Saturday, 3 March 2012

More conversations with conservative Christians on how the Bible sees women - this time from a female perspective.

This time a woman responded to offer some insight into how she thinks about the position Fundamentalist Christianity takes to females.  I am struck by how many men spend how much time within religions talking about what women should be and do.

There is a tragic irony that the voices of women are so little heard and when they are they support the patriarchal male perspective. I suppose they must.  These versions of Christianity and in fact all fundamentalist religions will shun at best and kill at worst the dissenting female. I am not for a minute suggesting death is a possibility for Christian women who speak out, or who seek to be other than what the religion decrees as can happen in fundamentalist forms of other religions in less developed cultures, but there is no doubt there is plenty of emotional abuse, verbal abuse, punishment and retribution in the forms of shunning and being ostracised and shamed.

That is the other thing I find odd about these versions of religion in general and Christianity in this instance in the particular: God, who supposedly cares about all of us is so vengeful and petty. Behind all the sanctimonious mumblings about Jesus is a right royal harridan of a Father God who is hellbent on spreading fear, terror, rage and smiting and smoting all those who don't abide by or who forget his meanspirited rules. Rules, which in the main, are directed against women!

All these good, decent, intelligent, kind, compassionate, informed, educated people who can believe this sort of thing, makes me wonder how much these versions of religions are more cult than religion and how much children brought up in such religions are brainwashed. It's the only explanation which makes sense to me to explain why sensible people can hold such nonsensical and destructive beliefs.

I will add that such venting did not go into my post. I do respect the views of others however irrational they may appear and have used my own blog to express more fully how I think and feel about it. But enough venting - she said I seemed to be an intelligent woman in search of answers.

I do wonder how intelligent women, as she appears to be, can go along with the misogynistic nature of conservative Christianity. I can see that for a woman the war against patriarchy is harder than any war any man has ever fought for it is waged against father, brother, husband, son, lover, friend, cousin and while religions may make an enemy of women and seek to wage their wars of subjugation, the reality is no man in order to be free has ever had to fight against all of the women in his life whom he loves.

What is perhaps surprising is not how few women in history, have had the courage, determination and strength to fight against patriachy but that so many have for this 'war' and it has been a deadly war in the past, is the worst of wars and it is a war of man's or rather, men's own making. It is also a war where everyone loses for men would have us believe that God pits men against women and women against men by necessity - demanding that men be superior in this material world and women be subjugated followers, while, supposedly endowing us with free will!

Not to mention the added strength which women possess, a strength of endurance if not one fitted to lifting swords and crates, which brings with it a need, in the strongest and most independent of women, for freedom. I don't believe in this kind of God. I won't believe in this kind of God.

The war against women was begun by men as an ego-driven lust for power. No more, no less. And it continues for the same reasons in those parts of the world where people have not had the opportunity to progress as we have to greater degrees, and even in the developed world, the modern world, it continues to lesser and greater degrees - the latter being found in the sweaty grip of fundamentalist Christianity which seeks to hold back the tides of justice and would, if it could, prevent a world evolving where men and women are equal as human beings.

And so I replied:

One of the wonderful things about the internet is the ability to share with people one would never ordinary meet and to cross culture and country to get to know someone else and the 'shoes in which they walk.'

Yes, I am in search of answers but only in the sense that I see life as a continuing process of questions and answers as part of a journey of becoming and understanding.

The questions and the answers relate more to the How than the What? I have my answer regarding is there a God or is there not and I choose to believe, because it makes sense to me, that there is and that this world exists as 'intelligent design' sourced in what I would call cosmic consciousness.

I have also answered my question regarding religion and made the decision many years ago to stick with God and not bother with religion beyond seeing it as a possible resource which can link through realms of symbolic and metaphorical understanding with other resources - scientific, spiritual, religious, myth, symbol etc.

I don't know in which church you have been raised since the age of eight and that certainly makes a difference as to the role women can play and the questions women might ask. My church exposure was with Anglicanism between the ages of 11, when my father decided to be confirmed and took us along, and 16 when, despite having a lot of fun with young people and church activities, I decided there were more things I disliked about church than liked.

