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Gender Polarization

As I have written about before, it seems to me that the difficulties with understanding gender in modern society can be boiled down to three main categories.

  • The first is not recognizing that man and woman are truly different;
  • the second is not recognizing that man and woman are the two complementary parts that form the single whole that is the human race;
  • and the third is not recognizing the call to procreation that is inherent to being creatures with gender.

It is the second point that I would like to review in this post.

When we say that modern society does not recognize that man and woman are the two complementary parts of the single human race, we are describing mainly a spirit of violence against the unity of the genders. If this problem were taken to its most extreme form, we would have a society in which men and women are so separated from one another that they would be thought of as distinct races.

As absurd as it is, the following would be a good description of such a place. There would be a nation of men; there would be political rulers, military fighters, ordinary working men, religious men, and men devoted to raising children. There would also be a nation of women; there would be political rulers, military fighters, ordinary working women, religious women, and women devoted to raising children. (The presence of children would have to be accounted for by some kind of black market birthing cross-over).

The point is, men and women would be viewed as utterly the same, and at the same time irreconcilably different.

A very unhealthy state of affairs. But that is an extreme example to illustrate a point.

Practically speaking, the most significant manifestation of this kind of thing in the real world is what I call gender polarization.

You find gender polarization anywhere that you have one gender collectively trying to protect itself against, or challenge, or oppose, the other gender. The modern ideological feminist, who fights tooth and nail for her ideas of gender equality, is frequently a source of gender polarization: her efforts are rarely merely focused on improving conditions for women, but instead usually revolve around creating independence from men, or presenting women in a light that is entirely distinct and separated from men, or at-odds against men.

But the most common example of gender polarization that we find today is in language that has become common. These days, anytime one abstractly mentions a person, or a group of people, it is followed by a litany of statements such as, “his or her”, “he or she”, “men and women”, “congressmen and congresswomen”, “mailman or mailwoman”, etc…

There is a time and place in communication when such specifications need to be made. Specifically, when the context is one that is immediately present, or if it is needed for clarity, or if there is another obvious circumstance. But there are a great many other circumstances where this is not the case, especially when we are speaking generally about things, or in an abstract way.

The problem that we have is this. When we go about universally talking about the individual as a “he or she”, and people as “men and women”, we are slowly contributing to an atmosphere of gender polarization. We are contributing to an atmosphere in which man and woman are understood socially as standing apart from one another, rather than being together to form a single, complementary unit.

There is another element to this as well. In Scripture, we find that God calls us “man”. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” As a result, we – men and women – can be collectively called, “men”, for that is what our Creator calls us.

Let’s try to encourage solidarity between the genders, and avoid the polarization that so mars gender understanding today.

Social Redemption in Christ

Is there something to be said for social redemption? …a kind of Christian evangelization that is not explicitly on the level of the Gospel message, but instead has more to do with the implications of that message, especially in social life?

We are not judges of peoples’ souls, as only God knows a person’s true guilt or innocence.

But we have to be judges of behavior. We have to be judges of cultural practices and lifestyles that are contrary to the moral law, or which lead (in however small a nudge it may be) towards violations of the moral law.

We have to judge these things because they have implications for our own lives, our own salvation, and the salvation of those who are closest to us. Disordered, immoral behavior contributes to the culture of a community. As a result, it is for the common good for such behaviors to be recognized as wrong and challenged.

For example, in 1 Timothy 2:15, we see that it says that women will be saved through motherhood. It is apparent that not all women marry and have children – but most do. We can speak of a spiritual kind of motherhood that is distinct from natural childbirth…but not at the cost of natural childbirth. In other words, we can’t say that, in the name of this spiritual kind of motherhood, it is acceptable for us to embrace a cultural standard in which the majority of women put aside natural motherhood in favor of spiritual motherhood.

