“God and Women in Genesis 1:26-28: Rereading the Creation Narrative from a Feminist Perspective”

“God and Women in Genesis 1:26-28:
Rereading the Creation Narrative from a Feminist Perspective”

Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

The Hebrew word in Genesis 1:26 and 27 that translates as “mankind” in the English language refers, in the most literal sense, to both genders: male and female—what some Hebrew scholars and theologians have called the “natural genders,” and for others the “natural sexes.” Thus, as many students of Scripture already know, mankind should be best rendered as humanity or human beings in English. I do, however, would like to consider a simple question: what if we were to read these three verses of Genesis 1 (26-28) from a feminist and womanist perspective. Let us consider these additional pertinent questions:

  1. What difference the feminist lens would make in our understanding of the relationships between men and women in the world?
  2. Would a feminist rereading of this passage lead to a rejection to the traditional gender hierarchy?
  3. Would a feminist rereading of this text lead to a complementarian perspective about gender roles and functions?
  4. How shall this rereading change the way we “define” women and “understand” their roles, functions, and contributions in the world?
  5. What if we were to replace each reference to “mankind/humankind/human beings” in these texts with the word “women”?
  6. What if we were to interpret each (textual) allusion or echo to “mankind/human/human beings” in this passage as a reference to women?

*** In the Hebrew text, the word is not “women” (plural) but “woman” (singular). For the sake of rhetorical force and linguistic reconceptualization, I would like to use the plurality (women) instead of the singularity (woman) in my analysis below. Let us try this interpretive exercise below:

• God created women in his image and likeness.
• God gave women power and ability to rule over the fish in the seas (natural sciences).
• God gave women power and ability to rule over the birds in the sky (natural sciences).
• God gave women power and ability to rule over the livestock.
• God gave women power and ability to rule over all the wild animals.
• God gave women power and ability to rule over all the creatures that move along the ground.
• God blessed women, and God spoke to “the woman” directly and clearly.
• God gave women power and ability to increase in number.
• God gave women power and ability to subdue the earth.
• To be created in the image of God is to have freedom, critical thinking, imagination, and intelligence, as well as resistance to struggle against all forces of human oppression and evil.
• Hence, by creating women in his own image, God gave women freedom, critical thinking, imagination, and intelligence. God also equipped women to reject and fight against all forms of human oppression, abuse, and evil.
• By creating women in his own image, God ordained women to be his representative in the world, to be his agents in the cosmos, and to reflect his communicable qualities, virtues, and attributes in the universe.

In conclusion, from creation, God has empowered women by giving them natural abilities, intrinsic freedom, natural authority, and natural intelligence to create order in society; to administer laws and justice in society; to exercise dominion and control over the natural world; to make the world liveable and functional; to lead and rule over all things in the world; and to create harmony and coherence in the cosmos. According to this text, the power of woman encompasses everything in the world because God has created her to be his agent or ambassador in the world. In other words, the art of governance, administration, and leadership are divine gifts and abilities extended to the woman gender. Literally and originally, I am arguing that the passage of Genesis 1:26-28, both directly and indirectly, suggests that God has called women to govern, administer, and to lead, as well as to perform different roles and functions in both public and private places, such as at home, in society, in government offices, in sacred spaces such as ecclesiastical settings (in churches).

Special Guest at “Sak Pase St Lucie”

I was the special guest of the wonderful and tireless Dr. Maggie Remy’s “Sak Pase,” a TV program of the St Lucie County Schools designed to reach the Haitian Community in the Treasure Coast. Dr. Remy and I talked about the importance of education and particularly the “Promise” Program which Indian River State College (Fort Pierce, Florida) just launched to provide free College tuition to High school students in the area.

**This informative program is especially helpful for Haitian parents and High school students.

“Brief Notes on Haitian Atheism, Radicalism, and Marxism”

“Brief Notes on Haitian Atheism, Radicalism, and Marxism”“Brief Notes on Haitian Atheism, Radicalism, and Marxism”

***This post is not an attack on Mr. Kerby’s atheism or philosophical worldview! However, as a Haitian intellectual historian and religious scholar who has published prolifically on the history of ideas in Haiti and the experience of the Haitian people with religion, I seek to bring some clarification on the subject matter.

Haiti has a strong (theistic) humanist tradition, which can be traced in the early nineteenth century, such as in the ideas and writings, for example, of Haitian public intellectual Pompée Valentin Vastey. Haiti, nonetheless, does not have an atheistic tradition or a non-theistic humanist tradition.

