Saturday, November 13, 2010

A House Divided Against Itself, Part III

(Please read Part I and Part II first.)

So, I wonder how many who have read the first two posts wondered, "What injustices against men?" Yet as long as we remain divided against ourselves, that is the reality, even though it may be easier in today's society to turn a blind eye to it. And that, I believe, is not the mindset a Christian ought to take. The groundwork I established in my last post applies here as well: we are equal in our fall, equal in our salvation.

This time I will focus on the practical issues facing men, since unlike those facing women, they are not as obvious sometimes or as well known. And worse--our society often treats the victims with ridicule and contempt, and our culture makes that "acceptable." That too is a crown of illegitimate power.

Perhaps the most well-publicized of these ills is slavery, be it in the form of forced labor or the conscription of boy soldiers. In the United States we like to think of slavery as something that is no longer a part of our cultural landscape. And thank God, Christians did wise up to the fact, in this country, that just because an inherently unjust institution was a reality in Biblical days doesn't mean we are justified in perpetuating it. Slavery scars both men and women, and Christians must resist and defeat it wherever it is found.

But some injustices can indeed be directed towards men in particular. Dads can't win, if you look at the way they're portrayed in the media: either they're absent, abusive, or incompetent with the children. Rarely does one see anything positive, especially where a single father is portrayed. It's a rarity that we see a Benjamin Sisko (the commanding officer on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) who raises his son very well, even after the death of his wife and with one tough military base to command at the same time. Those writers didn't forget that men form deep bonds with their children too, and that children need those relationships to be healthy, just as they need their mothers.

And let's not forget the so-called "right" to abortion that women are given and in which men have no say. True, some men don't care, just as some women are irresponsible. But some men do want to raise their children even under less than ideal circumstances in their lives, and for a woman to be able to go out and murder his baby, without his being given the chance to stop it, is unconscionable. A child is not a tumor nor is he or she the exclusive property of the female. That's his genetic material too, and a whole other life that he had a part in creating, and whether or not one is carrying the child is not relevant when it comes to the right to care for that life. Women are not entitled to unchallenged, unshared say over the lives of their children. Obviously abortion is a travesty on principle, but giving men their voice would be a step in the right direction.

The other area where men lose out terribly is in custody cases, where the awarding of custody isn't always based on facts, but on gender. Courts are sometimes much more concerned with a dangerous form of redistributive justice whereby the child is given more time with the mother, or the father is cut out of custody or visitation altogether without a solid basis against him--and sometimes even when there is one against the mother. Some fathers ARE abusive, and children must be protected from them. But that cannot and must not be generalized. And of course it would be best if couples had no need to divorce. But when it does happen, it should never be based on gender, but on facts.

The last form of injustice I will specifically address, though we must stay alert for others, is sexual violence towards men. It happens far more than society wants to acknowledge--and when it is acknowledged, it is generally in the form of ridicule and contempt. How, they might say, can a boy or a man be forced to partake in any act he does not wish to participate in, especially of that nature? It is real, as is domestic violence, which does not just go in one direction.

One of the things that always galls me is when well-meaning organizations come to church and ask for money to shelter victims of domestic and sexual violence, and "perpetrator" always means "man" and "victim" always means "woman." It is that way often--but not always. And that often means men are discouraged from seeking resources, and when they do, they are ridiculed or outright denied. We ought not stand for this. The problem has to be made known, victims must be treated with respect and not shamed, and competent services must be made available for their healing.

There is much, much more that could be said on gender and injustice in the world and the church, and how we as Christians must respond to it. One thing is certain: we cannot persecute, demean, or oppress anyone based on gender, either inside our hierarchy or outside it. Nor can we take sides in battles of revenge and domination--but address all injustice, regardless of who commits it against whom.

We are called to no less.

"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." --Galatians 3:26-29

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