Chivalry or Chauvanism? March 14th, 2011
Even if you aren’t a Christian, you probably know the story. It’s from Genesis and has been leveraged into literature throughout Christendom. It goes like this: Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden. God tells them that they may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden except for the tree in the middle of the garden otherwise they will die. Then the serpent comes along and says, “Yeah, God was not totally honest with you. That tree over there in the middle is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you eat its fruit you won’t die, but you’ll know of good and evil and you’ll also realize that you’re naked and you’ll probably want to cover up.” So Eve buys into the serpent’s story (which, by the way, was accurate), takes a bite, and peer pressures poor Adam into jumping off the bridge with her.
This story was the Old Testament scripture lesson in church yesterday, and when the priest kicked off the sermon he did something that caught my attention. As he began to make analogies that would carry throughout the sermon, he attributed the disobedience to Adam alone. He talked about Adam setting the course for the human race by eating the forbidden fruit. Per the sermon it was Adam’s decision to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve was not edited out of the scripture reading (thankfully) but she was wholly cut out of the sermon.
As the sermon progressed I thought about this glaring omission. I thought maybe it was an attempt at political correctness. Perhaps it would have been a faux pas to blame the woman for sending all humans on a crash course to sin. Perhaps it was a decision based on chivalry.
But the priest’s neglect of Eve’s role didn’t sit right with me. Political correctness aside, the truth (per scripture, at least) is that Eve took the plunge first and exerted her bad girl influence over her unsuspecting husband. So why leave her out? Was it an attempt to mitigate Eve’s role in a pivotal moment of the Bible? If so, I’d call that straight-up chauvinism.
GAP (who is wise about such things) pointed out to me that some scholars believe that the blame was placed on Eve to diminish the role of women – to position them as easily manipulated by male-centric authors of the day. Our church takes scripture more literally than I do. (I think a lot of people see the Old Testament this way, but I apply a fairly non-literal interpretation to much of the New Testament as well.) I believe the Bible was written by fallible, human men. It was written in pieces 100 to 200 years after the crucifixion when memories had faded and oral tradition had allowed stories to evolve. So I was surprised at this departure from the written word in the sermon. The priest who spoke yesterday is younger than our other priests. I am heartened to believe that his interpretation of scripture might be more akin to my own than to the literal interpretation of the older priests.
I don’t have an answer here. But I was intrigued by the decision about Eve. Chivalry and chauvinism don’t often show up in lock step. But I wonder if yesterday’s sermon might have exhibited a little bit of both.