Consequently, a cultural pattern of limiting the number of children a couple has purely for the sake of having fewer children, cannot be a healthy pattern. Because of this, any practice – such as a cultural environment encouraging women to enter career – which inhibits a couple from engaging in the contrary pattern of openness to life cannot be healthy. Likewise, the absence of a culture of women devoting themselves to motherhood cannot be healthy.

And so we must challenge it. We must judge these cultural practices for what they are. We must have the courage to trace out these practices to their logical conclusions…and to trace out what we know to be true and right to its logical conclusion.

May the Lord bless us in this effort.

The Fatherhood of God and the Serpent in Eden

The serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” It has been said that the serpent’s activity here is above all an attack on the fatherhood of God: it is an attempt to deceive the woman into thinking that God is not who He says He is.

It seems to me that if this is an attack on God’s fatherhood, then it must also be an attack on God’s authority. As the Catechism says, “By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children” (CCC 239). If the serpent’s attack is against God’s fatherhood, then it must be against these things, one of which is that God is transcendent authority.

And here is the interesting point: if this is an attack on God’s authority, then it must be an attack on all authority, for all authority ultimately must come from God (Romans 13:1).

We live in interesting times. For a long time I have been puzzling over the way things are now. How is it that in times past, it was such a simple matter for various social authority structures to exist? How was it so easy in the past for peoples to say that a man was head of his home, whereas today this very simple concept has become so…complicated?

I think the answer starts with the serpent’s activity in the Garden of Eden. Let’s consider this.

Authority and Hierarchy

The most obvious consequence of authority structures is hierarchy. By definition, authority implies hierarchy. In the world of nature hierarchies are everywhere. In the world of the angels, hierarchies are the norm. In the world of Scripture, hierarchy is constantly being described, illuminating the entire circumstance of which those Scriptures speak. These instances of hierarchy ultimately tie back to authority, and the main purpose of authority I would say is order. As it is said, “The things which are of God, are well ordered”, and as St. Thomas Aquinas added, “order chiefly consists in inequality”. To have order we must have authority, authority implies hierarchy, and hierarchy naturally requires some inequality.

Yet the egalitarianism of our times, especially in the political/social context, is the opposite of hierarchy. There is a certain sense in which we rightly speak of the equality of all peoples, and this is very important. But there is another sense – also a very important sense – in which we must acknowledge that there is not equality between all peoples.

This is what I have discovered. It’s not just that today we have difficulties saying that wives should be subordinate to their husbands. We have trouble stating any kind of authority or hierarchy. That includes obedience of children to parents and teachers; of citizens to police; of ordinary people to rulers; of employees to employers; of laymen to religious authorities; but, above all, of human beings to God.

That last point – man’s submission to God – is the real kicker. There isn’t much that will tick the modern world off more than to tell them that they can’t, for example, use contraception because the supreme Authority to which we all are ultimately subject has willed that we not use it.

This is the bottom line. I say that we do not live in an age of equality: we are way past what mere equality would give us. No, we live in an age better described as devoid of hierarchy, or nearly so.

And why all of this? Because of the serpent’s attack on the fatherhood of God, the source of all authority. It is not that this attack has weakened God, but it has weakened us, and it is still at work in the world today. Especially, it has found a foothold in modern egalitarianism.

Because without hierarchy, we are cut off from God. Without hierarchy, man creates for himself an environment rife with every kind of irrational, disordered behavior…he creates an environment in which sin is easy and plentiful, and without corrective consequence. An environment in which many, many, many souls will be lost.

So where do we go from here, then?

Three things.

First, and most important, is that we start with God. You, me, us, the world – all of us are, and should be, subordinate to God. It is His will in my life that I should value above my own. Of course, there is much discernment that goes into determining His will, but the basic pattern of obedience to God has to be there.

The second item pertains to the Church, and us being hierarchical members of that Church. We need priests and bishops to step up in the Magisterial teachings of the faith. We need laymen to be obedient to those Magisterial teachings. We need to recognize how our obedience to the Church ties into our obedience to God.

