patriarchy, male headship, apartheid, slavery, Bible

Apartheid, even when enacted with benevolence and kindness, is a social system where one group of people is more and another group is less.

Slavery, even when the master is benevolent and kind, is a social system where the master is more and the slaves are less.

Patriarchy, or a traditional understanding of male “headship”, even when the man is benevolent and kind, is a social system where man is more and woman is less.[1]

In these three systems, the people belonging to one group have more power, prestige, and social freedoms than those in the other group, and the people in this one group typically have easier access to money, education, and health and legal services. Furthermore, history has shown that the people in the more powerful group are usually reluctant to relinquish or share their power and privilege, and they may even believe that their hierarchical rule is for the good of the people in the less powerful group.

None of these three systems is God’s ideal. Yet all these systems have been condoned and perpetuated by Christians who have quoted scriptures to support their privileged position.

Genuine equality and mutuality between all people, regardless of race or gender, etc, is the New Creation ideal (Gal 3:26-28). There is no place for a caste system or a fixed hierarchy in the body of Christ (2 Cor 5:16-17 NIV). There is no place for either favouritism or discrimination (James 2:1ff).[2] Jesus especially warns against notions of power, prestige, and primacy among his own followers. In Jesus’ kingdom, the humble are exalted, the lowly are the greatest, and the last are first. In other words, there is equality.

Patriarchy, even a benevolent one, is not good for God’s people because the system makes more of men and less of women. There is no mutuality or equality between men and women when men have authority and women have none.


[1] The word “patriarchy” comes from the Greek and literally translates as “rule of fathers”.  It refers to a society in which men have much more political power and social freedom than women.

[2] All human beings are intrinsically equal and should be treated as equal and be given equal opportunities, especially in the community of God’s people. Moreover, we should provide assistance and support for those who have less in order to bring a balance. Equality is the goal  (2 Cor. 8:13 NIV).

Image Credit: Justice © djgunner iStock 6661276

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