And I feel and think we are sourced in very different understandings of Christianity, or are perhaps very different people - it would never have occurred to me to question my role within a religion Biblically. Even at the age of 11 one of the things I truly disliked about the church was the He, Him, Father, Son, Lord terminology which to me, even as a child, was sexist and unfair.

I was born a rebel I suspect and in fact, as an adult I became an astrologer which explained even better why I saw things as I did.

I have been married to the same man for 42 years, marrying very young and raising two wonderful human beings whom I both admire and like. Unlike you I was not a stay-at-home mum until my children were in their early teens and that is because at that time we moved to Antwerp, Belgium and I was not allowed to work. And neither have I achieved in a career sense what you have done - well done! But then it is not what I would choose for my path and I have and still enjoy my life as freelance manuscript editor, writer, poet and journalist.

I do believe that what matters is that we do what works for us - staying at home as a mother is to my mind no more important but no less important than becoming the head of an huge corporation or the Prime Minister (in your case President) of the country. I believe that following our truth is what we are here to do and whether that is cleaning out drains or growing corporations, no job or achievement is greater than any other. All is a part of the process of becoming of world and individual.

As to the Bible quotes, I don't know how much of my discussions with Thomistic you have followed but I hold the view that the problem with Christianity is that the Bible is read literally and that in fact it is meant to be read also, if not more so, metaphorically and symbolically. So what a Christian - across the spectrum of the many versions which exist - would 'see' or find in the words, is not what I would find.

For example this quote: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

I would interpet thusly - the 'sons' of good I would see as a patriarchal translation although it could also mean the 'focussed consciousness' which is the nature of the masculine energies which exist in all of us. We are both male and female in terms of qualities it is just that in the main, what we call woman expresses more of what we call feminine and vice-versa. However, there are many, many exceptions and some women express more of what we call masculine and vice-versa, hence the problem with trying to divide the world into male and female as absolutes and trying to dictate what men and women should do or be on the basis of what we believe masculine and feminine qualities are.

For me 'baptized in Christ' means a surrendering to Christ consciousness - a quality which exists and is manifested in all saviour/redeemers in all religions and is not particular to Jesus. And yes, this means that all of us have a 'Christ' or spiritual nature and it has nothing to do with creed, sex or race. Belonging to Christ simply means recognising and expressing your spiritual nature. 'Abraham's seed is simply symbolic of the fact that we all come from the same source - really it should be Eve - anthropology has us all sourced in a 'first woman' not a first man- which makes much more sense.

And this is the core premise on which my answers are based and in which my questions are sourced - it must make sense. So much religious teaching is not just unjust it does not make sense.

You said: With regard to the man being the head of the household (if you are married), I really have no problem with this.

But I do and most women who have had a chance to think about it also do. Why does a household need a head? It doesn't. We have been married as I said for 42 years and we have moved across Australia and the world, setting up home some 32 times and we have only ever had a relationship of absolute equals. Any decision is made through discussion and compromise on both our parts. If we cannot agree then we do not do it. I refused to give up my surname when I married because he refused to give up his. We gave the children both surnames joined together and I have never been Mrs. anything. Let's just say we have always managed to reach agreement.

When we married he said: 'Our house, our dirt.' He still does all the ironing because he is better at it. We both do whatever needs to be done -cook, clean, garden, mow lawns, handyperson tasks, finances - all shared. Always.

I will say, we both believe that to have a functioning family one person needs to take a major role in running the household and we talked about who it would be. We decided that I was more flexible and better at multi-tasking and would be better suited to that job combined with part-time work. So his career took precedence on condition that if he ever decided he wanted to end the marriage he would give me everything because I had made myself vulnerable by not pursueing my journalistic career and he would always earn more than I would.

You said: The reason being is that he is the one held ultimately responsible before God for our family.

