Truth

“The truth is that the Abrahamic religions fear women and therefore go to extraordinary and sometimes brutal lengths to control them, constrain them, and repress them in every way. Show me a non-religious society that feels so threatened by the thought of female sexuality that it will slice off the clitoris of a young girl to ensure she can never experience sexual pleasure. Show me a non-religious society that feels the need to cloak women from head to toe and force them to experience the outside world through a slit of a few square inches. All three Abrahamic religions share the myth of Adam and Eve, the myth that it was through woman that evil was let loose in the world. They share the heritage of Leviticus, which declared a menstruating woman unclean, to be set aside, untouched, a revulsion that remains even today among some orthodox Jews, who will refuse to shake a woman’s hand for fear she may be menstruating. What kind of lunacy is this? It is the lunacy of a Bronze Age mindset fossilized by the reactionary forces of religion.”
Read the rest over at the Washington Post

3 Responses to “Truth”

  1. Ellis Says:

    Well, for starters, a great many of the Christ-following churches around the world don’t subject women to the sort of torment described above. And in terms of Judaism, hell, in conservative Mississippi there’s a synagogue–Beth Israel, if you’d like to look it up–whose rabbi is a woman. The stuff in Leviticus as far as Christianity is concerned is sort of a moot point, considering that those laws of clean and unclean were fulfilled in Jesus and henceforth no longer bind Christians, not to mention that Christ himself talked about the mistreatment of people via the legalistic law and how corrupt such behavior was. As mentioned in a response to a previous post of yours, in churches such as Japan, where there aren’t many men operating inside Christian churches, women are the primary doers of the work and are hardly even subject to the opinion of men. As far as the Adam and Eve story is concerned, the Genesis account is not favorable towards Adam, who looks pretty foolish as he blames Eve for his decision to partake of the fruit. Fast forward to the New Testament and you have Jesus appearing to women first at his resurrection, and most of the women mentioned in the gospels look unbelievably wise and intelligent compared to his male disciples who fumble around and are consistently misunderstanding his teachings. To choose to write the story in this unfavorable light toward the man is rather odd considering the context in which they were written: very much male-dominated and misogynistic. I just don’t know what to say. I could go on, but this has to be one of the most biased articles I’ve encountered in a while, and it is completely lacking in any contextual research on the Bible and the stories therein. I mean, Barbara Brown Taylor is one of the most prolific and brilliant writers alive today, and she is a farmer and a priest in the Episcopal church. Have I not provided any evidence or at least a legitimate counter-argument to this article? I love Jesus. I’m not afraid of women. I’m certainly not fearful of a woman who is menstruating. I read the works of women like Joyce Carol Oates, Claudia Rankine, Marilynne Robinson, Flannery O’Connor, etc. I’ve studied the gender and queer theory of Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, and Julia Kristeva. I consider myself fortunate and enlightened for doing so. I just rest my case.

  2. Jeff J Jawk Says:

    Are you saying that religion (specifically Judeo/Christian) doesn’t play a roll in oppressing women? Surely not.

    Religion is the number one thing that has oppressed women the world over.
    While your examples from Japan and Mississippi are interesting, I think you understand that these stand out because they are not the norm, and in no way express what is going on as a whole. I can show you several stories of preachers who continue to preach even though they no longer believe in ‘god’, that doesn’t mean that all preachers no longer believe in ‘god’, just as a few religionists with liberal policies does not mean that Judeo/Christianity as a whole is not oppressive (to women).

    And as far as Adam and Eve…
    Not favorable towards Adam? I agree, but Eve is blamed purely. Let’s not forget what ‘god’ said to Eve after she tempted him with the fruit:

    “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain will you give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
    – Genesis 3:16

    So are you saying Eve was punished for Adam being stupid? And this isn’t oppressive to women?
    This is the foundation story for nearly all the ‘Moses’ religions. Certainly not off to a good start.

    If your argument is people are practicing wrong or that the Bible is outdated with laws and sentiment that is no longer meant, felt or need to be practiced…
    it either makes your creator’s creations stupid or your creator publishes outdated material for his users that is confusing and open to wild interpretations…

    At the end of the day, the Bible says what it says and I understand more than anyone that it is open to insane amounts of interpretation, but with comes the fact that ‘god’ must be cruel as he leaves no clear set of instructions for his people or is powerless to clearly communicate his true meaning. Either way the suffering and cruelty this causes in his name while he sits idly letting a few people “get it” while most don’t, well that’s not the sort of ‘god’ I would choose to honor even if he was real.

  3. Ellis Says:

    >Are you saying that religion (specifically Judeo/Christian) doesn’t play a roll in
    >oppressing women? Surely not.

    Jeff, thanks for the thoughtful response. You’ve certainly challenged me with this reply, and I will do my best to create a worthy rebuttal. Take note, my girlfriend who is a seminarian at Memphis Theological Seminary is helping me with this one. She’s really got all of the answers. I’m just the literature and fiction writing student.

