. And, especially among sections of “the middle class,” particularly in a country like the U.S., there is a whole approach of indulgence toward children—which may have less selfish motivations in some cases but in fact is often bound up with, and in the final analysis is another expression of, treating children as a commodity, who have to be pampered and indulged as part of giving them every opportunity and advantage in the race to achieve a privileged position in society, in the context of the overall parasitism that is part of living in a powerful imperialist country. Here I am talking about phenomena such as parents who start playing symphonies for a new-born child (or even for a fetus during pregnancy), especially if this is done with the idea that in this way the child, from an early age, will have a better chance to develop as a “talent,” or a “genius”—will be able to go to the best music academy or the most prestigious university, and be launched into a lucrative career. Often permissiveness on the part of parents is bound up with—and seeks to be in the service of—that.22เว ป แจก เครดิต ฟรี

Somewhat as a reaction to this kind of permissiveness—but more in response to the kind of madness that too many of the youth in the inner cities get caught up in—a lot of people in the oppressed communities look around and see the kids acting the fool and doing all kinds of crazy things, and they are drawn to the conclusion that something strong has got to be done to get these kids to act right. This becomes another factor reinforcing the role of the church and religion. What are two prominent alternatives that are available to the most oppressed in the U.S. right now? Well, there are the gangs on the one hand, with all the madness and mayhem that this involves; or the church, on the other hand, with its assertion of traditional, oppressive and, yes, patriarchal values, relations, codes and customs. For the youth in particular: when you get tired of the gangs, then go to the church; if you get sick of the church, then go back to the gangs. Neither of these offers a way forward for the masses of people, a way out of the oppressive conditions that are driving many to a lot of madness in the first place.

Here again, is another sharp manifestation of the need to “break through the middle.” Just as, on another level, Jihad and McWorld/McCrusade cannot be allowed to stand as the only two alternatives, here too there is an urgent need to bring forward a radically different alternative, on the basis of the communist world outlook and the communist program and objectives. It is necessary to be boldly saying to people: “We don’t need the church, we don’t need the switch, we don’t need the rod and, no, we don’t need the gangs and the drugs—we need revolution.”

Yes, this is a hard road. But what are people dying and killing each other over now? What is that serving? What is that reinforcing? Where is that leading people? What good is that doing for anyone—except those who rule over the masses of people and who couldn’t be happier than to see them killing each other over nothing worthwhile? And what good does it do for the masses of people to go down on their knees to some oppressive and patriarchal authority, which is invested with the aura and awe of supposed supernatural power, and which acts as a shackle helping to reinforce conditions of enslavement and powerlessness?

 


19. It is noteworthy that in Islam, Abraham is also greatly revered as a patriarch.[back]

20. As pointed out above, in Luke, chapter 3, verses 23 to 38, there is a different version of this genealogy: the lineage, or family line, of Jesus and his ancestors is different than what is presented in Matthew, chapter 1, verses 1 through 17. In The Jesus Dynasty, James D. Tabor argues that in Luke the lineage of Jesus is, after a certain point, actually traced through Mary. But, frankly, Tabor’s argument here seems somewhat tortured and contrived. Pivotal in his reasoning is that Luke says that Jesus had a grandfather named Heli; and, continues Tabor’s argument, Matthew tells us that the father of Joseph—and the grandfather of Jesus on Joseph’s side—was named Jacob; therefore, Tabor concludes, Heli must have been the father of Mary. But, first of all, there are many discrepancies, not just this one, between how Matthew presents the genealogy of Jesus and how this is done in Luke. Thus, when Tabor asks, “So who was Heli?” and then immediately answers, “The most obvious solution is that he was Mary’s father,” he is drawing a conclusion that is not at all obvious and making a leap that is not justified.  (See The Jesus Dynasty, Chapter 2, “A Son of David?”—especially p. 52; and compare Matthew 1:1-17 with Luke 3:23-38.) Further, Tabor acknowledges that Mary is not mentioned in Luke’s account of Jesus’s genealogy because “Luke abides by convention and includes only males in his list.” (p. 52) Thus, even if one were to allow for Tabor’s conclusions regarding the role of Mary in Luke’s account—which, again, is more than a little problematical—it is clear that in Luke, as much as in Matthew, it is a patriarchal version of that genealogy that comes through.[back]?

21. Later in this discussion, I will return to the question of how this is codified in religious scriptures.[back]?

22. While I disagree with him on a number of things these days, I do have a certain point of unity with George Carlin when he talks about excessive permissiveness toward children. He does a routine, which begins with this back-and-forth (all voiced by Carlin himself): “I want to say something about the way people are raising their kids.” “He’s not going to say something bad about kids, is he?” “Yes, he is.” Now, some of this is tied up with a sort of narrow, “working class revengism” toward yuppies, which Carlin frequently gives voice to. But there are points that he is making that are valid about excessive permissiveness—which, again, is often wrapped up with views of commodity exchange as applied to relations involving children and their parents.[back]?

 

 

 

 

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