The New Pecking Order and the Curse of Eden

When Adam and Eve were formed, they were created to be equal. I strongly pecking-order-stanmoresuspect there was no wife beating or henpecking going on in the Garden of Eden. My sense of what happened there was mutual cooperation, respect, and love.

That, of course, all changed when they disobeyed God and brought sin into the world. The Lord then proceeded to curse everything under the sun. Eve’s part of the curse of Eden was, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

That word, rule, is pretty heavy. But, as history shows, men pushed females around for a long time after that. It’s no wonder politicians like to talk about a “glass ceiling” for women.

Domination is the way of human history.

It didn’t stop there, as we know. Cain killed Abel, Moses killed an Egyptian, and Herod beheaded John. Ever since we got kicked out of the Garden, we’ve been trying to lord it over one another. Some have been more successful at that than others.

Monarchs and dictators rule over their subjects and attempt to rule over each other. Apparently, one kingdom isn’t enough. Going after someone else’s stuff and dominating them is the way of human history. This attitude even wormed its way into the church.

peckingUp until 300 AD, Christianity was more of a movement than anything else. It certainly wasn’t a world religion. The early Christians weren’t particularly known for their pious rituals. They were, instead, known for the way they lived—for the way they treated each other and the people around them.

They weren’t institutionalized and formal. They existed more like a household than a corporation. They cared about each other and were known for their love. They lived like a family with roots in the community and compassion in their hearts. And, much like in the Garden of Eden, no one lorded it over another. Even the Apostles were servants, shoulder to shoulder with everyone else.

“We created a new pecking order.”

Then the Roman Empire decided Christianity was the way to go, and everything changed. Rome was a place of hierarchy. It was the mother of the corporation. Before too long, so was the church. Quickly, the leaders were no longer the servants. Bishops, pastors, and elders became the hot shots. Interestingly enough, the Biblical word (in the Greek) for all these positions is often the same term. Yet, we created a new pecking order. The Bible doesn’t do that—we did that.

holy-pecking-orderConsequently, we began to read our new practices back into Scripture. We began to discover positions of authority in the Bible that weren’t really there. Some of the servants became the rulers, and we found Scripture to validate that practice.

These days, it’s hard to find a congregation that actually functions as a family. People are leaving churches in droves because we often lack real community. Others, who never were part of a church, see no reason to start now. Why should they? They can find more of a community in their local taverns.

[To Be Continued…]

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

2 thoughts on “The New Pecking Order and the Curse of Eden”

  1. That’s the problem, Pastor Dave. And boy, did I get burned that way in my college church.

    To be honest, I don’t know of any Shepherding / Discipleship Movement congregations or ministries that do not promote de-facto lordship over disciples / subordinates. It may not be intentional, but it is what happens. And when you have well-intended Christians like me submitting to and obeying these types, only to find out later that these types were abusing Scripture…. it can make it very difficult for us to take seriously church and church leadership — and even congregants / parishioners. We’ve been taught by these wolves and their abuse of Scripture that God loves them and their churches / ministries more than us little guys.

    So, we end up wondering what we did to lead God to quit loving us and abandon us in controlling churches. I know He didn’t really; but that’s the message these types send.

    I’ve known very few Christians to stand up and rebuke these false teachers. The support these wolves often have in the universal body of Christ — the favoritism they’re shown, because many of them will be popular, or will be viewed as integrous when they’re not — just blows my mind.

    Meanwhile, those of us left trying to recover in the wake of this false teaching often find great difficulty finding a church home where we can heal. I’ve known the body of Christ to do more to antagonize than help those of us trying to recover.

    It takes a lot to overcome that lie and come to trust God and the Church again. It can be done, although the process can be difficult and slow.

    Two other notes I would point out:

    I don’t know if you’re being influenced by a house church believer or by Frank Viola, but Viola does point out these things in his writings. That said, I am concerned that Viola’s views are biased / imbalanced, and that he has probably developed a cult following. I figure so, because I have read a little bit of his writings. I do tend to agree with him on the issues you mention in your post; but I now realize that the whole leaders having authority issue is complex. I realize that different believers have different views on that, based on how they interpret the Scriptures, and I am ok with that.

    Regarding the sex abuse scandals we’ve had in the Church, be it Catholic priest predators, cover-ups in other congregations, or whatever: they are a variation of this same problem. It’s a bit more difficult for there to be sex abuse problems in the Church when there is no authority differential. We’ve had multiple examples of this in the news in past years, and even this year, I think. Tragic situations for those affected.

    I pray that whether people end up affected one way or another, that God help heal and restore those affected, and that He help the body of Christ function not as an abusing / exacerbating agent in difficulties like this, but rather, a healing agent, that the world might observe Christ’s love through the way we treat each other.

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