Religion and Feminism III

I’m on the fourth chapter of my bible study (it is amazing to me now that even though I was born and raised in the church, and have considered myself a practicing Christian for the past 8 years, I’d never actually read the bible end-to-end). As I read this book little-by-little, it blows my mind how twisted and one-sided bible teaching is. I’ve spent 38 years in the church, and I’ve heard, more-times-than-I-can-count precepts about women covering their heads and obeying their husbands, but never-ever-never have I heard the story of Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah (Numbers 27: verses 1-10) – a bunch of feminists demanding property rights.

In my study, it seems that it would be completely biblically correct to go over the entire bible with a marker pen, and correct every mention of God as “He” into a “She” or “Ze“, because the word “Elohim” used in the original text is plural. In fact, God says, “Let us create man and woman in our image.” So the ubiquitous “He” definitely seems inaccurate.

It is amazing-horrifying that in all these years, I’ve heard the Sodom and Gomorrah story many times in sermons and elsewhere, and it is used as the linchpin for the church’s anti-gay stance – but have none of these people ever actually bothered to read Lot’s story? Because when I finally read this story, it is impossible to misunderstand – what God condemns in that story is not homosexuality but rape. The context of Sodom’s destruction was their sin – the sin of having an abundance of food and riches but not helping the poor and the needy, and not seeking justice for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and instead practicing abominable deeds (Ezekial 16; Isaiah 1): the abominable deeds refers to raping foreigners (irrespective of gender). So the word “sodomy” should (if-one-was-accurate) refer to ingratitude-uncaring-selfishness-xenophobia-rape; it had nothing to do with homosexuality.

Is there no one to defend religion from this twisting and stretching and perverting by one side? We, as feminists (or as liberals-humanists-anyone-with-some-common-sense), need to claim religion as ours (or at least stop dismissing religion as belonging to the nutcases trying to apply selectively the norms of a different era).

Religion and Feminism II

So here is my attempt to explain religion (as I see it and understand it and value it), and my hope is that others will join me in rescuing religion (or at least refrain from demonizing religion).

To me, religion at its crux (as represented by its holy texts) is unconcerned with culture; it is concerned with the more universal questions of connection, peace and joy. For instance, it is unconcerned about whether, in a particular age, it is considered appropriate to stone a woman to death for adultery, or whether, in another age, it is considered wholly appropriate to color-code your children in pink and blue. Those are matters for humans in each age to figure out. Religion doesn’t really care either way.

Or actually, I take that back.

It is not that religion doesn’t care either way about such questions or has nothing to say about such questions; it is just these issues are not the main purpose, the main concerns driving religion. These issues are the background context, and provide the setting for the larger and more universal questions about what drives our lives and why we must take the trouble to get up each morning. So in the Bible, for instance, there are stories of killings and women-taken-as-slaves-by-the victors in wars that were ordered by God. Oh horror!! But one has to read the whole book and not stop with these instances, because when we read the whole book and not just the stories of one particular age, then it becomes clear that killing-rape-victors was not the point-of-the-story – that was the unavoidable background context for the real story – the one about maintaining faith and trust and peace and joy when all is uncertain and everything is on the line.

And these stories that populate this holy book are complex and sophisticated multi-generational stories and there are layers of meaning, and if one just stops at the surface level without considering that every age has different ideas about what is okay and what is not, and that the specifics of these choices are largely irrelevant to questions about why we exist, then it is like going to the theater to watch a critically acclaimed play and then dismissing the play because we got distracted by what the actors were wearing.

And if it was a play and we dismissed it without bothering to peel back the layers and understand it, then it matters little. But if we do the same with a holy text like the Bible, then that decision, to choose ignorance, is consequential, because it hands over that entire area of life to the patriarchs; to be used as a bludgeon to beat other women down.

And it is amazing-horrifying how easy it seems to be do this – to use the complexity of religion’s stories (which is what makes them so real and true), and twist and stretch and shade and use to justify all sorts of cultural mishaps. And it makes me mad that something so true and perfect is twisted out of all recognition to justify some twisted ideology. And no one objects!!

The God that I know

The God that I know looks nothing like the blowhards who have claimed the mantle of religion and decked themselves in cloaks of holier-than-thou. The God that I know is powerful, yet speaks in a still small voice. Even God’s miracles are quiet, unassuming. God speaks most when we are ourselves small and broken, and He* speaks most for the lowest of the low, the forgotten, the unwanted, the freaks, the dirty – the ones the world has discarded. God is gentle, creative, funny, unexpected, and surprising.

In short, God is the exact opposite of the blowhards who currently claim to speak in His name. When I see the shenanigans of the likes of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, it offends me that these one-dimensional-robotons claim to speak on God’s behalf. Offended is a small word, while what I feel is less polite – some smashing and throwing of edifices is required I think (Mathew 21:12).

How dare these ugly-hate-spewing-machines defile God, and claim to speak in His name – do they think God is some commodity that they can use for their own petty little ends? Do these not fear God’s wrath? Have these ever read the Bible, and if so, how could they miss what the whole book is about?

I honestly doubt that these people have ever read the Bible since I think it is impossible to read it and say the things these people say.

“You will know them by their fruits” (Mathew 7:16). It does not seem possible to look at the Santorums and the Huckabees of the world and think – “this” is what God’s fruits look like. So it is incredible that they are not laughed out of the house when they don the mantle of God and religion.

I’ve heard people ask why moderate Muslims do not speak out against the most extremist/crazy elements, and I have the same question for American Christians: why do you allow these alienoids to speak for you?

*or She or Ze or whichever limiting pronoun we humans can come up with to describe God.