    I am not suggesting that Christianity or religion as a whole has not played a role in the oppression of women and other people groups. As a person of faith I think it’s our duty to apologize for that oppression, where it has been and where it still is. But do I think that Christ oppressed women? No, I do not. Do I think religion has? Absolutely. In terms of the Old Testament, I do not think God oppresses women anymore than he oppresses men. The stories of the Old Testament are not about oppression but about human correction toward the aim of mutual affection and relationship and worship. We also have to take into account that the Bible was written by men in a misogynistic context. These are people who were immersed in their culture trying to understand God. I understand God through scripture, certainly, but I do not believe that God is limited to those canonical books. I believe God is relational, and henceforth I know God through my relationships with people, nature, art, and personal experience. I can tell you without a doubt that the Christian communities that I am part of–again, in primarily Southern Baptist Mississippi–simply do not substantiate Paula Kirby’s claims, and we are not a small fraction of Christianity. I am politely asking you to give the voices that inspire my community your time, in the same way that I have listened to George H. Smith, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins. Find the books of Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Marilynne Robinson, Annie Dillard, Barbara Brown Taylor, Shane Claiborne, Brian D. McLaren and Margot Starbuck–these are a few among many. Give these people your time and tell me that these people are not doing immense amounts of good based on their readings of scripture and lives within a Christian community.

    >Religion is the number one thing that has oppressed women the world over.
    >While your examples from Japan and Mississippi are interesting, I think you
    >understand that these stand out because they are not the norm, and in no way
    >express what is going on as a whole. I can show you several stories of
    >preachers who continue to preach even though they no longer believe in ‘god’,
    >that doesn’t mean that all preachers no longer believe in ‘god’, just as a few
    >religionists with liberal policies does not mean that Judeo/Christianity as a
    >whole is not oppressive (to women).

    I’m not arguing with your point. You are right. Religion is indeed used to justify certain people’s actions, but it once again comes down to context. One of my theology professors during my undergraduate years had a saying for his classes: “The context is the message.” Strictly in terms of Christianity, how can we say we have a good understanding of the Bible if we do not study the context in which it was written? As a Christian, I feel like the portions of Hebrew scripture mentioned in Kirby’s article are a part of a story that is still ongoing. Christ very definitely, even as a Jew, still cared for and touched wounded women, lepers, the dead, and many others based on the gospel accounts. Christ came for the oppressed and the marginalized, to realign what the strict adherence of the law was doing to God’s people (everyone). If you would like a more in-depth reading on Christ as a spokesperson for the marginalized read William Herzog’s Parables as Subversive Speech.

    >And as far as Adam and Eve…
    >Not favorable towards Adam? I agree, but Eve is blamed purely. Let’s not forget
    >what ‘god’ said to Eve after she tempted him with the fruit:
    >“I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain will you give birth
    >to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
    >- Genesis 3:16
    >So are you saying Eve was punished for Adam being stupid? And this isn’t >oppressive to women?
    >This is the foundation story for nearly all the ‘Moses’ religions. Certainly not >off to a good start.

    Let’s not leave out God’s response to Adam, taken from Eugene H. Peterson’s The Message: “He told the Man: ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from, “Don’t eat from this tree,” the very ground is cursed because of you; getting food from the ground will be as painful as having babies is for your wife; you’ll be working in pain all your life long.'” NIV: “To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate of the tree about which I commanded you “You must not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.'” All this to say, God’s response to him isn’t much better. Punishment came to both of them because both of them disobeyed. We could get into a long discussion on the Genesis creation story as allegory–a belief held by many a scholar–but I’ll spare you that. There is simply more than one way of looking at this story, and it is certainly more nuanced and in-depth than Kirby portrays. She can claim that I’m one of the few liberal people of faith that wants to push these uncomfortable sentiments under the rug and go about my day, but she is wrong. This conversation is very much alive in the Christian community and has been for a very long time.

    >If your argument is people are practicing wrong or that the Bible is outdated
    >with laws and sentiment that is no longer meant, felt or need to be practiced…
    >it either makes your creator’s creations stupid or your creator publishes
    >outdated material for his users that is confusing and open to wild
    >interpretations…

    >At the end of the day, the Bible says what it says and I understand more than
    >anyone that it is open to insane amounts of interpretation, but with that comes the
    >fact that ‘god’ must be cruel as he leaves no clear set of instructions for his
    >people or is powerless to clearly communicate his true meaning. Either way the
    >suffering and cruelty this causes in his name while he sits idly letting a few
    >people “get it” while most don’t, well that’s not the sort of ‘god’ I would choose
    >to honor even if he was real.

    I think scripture is clear that God is God and we are not and that there is mystery. I am okay with the mystery; it is my reason for living. I’m certainly not writing this to try to preach to you or to change your belief (or lack thereof), but I’m writing it so that there is a voice on the other side of this conversation if someone comes to this page and reads the sample from Kirby’s article. I do not see a God that sits idly by; I see a world that is corrupt and I believe God longs for that hurt to stop, and in Jesus we are taught how to live. I believe God is using human agents–as God had always–who are fallible, full of error, and make many mistakes. People are called to do the good in God’s name: an idea prevalent in scripture. Case in point: Saul, who oppressed Christians and because of that oppression encountered God in a very a personal way, and became Paul: a leader in the church and who became the oppressed, was beaten, imprisoned and mocked. We can get into a very long discussion about what Paul really believes about women. There’s much debate surrounding the authorship of some of the “Pauline” letters Kirby references. Kirby left out scripture where Paul speaks highly of women, relies of them for partnership in his ministry.

    This is far from an error-proof rebuttal, as you are not a believer. My main concern is with those who would call themselves believers and behave in good conscience in the manner that Kirby describes.

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