The third item pertains the temporal world in which we live. Society is based upon the family unit. Therefore, in order to correct hierarchical problems in society, we must start with the proper hierarchical structure of the family. That refers to the order in which husbands are called heads of their homes; they must be the highest authority within those homes. In this way, husbands must be subordinate to Christ; wives must be subordinate to their husbands; children must be subordinate to their parents. Here, too, we need to recognize how our obedience according to our position in family life ties into our obedience to God.

Lent is not over yet. Let’s take some time to consider these things, and how we can contribute to recovering what has been lost in our culture.

A Culture of Family Life

Among motherhood circles, the topic of breastfeeding sometimes becomes contentious. Because of the various lifestyles lived by women in today’s world, it is often hard for a woman to breastfeed her child as much as she would like. This sometimes leads to arguments between women about what is “right” and what is “wrong” in this regard, and whether being unable to breastfeed as much as desired constitutes a woman having “failed” as a mother.  Add on top of this the various ideas about whether or not breastfeeding can create extended infertility in the nursing mother, and we have a recipe for strife in the modern culture.

The main problem that we have is that our culture has moved away from norms that protected women, especially mothers and their children. We have moved into modes of isolation: isolation of mothers from babies, of fathers from their families, of families from their neighbors and other members of their communities.

In the past we had networks of families to support one another, especially among family members, since families usually consisted of many more than two or three children. Today we have a much greater degree of “independence”, but what that really means here is isolation. The support networks have greatly diminished.

For nursing mothers, this translates into extra difficulties. The fact is that a newborn requires a lot of attention. If a mother devotes herself to her children, taking care of a newborn will easily consume her entire day, making it difficult to get anything else done. But other things need to get done: not just keeping the house in order, but also watching an older child who is a toddler, for example.

Alone, these things can be incredibly difficult. A family with older children can compensate by having the older children help out. But what about the younger family whose oldest child is three years of age? Or the family whose older children all go off to school every day?

As I said, the problem is that our culture has moved away from norms to protect women and children. We must recover and redevelop a culture which not only protects, but embraces, the nature of family life.

Opposing the Isolation

There are three main points here, to challenge the isolation that has become the norm of our times. The first is that mothers cannot be isolated from their babies. We need a culture in which wives remain in the home, having the occupation of homemaker.

Fundamental to this culture is the art of breastfeeding, which allows mother-baby togetherness to be maximized in all ways. I say it is an art because while breastfeeding is natural to mothers, that doesn’t mean it is easy; it also doesn’t mean that it can be done just any way that a mother wants. The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding is the most effective plan that I know of for enabling women to discover this art of breastfeeding. It is the healthiest thing for the baby, by far, but it also has enormous health benefits to the mother. In addition, this art of breastfeeding can produce a natural, extended infertility in many mothers (though not all), tending towards a natural spacing of babies about two years apart.

Furthermore, this culture has to be a real cultural community: the idea of community needs to be greatly increased, so that families develop bonds of trust and friendship with other families.

Women of All Stages of Life

The second point is that this culture of wives remaining in the home, of homemaking, cannot be simply about mothers. It has to be about women in all stages of life. Most notably, young girls need to be started at a young age helping mothers out with children and homemaking duties. Members of this culture of homemaking must send their teen, or pre-teen, daughters on a regular basis to help out other mothers in the community with these things. This should be done not as an opportunity for these girls to make money – they should not be paid for their “services” – but it should be for the greater bonding of the community: assisting mothers who have great difficulties with their children, and also teaching young girls how to do all of the things that a mother and homemaker does.

This is especially important for the nursing mother, since one of the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding is for the mother to take a daily nap with her baby. Without someone to assist her in watching older children while she is napping, this may not always be possible for a mother.

It is also an opportunity for older women who no longer have children at home to give of their time assisting younger mothers. Also, unmarried women within this culture who have not chosen some vocation other than marriage – who are, as it were, still waiting to marry – would make up an important part of this cultural environment as well. Though these latter individuals in may need to work in the world of business or career to provide for themselves, it would be important for them to keep in touch with this cultural environment for when they do marry (if they do).

