ARCHIVES:

Posts in this section were archived prior to February 2010. For more recent posts, go to the HOME PAGE.

Archived Articles

5/19/2006                                                                                       View Comments

Putting God's Name on Our Prejudices

Many women, both within Christianity and outside of the Christian faith have the vague sense that something is missing from traditional views of God or Goodness.

Christianity has its roots in patriarchal desert societies, in the traditions of the ancient Hebrews, which in turn have their roots in Akkadian and Sumerian epics and culture. In survival-oriented, food-scarce, warring traditions like these, God is generally thought of as male. But what, exactly, does that mean?

Here are some things we can say with confidence about how male humans on the average differ from females: more physical strength, higher aggression, more focus on difference rather than similarities, more mathematical ability, less verbal ability, more self focus, more independence, and lower empathy. Together these qualities lead men on the average to be dominant, to innovate more, and to nurture and cooperate less.

These differences are advantages in some situations, not in others. Either way, they don't have much to do with what makes a god worthy of worship: love, power, truth-honoring, mercy, justice, life-giving, nurturing, healing, compassion, creation, wisdom. In fact, some of the virtues that believers attribute to God are qualities that we most typically associate with the feminine dimensions of the human psyche.

Dan Brown's fast-paced tale, The Da Vinci Code, has stirred public attention and controversy for a variety of reasons. Not the least of these is the questions it raises about the Sacred Feminine. Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? Who knows. Although it may be fascinating to build a case on one side of this question or the other, we should be wary, very wary, of anyone who presumes to speak with certainty on such matters.

Christians have spent centuries arguing this point. In fact, the central authorities of Christendom have been willing to kill to eradicate this and other "heresies," which consequently were handed down through secret codes, symbols and rituals among some sects of Christians. (Hence the entertaining conspiracy theories of The Da Vinci Code.)

The orthodox authorities now have different tools at their disposal: the media savvy and vast distribution network of Catholic and Evangelical presses and mega-churches. But neither swords nor media savvy can turn the fog of history into a tidy landscape of certainties.

Ironically, in the arguments about whether we should imagine Jesus of Nazareth as a married rabbi with children, both sides reinforce traditionalist views of women: that the glory of women is marriage and childbearing. But from the very beginning, some forms of Christianity have made room for alternatives.

Even in the first century, women took on leadership positions, and uncomfortable traditionalists pushed back. Ancient stories tell of Paul's indomitable disciple, Thecla, and within the New Testament itself we get glimpses of the debate over females in leadership positions. Linguists who analyze ancient texts now widely believe that the misogynist verses in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, "Let a woman learn in silence in full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority . . . but she will be saved through bearing children," were not actually written by Paul but were penned later in his name.

Perhaps it is time to challenge those who put God's name on their own prejudices.

13 comments:

brigid said...

I do not know your gender, but I want you to be my friend. I can not think straight after reading your stuff--I aint real bright to start with--but I will put this together the best I can.

I would like you to comment more on the suffering inflicted by the christian power in Europe. For long, long centuries, christians tormented jews; heretics; witches; gypsies, just anyone who was different, and when they had the time, they tormented each other. I have many wiccan friends and they talk about this and their voices get quiet and they look over their shoulders. To this day they are still scared.

I am Irish and I can tell you the old stories handed down from my ancestors; the english christians (spit) doing god's will.

I am a lesbian and if the religious right gets half the power it craves, my ass is grass.

Sorry if this fails to make sense.......I am sobbing and I guess you got me emotional.

Jim said...

Who gives a stuff really whether Mary Magdeline was married or not. She most certainly could not have been married to the New Testament Jesus, for the simple reason that the New Testament Jesus never existed. No matter what spiel the church may want to push they cannot produce any really truthfull documented proof that a Son of a God, born of a virgin, ever existed outside of mythology. Cheers all Jim Lee.

Valerie said...

