Gender binaries— a sacred weapon
[Full review on Amazon]
The information and ideas presented in “enGendered” by Sam A. Andreades are based upon the author’s view of gender differences as he interprets them from the Bible. Collectively, Andreades calls his beliefs “theology of gender.” He hopes readers will gain wisdom about gender and gender roles that God has set forth and commands for His creation. (p. 11)
Though Andreades focuses primarily on the relationships between men and women (“intergendered” relationships— male/female), he does extrapolate those beliefs to “monogendered” relationships (same-sex relationships).
Andreades’ employs a rather unique usage of the terms “intergendered” and “monogendered.” Not only does he misuse the word “transgender” as “transgendered,” he also bastardizes the usage of mono— and intergender, which are more commonly used to mean having one gender identity, and, the latter, having an identity that steps beyond the gender binaries. Actually, I have never before seen these words used the way Andreades uses them. Misuse of terms is a strong indicator that the author is not well-versed in the area of human sexuality and gender identity. That is an initial red flag about the book content.
Before digging into this thorough review, there are foundational perspective differences between the author and myself which will subsequently impact my assessment of his work. Andreades bases much of his belief system about the modern roles of men and women and their intersection on what is written in Genesis 1 and 2.
As clearly does Andreades, I too view the Bible as a sacred text. I strive to live my life according to the example of Jesus, and the guidance of the Scriptures and the Spirit. However, I do not read Genesis as an accurate historical account of the beginnings of mankind, nor as a scientific text.
And, I am certainly not alone in my beliefs.
A majority of those with religious affiliations, and a majority of mainline Protestants and Catholics do not read the traditional creation story literally. For them, using both Scripture and science is the most logical and compelling approach to understanding the beginnings of humankind. Inherent in honoring science and other earth sciences in tandem with Scripture, a strict view of God’s gender blueprint, such as the one espoused by Andreades, supportive of the dominant/submissive complementary structure of male and female relationships and gender binaries, begins to crumble.
Because use of Genesis as the model for male and female gender roles and interaction is a key point on which “enGendered” is constructed, the veracity of Genesis as a model for all peoples, and all times needs to be challenged.
In both Old Earth Creation and Young Earth Creation stories, it is agreed that Adam and Eve would have been placed in/created in the garden no sooner than 6,000 years ago. In line with the evangelical view that Moses wrote Genesis 1 and most of the Torah, the written account would have occurred about 3,400 years ago, which is at minimum 2,600 years after the events of the creation story.
According to science, modern humans (homo sapiens) began living in permanent villages about 12,000 years ago. Knowing that, about nine thousand years would have passed until Genesis was authored. We also know from historical records that for seven thousand of those nine thousand years, humans had no ability to write.
One could make a far more compelling case that Genesis is a written account about how people imagined they came. It is also the story of their relationship with a Creator God. Using Genesis as an accurate blueprint of human sexuality and male/female roles and interaction for all time, for all cultures, and for all human relationships may be overreaching the intent of the passages.
In some Christian circles, literal reading of the creation story has become the barometer by which one’s spiritual integrity is measured. It need not be so. For me, honoring both Scripture and science does not diminish my respect for and submission to God’s authority. I can both value the creation story as a different style and intention in writing than say, the New Testament letters and gospels.
My faith is securely intact, and I remain safe from a threatened slippery slope toward unbelief in Jesus while using my intellect alongside the Genesis 1 and 2 texts to establish a more realistic, yet still God-honoring view of the history of humankind, human sexuality and gender identity.
Yet, Andreades uses Genesis 1 and 2 as the directive from to define, limit, and contain the roles of men and women in joint relationship, and for those he calls “monogendered,” more commonly called same-sex relationships.
It is not difficult to imagine how problematic this might be. There are few areas of social organizations, medicine, or technology where we would insist upon staying within the confines of what was known to ancient cultures.
The Bible, as is true with all ancient texts, was written in the context of patriarchy (male social, political, intellectual, and sexual dominance over women).
The life of Jesus should have taught us that we are to care for and elevate as equals those at the margins, those who have not enjoyed power and dominance. This means challenging patriarchal structures. Still, this uncomfortable challenge is a fairly new concept to conservative Christianity.
All this preceding context was long to say, yet essential to clarify as this is the fundamental juncture at which the author and I take different paths into our lived-out Christianity.
By using ancient texts as strict guidelines and restrictors, Andreades, rather than challenging long enshrined, male dominance and power structures, reinforces them in his teaching to preserve the “asymmetry” of male/female relationships he sees commanded by God.