Keeping Children in the Home

The final point is that this culture of wives remaining in the home needs to allow older children, especially girls, to remain present in the home. Homeschooling is the ideal scenario: this allows parents the freedom to send their children at appropriate times during the day to other families, to assist other mothers, without disrupting their educations. However, for children that are sent to school from 7AM to 3PM, this limits their ability to be able to perform functions such as this. Still, after-school visits to other families would be an improvement over none at all. Ideally, all childhood education programs should take into account the important role that these children play in their homes and should cater around that need.

These things are not complicated: they are just counter cultural. But they would satisfy many needs within one of the most important institutions of our society, the family. In order to effectively build a true culture of life, it must be a culture of family life. The ideas described here are central to this kind of cultural environment.

Lenten Reflection: When Multiculturalism is a Sin.

Ash Wednesday

Christ said, “Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly” (John 7:24). Political correctness can become a form of pride or hypocrisy when it is done in order to give the outward appearance of assent to a ruling political party. Our assent should always first be to God, and His law.

Christ says, “take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father” (Matthew 6:1). This should lead us to realize that we should do these things not to look good in front of other people, but we should act according to righteousness for righteousness’ sake. Our highest allegiance should go to God and His law, not to human conventions.

The moral law require us to love all people. That means, we have an obligation to do right by every single person we encounter, and to do what is good for them appropriately according to one’s relationship with that person.

But it doesn’t mean we have to like everyone and be close friends with everyone.

It is natural for people to be drawn towards others with whom they feel a close bond, and to tend away from those whom they don’t. There is no sin in this provided it does not violate the obligation that we have to love all people whom we encounter.

On the one hand, we can sin by allowing our natural tendencies to override the duty to love all peoples (for example, shunning the outsider, or favoring the popular while ignoring the unpopular, or catering to the rich while ignoring the needs of the poor). On the other hand, we can sin by hypocrisy in pretending that we have no personal likes or dislikes, and that we equally “like” all people: this is hypocrisy, a kind of “judging by appearances”, where we are instead called to “judge justly”.

The political pressure of multiculturalism can become a form of judging by appearances when it leads us to pretend that we especially like people who are significantly different from us, when in reality we have no grounds for such feelings. Political pressure can create a tendency, for example, for white people to think they should “like” black people, just because they are black. Or, to withhold legitimate criticism, or to act outside of what is appropriate according to one’s relationship with another, just because that other person is of some ethnic minority.

This is hypocrisy. It is to judge by appearances, since our stimulus to act in this way towards a person is determined by nothing more than his skin color, rather than the content of his character.

From Isaiah, we hear this description of Christ:

“Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide fairly for the land’s afflicted…” (Isaiah 11:3-4).

Following the example of Christ, we too should not judge by appearances, but we should judge justly.

The Lover and the Beloved

Pillar of Mutual Love #4 speaks of marriage and the reciprocal principle of spousal love that is described in Scripture. Mainly, that a wife is to be subordinate to her husband, and that a husband is to love his wife.

This pattern is really quite simple, and in ordinary circumstances there is very little difficulty with it. Of course, today’s circumstances are not what we would call ordinary, but we’ll get back to that.

The Beloved

The idea that a husband is to love his wife is completely natural. I think it is safe to say that it is nearly a universal constant that a wife really wants her husband to love her, certainly at the beginning of their relationship. Little girls grow up dreaming of falling in love and getting married.

There is something deep about the feminine nature that has to do with being the beloved – the one who is loved beyond what is easy or routine for the lover.

And all of this is ultimately connected to motherhood: that gentle flower, the instinct to give of self for the welfare of a little one, that is so deeply ingrained in the spirits of women. The dignity of woman, her importance to human society, always must be tied back to this motherhood. Otherwise a society risks losing the enormously important contribution of motherhood, and a husband risks failing to show his wife that she is beloved.

