Thursday, March 11, 2010

Patrilineal! and Patrilocal! and Patriarchal!, Oh My!

I keep hearing that snippet from Wizard of Oz running through my head, Lions! and Tigers! and Bears! Oh My!

Now I think that's enough exclamation points for one day, don't you? But really, to read the religious feminists, you'd think those terms were derogatory instead of praiseworthy and biblical. Daniel Block explains why they are the latter:

". . . patriocentrism reflects the normative biblical disposition toward the role of the head of the household in Israel . . ." See that? It's normative for the family to radiate out from the father. The family members are the spokes, he the axle around which the family revolves. The descent is reckoned in a patrilineal manner from the father's line, it is patrilocal or of the husband's household, and it is patriarchal, father-governed. "

Let's see what more Block has to say on this:

"Accordingly, we do a disservice to the biblical record if we are preoccupied with the power of the [patri] wielded [the word means patri or father, I don't have the software to type it correctly]. In healthy and functional households the male head was neither despot nor dictator. On the contrary, since the family members were perceived as extension of the progenitor's own life, the head's own interests depended upon the well-being of the household. Rather than evoking images of "ruler" or "boss", the term [patri] expressed confidence, trust and security. This emphasis on the responsibilities associated with the overall tenor of the Old Testament, which views leadership in general to be a privilege granted to an individual in order to serve the interests of those who are led."

In short, the biblical emphasis is on responsibility rather than privilege. Now, now, I can see the religious feminists getting ready to claim that is what they've been saying all along. But no, that is what they have been so very carefully not saying. They will focus on correcting the over-presumption of power, while also denying the biblical affirmation of patri in every other sense as well. What they will deny, with reference to Block's list is the special obligation of the patri:

  • modeling fidelity to Yahweh
  • leading the family in the national festivals
  • instructing the family in the Traditions
  • managing the land
  • providing for basic needs
  • defending the household against threats
  • representing the household in the civil assemblies
  • individual well-being and harmony of the whole
  • implementing decisions regarding vengeance and redemption

An Egalitarian (Religious Feminist) is not someone who affirms the equality of male and female persons, for all Christians do that. An Egalitarian is someone who denies the primacy of the male in created relationships such as marriage by asserting that equality and hierarchy cannot exist at the same time in any relationship.

see: Marriage and Family in Ancient Israel (pp. 40-48) by Daniel Block in Marriage and Family in the Biblical World, Ken Campbell, ed.

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