Update: Post on Tonight’s subject matter added below.
The somewhat adventurous,tumultuous, perilous and thrilling relations between men and women will be the topic of tonight’s discussion. Later in the day I will update this post with my profound insights into the matter. (It should be a very short post.)
Send me an email so I can hook you electronically in to the discussion beginning at 8:10 pm tonight, or better yet, come to the friary in Griswold for the holy hour at 7:00 Pm, followed by the discussion. Don’t be discouraged if I don’t email you right back. I promise you will have the login information in advance of the meeting time.
Should be interesting. Look forward to seeing you.
(BTW, I will have the next Templar video up tomorrow.)
Patristic interpretation of sacred scripture, especially in St. Irenaeus, establishes the Garden of Paradise as a kind of paradigm for the whole of human history. The story of creation, of sin and the promise of redemption is recapitulated and re-circulated over and over at different levels, from type to fulfillment to final consummation and completion. At the heart of the paradigm is the relationship between man and woman.
There is much to unpack in that paragraph, but for our purpose it is sufficient to point out that all this is summarized in the idea that Christ and Our Lady are the New Adam and Eve, who by means of a parallel but antithetical action undo the disobedience of our first parents by their obedience.
The first paradise was a fortress in which peace reigned until Eve opened the gate to the dragon and, seeing the danger, Adam ran and hid. That pretty much summarizes it. Ever since then, the enemy has wrought havoc in the City of God and often seems to be the Lord of the World.
In the first paradise, peace reigned because there was harmony between God and man, between man and woman and between the faculties of man within himself. In attacking man and overturning his internal integrity and harmony of soul, the serpent assaulted above all man’s relationship with God, but also the human relationships and, most specifically, the relationship between man and woman. And even while the most extreme effects of the disorder that entered into mankind is witnessed in global dissention and war, our most common and profoundly painful experience is found within marriage and the family.
But this cosmic war, as we know, did not really begin in the Garden. It began, rather, in the “heavens,” before the creation of man. The symbolism of Apocalypse chapter 12 concerning the Woman clothed with the sun in battle with the red dragon has been interpreted as a primordial revelation to the angels before any had fallen of God’s plan to send his Son into the world born of a woman. Thus, Jesus and Mary were the predestined archetypes for all humanity, and when Lucifer’s pride drove him to reject the heavenly King and Queen in anticipation of their coming, he prepared himself to make war on the rest of the Woman’s seed (Apoc 12:17).
We are under attack. That is the history of our race and while religious persons recognize this truth in respect to their relationship with God and in regard to their own personal integrity, I am not so sure that men and women, husband and wives, realize that their private wars have the Father of Lies as the instigator.
I have touched upon the relations between men and women a number of times before on this blog, in particular, in the posts “Damsels in Distress” and “Ditching the Marital Biases.” I put a great deal of thought into both of these pieces. Each time I finished writing, I had learned something myself, but I also had a real experience of dissatisfaction.
It is hard to put a finger on it. I often perceive myself as being ambivalent in speech and writing on the matter, taking men to task when I speak to them, and women separately, but always saying that it takes two to tango and finally qualifying everything by saying a special burden is placed on men because women are the weaker sex.
A certain narrative has developed because of feminism. Historical memory, vocabulary, what we choose to talk about and what we choose not to talk about: the narrative of feminists has influenced it all. The Church has developed an apologetic that speaks to the zeitgeist and is based on an acceptance the assumptions of the feminists if not their conclusions. And apologetics is always limited in its scope of understanding. As a method of teaching, apologetics does not seek the deeper meaning of the subject it treats, it only adapts a difficult argument or one that is at odds with the zeitgeist so that it can be more easily accepted. Inevitably, it involves making generalizations, oversimplifying, avoiding the cans of worms, and accepting the assumptions of the interlocutor whenever possible. This is called “speaking the language of the people,” or “meeting people where they are at.” I have no argument with the method, insofar is it is necessary for apologetics. My problem is that probably most Catholics do not recognize its limitations.
I think many men, even if they want to restore the dignity and importance of fatherhood do not believe the pastors of the Church are wholeheartedly supporting their efforts. (This is even the experience of many pastors themselves.) Let’s just say it is a common experience.
Most of the time, it seems that what we hear from pastors is the feminist narrative: that women have been maligned throughout history at the hands of men; that the good men (males) do is due to the support of women, for which women have not been fairly recognized, while the sins that women commit are often due to the failures of men, for which women suffer unjustly; when speaking of the vocation of women, it is exclusive to women, but when speaking of the vocation of men (males), it is swallowed up in the general vocation of all humanity, i.e. there is no particular vocation of men (males) that does not also include women in the broad umbrella of all humanity.
(This is not my formulation, but one I have heard from another man. I agree with it and would be interested in knowing the opinion of others.)
This insight is important, because while many of us have woken up to the problem men confront, we are not always sure where the assumptions of feminists are correct and where they are exaggerated. And in any case, one takes one’s intellectual life into one’s hands if he or she questions any of it.
The fact is that women have a tremendous amount of power, even without ostensible authority. Men virtually always lose the argument when the battle is fought on the field of the personal and emotional, and of course, this is where women hold their ground, and it is where they insist on fighting.
Rick Varieur, a Catholic psychologist and speaker in Rhode Island, once said that men are like desert fighters and women are like jungle fighters. Women will step for a moment out of the jungle and taunt the man, and then run back into the jungle. The worst mistake a man can make is to follow them back into the jungle, which is just exactly what they are tempted to do. And when men make that mistake, they always get their throats slit.
Of course, this is not a new phenomenon, but it is one that is given validation by the feminist narrative. I do believe that in societies in which women were expected to be obedient, and in which they had (and have) a real reason to fear abandonment, adultery or abuse, emotional and sexual blackmail are their weapons of choice. Men, and specifically husbands and those in authority become the whipping boys, whether they deserve it or not. Women develop the habit of never being satisfied with anything a man does, or reserve their approval until he proves himself to be Prince Charming.
When culture at large accepts the feminist narrative as the only legitimate point of view, then the vice of feminine crabbiness becomes the ingrained habit of an entire culture, indeed the very zeitgeist, the lens through which everything is analyzed.
I really don’t know what the solution is. Almost anything that is said needs to be qualified by a contrary or at least complementary consideration. Women belong to the weaker sex and they do need to be protected. However, unless they learn to accept what they find to be the more impersonal and harder aspects of a man’s character, then they will always something to complain about, either because the man is not sensitive enough, or because he is not a good enough leader.
To the extent that feminist empowerment breeds contempt of men, even among non-feminists, is the extent to which their narrative will define the value of men in the eyes of the culture, and therefore will make it impossible for masculine authority, labor and protectiveness to be accepted without a spirit of hyper-criticalness and cynicism.
All of this is a bit of thinking out loud. This conundrum brings me back to the original war in paradise and to the cosmic time before when the conflict between the Woman and Her Seed and the Dragon and his seed began. I really do not have the answers I am looking for, at least not directly. But the prophetic grace of our age has to do with the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, and this will be a triumph also within the heart of man, male and female.
This is a war we cannot afford to lose, but we cannot win it if we do not proclaim the Mother of Jesus as Queen. For some this will seem far off course from the subject, but it is at the heart of Marian Chivalry or any kind of chivalry that can be termed Christian, whether it is practiced by men or women.
For anyone who may think I am being too hard on women, I would recommend you read the two posts I mentioned above (“Damsels in Distress” and “Ditching the Marital Biases”), if you have not already. I think I give both credit and blame where it is due on both sides.