I just read this article that I saw posted over at The Friendly Atheist on “Religion and Women”. It got me thinking.
Religion and women have been a topic of interest of mine for a long time. In college and before, I wrote several papers about women in scripture. If I were a woman, I would have left Christianity a LONG time before I did. I remember thinking being a Christian woman would kind of suck. Although, that research probably put me further on the path away from Christianity.
The biblical view of women is disturbing and often times vile.
As I grew to understand the Greek and the English interpretation of biblical language, a Christians’ obligation is to have a sort of metaphysical love affair with Jesus — not sexual of course.
Why did the early church leaders choose celibacy? Why do women choose nunnery? It is a very simple interpretation of biblical manuscripts. Devotion to Jesus through the Catholic avenues is certainly a valid method of “worship”. This notion of life-long devotion to Jesus is why I looked deeply into seminary during college. At the time, I was exploring Christianity as an academic avenue, and seminary was logical next step to academic stewardship.
Of course I abandoned those ideas, partly thanks to my bible classes which would have preceded post-collegiate biblical training.
Meet Aurélia and Gerard de Nerval
In college, I spent a semester abroad in the south of France. There, I had a crush on a French student named Aurélia. She was a gorgeous blond, who spoke French with a sort of deep soothing quality. Oh la la.
Aurélia turned me on to an author/poet named Gerard de Nerval. De Nerval was a godless maniac. He likely suffered badly from an undiagnosed mental disease and he eventually committed suicide at 47 over unrequited love for an actress.
His mental instability made his art absolutely gorgeous.
Back in the states, I read a de Nerval book for a paper. There was this one part that spoke of his love affair with a heavenly being who visited him on a horse in a dream. In French, there are masculine and feminine words, and de Nerval seemed to make a point of describing this being only in feminine terms. My mind was going nuts reading it.
At the end of this long, orgasmic prose describing this being, he says, “This being was Jesus.”
I’m sure even now that I was reading parts of this incorrectly. This is how the human mind works; it sees what it wants to see. But I locked in on an interpretation, which is what art does. You have the freedom to interpret it as you wish. I decided that salvation wouldn’t come through a deity as I’d grown up believing. Salvation came from that which you choose salvation to come from. In my case, I had determined that “women are salvation”, not Jesus.
I revel in my wife Tina’s view of the bible, because no one told her that it was or wasn’t inappropriate for modern women. All she had to do was think about it. That was it. Sure she was burned by the Catholic Church growing up. But she wasn’t burned by religion. She was burned by the religious. There’s a difference.
She has very little biblical knowledge and knows very little about Catholicism except ritual things you do at church — kneeling, sign of the cross, genuflection, playing hooky. An unfettered mind is free to come to these kinds of conclusions. All T had to do was listen to the way my parents church talks of women or read the vile explanations at the Creation “Museum”, and she becomes nauseas.
I put Tina through a lot while I was still maneuvering myself out of the faith. She was supportive to say the least. She never said, “I can’t stand religion.” She merely looked on as I read and researched. Occasionally she would listen to me rant and rave about it. She would express herself, but for the most part, religion was my struggle.
Come to think of it, after my first girlfriend back in high school, I never dated anyone religious again.
My high school girlfriend went loony toons.
I single-handedly brought my high school girlfriend to Christianity. We dated for upwards of 4 years, probably 5. That’s longer than many marriages. We met at a club when I was 17. Literally a club. I used to play bass in my brother’s band, and we played out quite a bit in local, run-down shit holes. We had a groupie named Rebecca who brought her friend Wendy one night. I got all giddy, and the next thing I knew Wendy and I were dating. I put a lot of pressure on Wendy to believe like I did. Her family was Episcopalian, and therefore they were deemed not Christian. I brought her to my church. I bought her a bible. I prayed with her and prayed for her. And when she finally said the Christian prayer in my 1984 Honda Civic Wagon circa 1994, her mind started dissolving into a form of Christianity that I had never experienced before. She found the sort of Christianity that my family thought was a “false” Christianity. Wendy started believing in signs and behaving like a holy roller. These behaviors were not in my tradition, and I despised it.
I’ll never forget when she went on a missions trip to Paris. She came back and she told me that she met a guy early on in the trip, and she thought that god wanted her to marry him. God gave her signs. But she discovered that he really wasn’t the one. It was another guy. God gave her all kinds signs. A year later she was married and now she has 45 children or something.
What a bitch.
My point is that her reading of the bible requires her to be subservient to her husband. It requires her to have kids, rear them and be complete buttress to her husband.
Is it a bad thing to be helplessly devoted to one’s husband? Probably not. As long as the man is helplessly devoted to his wife. Tina and I revel in our equality. We married in a wedding as absent of religion as possible, because we don’t find true love in religious tradition.
For a long time, I was anti-marriage. I discovered true love one day while visiting my grandparents. My grandmother’s health is declining. Although they come from a strict religious tradition, my grandfather has taken the role traditionally performed by woman. At one time, my grandmother cared unyieldingly for gramps. Now gramps does EVERYTHING for grandma. He cooks, cleans, bathes, brushes teeth, etc. This is true love. Grandpa’s love has nothing to do with religion or faith in god.
Gramps knows deep down that this is all he’s got with grandma. He may say that they’ll spend eternity together. But his behavior shows otherwise.
His actions scream of human devotion to partnership. It has everything to do with humanity. It has everything to do with civility and equality. Sure I could criticize my grandfather for not allowing more help from health care professionals. But you know what, his love is salvation to grandma. He is her life support, her buttress, her everything. And whether she knows it or not mentally, they have a connection far superior than that of average bears.
Back when I observed these qualities in my grandfather, I became determined to get married. Because love isn’t about sex, or giddy feelings, or fleeting hormonal episodes, it’s about getting old together and becoming one another’s salvation.
This is why religious should support gay marriage. This is why non-religious should get married and make every effort to stay married. Because this is all we’ve got. And when we’re aiming straight for eventual demise, having a partner and support by our sides is the most saving grace we could ever hope for.
One thought on “Religion and women”
The story of your grandparents is beautiful.
My parents were together 50 years when my mother died. Having that kind of relationship is indeed rare.