Monday, July 8, 2013

The Creator Hearts Women

It’s interesting, the things you’ll learn when you “like” a page on Facebook.  I tend to like liberal sites like Rachel Maddow, Huffpost and March on Washington for Gun Control.  Sometimes, I’ve had to hide posts or even un-like pages (for example: NPR) because my news feed became instantaneously awash with posts from that site, to the exclusion of everything else.  But there are some that seem to feed a bearable stream of juicy articles designed to prick the conscience and prod to deeper thought, if not action.  I find “Salon” does a pretty good job of this. 
A couple of days ago, Salon writer Valerie Tarico assembled a shocking collection of quotes from Christian leaders—from the second century through modern day—that did a passable job of demonstrating that “Christian Leaders Have Always Been Misogynists.”   This assortment of documented spiritual wisdom put forth by respected theologians and doctors of the Church throughout the ages, caused me to realize that I have for good and all severed ties with the brand of theology that can function under the assumption that fully one half of the entire human race (which just happens to be the half to which I belong) should be regarded as “misbegotten,” “defective,” or “a temple built over a sewer.” 
Oh, I’m certain that this article is yet another example of cherry-picking quotations in order to prove a point (which, I am told, can be done with the Bible and any assertion from any political perspective.)  Still, it doesn’t take a collection of carefully-chosen passages to understand that the traditional foundational viewpoint of all Abrahamic religions is at best paternalistic, at worst, decidedly anti-woman.  Christianity, Judaism, Islam—they all embrace a single deity with a distinctly male personality.
There is some argument that contemporary religious might possibly regard “God” as having no gender, or as embodying both genders.  Okay…I could concede that.  But there is still the sticky little point that all the important figures and leaders in Abrahamic religions are MALE.  Moses.  Jesus.  Mohammed.  Yep.  Those with the hot line to the Almighty are almost exclusively men.  Women rate little mention in the historic texts, and are most often berated, ridiculed and marginalized. 
I have no theories about how male-dominated mono-theism became so pervasive the world over—to the point that, at this date, almost half the world population (3.4 billion of 7 billion souls) is bound by it.  I refuse to ascribe any specific desire of the Creator to the facility with which Christianity spread across the world.  Perhaps it was merely an unhappy accident that Christianity accompanied the expansion of the Roman Empire throughout Europe, to be thereafter carried by those acquisitive peoples across the oceans to the Americas, to Africa and the sub-continent, and “evangelized” into Asia and the Pacific.  Were I pressed to come up with a theory of my own, I would be more likely to equate the expansion of Christianity with the singular ability of great ships full of strong-willed humans to transplant invasive species, disease and vermin from one shore to another—whether by accident or design.  The Europeans brought strong stuff with them; stuff against which some of the more tender and specialized natives were powerless.
Along the way of the spiritual journey I now travel, I have tried to practice the kind of “ live and let live” philosophy that I would appreciate being extended in MY direction as I walk this path that is quite outside the bounds of traditional religion.  I have felt that it is not my place to judge the manner in which any other person relates to the Creator of All Things.  I know and respect many people who are content and dedicated in the Christian brand of faith.  It’s not up to ME to posit that the spiritual paths they walk are founded upon faulty assumptions, bad theology and a twisted version of history.  Because I don’t actually know that.  I only know the practice to which I myself am called.  And the first commandment of my little “church” is:  Thou shalt not inflict thy personal call to spirituality upon any other person.
Still, I have to admit to a growing disenchantment with Christianity, with its narrow world view, its anthropomorphic and restrictive representation of the Almighty, and its historical tendency to verbally and emotionally batter women.  Thinking Christians are themselves frustrated by the prejudices and inconsistencies inherent in their faith.   There are so many contradictions and sins masquerading as creed within Christian doctrine.  Why?  Could it be because a lot of it is just…incorrect?  Would the entire fabric of the universe crumble if someone simply said, “Oops.  We got it wrong.”?
It bothers me that women have allowed the treatment we’ve been handed over the millennia.  True, it has been difficult to fight both a “God” designed to intimidate us and the more immediate threat of a ruling group possessing superior physical strength and bent upon keeping us under tight control.  When rebellion would call certain death down upon our heads, we’ve tended to capitulate.  Perhaps, over the ages, we’ve even come to believe the vile things of which we’ve been accused.
But now… now I feel inspired to a righteous outrage over the treatment to which we have been, and to a large extent, still are subjected.  It’s NOT okay.  It’s NOT the word or wish of any god I worship.  My spirit does not bear witness to a Creator who would condone such devaluation of any part of its work, much less half the human race—the half without which the other half could not be born!  There is something very sick and twisted about the way men have enlisted the assistance of “God” to make men the undisputed masters of all they survey.  And it’s about time for things to get un-twisted.
In my own living room, I got a taste of what we are up against should we try to rise up and demand recognition of thousands of years of ill-treatment, antecedent to claiming our rightful place as equal to men in the eyes of the law and of the Creator.  I was reading the afore-mentioned Salon article aloud to my sisters, when my husband swooped in from another room and declared, “Enough man-bashing.  Let’s go!” 
Man-bashing?  What about reading a collection of misogynistic theology cooked up by prominent men of the church over the ages constitutes MAN-bashing?  If my own spouse—who operates from a decidedly liberal viewpoint and is normally in full support of women’s political issues—can have such a reaction to being called out on the history of men’s sorry treatment of the female sex, we have an uphill battle indeed.  But if what happened in  the Texas state house last month is any indication, we have a growing army of women who are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore. 
I wonder how far we will have advanced before it is my turn to lay down my flag of battle and pass out of this world into the next?  I like to hope we will have made a great deal of progress.     



