I was browsing Netflix a couple weeks ago, looking for something to watch while I did bookwork, when I noticed Kirk Cameron’s 2013 film, “Unstoppable,” in which he addresses the problem of pain and suffering and how you can reconcile that with the idea of a loving and good God. Out of curiosity, I hit play.
I’m not writing this post to critique the movie, but I do want to address Kirk Cameron’s comments about husbands and wives as he is sharing the Creation story. I find his remarks problematic, and I would like to do my part to make sure there is something on the internet pointing this out.
Kirk sets up the movie with a heart-wrenching story about friends of his who lost their ten year old son to cancer after years of pain and grueling treatments. A couple weeks before he died, the young boy asked his dad if he could fix him. Holy cow, I’m crying again just thinking about this poor family. I can’t bear it.
So Kirk asks the question, Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering? And he begins to answer this question by going to the beginning of pain and suffering (the Fall), first describing the creation of Adam and Eve and the perfection of their life in the Garden. Here is a short video in which Kirk explains why he goes back to the Garden of Eden in this film:
Around twelve minutes into “Unstoppable”, he is describing how God created man from dust and then he says,
Adam, he’s made of the earth (that’s what Adam means, it means dirt), and he’s not like any of the other creatures. Not only is he made in the image of God, he is given authority to rule over every other creature. He’s given privilege and authority to name every other living creature. When you have authority to name something, that means you have authority over their life.
After God makes Eve, Kirk goes on to say,
So now, man is no longer alone. He has his woman, and the two of them are beautifully, perfectly designed to compliment one another. They have become one flesh. Adam says, “This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman.” He names her.
And then God gives them The Assignment, The Great Mission. And that is, to be fruitful, multiply, have lots and lots of babies, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule it, take dominion over all of God’s creation.
Adam had one job, and it was to tend and keep the Garden. In other words, to cultivate and guard. To beautify and protect. Well, if I said that to you, “Guard this. Protect what has been entrusted to you,” the obvious question is, “From what?” And this is the worst part of the story up to this point.
Adam is in the Garden, with his wife, the most precious thing in the Garden. He is to be protecting her, beautifying her, doing his job. And a serpent enters the Garden. This is exactly what Adam should have been watching for. He should have smelled him a mile away and ran to him and crushed his head the second he saw him. Especially after he saw what he was doing to his wife! This is the ultimate breakdown of a man’s responsibility. This is a story of a man throwing his wife under the bus and using her as a guinea pig in the human experiment. Remember, God had said to Adam, “the day you eat of this fruit, you will surely die.” (emphasis mine)
First of all, Kirk is not “shooting from the hip.” The script has been carefully crafted and he is performing it, even though the effect is to seem off-handed and natural. So when he gives special attention to clarify that naming something is in effect having authority over their life, and then breezes past the statement, “Adam named Eve,” the message is very loud and clear that Adam had authority over Eve’s life.
Did he? Really?
Kirk Cameron is clearly understanding the Creation narrative through a complementarian/patriarchal lens, and is reading inherent roles into the text that simply aren’t there. He believes there is an implicit authority given to men to rule over animals and women that is signified through the act of naming. However, as Kirk states after Eve’s creation, God gives them both authority over the animals, although Eve was not there for their naming. And the truth is, God named both the man and the woman Adam (human-being in Hebrew), and never told Adam to name his wife.
When God created mankind, he created them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” [adam] when they were created. Gen. 5:1b-2.
God did not create a hierarchy of authority at Creation. Adam and Eve are both given the same directive from God: “And that is, to be fruitful, multiply, have lots and lots of babies, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule it, take dominion over all of God’s creation” (Kirk’s paraphrase of Genesis 1:28). Kirk describes Adam’s “responsibilities” as “one job…to tend and keep the Garden. In other words, to cultivate and guard. To beautify and protect.” And then he extends those descriptions to Adam’s responsibility to Eve, “He is to be protecting her, beautifying her, doing his job.” But that isn’t coming from the Bible. That is coming from a
complementarian patriarchal reading-into of the text. God created Eve as Adam’s ezer-kenegdo (“strength-corresponding to” rather than the traditional mistranslation of “helper suitable to”) and gave both of them the authority to rule over creation, sans gender-specific roles.
In Marg Mowzcko’s article, A Suitable Helper, she says,
The whole purpose of the Creation of Eve narrative in Genesis 2:21-24 is to emphasise the equality of husband and wife. To read it any other way is to miss the point and distort its meaning! . . . When Adam looked at his new partner he exclaimed that she was “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”! A profound expression of equality. There is no hierarchy here! But to further emphasise the point, verse 24 says that when a husband and wife join in marriage they become one flesh – a point which Jesus also highlighted (Matthew 19:4-5, Mark 10:6-7). Men and women together are made in God’s image. God’s ideal at creation was that the husband and wife be completely equal and rule over nature together (Genesis 1:26-28). Complete gender equality is the Godly ideal we should be aiming for.
I could say so much more from watching Kirk’s film, but the concept of Adam having inherent authority over the animals and Eve because of naming them was a striking error that needed correction.
Blessings to you as you have dominion over Creation today! – and I would hope you do that by making the world a better place, reconciling things to the beauty and perfection of God’s original design. Carry on, warriors!
Marg Mowzcko just posted this excellent article yesterday, relating directly to this issue of gender roles as understood from the Creation narrative: Kenegdo: Is the woman in Genesis 2 subordinate, suitable, or similar to the man?
I would also highly recommend this article by Bob Edwards: Must women keep silent? 1 Corinthians 14 – The Apostle Paul and the traditions of men. He discusses how proponents of male-authority point to the pre-Fall Genesis account to support their views.
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