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Men and women are equal

This is one topic that I must write about again, because far too many males are still being taught that their wives or girlfriends are to be their helpers or maids in the home. And they are mostly Christian men and women who do not take the time to understand scripture and allow negative traditions to have great authority in their lives.

This brings me to the meaning of the word “helper” in Genesis that is so often misused. The original word in Hebrew is “ezer”, which simply means someone just like him – a companion, or a partner. “Helper” is used in scripture not to suggest a hierarchical order, but a person with power and strength. Hebrews 13:6 states: “…The Lord is my helper…” Therefore husbands, with this understanding, both husband and wife are each other’s helpers. The word (helper) has nothing to do with cleaning the house, cooking or washing clothes. It is all about sameness and equal authority.

To understand that both male and female were created in a position of equal leadership and power sharing, we first need to understand an earlier scripture found in Genesis 1:26-28: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may have rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’”

So, God created mankind in His own image. In the image of God, He created them; male and female, He created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Two very important principles arising from these verses are:

• Both male and female are given equal power and authority over the earth and not over each other.

• Both male and female are created in God’s image.

These are important points, because the underlying reason for violence against women is that men are taught that women do not have equal power with them, they do not have the same authority and that they are of lesser value. How could this be so when both male and female were created in God’s image?

Theologian Wendy Francisco states, “Everywhere else in scripture that uses ‘ezer’ describes the coming help of God or, in a few cases, an army. In short, there is no hint of hierarchy in it.”

The clear meaning of the word “ezer” is one who is in position corresponding to him, his counterpart, his complement. Power or authority over someone is out of the picture here. What I find interesting is that scripture talks about God as an “ezer” – helper. If God, our helper, is not inferior to us or subordinated to us, why are women subordinated to men?

With this in mind, far too many sons are still being raised to use women, thus they are messing up their marriages. A major reason many of our Bahamian men are messing up their marriages or romantic relationships is because their mothers made them believe that the best way to build men’s character is to serve them as masters. Instead of building responsibility and self-discipline in their sons by allowing them to enjoy the privilege of doing things for themselves, mothers spoil their sons by picking up their underwear, washing their dishes and ironing their clothes. According to these mothers, boys are just to play ball, rake the yard and clean cars. The girls are to wash the dishes, cook, sew and clean the house. This is a great disservice a mother can do to her son. In fact, she is not only hurting her son, but her son’s marriage and her son’s sons.

This view and others are the reasons there is violence against women. Violence against women and girls at the highest conceptual level includes violating their human rights and civil liberties and depriving them of individual freedom. At the personal level, it includes rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, genital mutilation, economic abuse (withholding money), emotional/psychological abuse, intimidation, verbal abuse, honor killing, acid throwing, rape in war zones, gender selection (abortion or abandonment of baby girls), forced prostitution, trafficking, etc.

Globally, up to seven in 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. As many as one in four women experience physical or sexual violence during pregnancy. An estimated one million children, mostly girls, enter the sex trade each year. Worldwide, about 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under age 16. The truth is there is no such statistics of violence against men around the world. We must stop ignoring these horrendous acts of violence and statistics. Particularly, the church must admit that it has committed a grave error in devaluating women by subordinating them to men, and begin the task of reparation and healing by preaching the right theology.

Remember, men – women are not our assistants, maids, cooks and sex toys. They are our equal companions with equal value, voice, vote and power.

• Barrington Brennen is a counseling psychologist and marriage and family therapist. Send your questions to question@soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.

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