Tuesday, 28 February 2012

When it got onto how the Bible 'lifts' women I had to reply!

It looks like there is one more exchange with my Fundamentalist Christian. Somehow, when it got onto how the Bible and Christianity treats women I could not sit back and say nothing.

The egregious misogyny of the patriarchal age, the last 3-5,000 years, has corrupted, debased and distorted the spiritual foundations of all religions. Most women in this world are still abused and killed in the name of a masculine God - Gods who hate and fear the feminine and reveal it constantly in their writings, sayings and actions.

One of the motivations to explore religion for me, in the first place, was the realisation as a teenager,  that Christianity was poisoned by sexism and misogyny. Not that other religions are much better, in fact many are worse, and fundamentalists of all persuasions are worst of all, but to seek to argue that Christianity has supported women - actually the word was 'lift' as if they were naturally in the gutter and not put there by patriarchy - is pure farce.

I think the first time I realised that religion irritated me was the use of the word He or Father for God! I still, if I find myself at a Christian service replace the word He with She and the word Mother for Father as a matter of principle. Of course god is neither but the arrogance of religion is this genderising of God.

My FC wrote:

People in our day forget how much of human history has discriminated against women. Within the last hundred years in the United States, there was a time where banks would not give women an account in their own names, nor could women get credit cards in their own names in many places. Women would very often be legally named “Mrs. Henry Jones” or similar. Often this was voluntary, for many women wanted to identify with their husbands as much as possible.Women were not allowed to vote in the US until the twentieth centrury. In the first century, women were often not considered capable of giving testimony in court. Into this context, the New Testament was written. The Old Testament was written over several centuries, and completed much earlier than the New.
Often today we find people lambasting the Bible as being wrong to women. However, this is almost always due to people assuming what is in the Bible and not reading it for what it says. Many critics paint the Bible in an imbalanced way and sometimes invent an attitude against women that is not found in the Bible. In reality, and in contrast to the values of most societies, the Bible lifts up women, protects them from abuse, and sets several guidelines that ensure women's rights are maintained.
Old Testament Law
·         Women who were indentured servants were not blamed for adultery, since they were considered to have no choice in the matter (Lev. 19:20. This helped protect women's rights and keep them from being powerless.
·         To keep jealous husbands from irrationally blaming their wives for unfaithfulness that the wives did not commit, the law required a series of tests that would protect innocent women, and only implicate a woman if she had an overwhelming sense of guilt. (Numbers 5)
·         Divorce laws prevented a first husband from re-marrying a woman after she had been married again. This protected women from being passed around like property (Deut. 24)
·         If a husband dies, his brother is to marry the wife. This protected women from being left to poverty. (Deut. 25)
·         Newly married husbands were prevented from going out to war, so that they could stay home and make her happy. (Deut. 24:5)
·         People with money were required to include widows and orphans in their celebrations. (Deut. 26:12)
Old Testament History
·         Deborah was the leader of the country during the time of the judges (Judges 4 - 5)
·         Women were praised for working both inside and outside the home (Proverbs 31:15-16)
·         The book of Ruth tells of Ruth and Naomi, both of whom were blessed by God and due to the laws God gave.
·         The book of Esther tells of how Esther was wise and saved her people.
·         Abigail was a wise and discerning woman who was a leader of the servants. She was praised for taking charge and saving her husband. (1 Sam. 25)
·         The queen of Sheba was a wise and wealthy woman who was able to ask Solomon difficult questions. (1 Kings 10:1)
·         The book of Hosea tells of God's prophet who was commanded to take a prostitute for a wife, then go buy her back when she returns to prostitution. This is often viewed as God's love for His people.
New Testament
·         Jesus revealed some of His most important secrets to an outcast woman (John 4)
·         Jesus refused to stone the woman caught in adultery, since she was likely being used by the religious leaders. Instead, He forgave her and gave her sound advice. (John 8)
·         The apostle Paul entrusted his most important book to a deaconess of the church, Phoebe, to take to Rome. (Romans 16:1-2)
·         Priscilla is in joint ministry work with her husband, called a fellow worker of Paul, and often mentioned first when Paul addresses them. She had a church in her home. (Romans 16:3-4)
·         Lydia was a businesswoman who sold purple fabric, likely to the wealthy. She was praised for her help to Paul. (Acts 16:14, 40)
·         Women were mentioned as an equal part of Paul's ministry team (Philippians 4:2-3).
·         Jesus healed women equally with men. (Matt. 9:20)
·         The apostle Paul commanded that widows with families be taken care of, and widows without should be taken care of by the church. (1 Tim. 5:16)
·         Husbands were to be understanding and honoring to their wives. (1 Peter 3:7)
These are but some of the passages in the Bible that lift up and protect women. Therefore far from holding women back, the Bible gives women an important place alongside men in ministry work, an equal protection under the law,  and an honoring place of blessing by the Lord Jesus.
Any criticism of the Bible must take into account these many passages that show how women were viewed in the Bible.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this is that an intelligent and I am sure sensible man can put together such a list, reflective only of the 'boot' of patriarchy crushing women, and see it as religion supporting women. All of these things which Bible teachings supposedly seek to counter are things imposed by patriarchy in the first place!

