Friday, February 03, 2006

Comment thread Synchronicity

Jill said, in the comments thread:


What I would like to hear more of, and I do think some of it's getting out there, is how do Muslims around the world feel? Is this what they want Islam to be identified with by non-Muslims? I know they don't - I know that there are Muslims speaking out about how their beliefs do not support suicide bombing. But what hasn't that group taken hold? What is preventing their voice from being the dominant one inside the more radically religious and conservative Middle Eastern governments? I saw the picture on the cover of the NYT just after the election, and it was a sea of men and boys. Not a single female face. Doesn't that alone speak to scary?
In the NYT this morning, this article declares:


To a degree specialists said was new in the conservative Muslim society of the Gaza Strip, Hamas used its women to win, sending them door to door with voter lists and to polling places for last-minute campaigning.

Now in surprise control of Palestinians politics, Hamas can boast that women hold 6 of the party's 74 seats in parliament — giving the women of the radical group, guided in all ways by their understanding of Islam, a new and unaccustomed public role.

Now, understand that I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian environment, where some hard "truths" were stated pretty baldly. I clearly remember, when it came up that I was planning to pursue a college prep course in high school, one church elder bluntly said, "What on earth for? Women have absolutely no business going to college except to find a husband."

Higher education giving women all those uppity feminist ideas, after all.

I remember my mother ruthlessly repressing her own rebellious feminist urges to tell me that there was no good reason for women to vote; their husbands should speak for both of them. Don't judge her too harshly for that. She's the one who made it possible for me to leave and go to the aforementioned college. While I didn't notice at the time, she began much of the eventual deprogramming that would culminate later, after a handful of logic, philosophy and theology classes.

So I understand all too well about women participating in their own subjugation.

It does make me wonder about the moderate Christians, too. I wish they'd get a whole lot louder. They're out there, though. They are apparently Christians who struggle to reclaim their religion, and the perception of their religion, from the extremist Christian right:


I am a Christian. I also grew up in the American South. "My people" -- both Christians and Southerners, according to my friend and many Yale students -- are changing our nation with a conservative agenda. That agenda is not mine. Many Christians, like myself, strongly believe in separation of church and state; are Democrats and pro-choice; support women in ministry as preachers and teachers; and believe that God loves all people, regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation. It is possible for Christians to represent such God-like views and not be radical judgmentalists. It is possible for Christians to be loving, kind, conversational and respectful of persons of different faiths.

Despite my vote in the presidential election, my identity as a Christian became associated with Christian conservatism more than ever after Nov. 2. "My people" appear to be part of the Christian right because voices from the Christian left are often stifled or silenced.

I do indeed wonder about the more moderate Muslims, out there--because I'm not hearing much on either a local or an international level. Jill's question has certainly been asked before; there just aren't very many particularly loud public responses.

Turns out, according to Islam for Today, even the terminology is somewhat problematic:


American media uses the term moderate Muslim to indicate a Muslim who is either pro-western in her politics or is being self-critical in her discourse. Therefore both President Karzai of Afghanistan and Professor Kahlid Abul Fadl of UCLA wear the cap with felicity, the former for his politics the latter for his ideas.

Muslims in general do not like using the term, understanding it to indicate an individual who has politically sold out to the “other” side. In some internal intellectual debates, the term moderate Muslim is used pejoratively to indicate a Muslim who is more secular and less Islamic than the norm, which varies across communities. In America, a moderate Muslim is one who peddles a softer form of Islam – the Islam of John Esposito and Karen Arm Strong – is willing to co-exist peacefully with peoples of other faiths and is comfortable with democracy and the separation of politics and religion.
It seem like we never do hear as much from the center, though. While certainly some of that can be blamed on our own media--because it's so much sexier to report car-bombings that to report sane and reasonable people calling for peace--maybe those of us closer to the middle need to get a whole lot louder.

What about bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, on a grassroots level; Christian, secular, other. . . How do we do that?

We know how war starts. Now how do we begin peace?

21 comments:

Jill said...

Fantastic post, Mac. I look forward to following the comments (for answers, I always I hope!).

Mac said...

Me too, Jill. I don't know as there are any answers, really--but I do know I plan to start investigating how much communication and discourse is happening between Seattle's Muslim community and the rest of us.

I refuse to believe there are no grounds on which there can be a common understanding of collective experience. We're all human beings, for starters.

Sean D. Schaffer said...

I think part of the reason the Conservative Far Right is so loud, is that there are so few of them. I think much the same of the Liberal Far Left.

I myself am a Moderate; I try to weigh both beliefs equally before deciding which one I'll go with. I also was raised in a very conservative Fundamental Baptist Church, and that might be part of the reason I became a quiet Moderate.

I saw the loud, preachy attitudes of Far Right Conservative Christians, and those same people telling me I had to be the same way or God would not be happy with me, and I decided I did not want to emulate that kind of attitude.

This might be part of the reason many Moderates, both in religion and in politics, are so quiet. I'm not saying it's all of the reason or everybody's experience, but I am saying that I've seen the Religious Far Right treat very good people within their religions very distastefully. I think that could be part of the reason the majority of Moderates are so quiet about their opinions.

How to start Peace? Hmmm, that's a hard one. I think personally if people would treat others like they themselves want to be treated....you know, with the same dignity and respect that they wish to be treated with....that we'll be making a step in the right direction.

Otherwise, I think it's a simple matter of (and I know a great many Conservatives who hate this word with a passion nowadays) tolerance of other people and their religions, and not trying to force them to live their way.

Mac said...