The Lover

On the other hand, the idea that a wife is to be subordinate to her husband is also completely natural. There is a connection to be made in nature between masculinity and authority: in human society, it seems, masculinity creates authority. From the deepness of his voice, and the height of his eyes, to the breadth of his stature, and the strength of his arm, a man’s physical presence speaks of kingly authority.

And this brings us to the central point of the duty of a man to love his wife. It is certainly perverse for a wife to be in authority over her husband, yet the husband’s authority is found most perfectly when he makes it subordinate to the needs of his wife. That is, a man’s headship in his home is most perfect when he uses it for the welfare of his wife.

Here is the key point. The motherly instinct in women to care for the welfare of a little one so carefully and immanently is matched by the fatherly duty of a man to use his authority first for the welfare of his wife, and then for his children.

In this way, we can say that the husband is head of the home, and the wife is its heart.

Without the Lover and the Beloved…

Unfortunately, today is not an ordinary circumstance for the family. Families today are a lot like fish trying to live in contaminated water: many do not survive, but the ones that do often develop strange tumors and other oddities due to the impurities of their environments; few are healthy.

What is most noticeable to me is how much the modern culture has adopted norms that are opposite what is natural for man and woman in marriage: we are taught not to respect our fathers, and fathers are made out to be fools not worthy of respect, anyway; we are taught not to honor the motherhood of women and to ignore their need to be loved by their husbands, and anyhow (we are taught) they don’t want these things anyway.

But surely one of the greatest assaults on the dignity of family life today is directed against women and it consists in this: we are taught that women today are now focused on career and education and other things, and so are finally becoming contributing members of society.

This is the supreme insult, the greatest injustice, against honoring the dignity of family life, but especially the dignity of women. What punishment lies in wait for us, because our culture has done this? It may be that the natural consequence of the thing itself is punishment enough: with having such a view of women, we drive them away, and once they are gone there will be no more children to carry civilization on.

Lent, a Time of Repentance

In contrast to these things, we are called back to the simple formula: husbands love your wives; wives be subordinate to your husbands.

We are entering the time of Lent, a time of penance. Perhaps a good way to start Lent would be to give up all of the barriers that get in the way of allowing us to live this simple formula in our marriages. And, in the process, maybe we can turn things around in the culture at large.

With God, all things are possible.

Houses of Logic, Houses of Cards

What are the Pillars of Mutual Love?

They are something. And that is to say they are not nothing.

There is a lot going on in the modern world. A whole lot. And there are people going in all kinds of directions. But there aren’t that many who are moving in a rational, sane direction.

And by rational, I mean moving according to a logic that ties back to the fundamental truth: that is, the world in which we live. Or, to put it better, it is a logic that ties back to the deeper truth of which all the world – in its ebbing and flowing, its mountains and valleys, its oceans and deserts, it’s raging intensity and its peaceful serenity – innately bears an imprint.

For example, I can set up shop and announce to the world that a Toe is a Doe, and a Mow is a Doe, so a Toe is a Mow. And because a Toe is a Mow, then I can take the natural product of the Mow – a Yee – and make switch it out with the natural product of the Toe – the Tee – so that all the Yees and Tees are interchangeable under the Mows and Does and Toes…And soon enough I’ve built a house of logic that appears to make sense, according to some kind of logic.

But who am I to set up shop and define these terms? Or, what truth can they ultimately bear if their source is rooted merely in my imagination?

I say that an idea can ultimately bear no truth, and no good fruit, unless it is rooted in a truth deeper than itself – a truth that existed first.

And this is why. That house of logic that I built out of the Mows and Tees and Does – where does it actually tie into reality? If it does not plug into deeper truths that existed first, then it doesn’t tie into reality. It is an illogical tangent, a figment of some restless wanderer’s imagination. It is irrational.