I mean, is he serious? He uses the term 'outcast woman.' Who made her an outcast? Patriarchy, no doubt for refusing to bow down to the dictates of men. And Jesus refused to stone a woman - so he bloody well should have. Why was she being stoned in the first place - because of patriarchal religion.

And the church should look after widows! Why? Because a sexist and patriarchal society did not allow women the independence to look after themselves. Husbands were to be understanding and honouring to their wives - that's because given the hatred of women at work in society and the religion most of them beat their wives or killed them if they misbehaved. As many men still do in the name of religion.

These statements which supposedly show how enlightened the Bible's attitude to women is show instead how misogynistic and backward patriarchy was and remains and how utterly out of touch with the world today the Bible is.

But to reply to his comments:

You do realise the 'good'  or positive 'teachings' are merely more enlightened responses to the misogynistic excesses of patriarchy and natural progressions for a primitive and ignorant culture as part of a process of developing?

 In other words they are no different to more enlightened responses to serfs and slaves - and anyone who was subjugated. The Koran has the same teachings and look at how fundamentalist Muslims treat their women. Actually fundamental Hindus, Christians, Jews and Muslims remain shamefully and cruelly misogynistic in this modern age.

The things you cite as support are simply advances which any progressing society should make because their beliefs were not simply wrong they were unjust. Ironically though, given all this support, it took a couple of thousand years for women to actually get justice and even 100 years ago and still within Christian Fundamentalism women were and are regarded as inferior to the male, who, is seen as being 'closer' to God. The arrogance of that teaching beggars belief in any age and can only be sourced in a deep and terrible fear of the feminine. You can't hate something without fearing it, consciously or unconsciously.

And if the Bible which Christian Fundamentalists hold as an absolute says the Bible 'lifts up women then why does Christian Fundamentalism still hold that a wife should submit herself unto her husband and that the husband is 'head' of the wife - a teaching and belief in the modern age which is so backward and sexist it is astonishing it still exists?

And why should women need 'lifting' up? They were never 'lower' merely defined as such by Biblical teachings? No patriarchy, no sexist biblical teachings and no need to 'lift'. And I can say as a woman that women do not need protecting - not by men, not by religion, not by your Bible teachings. In fact what women most often need protection from is men, and religion and these sort of teachings which can be found in every religious book produced in the last 5,000 years.  Or rather re-written in the last two thousand.

 It is bigoted and patronising in the extreme to believe that a woman in this age needs either protection or 'lifting' up by any man or any God. And yes, I do feel strongly about this in the same way that people with black skin feel strongly about racism and that is because as a woman I know the true and cruel nature of patriarchy and its inherent misogyny and it appalls me - and most women - that religious teachings defend these human rights abuses at best and atrocities at worst. Remember the Christian witch hunts? Women died at the stake not because of any devil but because they were women and because men feared their powers as healers and as practisers of the Old Religion.

Bible teachings were the source and justification of long campaigns against allowing women to get the vote and even to be educated, let alone go to university or hold jobs, or go into politics. Through its long history the Bible has been a weapon used to subjugate women and in Christianity it still is. Fundamentalists still believe the man should be the head of the woman and the family and there are no female priests or any chance of them in the Catholic church despite the fact that male priests walk around in 'dresses.'

The Anglicans are more enlightened but even there, the chances of a woman taking the top job is as unlikely as there being a female Pope. That religion should so discriminate against the majority of people in the world, for women are and always are the majority, nature wisely knowing we need more women than men, is quite simply shameful.

