Adam and Eve by Tiziano Vecellio
On this first anniversary of President Barack Obama marked in conjunction with the celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., we are reminded that change was the buzzword for 2009. The meaning of change resonated with everyone in a different way, some thought it meant universal health care, some thought it meant gay rights, others perhaps thought it meant bringing all the troops home. Whatever any of us thought change meant, the fact is no real change can be brought about without the cooperation of all Americans. This means that the first change that must take place is a change of consciousness. Without that we fight the same old battles and spew the same old arguments.
This will be the first in a series of articles aimed at understanding the theory that any move toward a more peaceful and bountiful society must begin with a change in our attitude toward women and their role. The focus will not be on the oppression or advances of women but on the overall perspective of society toward women and women’s issues. We will explore how achieving a societal shift of consciousness about women will open the floodgates for the same shift overall.
Eve – The Beginning
While the Eve of Genesis is the most well-known place to start in any story about women, there are actually many moments in history that show the removal of women from the natural balance of mankind. Let us start with Eve to gain a perspective.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
In summary, the tempting fruit that was placed in the garden was not to be touched. The serpent convinced Eve that eating it would not kill her but would open her eyes to the truth. Eve made a conscious decision to look past the barriers of the garden, then she chose to share the knowledge with Adam. When God realized that they had received the knowledge and were no longer blind to truth, he declared pain in childbirth and subservience for Eve, painful toil just to survive for Adam.
Biblical believers have followed this suggestion ever since.
The development of monotheism
combined with the changes in culture provided the perfect catalyst for the rise of a patriarchal societal system. Rosemary Radford Ruether, Carpenter Emerita Professor of Feminist Theology at Pacific School of Religion and the GTU, as well as the Georgia Harkness Emerita Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, writes this in “Sexism and God-Talk:”
“ It is possible that the social origins of male monotheism lie in nomadic herding societies. These cultures lacked the female gardening role and tended to image God as the Sky-father. Nomadic religions were characterized by exclusivism and an aggressive, hostile relationship to the agricultural people of the land and their religions.”
As the nomadic religions began to take hold the image of women within the society became linked with the functionality of livestock. Male children were cherished for building a dynasty while female children were valued only for the purpose of producing more male children. Women were now considered property and livestock, baby making machines. With the rise of Christianity came the justification for the demeaning role of women because it had been declared as so in the ancient texts.
The final blow
With the persecution of any religion that allowed for a duality (God/Goddess pairing), the monotheistic form of worship fit neatly with the patriarchal rule in society. Few religions or cultures retained their Goddess forms, most melted into the background or were watered-down to be assimilated into the dominating belief system.
Burning witches and Victorian attitudes