But there are a lot of people today living according to irrational views of the world. There is a house of logic, so much a house of cards, on every street corner, these days. And there are massive houses of logic…more like mansions of logic, or castles of logic, that dominate a huge percent of the world’s populations.

But they don’t tie into reality…because they are not based on deeper truths.

So, what are the Pillars of Mutual Love? They may not be much, but they are something. In a world where so many voices are teaching things about gender that are irrational, based on invented houses of logic, there is not much saying anything positive – life-giving, encouraging – about gender understanding. This is my attempt to call people back to the deeper truths of the world in which we live, and away from the houses of logic that mislead so many today.

Caught in the Wheels

What does it take to get to the moon?

What does it take to get to the moon?

What does it take to get to the moon? Well, first of all, there has to be knowledge of the right course of action. We have to know how to build a spaceship to get to the moon; we have to know how to train the engineers to build it; we have to know how to train the astronauts to fly it.

The second part is that we have to have the strength to actually do it. This might mean having the financial backing to fund it. It might mean having the will power to see it through. Whatever it is, it is the umph that gets the job done.

For young men today seeking to enter family life, it is the same situation. A man in family life is a husband and a father, and this entails a certain responsibility. There is a certain order to the home that is necessary…it is necessary because it is what enables the family environment to operate smoothly for the purposes for which it exists.

The Order of the Home

A father has a responsibility to make sure this order is in place in his home. This order includes, for example, that he be the sole provider for his family. In other words, he has to be able to provide enough income for his family so that his wife does not have to work. If this is not in place, then his wife will be put under an unnatural and unjust pressure to abandon the practice of motherhood in favor of working.

Another example of this order of the home is that the husband and father is said to be the head of it. That means that the husband and father is the one who has the highest authority on what will, or will not, be done in the family. The practical reason for this comes back to the nature of leadership as service, which above all takes responsibility. If the father is not the one who makes the final decision in the family, then he has not taken responsibility for that decision – he has not loved his wife to the fullest extent to which he is called.

A final example of this order of the home is the importance of wives remaining at home. Whether it is career work or not, when a wife is so involved with external things that she has great demands on her time, requiring her to leave the home, this acts as a barrier to the prospect of pregnancy and subsequent motherhood. In addition to this, it can in turn create a temptation to use unjust means to prevent the conception of children. It is the job of the husband, then, to make sure that his wife’s duties to things outside the home are not so extensive that this becomes a barrier to the procreative nature of family life.

There is a Problem

For young men today, however, there is a serious problem. First of all, there is a high risk that they will not have knowledge of the right course of action: they may not know that a man is to be the sole provider for the family, or they may not realize the full implications of the harm this will cause the family if the man is not able to do this. They might not know that they, as men, are to be the head of the new families which they are forming with their wives. They might not know that it is important that their wives not have too many activities that pull them away from the home.

On the other hand, a young man may have some inkling about these things, but he may lack the manly strength to be able to insist upon them in his home. This happens to men when they have not fully developed their masculine natures, or have merely gone with the flow in this regard according to today’s culture. In other words, this is what happens to men when the Principle of Patriarchy is weak.

Caught in the Wheels

There are a lot of young people today who get caught in the wheels of the massive political and ideological struggles of the day.

These are the young men who were never taught the meaning of manhood, or the right order of the home, because these items were incompatible with a certain ideological belief or worldview; they are the young men who are weak in the masculine nature because they have been taught to fear that nature, as the feminists fear it, or because they never had the masculine encouragement to develop it.

These are the young women who buy into all of the feminist propaganda that they are surrounded with, especially in Universities and in the world of career; they are the wholesome young women who were raised well, but came into unfortunate contact with ideological activists who cared more about their ideology than truth, justice, or righteousness.

So, what will it take to get to the moon? A good start is for men to know what it means to be men, and then for them to be men.

