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SEG: How toxic is the patriarchy?

Spiritual Exploration Group

There are few matriarchal religions—most are patriarchal to varying degrees. How important is this?

We are seeing terrible exposés or abuse in organized religions from the Catholics to the Southern Baptists and after feeling outraged by these devastating betrayals of trust and wondering what punishment can fit such crimes, one might ask: What do they think gives them the right?

On Feburary 20th, 2019, the New York Timespublished a provocative opinion piece: “ Rapists Presented by Their Church as Men of God” by Nicholas Kristof >

Is it similar to the divine right of kings? Is it a strange descendent of droit du seigneur or primae noctis, a Latin phrase translating to “right of the first night” where the king or other nobleman claimed the right to sexually entertain a woman on her wedding night?

Kristof writes "I suspect it’s no accident that these crimes emerged in denominations that do not ordain women and that relegate them to second-class status.” and then adds a quote:

“If God is male,” Mary Daly, the feminist theologian, wrote, “then the male is God.”

Kristof goes on to write:

The result may be threefold: an entitled male clergy, women and girls taught to be submissive in church, and a lack of accountability and oversight. It’s complicated, of course, for many of the Catholic victims were boys, but there does seem to have been an element of elevating male clergy members on a pedestal in a way that made them omnipotent and unaccountable.

“Underneath it all is this patriarchy that goes back millennia,” Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, told me, noting the commonality of the Catholic and Southern Baptist Churches: “They both have very masculine understandings of God, and have a structure where men are considered the closest representatives of God.”

The paradox is that Jesus and the early Christian church seem to have been very open to women. The only person in the New Testament who wins an argument with Jesus is an unnamed woman who begs him to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28).

The Gospel of Mary, a Gnostic text from the early second century, suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to provide religious instruction to his disciples.

Questions about this Spiritual Exploration Session can be directed to

Earlier Event: March 17
Meeting for Worship
Later Event: March 24
Meeting for Worship