  1. And many of those women who are mad as hell are practicing Christians working to return the church to its heritage - without women there would be no Christianity for the early church met in homes with women as the leaders of prayers and table hospitality. It was only when Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire and the religion of the emperor himself that Christianity moved out of homes and formed itself along the lines of male Roman hierarchy. Many other faiths did much the same - as the cultures became more male dominant, as "civilization" formed and people moved away agrarian societies and female goddess of nature, life, and birth and into male gods so did the faith and belief systems. The Abrahamic faiths reflect the cultures they were born in (Persian, Egyptian, Roman) and their dominant maleness, not the other way around. HOWEVER, people of faith today can continue, as we are, to change the world view. That includes what the media thinks, portrays, and says about people like me. I live every day in a world where I struggle to have my voice heard. And it happens every where.

    I will know we are making some headway when we stop using the word "man" and "mankind" to describe all humanity. Why not say people, or humankind?

    The problem you raise is much bigger and more pervasive than than the world of religion.

  2. Yes, Terri--that is true. But religion has, unfortunately, been ADVANCED by male dominant religions which resort to placing a big, all-powerful, vengeful, violent MALE god in charge of keeping us all in line. Perhaps Abrahamic religions didn't create our male-dominated societies, but they have certainly proved an effective tool for maintaining and expanding them.

  3. It took me a few tries, and maybe I had to read the right things first, but I made it through Turner's Beyond Geography: The Western Spirit Against the Wilderness. Finally. And by the time I got to the midpoint it was "damn I can't keep my eyes open any longer." Part poetic prose and very much a polemic he starts with the forging of the People of Israel in the Wilderness (capitals deliberate) and moves on from there.

    From his point of view it wasn't just Constantine recognizing Christianity as a religion allowed in the empire, it helped. It was the decisions of the early fathers to cut off all possibility of new revelations with the Apostles. It drove those strains of Christianity (and any offshoots) either drove underground or destroyed any effort to listen to the voices heard in the natural world. You've heard them. I've heard them; hear them. They whisper. They sing. They cry out. they refuse to be tamed. They're fertile, fecund, untamed, dangerous. Their world is full of shifting paths, curving lines, rivers that overflow their banks, plants that end up where you don't want them. Not to be allowed in a world governed by those in love with order, straight lines and square boxes. And the most important? If you've gained power by using a certain belief system. Hell will freeze over, stars will fall, the sun will go out before most humans will give up that power. They echo Satan in Paradise Lost. 'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."

    Kathleen Norris said in Cloister Walk that all men, not matter how much they hate women, had to be birthed by a woman. And some of them refuse to forgive for that undeniable fact.

    I'm going to be spending a fair amount of time writing about who I'm reading. At least that's the plan. Anything that sounds interesting let me know. I'll stick it in the mail.

    And this comment is verging on a journal entry.

  4. Oh and forgot to mention that the "marriage" between Christianity and Rome produced a bastard offspring. Rome had already imposed her straight lines and tidy fortresses on most of the known world. Morgan Llywellyn's novel Druids spends about half the book detailing the efforts of the tribes in the part of Gaul that was still free to stay free. Looking at empire building through the eyes of the targets was, enlightening probably doesn't go far enough. And if I hadn't been doing so much reading about US trade and diplomacy south of the border it might not have hit quite so hard. The neocons were right. We are the new Rome. Just not in the way they meant. We may still have time to avoid their fate. But it'll take some serious soul searching and too many of our fellow citizens couldn't find their souls with a flash light and a road map. Although they claim to have them and also claim to tend them "religiously." I am in a ranting mood aren't I.