From the Beginning… November 28, 2011

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Charlotte, North Carolina

It happened again yesterday.

A vivacious, older chap literally leapt to his feet to announce with great joy the anniversary of his fifty-second year of marriage to his wife. When asked what the secret was to their relationship, he jokingly replied, “Just do everything she says.”

The congregation laughed.

 I refrained.

I know it’s meant in good fun. But the seemingly irreparable breach between men and women in this country is no longer a laughing matter. If fifty per cent of our people have such irreconcilable differences with the other fifty per cent and commonality cannot be discovered then we might truly be doomed. I find myself quite alone in this conviction. The preoccupation with the alleged differences between the male and female of our species inundates our culture, dialogue, art and even politics.

One day when the Pharisees were desperately trying to justify their doctrine of open divorce, they posed the question to Jesus: “Isn’t it all right for people to get divorced, no matter what the reason?” Can you hear it? There was a great undertone in the question that assumed that the sexes were in a perpetual war and that certainly relationship was the ongoing casualty. Jesus had a different perspective. He said, “It was not so in the beginning. A man was to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they should become one flesh.”

Yes, his concept of humanity was one enjoined person. Not male and female, but rather, a single human presence. To accomplish this, men have to stop believing that all women are their mothers and that they are supposed to think and react exactly as their father did. Women, on the other hand, have to cease projecting the idea of “daddy” into every male they meet.

People wonder why romance dies. If you actually believe that you’re supposed to do what your wife tells you to do, how can you avoid viewing her as anything other than your mother–a parental entity? It might be understandably mind-jolting to envision yourself being romantically entangled with the woman who birthed you. Likewise, if you are a woman secretly projecting your daddy onto your sex partner, a certain amount of nastiness might enter your mind and frustration may be the result. So as the fire of passion goes out, it is replaced with responsibility, duty, loyalty or even the honoring of religious tradition. I’m sorry folks, that’s not enough spark to light a match.

I never treat any woman like my mother except the one who was present at my unveiling. And I don’t really want any woman to view me as her papa unless family ties warrant it.

If we are supposed to be “cleaving” to one another, which even by a simple definition would connote great familiarity, and the final goal is to become one flesh, we should not spend all of our time tearing at our own skin and ripping ourselves apart. Let’s look at a list of questions:

1. Are there differences between men and women? Physiologically, less than 2% of our bodies vary. Most of the perceived uniqueness in male and female is culturally installed by our religious, political and school systems.

2. Is it possible for a man and woman to be equal, or does there need to be a dominant partner? I really feel stupid posing the question, because if two men can work in a partnership and two women can work in a partnership, the only reason a man and woman would even hint at having problems with such an endeavor would be an uncontrolled bigotry towards the other party. In other words, take away prejudice and you remove inequality.

3. And finally, are the differences between the sexes just for fun and giggles and really don’t harm anyone? I suppose a man who’s been married for fifty-two years can tell his little tale about how their marriage works and know deep in his heart that it’s truly a union of purposes–but as those ideas trickle down to younger and younger folks who have less and less experience in interacting with one another, what was meant to be funny actually becomes fear. Yes, I believe that for people under the age of thirty-five in this country, there is a literal terror of man to woman and woman to man. To mask that trepidation, the sexes individually try to act superior to one another. That’s what we always do. When we are deeply frightened of being inferior, we try to find ways to prove our prowess.

So I think it’s dangerous to perpetuate this myth–one that Jesus shattered in the presence of the Pharisees of his day–by allowing the cultural ignorance of our time to hold women back by making men look stupid and giving them power by default of muscle. I would love to hear your opinion.

I think we need to make a beginning here. I think somebody needs to step forward and say, “I’ve been married for forty-one years, and every time we’ve fallen into cultural roles of ‘guy’ and ‘gal’ we have basically been miserable. And on the occasions when we have gone eyeball-to-eyeball, lifting the burdens together and respecting each other at the end of the day, sharing a common joy and fatigue, it has been not only pleasant but also romantically fulfilling.”

Yes, someone needs to say it.

 And I guess I just did.

***************

Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Interesting insight. But I would add that in our forty five years of marriage maintaining a sense of humor is also important! We have to take our marriage serious, but not take ourselves too serious. And I think that is what the old chap was doing. God’s blessings on you.

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