Bow down, bitches, and I shall lift thee up

One of the elders from the church I used to belong to loves Africa. Many sermons contain references to things witnessed during his travels there. Usually these anecdotes fueled the romanticized white saviour mentality endemic to “mission work”.

This elder described witnessing a traditional greeting among one particular tribe from a place I do not remember.

Women always wore a sturdy apron because when they greeted a man, they fell on their knees with their heads down. They remained this way until the man fulfilled his part of the traditional greeting by doing something that allowed them to stand back up. I forget if it was a pat on the shoulder or something else, but it hit a cringe factor in me, mostly because I had experienced something similar and felt condescended to.

I waited for what spiritual truth this greeting would illustrate. Was it maybe Galatians 3:28  “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  That we don’t need to have anyone debase themselves because Christianity brought equality? (Yes, I actually thought that, and yes, its totally colonialistic.)

No. This elder got weepy and wistful. He talked about how beautiful that greeting was. How this was a beautiful enactment of proper gender roles.

Women are always more beautiful and godly when submitting-  oh if only Canadian women could greet men like that. Plus giant aprons covering the knees mean more modesty! (aaahh!)

Because the man was supposed to use his authority (and superiority) to lift women up! After they bow down before him. Because men are like god and women are the fallen creation.

Did it not occur to him that it was actually two adult humans, both walking, until one of them had to do a display of subservience until permitted to resume to the original position? That he was metaphorically pushing her down so he could pull her up and take credit for it? (This is how it was portrayed in this man’s illustration; I cannot comment on the actual greeting habits and symbolisms of a culture I do not know.)

No, this couldn’t have occurred to him because it means starting from a position of equality and that isn’t how to do  gender roles beautifully.

The sad thing is, this elder is easily the most progressive and feminist elder in that church.

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