Monday, September 27, 2010

The Religious Evolution of Women's Rights

Quote from the Holy Qur'an

"...And their husband's will have a right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation.  And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them..."
Al-Baqara 228

Quote from the Holy Bible

"But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no long two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together let no one separate."
Mark 10:6-10

     Even dressing this topic in reference to these two religions is something akin lighting a match in the middle of a wildfire.  There is no doubt in my mind that both Christian and Muslim readers already have their minds made up about gender roles.  Male or Female, on either side of the religious divide most believe that the side of the Gulf they occupy is the "Good" side.  Whether it be the Christian accusing the Muslims of being oppressive of women or the Muslims accusing the Christians of objectifying women.  This conversation has been beaten to death and there has been little or no progress, because of the stalemate of religious authority, so lets go about this a different way.

     For as long as I remember, being a man was a good thing and being a woman was akin to being a second class citizen.  Now, this is inside the Christian community in which I was raised.  Women had to deal constantly with the various prejudices and Biblical conundrum of their role.  Where they to speak, or be silent?  Where they to preach, but just to other women?  What if a woman goes against the drawn conclusion.  Then there is the modesty discussion, a talk which I do not understand.  I am a man, I can control my eyes, my wrongdoing is my own.  No matter what a woman is wearing it never excuses a man from action, unless of course you think were all raging balls of sex only good for procreation.  But we are not, we are humans and so are women, our rights should be the same.

     But inside a biblical system the woman is trapped in between two worlds, her own and the world of the Bible.  In the Old Testament she is chattel more often than not and used to bind alliances or cause sin among the rules of the nation.  The New Testament gives no new rights, perhaps supposed equality in Christ at the end of things but no real equality here on Earth.  So the woman is presented with the puzzle and told, "Listen only to male leaders and suppress, all you can, your desire to listen to female leaders.  Let the men interpret the Bible and teach you, but in your Bible study later feel free to use Beth Moore materials."  It is a schizophrenic, intolerable, domineering, catch 22 mess.  There are so many contradictions in that statement, let alone the whole of scripture concerning women that a logical person would simply divorce the whole thing and be done with it.

     That is they would if there were not the threat of eternal damnation along with rough time here looming over their heads.  Nobody, unless they have extreme will, can break free of that kind of threat and lose the community they once loved.  So many women and men sit in pews listening to things about each other that they profess to believe in church but act out differently as they leave the parking lot.  This is good, it shows how archaic all the rules and laws truly are, we act differently, not out of sin, but because we know the truth is not contained in some ancient patriarchal ramblings but revealed in the world we have grown ourselves.

     I expected that a Muslim woman would have a situation similar to a Christian woman.  This is not true.  Again I will ask you to divorce from your mind the cultural images of Islam and women in burkas, as I have to, and think textually.  As I read through  60+ verses in Al-Baqara regarding legal obligations between man and wife I noticed a key difference.  Women are given rights!  How wonderful it was to read that the rights given a man are the same given to his wife.  That he MUST be fair to her or suffer punishment.  This was not only shocking but revealed to me the times had changed between the authorship of the Bible and the Qur'an.

     It did not show me some categorical divide between the two books but rather the advancement of human thought on gender relations.  The man and woman were beginning to be seen as equally important in Allah's eyes, and as religion is the expression of humanities deepest desires we, as a group, began to realize this truth more corporately.  I am massively confused as to why Muslim nations oppress and abuse women when in their own book they are given equal status as men on at least one occasion (divorce) and growing status in many other places compared to the Bible. Please stick to your beliefs if you cannot move beyond them, then you would at leas have as high a view of women as the Qur'an.  It even allows for you to remain proud of your penis if you need to, because it apparently gives you an "advantage"

    It is sickening to me to see religion used in a way to harm any, and in this area it has harmed half the human race.  We have far to long clung to old pages, ritual, and rites to tell us how men and women should behave.  It is far beyond time we rethink these ancient words, painful symbolic destruction and outdated cultural practices.  We moved forward in thinking from the Bible to the Qur'an in moral discourse.  Is it so wrong to take the final step?  To enforce equality, not just allow it.  Men, stand up for women for you do not want to be on the opposite side when the paradigm shifts for the final time.  Women stand up for yourselves do not let someone else be your voice,  be your own.  Together we can turn the tide against the patriarchs and win back the humanity we all deserve.    

1 comment:

  1. Ben. I think you're the only male I know who has articulated well the struggles of women in a religious context. I officially allow you into the Feminist club - ok you were already in it. In all seriousness, I honestly cannot thank you enough for this post. I started to tear up reading it. No lie.

    One thing I might say differently is that even though the NT is far from ending patriarchy, it is different in that women were for the first time allowed to actually participate in and experience religion whereas in the OT women participated in the religious covenant by marrying a circumcised man. But as you've identified there are still a number of contradictory messages within the NT about women. If their is equality in Christ, why are there delineated roles? etc. Thank you Thank you Thank you for writing this. I'm saving it to read again later when I go into a Feminist rage and want to emasculate all men.