Olympic Effort, the Supreme Sport

Ilinyk-Katsalapov_Russia_Bronze_2014

There are a lot of Olympic events to watch, and many of these draw my attention. The more directly competitive sports are enjoyable the way that a football game is enjoyable. The high-flying tricks and techniques are amazing to see. But there is one event in particular that draws my attention more: figure skating. I am thinking in particular of pairs figure skating.

I would say it is the supreme sport – the greatest Olympic achievement. I may be biased: I’m not really thinking of figure skating here as a sport, like all the rest of the Olympic events. The topic of this blog perhaps skews my judgment…I am thinking of it as something else, as an image or a symbol of something deeper to the human race.

Calling Our Attention Back to the Beginning

With figure skating, the analogies go way back…back “to the beginning”, I would say. There is something unique about watching a lone man and woman, working together, acting in unison, producing a coordinated, graceful performance that can only really be described as a work of art, a masterpiece.

In a sense, we have the origin of the human race written here, re-enacted before our very eyes with every skating pair we watch. The woman is beautiful; she is graceful; she is like a radiant diamond that the world notices with the purest kind of pleasure. The man is glorious and strong; he is a solid foundation; he guide’s his Lady with ease and care; he carries her, he holds her high so that the entire world can see her beauty.

This image is symbolic, and likewise the Principle of Patriarchy is symbolically represented here. It is found in his height, in the way she looks up to him in order to look him in the eyes; it is in the way he wraps his arms around her after the performance, and she collapses against his chest; it is found in the way he leads in the dance steps, and the way that he must be the one to step forward first in the lifts and the carries, steady so that he can lift her high. He is the sure foundation that must be present in order for her to be lifted off the ice. Above all, the spirit of patriarchy is revealed in the fact that all of this is necessary for the total performance to be successful: it is a will of guidance, of order, of first-things-first, for the greater good of them both.

Likewise, we see the feminine genius at work, in the way that she makes the lifts and carries and spins look so simple and easy: relegating a monumental skill down to the appearance of simple grace so that it is readily accessible to the hearts and dreams of the little ones, looking up at them, hoping someday that they, too, might be able to dance such a magnificent dance. The little girl, that she might someday be so beautiful; the little boy, that he might someday be so strong.

Both the solidarity (the equality) and the diversity (the inequality) of gender shines out clearly in this event through the masculinity of the man and the femininity of the woman.  They are joyful; they have given all of themselves in their effort. They are joined in a partnership, a companionship, that is unique, because of what they have accomplished. In the field of the ice, there is respect, there is loyalty, there is trust.

There is indeed beauty in what can be accomplished through the gender complementarity that we were made with: this event is a symbolic representation of it.

The Greatest Creativity

You see, despite often being marred by man’s fallen nature, this pattern is a universal one. From the very beginning, man and woman have been set apart for one another, to be bonded in marriage, to perform a work together that is far greater, far more beautiful, and vastly more creative than anything else they might do apart from one another.

That work is the work of procreation: a moment comes when a husband and wife look at their precious child and fully realize they have helped God in the creation of this child. This “generation” – this generative power – is one of the greatest gifts that God has bestowed upon the created world, and it surely is the supreme creative power in that world.

A man may produce a world-renowned work of art; he may produce a symphony that will be listened to and enjoyed for all the rest of human history; he may invent something of such importance that it will be relied upon for ages and ages to come. But none of this compares to the sheer creative power and ingenuity of the creation of a new life: because creation is God’s domain; because God has ordained that we – husband and wife – will have a special place in that creation of new life; because this new child has an immortal life which will live on for all of eternity, beyond natural death.

To me, then, pairs figure skating has no comparison to skiing, speed skating, bobsledding, snowboarding, etc… These things can be performed with enormous skill and achievement, but they cannot tell the story of something so fundamental as man and woman, as God intended them to be. Yet, pairs figure skating can do this, and it is to this that my thoughts continually return.

Gender Language in Readings at Mass

“I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose” (1 Cor 1:10).