Hi Brigid -

I find it hard to even contemplate the suffering inflicted over the centuries by christian powers in Europe. I've been wrestling for the last 2 years with a book called, "The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth." While i was researching it I kept finding information on the atrocities that were committed and instruments of torture that were devised by the church authorities and the mobs they incited. If I get to close to it emotionally, if I let myself really imagine that no matter how far removed in time,the victims were people, it feels unbearable.
I can only imagine how threatening the spector of theocracy must be for you as a lesbian. I find it terrifying enough as a straight non-theist woman with daughters and a gay brother.

BTW, being bright isn't worth shit if you're not curious. In the end, people who are open and curious end up learning more than people with dazzling IQ's. It's a tortoise and hare kind of thing :)

Tim Simmons said...

"Linguists who analyze ancient texts now widely believe that the misogynist verses in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, "Let a woman learn in silence in full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority . . . but she will be saved through bearing children," were not actually written by Paul but were penned later in his name. "

Actually, 1st & 2nd Timothy and Titus are widely considered pseudonymous writings wrongly ascribed to Paul due to the internal author identification as Paul but the content belies the fact that it is not.

So, the whole of those 3 writings are not Paul to begin with!

Most critical scholars say that 1st Thess, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians and philemon are geniune Paul.

Unfortunately, that doesn't help your argument. It is painfully evident from the most cursory examination of literature of the time (including the pastorals) that women were second-class citizens and we rightly ascribe those prejudices to their rightful owner - Gawd.


Tim

blaine said...

Brigid said, "I am a lesbian and if the religious right gets half the power it craves, my ass is grass.

Sorry if this fails to make sense.......I am sobbing and I guess you got me emotional."

Hi Brigid, I also weep with you. I, for one, will stand by your side should the religious reich try to hurt you and your friends.
Bless and comfort you my sister,
blaine

Patricia said...

One of the scariest things about Christianity is the loathing for women that seethes throughout the Bible. Punishments always seemed harsher for women, and many of the great evildoers of the bible were women (Delilah, Jezebel, Salome) - even original sin is placed on our shoulders (poor Eve). With all this guilt and all this weight, with the plight of all humanity placed upon us like a mantle of shame, no wonder that we are counseled to be meek and bear children, to obey our husbands and to have no voice, because if we were to speak from the pulpit, what would we say? Any of us who are enlightened, any of us who have opened our eyes and realized just how powerful women are, would take the pulpit and shout, "Fuck that sky daddy asshole. I'm burning this place down, and if he doesn't like it, I fucking dare him to smite me!"

Through all the years that I searched for a religion, any religion, that would love and accept me for the quirky, outspoken thing that I am, I never found one that treated women as equal to men. Wicca was a notable exception, but it tasted too much like inverted Christianity to me.

It's frightening to be a woman in Bush's America. It's even more frightening to be a libertarian satanist woman. I feel, as I am sure most women in a similar position do, that it is a matter of time, and we will be the first ones on the pyre. We live in a country that does not love us, its own daughters in all our varied glory, dominated by a religion that wants nothing less than the total surrender of all the things our constitution says that we may have. We are supposed to be a nation of the liberated and independant, yet if we are a christian nation, then this liberty and independence is snatched away from women the second that we are born and the doctors realize that we have a pussy.

How can they say that they are good and kind and loving and charitable then turn around and hate me so fucking much because I don't have a cock? How can such a huge portion of their agenda revolve around making me hate who I am and what I am, and they dare to say that I am the one who is evil?

Brigid, I don't even know you, but from what I have read in your posts you have been hurt so deeply by all of this and my heart breaks for you. Please don't disparage your own intelligence - no matter how they tried to indoctrinate you during all those years, you got out. Your scars are a symbol of your strength, of what you were willing to do to live! I love you for it, and I venerate you, and even if you can't see it yet, you are your own fucking goddess.

Hail!

Tim Simmons said...

Man, I'm slipping.


