Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 17, No. 4, April 2021
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Meditation on Biblical Patriarchy, Apostolic Succession,
and Global Warming

Luis T. Gutiérrez

April 2021


This is a meditation on biblical patriarchy, how it has impacted apostolic succession during 20 centuries, and the possibility that global warming might be a blessing in disguise.

Biblical Patriarchy

God in Man's Image, by David Hayward (Naked Pastor)
Used with permission

The Bible was written in a patriarchal culture. If patriarchal misogyny is taken out of the Bible, it is no longer the Bible. Most religious traditions are contaminated by patriarchy. It is a universal issue, rooted in original sin. The historical evidence is well documented in The Creation of Patriarchy. But the Christian faith is faith in a living person, Jesus Christ; it is not faith in "the book." In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in sections 239, 370, and 2779, explicitly rejects the misconception that God is a male patriarch. The limitations of human languages developed in patriarchal contexts still persist, and it may take many more centuries to exorcise them from the collective unconscious; but both men and women are created in the image of God, not the other way around.

Apostolic Succession

Women and the Resurrection, by David Hayward (Naked Pastor)
Used with permission

The gospels never mention the masculinity of Jesus as being essential for the redemption. God assuming human nature is essential. God becoming flesh is essential. God becoming embodied is essential. But "bodiliness and sexuality are not simply identical" (Theology of the Body, page 157). The "virtue" of hormonal virility is patriarchal gender ideology, not revealed truth. For the redemption, and the sacramental economy, the masculinity of Jesus is as incidental as the color of his eyes. In today's world, would Jesus call 12 men to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel? Canon 1024 prescribes that only males can be ordained, and Catechism 1577 is a patriarchal rationalization of Canon 1024, but Catechism 1598 clarifies the issue by admitting that ordaining only males is a choice (first sentence) and who can make the choice (second sentence). Jesus Christ is the Redeemer, God made flesh, not a patriarch. God is not a patriarch. The Trinity is not a patriarchate. The reign of God is not a patriarchate. The church should not be a patriarchate. It is time to ordain women called by Christ to serve in apostolic succession.

Global Warming

A Welcomed Global Warming, by David Hayward (Naked Pastor)
Used with permission

In a recent Report to the Governments and Citizens of Planet Earth (20-22 March 2021), the authors identify the ecological "mega-risks we face and the solutions we need." Global warming is just one of the symptoms. Other symptoms include resource depletion, toxic pollution, biodiversity loss, etc. Proximate causes include "the sheer scale of the human enterprise: overpopulation, overconsumption, inequality, poor choice of technologies, and poor social arrangements." But what is the ultimate cause?

For the ultimate cause, we must go back to the beginning of human civilization, coinciding with the agricultural revolution. The scholarly volumes by Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy and The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, document how the patriarchal culture of male domination, which preceded biblical patriarchy and even the beginnings of recorded history in Mesopotamia, became the root of all other forms of subjugation: men owned their women (valued for their reproductive capacity), then exchanged them, then concubines became sex slaves; slavery was later extended to captured men and women of other tribes; and then technologies were developed to subdue the entire community of creation to male human supremacy. No wonder the book of Genesis (written ca. 1000 BCE) identifies patriarchal gender relations as the immediate and most universal consequence of original sin (cf. chapter 3, verse 16), whence all other forms of violence derived, including female deities being erased from biblical religious traditions. The patriarchal culture had become "natural law" by 2000 BCE. Now, 4000 years later, we face a radically different ecological situation:

"The qualities which may have fostered human survival in the Neolithic age are no longer required of modern people. Regardless of whether qualities such as aggressiveness or nurturance are genetically or culturally transmitted, it should be obvious that the aggressiveness of males, which may have been highly functional in the Stone Age, is threatening human survival in the nuclear age. At a time when overpopulation and exhaustion of natural resources represent a real danger for human survival, to curb women's procreative capacities may be more 'adaptive' than to foster them." Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, 1986, page 20.

Can humanity outgrow this artificial, violent, patriarchal culture? Can nature recover from all the destructive "fires" that humans have started since the agricultural revolution and, more recently, the industrial revolution? Consider the natural dynamic process of ecological succession (not to be confused with the artificial process of patriarchal, exclusively male apostolic succession). Ecological succession happens as primary succession, starting with the formation of new soil, and as secondary succession on preexisting soil following a disturbance that induces severe loss of plant life and consequent exodus of animal life.

"An example of Secondary Succession by stages: 1. A stable deciduous forest community 2. A disturbance, such as a wild fire, destroys the forest 3. The fire burns the forest to the ground 4. The fire leaves behind empty, but not destroyed, soil 5. Grasses and other herbaceous plants grow back first 6. Small bushes and trees begin to colonize the area 7. Fast-growing evergreen trees develop to their fullest, while shade-tolerant trees develop in the understory 8. The short-lived and shade-intolerant evergreen trees die as the larger deciduous trees overtop them. The ecosystem is now back to a similar state to where it began." Ecological Succession, Wikipedia (Creative Commons)

After millennia of patriarchal civilization and patriarchal religions, what's next? Among other things, we need a new education. Such new education must make us existentially aware of both social and ecological realities, as David Orr pointed out years ago in his seminal article, What Is Education For? His "six myths about the foundations of modern education, and six new principles to replace them," are pivotal. However, both lists must be edited to address gender relations, because gender shapes the world and the myth of human supremacy is inseparable from the myth of male supremacy.

The global ecological crisis induced by overpopulation and overconsumption, including global warming and all other kinds of planetary disruptions, might be a blessing in disguise if it brings about the melting of patriarchal civilization and triggers a secondary succession of all planetary ecosystems back to viable condition, with a reasonable number of humans practicing frugality (Laudato Si') and fraternity (Fratelli Tutti) in harmony with their natural habitat; certainly not a new Garden of Eden, but advancing toward the Cosmic Christ, the New Jerusalem, the Omega Point. Utopian? Why not? Hope is better than despair.


Luis T. Gutiérrez is the owner and editor of the Mother Pelican Journal.

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"We are no longer in a state of growth.
We are in a state of excess.
We are living in a society of excrescence."

— Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007)


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