Balanced and perfect gender asymmetry as designed by God, Andreades tells us, got messed up in the Fall. “Beatific vision of godly harmony did not last. The great fall of humanity distorted the gender asymmetry. . . . The description “ruling over” can mean ruling by force, harshly and selfishly, and corrupting of the job of authority, which should instead provide securing, cultivating, and leading in God’s call. No longer strong helper, deferrer or giver of rest, Eve will seek to control Adam, by defiance or manipulation, again, indicated in apostolic teaching as now a sinful tendency for women.” (p. 77)
Andreades tells us Paul agrees with this assessment of a woman’s “sinful tendency” todefy her husband, writing, “Eve caused problems by stepping out of right relationship with Adam. (p. 137)
“When both of them departed from the gendered way established for them, their defense broke down.” (p. 138) Since then, Eve, and all women, need to be dominated, or as Andreades offers euphemistically, they need to serve in their “gifting” of “promotion.”
Rather than using the term “submission,” Andreades offers this odd term “promotion” as a substitute: “I have come to use “promotion” interchangeably with “submission” because husbandly authority is a gift to be offered for the good of the other.” (p. 112)
His assessment of what happened in the garden is as follows: “You (the woman) will desire to master him and he will dominate you. That is, their relationship was going to be characterized by strife and power struggles. (p. 139)
Continuing on some basic thoughts about gender, the author writes: “God told people to make gender distinction a main point of relationship” (p. 24) “Gender is the reason marriage exists.” (p. 53) “Masculine compounds catalyzed her femininity. Womanly power ignites his manhood. This is why, again, the Bible makes a big deal about marriage being intergendered, directing a man to reserve his most intimate relationship for the woman and vice versa.” (p. 57)
How does Andreades define gender? He finally gets to the definition on page 140: “I feel we have come far enough to reach a definition. A definition of gender, I proffer, will appreciate God’s love of variety and be broad enough to acknowledge the outliers always among us. A real man is someone who, constantly and with joy, lays down his life for the closest women in his life. He ties himself to their growth through taking charge for them, securing them, and finding God’s purpose in their relationship. And a woman, a true one? Someone who, consistently and with joy, advances the close men in her life. She ties herself to their promotion through granting them authority, giving them rest, and divinely empowering their mission together.”
“Gender is a gift, a specialty, for developing another person in relationship. In a passage like Ephesians 5:22 through 33, the major marriage address in the New Testament, this is certainly the case. The husband takes on his masculinity in order to beautify his wife with attention and likewise, the wife takes on her femininity in order to empower the husband with honor. (p. 56)
Using Genesis 2 as the guideline, Andreades sees Adam as “firstborn,” and therefore given superiority over women by God’s design. He writes, “One asymmetry of Genesis 2 is found in the order of creating. God creates the man before woman, and commissions him first alone to do the work of humanity. . . . The priority translates into authority and representation on his part, and promotion on her part. Equal before God, and equal in the charge of taking dominion, yet in relationship, the man is to take charge and representation for her sake, the woman to promote him to that place of responsibility for his sake.” (p. 72)
Men and women, he says, were given “gendered” roles: “God put the man in the garden first to till and develop it, and he put the woman there to empower that mission with her strong help.” (p. 123)
Noting that Paul writes in 2 Timothy about the mandated silence of women during instructional teaching, Andreades tell us Paul’s “mind goes back to Genesis 2 because of Eve’s silence before Adam and their story. When they meet, Eve certainly could speak but the account presents us with no speaking on her part. Instead she allows Adam to name her. When women in church refuse to speak in certain contexts, the resulting silence grows louder and louder until the men are roused to represent.” (p. 112)
What if a woman is single, as I am, what then is her role in submission, or promotion? Andreades writes, that even if a woman is gifted in a “gendered role,” she should defer her gifting to a man in her family, or her faith community, so that the male may grow in his male roles and “gendered gifts.” Even in situations, whether with her husband, or other men, she should tend toward silence on issues, for by “Not speaking when they (women) could speak promotes their brothers to grow and taking responsibility.” (p. 112)
Still, what if the woman is better at certain tasks or roles than her husband or the men in her family or faith community? Oh well. The author writes, “Still, sometimes women are good at exercising authority and sometimes men are good at being strong helpers. Can’t people just do what they are good at and like doing? Why bother with his gender stuff? Again, we bother with gender for relationship. This leads men and women sometimes, to allow gender to trump giftings. Would there be times when God would ask us to limit ourselves and our gifting for gender purposes? Gender might trump gifting, but when should gender trump gifting? When that trumping would move relationship forward.” (p. 134-135)
Perhaps you are a woman reading this, and you can clearly see the power of dominance and submission at play. And, you may not like it or be willing to live under this structure. If they happily submitted, so should we.
