Thursday, February 10, 2011

La Bella Donna!

They say that you either love or hate Marmite.  I tried to eat it a few times, but I'm afraid I fall into the latter group - hate the stuff.  If anyone is planning to martyr me - a jar of Marmite will do the job!  Apologies to all my English and Australian readers who can find the virtue, which I have failed to find, in that food.  However, one time when trying to aquire the taste I was trying to distract myself by reading the label on the jar.  There was a recommendation which proclaimed that there was no poem more beautiful than Marmite - I will not repeat what I said to myself when reading that!  But I'm afraid the little jar has no claim to that sentiment when we look at today's reading from Genesis which tells us that there is indeed no poem more beautiful than woman.

Now some people have a problem with this account of the creation of woman, and to be fair to them they are right if they see it as an account which sees woman as less than equal to man and puts her in subordination to him as "Adam's rib".  That may have been the interpretation of the passage put forward by many for many centuries, but it is not accurate.  First of all the passage must be read in context, and the context here is the first account of creation where we are told man and woman are created together.  Now I know some Scripture scholars like to isolate passages and read them as individual texts - that may be fine for the purpose of study of origins etc, but not for the study of meaning since Scripture, regardless of how it was written and compiled, is now an organic and theological unity.

When we keep the two accounts together we see that this second account of woman's creation does not mean she was to be less than equal - it teaches another lesson - one which is a reminder to the man of who woman is.  First we see man in the midst of all the animals, and while he enjoys their company, they do not suffice - none of them, not even the beloved doggie, is a suitable companion and helpmate.  So woman emerges out of man as his perfect helpmate.  As she is taken from his rib, we see not a subordination, but a symbol of unity: "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh".   Man and woman are made for each other, they share the same dignity, there is a unique bond, they need each other.  In this passage we see the beginning of marriage where man and woman fulfil that bond in becoming one flesh.

As we look at man and woman in that bond, that unity, we see that they are different. Woman is a helpmate for man not because she is exactly the same, but though she is part of man and he a part of her, she has a uniqueness all her own, as does man, and this difference is intended to enrich that union and companionship.  Each is created in the image and likeness of God, but each reveals different dimensions of that for the sake of the other - and so God, in this difference, has provided for the beginning of a community.  This difference does not mean one is better than the other, or unequal, but complementary.  In this we see different roles, both of which are necessary for the union and progress of mankind.  Man has his role, woman has hers, different, but necessary, and equal in dignity.

Here we come to one of modern thought's greatest confusions.  Though we hear concepts such as multiculturalism proclaim the benefits of variety and difference, radical feminist thought sees only inequality and oppression.   Modern secular society, inspired by this radical feminism, despite all its talk of celebrating difference, does not want difference - all must conform to a bland similarity and this, when it speaks of men and women, has led to a gender confusion.  Drawing on the stereotypes of male and female, it has created a new stereotype of the neutered.   

This strikes at the heart of who we are as human beings, it has created a "gender" war and confuses what is masculine genius and role with the feminine genius and role to create what can only described as a robot with no identity but that which is programmed by society's biased expectations.   Men and women are more than that.  What Genesis is trying to explain and celebrate in a poetic way - a poetry which is leading us to see the wisdom of complementarity firmly founded in union, is lost in the modern cacophony of "Equality" which is not equality at all but a tyranny of forced observance.  This is the great irony of our times: as the Church's critics accuse her of being a tyrant enforcing rules and regulations, they themselves have dismantled all that is beautiful and true about who we are as men and women while the Church is trying to turn our hearts again to the wisdom which these inspired passages teach.

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