Ismael de Kerby, the President of “Society of Atheists of Haiti” (“President de la Société des Athées d’Haiti”), is quite an articulate Haitian thinker and well-versed in the history of ideas of Western atheism, but he is ignorant of the history of ideas in Haiti and the history of Haitian radicalism. In his superb interview on Blocus, he referenced the ideas of Jacques Roumain, one of the most influential Haitian thinkers in the first half of the twentieth-century, to promote his philosophy and worldview of Haitian theism. In 1934 when the American military forces left Haiti, Jacques Roumain founded the Haitian Communist Party (Le Parti Communiste Haïtien: PCH) and spread enthusiastically the Gospel of Marxism and Communism as promising future possibilities in the Haitian society. Roumain had exercised a profound intellectual influence on the emerging Haitian intellectuals, including Marxist thinkers and communist-militants René Depestre, Jacques-Stéphen Alexis, Christian Beaulieu, Max Lélio Hudicourt, etc. In 1932, both Roumain and Beaulieu travelled to New York to forge alliance with the American Communist Party and to find resources to help them launch PCH in Haiti in 1934. Hudicourt, for example, was the leader of the Parti Socialiste Populaire (Haiti) (PSP). Gérald Bloncourt helped launch a journal, “La Ruche” (“The Beehive”) in Haiti and published many Marxist-themed pieces for the Haitian public. He also worked for the Parisian Communist Party newspaper called L’Humanité (“Humanity”).

Haitian radicalism is not a substitute for Haitian atheism or non-theistic Humanism. For two recent and brilliant texts on the history of Marxism in Haiti and Haitian radicalism in the twentieth-century, see Jean-jacques Cadet, “Le Marxisme Haïtien : Marxisme et Anticolonialisme en Haïti (1946-1986)” (2020), “Marxisme et aliénation. Cinq études sur le marxisme haïtien” (2021), and Yves Dorestal, “Jacques Roumain (1907-1944) : un communiste haïtien : Le marxisme de Roumain ou le commencement du marxisme en Haïti” (2015). Additional readings include Matthew J. Smith’s grounbreaking book on Haitian radicalism and Marxism, “Red & Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change, 1934-1957” (2009); Leslie Péan’s helpful essay, “Du côté de la liberté – Christian Beaulieu,” published in Le Petit Samedi Soir, no. 320, 12-18 (Janvier 1980); René Depestre, “Cahier d’un art de vivre: Journal de Cuba, 1964-1978” (2020) ; Wilson Decembre, “Vitalité et spiritualité: Apologie du rapport-au-monde afro-haïtien” (2009), and “Cosmopoétique : La symbolique païenne dans l’œuvre de René Depestre”(2022).

I am arguing that one cannot ground the birth of Haitian atheism in the ideas and writing of Jacques-Roumain. Although Jacques Roumain was a classic Marxist and radical Communist, he was not an atheist nor a non-theistic humanist. (Many contemporary Haitian intellectuals today are exploiting the ideas of Jacques Roumain to promote a non-theistic philosophy in the Haitian culture. This is a profound misreading of Roumain and his works! I have dealt with the religious sensibilities and intellectual, radical, and philosophical ideas of Jacques Roumain in a BIG book called “Thinking in Public: Faith, Secular Humanism, and Development in Jacques Roumain [496 pages; published in 2017]).

Further, some of the most brilliant and influential Haitian thinkers including Pompée Valentin Vastey, Thomas Madiou, Benito Sylvain, Joseph Antenor Firmin, Demesvar Delorme, Louis Joseph Janvier, Jean Price-Mars, Jacques Roumain, Jacques-Stephen Alexis, Marie-Vieux Chauvet and many others were not “atheists;” rather, these thinkers and many others in the twentieth-century embraced a form of “theistic humanism” and “soft secularism.” These Haitian thinkers (Vastey, Firmin, Roumain, Price-Mars, Alexis, Vieux) did not commit themselves to any religion, creed, or dogma—including Haitian Catholicism, Haitian Protestantism, Haitian Vodou, etc.—nor did they identify themselves specifically with a particular religious tradition or system. For example, Roumain, Price-Mars, and Alexis wrote about Haitian Vodou and even defended its significance in Haitian history and the Haitian society. Yet they were not Vodouizan or Vodouists, in the very sense of the word. All of them were brought in Christian families—both Catholicism and Protestantism—yet they were not “Christians.”

In summary, the Haitian thinkers referenced above did not set an intellectual foundation to promote contemporary Haitian atheism, nor should their writings and ideas be used or misused to counter theism. Those who are advocates of Haitian atheism today need to reshape their arguments and engage in more careful exegetical reading or critical analysis of the ideas these Haitian thinkers sustained in regard to the intersections of faith, humanism, and the Haitian culture. By any means am I saying that there is not an intellectual, humanist, and Marxist foundation for Haitian atheism based on the writings and ideas of Haitian thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By contrast, I am arguing that contemporary Haitian atheists should not reference the writings and ideas of the referenced thinkers, especially Jacques Roumain, the most radical thinker in Haitian history, to promote the philosophy and worldview of atheism. Haiti has produced a catalogue of ardent theistic humanists, a tradition they inherited from European humanism, especially France’s humanist culture.

The Eleven Major Branches of Haitian Studies

The Eleven Major Branches of Haitian Studies:

  1. Haitian Revolution Scholarship
  2. The Haitian Religion (Vodou scholarship)
  3. Haitian Literature and Literacy Criticism
  4. Haitian Political History
  5. Haitian Diplomatic Relations (i.e., France, England, U.S.A., Canada)
  6. Haitian (Visual) Art and Cinematography
  7. Haitian Language/Linguistics (Kreyòl Sudies)
  8. Haitian Feminist and Women’s Scholarship
  9. Haitian Catholic and Protestant Studies
  10. Haitian Ethnology and Sociology
  11. Haitian Health Studies