NO, RAFE MAIR, NO!
(In response to Rafe’s article “Baby, Ignore the Christmas Scrooges”, The Tyee, 10/10/12)
Yes, of course everybody is entitled to their private religious beliefs. Rafe and I can agree on that. However, one little ditty that became popular in the sixties (from the women’s movement) is that “the private is political”. This stuck in my brain because it is demonstrably true. Religion is both private and political and the Christian church has done a bad political number on women from the time Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity back at the fall of the Roman Empire.
After Christianity became prominent through Constantine’s conversion, church law became civil law. Women began to lose the rights they had formally enjoyed. Under the dictates of Christianity, women in the Roman Empire could no longer be legal guardians of their children, inherit, vote, run a business or partake freely in society. If the women objected, their husbands could divorce them, throw them out with no provisions, or beat them (rule of the thumb; Christian law made wife beating legal but husbands were forbidden to use a rod for the beating that was bigger than a man’s thumb). Women became virtual slaves of men, with no rights of or to anything.
In his article “Baby, Ignore the Christmas Scrooges’ Rafe presents the celebrations of Christmas as something that is not so much religious, as a joyous cultural celebration that only those who walk on a psychic “dark side” could object to. He cites the religious celebrations of other religions as being also wonderful and harmless. Well, I object. I object on the grounds that both religion and culture tend to chain people to the past instead of paving the way for the future.
All patriarchal religions are bad news for women. At the moment women in Egypt are in danger of having any semblance of their human rights voided by the takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. The president is determined to bring back Sharia law which includes the mandatory genital mutilation of girls and young women and imposed wearing of the burka. Women who live under Sharia law are virtual prisoners. And Rafe, would you believe that it has only been in my life time that women have become legal “persons” under Canadian law?
But that bit of Canadian history didn’t have anything to do with religion, you say? No? Then where did men get the idea that women weren’t persons in the first place? You’re right. From the Christian Bible. Men were made in God’s image, but not women. And the Biblical dictum that Adam and Eve should go forth and multiply (Genesis 1:28) almost side by side with Islam and other eastern religions allowing multiple wives and multiple children, accompanied by the forced compliance of women on pain of death or expulsion, is mainly responsible for the overpopulation of the world. Birth Control?
Oh, the struggle! Just to gain access to birth control has been, and still is in some countries, like swimming in an alligator infested bottomless bayou. And the right to abortion? Women’s bodies still bleeding from coat hanger abortions litter the entire swamp of the Christian Church floor on this one. And Stephen Harper, true to his religious beliefs, is cutting back on birth control funds internationally while spitting in the wind over abortion.
But the Christian Church’s distinct role in the “dictated overpopulation” of the world is not the only major catastrophe brought upon the world by religions. The same Biblical passage that commands people to go forth and multiply also gave the directions for how the earth itself was to be treated. Again, Genesis 1: 28 : “and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth”.
I understand that Rafe is very worried about the environment and I wonder if the Biblical passage above ever gives him pause. This passage, in my opinion, opened the gates a very long time ago for men’s environmental war against the earth. However, Rafe tells us that he is a Christian because of Jesus. Jesus was different, he claims. Jesus spoke of loving your neighbors and loving God.
But what God was Jesus referring to when he spoke of his mission on earth? Yes, the very one Rafe chooses to ignore. Jesus, of course, was referring to the God of the Old Testament, the furious, murderous, vengeful God who approved of crimes against humanity. This was the only god that Jesus could reference, the one God that he, Jesus, claimed as his literal father.
In the New testament Matt 5:18 Jesus said: “DO NOT THINK THAT I HAVE COME TO ABOLISH THE LAWS OR THE PROPHETS; I HAVE COME NOT TO ABOLISH THEM BUT TO FULFILL THEM. I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, UNTIL HEAVEN AND EARTH DISAPPEAR, NOT THE SMALLEST LETTER NOT THE LEAST STROKE OF A PEN, WILL BY ANY MEANS DISAPPEAR FROM THE LAW UNTIL EVERYTING IS ACCOMPLISHED.”
So there we have it. Christians everywhere have to carry this baggage of Jesus coming to fulfill the laws and letters of the Old Testament, or jettison the whole thing. Christians cannot say, with any degree of integrity of belief, that Jesus was chartering some kind of new course in God worship. But the Christian churches persist. The fundamentalist churches like the one our Prime Minister attends, along with the Catholic Church, obstruct women and progressive men on every turn who demand a different order, one free of religions that have made the world a mess. But what about the human thirst for the spiritual? To have spiritual meaning in our lives?
My own belief is that everything is spiritual. Because we are born encapsulated within the human form and die within this form, however much changed, we carry our history with us. Our entire interaction with the earth experience is spiritual. Nature constantly combines elements, recombines them, transforms them, nothing ever really dies, why are we so fearful that our spirits will? Yes, let’s celebrate the season, but let’s celebrate the earth, the stars, the moon, the sun, each other, not some male inspired misogynist story that has caused so much pain and suffering. I feel sure early women would not have accepted Christianity, or pretended to, except under threat of death. Incidentally Rafe, not that you care, but I don’t think Santa Claus is a good idea, either.