Any defence of the Bible in regard to women has to take into account the blatantly misogynistic nature of so many teachings and descriptions of women and the latent hatred of the feminine. Even more so with Fundamentalist Christianity, which, and correct me if I am wrong, still holds that the wife should 'submit' herself to the husband. In this day and age sane and enlightened men and women find this teaching not only ridiculous but insulting and primitive.

I mean the 'mother' of Jesus was not allowed to be a real woman, she had to be a virgin and miraculously and impossibly get pregnant - the confidante of Jesus who, if he really existed was probably his lover if not his wife, is a whore - and the Bible is replete, like Hindu, Moslem, Jewish teachings of the evil of women. For heaven's sake it is a woman who gets the blame in the first place for the 'sin' that everyone supposedly carries until they follow a set of man-made rules. And we have a Father, a Son and a Holy Ghost - not only do we get two males, where there might be a female we get a ghost. No look-in for women in the God stakes.

Although even this trilogy draws upon the ancient Goddess religion which taught that the Mother gave birth to the Son - logical and sensible- and the two created the third - the spiritual - mother representing the source,  the feminine and diffuse awareness, giving birth to or creating the son, the masculine or focussed consciousness and then as aspects of the feminine and the masculine creating the third! Or the even older trilogy of the Great Goddess as Mother, Maiden, Crone or Creator, Protector, Destroyer. But I digress.

Here is what the Bible thinks about women:

'And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. '

There are several in the Old Testament:

"It is better to plant your seed in the belly of a whore than to let it spill on the ground"

"If a woman is raped within the city walls and does not call out then she shall be stoned"

From the New Testament, and one which Christian Fundamentalism still has the gall to demand:

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. . . ." (Ephesians 5:22–23)

...I shall be delighted to hear from my FC that this is no longer taught in church and that women are seen as equal with men in the eyes of his God but I shan't hold my breath.

and "These [redeemed] are they which were not defiled with women; . . ." (Revelation 14:4); and from the Old Testament we find "How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?" (Job 25:4) Other relevant New Testament passages include Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 11:9, and 14:34; and 1 Timothy 2:11–12 and 5:5–6. Other Old Testament passages include Numbers 5:20–22 and Leviticus 12:2–5 and 15:17–33.

Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, wrote:
In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die. . . . Woman, you are the gate to hell.

Excuse me but a book, purportedly from a God who clearly hates women, which teaches that women should suffer giving birth - the most wondrous experience on this earth and luckily most don't, only those who have been taught to fear and hate their bodies because of patriarchal misogyny which has also infected modern medicine and it's attitude to childbirth.... and that they are the 'gate to hell'...... simply has no place in a civilized world or needs a serious edit, this time by a woman, not a man.

As a woman one reason why the biblical God is not to my taste and cannot count as God anyway is because more than half of the population of this world is feminine and we have been subjugated and abused for thousands of years with religious books held up as justification for that abuse. A minority of women in the world today have greater freedom but not absolute gender equality but most women still labour under these sort of hateful teachings and the patriarchal mindset which seeks only to condemn and suppress the feminine - something which is half of their nature anyway, given that men and women contain within them both feminine and masculine qualities.

I would close by saying that this hatred of women as enshrined in all major religions is destructive even more of men than it is of women. Everyone loses in a world, or with a religion which does not see the beauty, sanctity and equality of men and women as absolute, utter and complete equals.

As Sally Quinn wrote in the Washington Post:

‘Then I began to learn about religion. It wasn’t just the Catholic Church not allowing women to be priests. It wasn’t just about Muslim women in some countries being forced to cover their bodies, or faces or heads. It was far more prevalent than that. It was a history of Hindu women committing sutee (where the wife throws herself on the husband’s funeral pyre) or being burned to death by their families for greater dowries. It was Buddhist nuns being treated badly by monks. It was Protestant women not being allowed to hold high positions in the church and , in the case of Katharine Jefferts Shori, the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church, being shunned by some theologians. It was Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz, who was demeaned by a of group male congregants who stood up and turned their backs on her when she began to speak in church. It was orthodox Jewish women not being allowed to be part of a minion (a group of 10 men who can pray together) or having to sit apart from the men in the synagogue or having to get a “get” from their husbands in order to get a divorce.

Long before Jesus’s time, Eve was the temptress, Adam the unwilling dupe. Mary had to be a virgin. Joseph did not. Even the Apostle Paul, who had women work with him, was overruled by the church leaders less than 20 years after his death.’


1 comment:

  1. Stopping by to welcome you on board the A to Z Challenge April 2012

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z