You see, that makes no sense to me. If there is a God and I believe there is then we are all equal and our path to God is our own path. I don't need another person, certainly not a man, or a church to be responsible for me. I am completely responsible for myself and I take the view that whatever happens to me is my responsibility - my fallback is what I call God but the relationship with God and me is mine alone.

You said: I am held responsible for my own actions but he is ultimately responsible not just for himself, but for the direction our family takes.

Why? Why can't you both decide? We did and do. It isn't hard, you sit down, discuss it and both decide what works best. We always took the view that our relationship was the most important thing - he puts me first before the children and I put him first before the children - on the basis that if we worked then the kids would be fine and they are.

As a grown woman I would find it insulting to have my husband decide on the direction our family takes and as a grown man my husband would find it insulting if placed in the same position. In all truth, this view is a particularly religious view - Australia is a very different culture to America but I have many Christian friends, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran and none of them would subscribe to this view. They would consider it sexist and well, backward - old-fashioned, with no place in a world of gender equality.

You said:  Just as I have to answer to a boss at work, who is ultimately responsible (whether that boss is male or female) for the direction of the company.

Your husband is not like a boss at work. You can leave a job anytime you like. Your boss employs you on certain conditions. Your husband doesn't employ you and if there is love there can be no conditions. More to the point, the bosses I have had - and perhaps this is a cultural difference - use consultation and agreement as the basis for the relationship.

 You said: At work, if I disagree with my boss, I am very vocal about my point of view.

And you can change jobs anytime you like. Do you take the same view that you can change husbands anytime you like if this is how you see it?

You said:  If I can’t ultimately convince that person that my way is right or better or whatever, I have to submit to their authority and do it their way.

Well, I would not be looking to convince a boss my way was right or better. I would present my view, discuss it and because he or she is the boss, do what they decide. If I don't like it I change jobs. But I have to say the mere thought of likening a husband to a boss and submitting to authority makes me shudder. This sort of attitude is common in the Third World where sexism is rife but has no place in a modern world.

You said:  It’s the same with my husband. I am very vocal about my opinions. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t. We make all decisions that affect the direction of our family together. But I have found that when I submit to his authority, even if I think he is wrong, there is extra protection for me from God, if he is indeed wrong, so I come out ok either way. As I understand it, it’s really just about the structure of authority. Someone always has to ultimately be the one the buck stops with.

We have very different relationships. I don't agree and would never agree that someone has to be the buckstop! To me that is copping out. That's how my parents relationship was - patriarchal and unfair. My generation were freed from such bonds and we are better off because of it. I have little in common with my mother's experience of marriage and much in common with my daughter. The Sixties were a seminal time when the developed world at least realised that discrimination against women in any form was backward.

I am sorry to use the word backward but it is. I believe the world works far better - as studies show - when women and men are complete equals, or at least progressing toward gender equality. Which brings me back to where I began - the problem with all religions is sexism and misogyny which is why I stick with God.

Yes, you have been articulate and I do understand what you are saying. I hope I have been able to convey why it does not make sense to me or suit my way of being in the world.
I don't and won't believe in a God who says one thing and does another. Yes you are all equal as spiritual beings but not as material beings - men are superior to women as human beings although you are equal as spiritual beings just sounds nonsensical - because it is. Perhaps it is my editorial background - but I look at this and think, No, that bit is not God, serious edit by male mind re-writing the message.

I prefer my God - the source of all, bringing forth, making manifest all that is - including you and me, the ant, the rock, the tree. All is sacred - an Ancient Goddess teaching as is all is connected. This God is with us and within us but we have free will as we experience being material beings as spiritual beings.

There is no need for an authority structure and to have one anyway which makes either sex superior to the other is far too petty for any God which might exist.

Yes, I am genuine because we all are - always - we follow our own truth in our own way and the answers do come, always, albeit often slowly, but the pieces of the picture which is me in this world fall beautifully and perfectly and delightfully, constantly into place.
God bless you too - as God blesses all that is, each and every one of us at every moment and throughout all time. We are, as I see it, God made manifest in this material world through the experience of humanity. What an adventure!

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