It's not Ephesians. It's Phillipians.

GRRRRRRRR!


Tim

LadySidhe said...

First of all, with reference to Mary Magdalene, there is a video in the "Archaeology" series, put out by A&E, I think (don't quote me on that) that gives a history of Mary Magdalene based on most recent information.

According to this video, she was actually an independently wealthy widow who basically bankrolled Jesus and his disciples--a patron, not a prostitute.

Also, I agree with the comment about the villianization of women in the bible. They're either the bad guys, or if that isn't the case, they're relegated to tertiary characters who are done to or about, rather than do.

I find it interesting that women are considered a threat in christianity and its derivative religions. Ie, if a man sees a woman during her menses, he is soiled and must go to a temple to be cleansed, or the idea that women are tempters which men cannot resist. That seems to me to be more of a commentary on the willpower of men, rather than the basic evil of women, or the fear of [joke]something that bleeds for seven days and doesn't die. [/joke]

Then again, considering the fact that early man had an image of the creator as a mother (imagine that...), it would necessarily follow that the subsequent patriarchy would have to wipe that away in order to have their view of the creator ascend. The best way to do that would be to villanize women and cause them to be feared. What people fear, they hate, and what they hate, they destroy.

*shrug*

Kinda pathetic, really, when you think about it objectively.

LadySidhe said...

And I have to agree with Brigid (as I often do), that Bush's America scares me. I'm pagan, and the religious right is losing its mind under our "christian president."

I mean, Missouri is trying to make Christianity the OFFICIAL religion of Missouri. More recently, they're using a law on their books to evict unmarried couples with more than one child from their homes (unmarried couples with more than one child do not meet their definition of "family" and are--for all intents and purposes--prevented from getting housing, under one of their laws).
[url=http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/05/17/national/main1625059.shtml]Article Here[/url]
[url=http://ladysidhe.proboards39.com/index.cgi?board=rr&action=display&thread=1148163977]Commentary Here[/url]

Bush's America is a scary place to be...especially when the Constitution of the United States can be amended because the group in power doesn't agree with the lifestyle choices of a segment of citizens, and therefore wishes to take away their rights based upon that holier-than-thou attitude.

LadySidhe said...

Sorry about the messed-up html tags on the addresses. Here they are again:

Article here:
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/05/17/national/main1625059.shtml

Discussion here:
http://ladysidhe.proboards39.com/index.cgi?board=rr&action=display&thread=1148163977

Realist said...

"God is generally thought of as male. But what, exactly, does that mean?"

It means when God made man she was only joking. Kidding aside is you believe any of this crap you need to seek immediate medical or psychological help. Who really cares if Jesus was married, had a baby or any of that. It is a story that has been around much longer then the book or movie. How many ways can we interrupt the bible? As many as you want but it only shows how improvable these things are.

Your comments on males and females made little sense and offended me and I am a male. Can ask you, do you believe God is against homosexuality?

brigid said...

Okay, me is back. This thing is going south real quick, and I just wanted to say thanks to all those who have been talking to me: Valerie (love your name)Blaine; Patricia; Lady Sidhe. I really hope to hear from you; I crave attention; I am just a cheap little egotist.

Thanks again, and now me has to catch up on the new posts.

Lsettr said...

I would love to gab with you guys: Valerie, brigid, and Lady Sidhe sometime soon. I find your posts amazing.
I am an open-minded druid in Alabama, livin on the edge I say. I am also a history major. I feel that much of women's history has been painted with a candy coating. The reality is that only the best interpretations of historic data are publicized. The dirty truth is swept under the rug.

Recently I found a book coining the question, "Did women have a Renaissance?" It is legitimate. The book, entitled Women of the Renaissance by Margaret L. King is heartwrenching. The Church is the main antagonist throughout history of denial of women's LIVES.

At any rate, please look me up, ladies!

http://www.myspace.com/lsettr
or regensy4u@yahoo.com