Thursday, December 16, 2010

More on Jesus's Rejection of the Club of Manly Men: Dominance and Submission as the Hierarchical Skeleton of Patriarchy

And another selection from a journal entry of mine from the past.  This one, written 25 Aug. 1994, offers a counterpoint to what I posted yesterday about the DADT debate and Jesus and the club of manly men:

The structures of submission and dominance that form the skeleton of patriarchal societies, including the military, church, academy, and business elites--and the rituals that enact and legitimize these structures--protect hierarchy.  They do so by assuring that males being trained to wield power learn to endure humiliation, both so that they may in turn wield power via subordinating the weak, and so that they will unflinchingly obey the command of their superior.

By its very nature, such systems foster conformity and resistance to change.  Church and academy delude themselves if they believe that the top-down hierarchical system that is their skeleton does anything else.

The most fundamental gesture of defiance one can make to such a system is to pretend that it is beside the point, for oneself and those one admires.  Such systems of dominance and submission must make these gestures of defiance unthinkable, by wooing the defiant one into their structures and therefore nullifying his or her alternative worldview, or by simply murdering the defiant one.

Murder can take many forms.  It can be literal, as in shooting the defiant one.  Or it can be non-literal, as when the defiant one is made to appear immoral, defective, or malicious.  The very expulsion the defiant one undergoes is designed to make him or her appear all these things.  Particularly if the one expelled is a man, the rituals of expulsion are designed to show that he is weak enough to deserve expulsion.  After all, this wouldn't be able to happen to him if he didn't in some way deserve it, would it?--and anyone weak enough to be ritually abused and have no power to stop the abuse ipso facto deserves this abuse, in such hierarchical structures.

Jesus courted murder by his gestures of defiance to such systems.  In his wandering-about life with friends, in his breathtakingly insolent rituals of inclusion of public sinners, such as his table fellowship with sinners, in his "feminine" celebration of flowers, grass, rain, bread, wine--in all these ways, he said that the structures of dominance-submission were, quite simply, beside the point for him and his friends.  Such statements make it possible for people to think that the structures of dominance-submission are changeable.  If all those who are kept in their place by such structures see this man and his friends engaging in such gestures of defiance, then what might they do?

And so Jesus had to be murdered.  It's not difficult for me to understand that.  What's difficult for me to understand is what Christians claim happened after this, as its divine overturning.  Resurrection.  What's that?  Who?  Where?  How?  What does it mean, in a world that acts, over and over again, like the world that put Jesus to death, that crucifies him again every day, in the lives of street people, black people, gay and lesbian people, women?

And in a church altogether indistinguishable from the world that put Jesus to death.

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