The Patriarchal Pandemic

OT Coptic icon Abraham Isaac Jacob

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted life in ways no one could have imagined. It brought an abrupt halt to conferences, church services, sporting events, and other large gatherings. The devastating power of this microscopic virus is mind-boggling: the rapid spread, the heartbreaking loss of life, the shattering spike in unemployment, and the terrible toll on health care workers and first responders. Who would believe a virus could sweep over the globe and radically alter life as we once knew it?

It would be bad enough if the only global problem facing us was Covid-19. But as we all know, other serious global issues that predate Covid-19 continue unabated and could easily qualify as pandemics. While all of us are understandably focused on coronavirus, these issues persist and are impacting lives around the globe in destructive wayspoverty, racism, violence against women, displaced populations, to name a few.

One of those pandemics is patriarchy.

Patriarchy (“father rule”) is a social system that surfaced after the fall as a consequence of sin. It privileges and empowers men over women and some men over other men in sharp contrast with the Creator’s vision for humanity (Genesis 1-2). As stories of men in the Bible reveal, patriarchy is destructive to men as well as women. Beginning with Cain and Abel, history chronicles the horrific saga of men killing other men.

Throughout history and still today patriarchy has impacted every human culture. The fact that patriarchy appears on virtually every page of the Bible has led to the assumption that the Bible endorses patriarchythat to maintain “biblical” gender relationships we must preserve some elements of this social system.

The subject of patriarchy didn’t surface in my work until my focus turned to men and I was researching for Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World. One of the central questions that surfaced in the Everyday Theology Podcast below was a statement I made in Malestrom that is a total game changer:

For Christians the prominence of patriarchy on the pages of the Bible means patriarchy is important for a variety of reasons, regardless of what our personal views may be of that cultural system. . . . Beginning with Abraham, God chose patriarchs living in a patriarchal culture to launch his rescue effort for the world. Events in the Bible play out within a patriarchal context. But patriarchy is not the Bible’s message. Rather, it is the fallen cultural backdrop that sets off in the strongest relief the radical nature and potency of the Bible’s gospel message. (p.31)

Dr. Aaron G. Ross, Assistant Professor of Theology, is the host of Everyday Theology. He is joined by Dr. Melissa Archer, Chair and Professor of Biblical Studies. Both are on the faculty of Southeastern University.

The original plans were to record this podcast in Costa Mesa, CA in March at the Society for Pentecostal Studies 2020 Conference where my topic was “Dismantling Patriarchy and Recovering the Blessed Alliance.” They wanted to know how I got into the work I do, what I mean when I say patriarchy is the backdrop not the message of the Bible, and more.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus compelled the cancellation of the conference, so we recorded long-distance instead.

You can listen to the podcast here:

“Approaching Patriarchy in Scripture”

About carolyncustisjames
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2 Responses to The Patriarchal Pandemic

  1. I plan to listen to day! I am so sad I did not get to be your room assistant at the Women’s Clergy Conference in March–I was looking forward to meeting you and hearing your words. But I am glad you stayed safe to give us more words to come!


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