With incredible revisionist flair, Andreades, imagines women in their roles of submission in patriarchal structures in Bible texts, were not subjugated at all.
“The Old Testament preaches of the equality of women in many ways.” (p. 43)
“To say that a woman was equally an image-bearer of God grated on the ears of the ancients. Nonetheless, the Bible, from its very first chapter and its patriarchs’ book, consistently assert it (her equal status).” “Women in the Bible seem to know their equality. The alleged misogyny of the Good Book seems utterly lost on them. Because it is not there.” (p. 43)
The author further adds, “What the Bible teaches is not subjugation or even domination, which has so characterized the sad history of men and women and relationship, and which ominously predicted in Genesis 3:16 saying that the fallen man will dominate the fallen woman.” (p. 111) And, “Women were not terribly different in Peter’s day. We can be confident that he (Peter) knew strong women and weak women, athletic women and frail women. He is not speaking about essential qualities, but about submission. So the “weakness” of the womanly “vessel” is better understood as the position of submission.” (p. 102)
As noted, this whitewashing of the subjugated status of women to envision them as equal to men and valued is wildly revisionist. The Bible is not a romance novel between men and women as modern Christian men frequently imagine it to be. It is a sacred text, yet one written within the context of male domination and women subjugation. The author never seems to get this concept.
What if a woman, the wife, has a better paying job than her husband, thereby possibly, in Andreades’view, diminishing his masculine role? “The diminishing of gender severely inhibits a man’s ability to find God’s work for him because he is not looking for it. As writer Henry Miller puts it, ‘The loss of sex polarity is part and parcel of the larger disintegration, the reflex of the soul’s death, and the coincident with the disappearance of great men, great deeds, great causes,’ and I (Andreades) would add, great women. When a man realizes his gender distinction, and grasps the responsibility to God in his manhood, it quickens him. There is a securing and developing, where before there was selfishness or less lethargy. And he sees women with new eyes.” (p. 125)
Because I am constantly aware of context in my reading and research, I need to point out that the quote by Miller is from 1939. Patriarchy was well in place pre-1970, and most certainly in 1939. Andreades sees the wisdom in the cultural roles of men and women in 1939 and seems to want to women to regress back 80 years to a time when their place was distinctly second to that of a man.
Andreades addresses egalitarian (equal roles and status) and complementarian marriages (gender roles and male dominance): “Some contemporary family scholars argue that egalitarian marriages, that is those that that consciously seek to suppress gender distinction in responsibilities and their relationship, should result in greater intimacy and high-quality, stable marriages by building up mutual understanding. (p. 118) I think the author misses the point of egalitarian relationships. No one is asking that gender distinctions be suppressed; we ask that gender not limit, supress, or restrict a person in their giftings.
Andreades sees promotion (again, submission) as a strength. (p. 112) “Some writers argue,” Andreades writes, “that Christian ideologies of husbandly authority and wifely deferral creates a climate of male domination and female subservience that only discourages men from being expressive with their wives but, worst, promotes domestic violence. In point of fact, however, research indicates no association between conservative Christians, or even religion in general, and domestic violence.” (p. 114)
I note that I strongly disagree that this is NOT what research and evidence show.
In a well-researched book, “The Reformation of Machismo—Evangelical Conversion and Gender in Colombia,” by Elizabeth Brusco, the author details the rise in domestic violence as evangelicalism swept Colombia. The country had been matriarchal in the home and patriarchal outside the home. When patriarchy became the social organization in the home, as is typical of evangelicalism, domestic violence significantly increased.
In Andreades ideal gender roles, the wife is to submit to the husband’s lead. He tells a personal story when he and his wife encountered flooded roads on a family vacation. Until the last minute, a woman is to defer to her husband’s decisions, even when danger could ensue. After all, “Promoting (as in submitting) wives know that you cannot properly surrender prerogative to your husband unless you trust God, nay, unless you are doing it because you are trusting God, trusting that God is in this picture, that he will take care of you and your own.” (p. 118)
What makes a woman beautiful? “Do you want to see a truly empowered and attractive woman? It is not an independent woman. It is a woman who’s men in her life handle authority well. This is what the first born will do for her.” (p. 106)
One could safely assume that Andreades would further expand his gender beliefs to comment negatively on those who are same-sex attracted and other members of the LGBTQ community because they fall outside his views of strict biblical gender binaries. A quick look at his website proves that to be an accurate assumption. A large percentage of Andreades’ newer published posts and videos focus on transgender individuals.
