Is it scripture that man is head of the house?

The Kansas City Star /


Published Jan 19, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Evolving cultures

The Rev. Holly McKissick, pastor, Peace Christian Church, Kansas City and Overland Park, Kan:

No hats at the dinner table; call if you’re going to be late. Just as households have rules, so do cultures. Sometimes they are merely practical. Sometimes, though, they reflect power imbalances.

Like every faith system, Christianity was influenced by cultural rules in place when it took root. Then, as now, people mistook cultural rules with the sacred principles of the faith.

Christianity began as a reform movement of sorts — more inclusive and less hierarchical than the social environment in which it began — with neither “Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” Outcasts were welcomed, accepted, affirmed.

Over time, though, Christianity moved from the sideline to the mainline and with that move came a renewed skewing of power. The Christian household, which Jesus envisioned to be more egalitarian, eventually came to look like every other household of the time: patriarchal. Female submission became entrenched (and largely remains entrenched).

We remain called, however, to reflect the earliest Christian voice, crafting and sustaining relationships where power is shared.

No Biblical mandate

Rabbi Avi Weinstein, head of Jewish Studies, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy:

Attitude toward scripture and its authority is one of the great dividing lines between religious traditions, and Judaism is no exception.

The Biblical mandate is that a man must leave his mother and cleave to a wife. Biblical laws of inheritance of land certainly favored men, and these designated roles were mandated in the Book of Exodus. The question is, once the tribal order has been thoroughly dismantled, should those directives remain?

Scripture assumes traditional roles and describes them often throughout the Hebrew Bible. The primary role of a woman is to raise a family, and the primary of a man is to support that family with an occupation of some kind. There was never a Biblical mandate as to who should be the primary decision maker. Those dynamics were a family affair.

Nowadays, although in more traditional Jewish homes many rituals are the exclusive province of men, the issue of who gets to be the head of the household depends on the household.