What I am interested in discussing in today’s post is some of the gender language of the Bible. The passage that I quoted above begins, “I urge you, brothers…”. Yet when we hear this passage read during the readings at Mass, we hear, “I urge you, brothers and sisters…”

I was unable to find anything on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website explaining the justification for changing the words of Scripture in this way when they are read during Mass. However, my guess is that political pressure, mixed with a legitimate concern that people understand that these Scripture passages apply to all, is what led to this.

We Should Not Forget…

It certainly is the case that these things apply to all. When the First Letter to the Corinthians says, “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say…”, this of course does not mean that this section applies to the men of the community alone. Likewise, when Christ spoke about the adulterous nature of a man looking with lust at a woman, he was not implying that only men are capable of looking with lust, or that only men will be held accountable for it. As a final example, the Ninth Commandment says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife”: this does not then mean that the Commandment only pertains to men and a woman is free to covet her neighbor’s husband. It is important for us to have these contexts which explain that men and women are both held to the same moral law.

But we should not forget that the actual formulation of these things is also important. In fact, because it is the way in which the text actually reads, I would say that it is more important. Not more important in the sense that it is better to have these gender-specific formulations than it is for people to live the virtue of chastity…but more important in the sense that people can be best motivated to live the virtue of chastity when it is ordered through this particular formulation of the teaching.

We never hear about the importance of the fact that the text actually says, “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”, and says, “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

The importance of this formulation is that it leads us towards the natural order of patriarchy: this patriarchy is natural because it is the primary contribution of human masculinity…it is what men naturally bring to human society when they are fully developed in their masculine natures.

In particular, this formulation of Scripture reminds us that it is men who must be the spiritual teachers. It must be fathers in the home, it must be priests and bishops in the wider community.

When Christ said, “everyone who looks at a woman with lust…”, the fact that he refers to a man looking at a woman should be a reminder to us that men must interiorize the virtues of chastity and purity, living them out themselves. In this way they can effectively transmit these virtues  to their families so that their wives and their children can come to the fullest understanding of them. Do Christ’s words still apply to women? Of course. But we are speaking of a certain order for how this teaching is best promulgated in human society.

The Ninth and Tenth Commandments

The Ninth Commandment says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” Is it true that a woman must not covet her neighbor’s husband? Yes. But there is something, still, in the way the text is formulated, that we must not forget.

Related to this is an important subtopic. It is true that oftentimes in the ancient world women were treated as the property of their husbands, which Scriptural formulations such as this may indicate:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;
you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,
or his manservant, or his maidservant,
or his ox, or his ass,
or anything that is your neighbor’s.

But notice that, in the actual Commandments as they have been adopted by the Church, there is a separation between coveting a neighbor’s wife, and coveting his property (these are the Ninth and Tenth Commandments). This is an indication of the movement of the Holy Spirit among the Church, guiding her to clarify that the ancient formulations must not lead us to conclude that women are the property of their husbands.

Moreover, there is still a paradigm of order here, in the actual formulation of the Commandments. Domination of women, treating women as property, making women second class citizens – these things are evils, results of man’s fallen nature. But is the temptation of a man to covet his neighbor’s wife the result of a view of women as property? Of course not: this is due to something else.

By the same token, it seems to me that the formulation which is directed primarily towards men does not itself imply the evil of male domination of women. In other words, this Commandment may be just as accurate, each and every word of it, among a civilization in which women are fully honored, in all their human dignity, equal to the dignity of men. That is, if we understand gender properly.

We’ve Sold Ourselves Out of Something Far More Beautiful

The difficulty we have today with having a reading at Mass which begins, “I urge you, brothers…”, is instead our confusion about the meaning of gender. We have thought too little about it; we have been too quick to sell ourselves out of the truth.

What is needed now is remediation on gender understanding. We need to recall the meaning of manhood and the meaning of womanhood, and shake off the wearying protocols of modern forces of political correctness and secular liberalism.

The truth about gender is far too beautiful to waste a moment more living without it!

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