As has become increasingly common, Andreades and others misuse a Swedish twins study. He asserts that if people are born gay, both twins in a pair should always be gay, or always be straight. (p. 168) A simple online search summarizing the study results deals with the very high incidence of gay or straight pairings in twins, along with a discussion of fetal hormonal washes and epigenetics altering a 100% match in twins’ sexual orientations.
Once again, stepping beyond his bounds of expertise, Andreades writes, “There is one variable that can positively be identified with greatly increasing probability that someone will develop same-sex desires as they grow up. Scientists call it the strongest known bio demographic predictor of sexual orientation. It is birth order. The more older brothers a guy has, the more likely he is to develop same-sex attraction. (p. 179) As previously suggested, go online and read educated input as to why this is. Simplified: the more male pregnancies a woman has, the more she builds up “barriers” or reactions to each male pregnancy. A male baby, with its XY makeup is seen as a bit of a foreign body to her female body, and she reacts chemically. This reaction does not happen with female baby pregnancies. Andreades is taking information and skewing it to his purposes and narratives about what “makes” someone gay.
Andreades believes same-sex attracted men can and should marry women. “The same-sex attracted men who now know physical intimacy with their wives testify to it. The interviews with men, themselves, an unexpected joy to conduct, also confirm it. Nick uses the word amazing ten times to describe Laura and what she did for him.” (p. 154) Bisexuals exist, but I assume that they are not within Andreades’ purview.
This is not an isolated “oversight.”
Andreades writes that “Certain differences create the healthy sparks of physical intimacy. Sex is a gender intensive activity. (p. 171) To prove this, he cites a study from the University of Washington that shows that “American couples with more gender distinct housework arrangements have more and vigorous sex.” While he does not directly reference gay couples aas having less sexual intimacy directly, he sandwiches the results of this study after discussion about changes in people’s sexual attractions and in a section on same-sex couples.
I’m a footnote reader, and an original source pursuer. Interestingly, the researchers in the cited U of W study themselves say: “We caution against assuming that our findings apply to other types of couples (gay couples). (p. 44 of that study)
In referring to sexual orientation change, Andreades cites a 2005 book which refer to studies from the 1950s to the 1970s that found evidence of same-sex attraction or orientation change. (p. 169) As an obvious reminder, the extreme level of cultural shaming of gay people from the 1950s to the 1970s created internal dishonesty about accurate reporting of one’s sexuality. These numbers are NOT reflected in today’s culture of acceptance for the natural state of a homosexual orientation, and the legalization of marriage equality.
At one point, Andreades ran a ministry in NYC called Higher Ground, counseling for gay men. To assist them in orientation change, he sought to help them understand that their same-sex attraction was a desire for manhood that did not get met in the past. (p. 169) This is junk therapy.
Andreades, a heterosexual, clearly can not envision sexual intimacy and satisfaction between gay couples. In one of the oddest passages of the book, he writes: “In talking about sexual fantasies, no one gets excited about dreaming of being the same. . . . Rather, gender asymmetries arouse. If the Scriptures are right, then erasing gender lines make us less human not more. Following the lines of gender should make us feel alive and create the sparks that need to be there. As it does. It gives us more energy for being who we were meant to be. And it leads to love making that is intensely intimate, the kind where partners can look into each other’s eyes and say each other’s names during the act.
Difference: the strawberries bring out the taste of the champagne. The garlic brings out the richness of the olive oil. The chocolate brings out the sweetness of the peanut butter.” (p. 172)
In summary, Andreades transports ancient texts to modern contexts to create his “theology of gender” which advances, further entrenches, and attempts to make sacred and holy a gender binary system which perpetuates not only male domination of women, but excludes gay couples and transgender people from flourishing within Christian community.
He does so with wildly and egregious revisionist interpretations of Scripture, misuse of cited studies, pushing aside the modern progress of the women’s movement of the past half century, and willful ignorance in understanding well known and easily found information about human sexuality and gender.
Conservative complementarian Christian men may be able to use the information in this book as a weapon to subjugate all others unlike themselves. For others, this book is a sacred weapon to be avoided at all costs.
[Full review on Amazon]