Les and Henrietta

ChauvenistLes was an old river rat who learned how to craft a life out of little wealth or conventional experience.

Henrietta, his wife, was a good partner because she was just as tough and creative as Les was. Sadly, Les did not treat Henrietta with the respect she was due. Like when she called up to Les while he was roofing a house, asking for some money to purchase shoes for herself. Not wanting to leave his perch, Les wadded up dollar bills and threw them down at her making her look like a bird hunting for worms.

Les’ Bible was well used, but it had little writing or underlining in it like what you would see in most well-used Bibles. Except for those women-keeping-silent verses. Plenty of underlining there. Throwing down wadded up dollar bills to Henrietta made sense knowing about the underlined verses.

Somehow Les thought that he had God’s permission to mistreat his wife and by so doing exposed a big hole in chauvinistic interpretations of the Bible.

Genesis is a before-and-after picture to describe the relationship between the first people. “Before” they were perfectly knit together. The woman was a companion. A helper. Someone who stood side-by-side with the man.

After the Fall, the relationship was convoluted and chauvinistic. The woman became subservient to the man, and blame became a frequent characteristic of the two. The history told in the Bible tells about violence against women (like the rape of Tamar), a double standard applied to sexual misconduct (women being killed and men getting their hand slapped), and the objectification of women.

God’s intention is to restore relationships to their “before” state. Slow progress now occurs in the world as women lead large corporations and nations, direct non-profits, and even preach. But there is still a lot to be done. Chauvinism is an after-the-Fall condition and not according to God’s original intention. To prefer chauvinism over respect is small and power-grubbing.

If Les had understood that his chauvinism was actually a sign of the failure on his part, he would have sought a higher, more noble path by climbing down the ladder and handing the money Henrietta needed to her. He would have done it because he respected her. Actually, he would have given his wallet to her and said take it with you and use what you need.

Relationships that seek the “before” state of marriage have certain characteristics:

  • They are full of respect and absent of condescension, i.e., feeling superior or wiser in just about everything.
  • The are inclusionary in their style, asking for help in making decisions, and never disregarding the other.
  • Their conversation is marked by consideration, not argumentation.  They do not ignore the other.

Les would have had a hard time learning these things. But there’s hope for egalitarian marriages now that there are excellent models to be found and an understanding of what God wanted “before” the Fall.

Before is a better state.