Sean--I think that's a pretty wise place to begin. Right back at the golden rule.

AstonWest said...

"What on earth for? Women have absolutely no business going to college except to find a husband."

Yikes, I have to wonder which Christian doctrine this was derived from...

Mac said...

It's ostensibly from Paul's teachings that women should never be in positions of authority over men, Aston--If a woman is going to college for an education, not for marriage, then she's going to be seeking a position of employment, right?

With a college education, there's a danger that she'll find herself in a position where she's in charge of male employees. Or teaching college, herself. Or...or...

Gruesome, isn't it?

Mostly, though, I think the core thinking was that women were simply too weak-minded to withstand all the dangerous ideas inherent in an institution like college--they'd be subverted by the ways of the world.

Paul was as deeply misogynistic as he was homophobic. In fact--I suspect Paul just hated sex.

Jean Marie said...

Paul as in Bible Paul, Mac? Because now you've got me completely confused. Okay, I know that's not hard to do, but still!

Why does there have to so much them and us and they and...is that too simplistic a question?

Mac said...

Yep, Bible Paul, JM. Since Aston asked, too, here is some discussion about the issue, particularly about these verses:

1 Corinthians 11.3--"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."

1 Corinthians 14.34-35 "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the Law.

And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church."

I Timothy 2.11-15 "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not decieved, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."

One defense of Paul's teaching. That link discusses this letter: Dear husband,

Enclosed is a dossier of information that will thoroughly document the Bible’s prohibition against woman preachers and pastors. I want to emphasize that the issue for your wife is not what the Bible says about this, but the very inspiration of the Bible itself. One cannot think of the unmarried Paul as a self serving, sexist, bigoted woman hater and believe in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote 1/2 of the New Testament under the direct guidance of Jesus Christ: Gal 1:11 "For I [Paul] would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." Further after prohibiting women from speaking in church, Paul says in the very next verse: 1 Cor 4:37-38 "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized." This is the only place Paul made this kind of statement. Any one who rejects Paul’s teaching on the submission of women and woman preachers, is "not recognized" by God... or condemned. Harsh but true words.

Some people reject the Bible because they think the story of six 24-hour day creation is silly. Some people reject the Bible because they think the story of a man being swallowed by a fish is silly. your wife rejects the Bible because she thinks a woman being in submission to her husband and women forbidden to be pastors, is silly. This is the bottom line.

Now I recommend that you review the enclosed materials. However, for your wife, none of this material is relevant, because she rejects the inspiration of the Bible. Enclosed is the first lesson of a Bible course (blue booklet and test) that proves the inspiration of the Bible. Once she has accepted the Bible as inspired by God, she will have no choice but to accept Paul’s obvious teaching. Remember, your wife fully accepts that Paul forbids women from preaching, she simply rejects Paul and ultimately Jesus Christ who spoke the teaching through Paul. In other words, she knows what the Bible teaches on this subject, she rejects the Bible. I find it troubling but insightful that your wife, given the option, would not want to attend the church where Paul preached every Sunday. I stand beside Paul.


We see the underpinnings here of some very key ideas about women, for biblical literalists.

(I'm trying hard to stay polite about the idea, too--and I want some credit, dammit. Heh.)

Jean Marie said...

Why do you do this? Mac, you're being very polite, I applaud you!

I get very confused about this stuff and you know it, dammit!!! Not fair, your background's stronger than mine. I have to read some of this.

I've talked to you about some of this before-I'm not getting the homophobic part though?

Back later-dog walking time! Thank God!

Mac said...

Ah! Some of the homophobia is apparent in the book of Romans For example, 1.27 "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."

This is actually part of a long passage about a specific group of people, with a whole laundry-list of failings--but it's seldom referred to in any kind of context. It's much more convenient for the fundies to point at the isolated verse as a condemnation of homosexuality.

If you read the entire chapter, it's clear there's a lot more going on in this passage.

Jean Marie said...

Okay, if I read the entire chapter, then we can discuss it?

Sean D. Schaffer said...

"1 Corinthians 14.34-35 "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the Law.

And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church."

I Timothy 2.11-15 "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not decieved, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."


I always thought those were bizarre verses, Mac, because this is the same Apostle Paul who says that "Through one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin." (Notice it doesn't say here that Eve sinned, but that Adam did). He's also the same Apostle who said, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the (OT) Law, but under Grace."

If a woman is the reason for all the sin of the world, why does the Bible say specifically it was Adam's fault? Also, if people are supposed to obey the Laws of the OT in Christianity, then why the Scripture saying Christians aren't under it?

There are several other inconsistencies I've noticed in Paul's teachings. Inconsistencies that have bothered me to no end for years.

Another good example is how Paul said that if a man does not work, neither shall he eat. But Christ Himself lived on miracles and faith according to the Scriptures. According to one preacher, He was an unemployed rabbi.

One other thing that comes to mind is where the Apostle Paul said, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither free nor bond, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ."

Why, then, did he use the Scriptures as a means to demean women? This makes absolutely no sense to me. Christ didn't treat women the way Paul did, nor did He teach that women should be treated in such a manner. This is one reason I don't like the Apostle Paul all that much.

Sean D. Schaffer said...

"One cannot think of the unmarried Paul as a self serving, sexist, bigoted woman hater and believe in Jesus Christ."

I'd like to add that whomever wrote this does not know what he is talking about. I don't know much about Paul's personal life, but I do know that to believe in Jesus Christ does not require belief in the perfection of the Apostle Paul.

Like I said before, Mac, it's people like this who make many of us Moderates not wish to be vocal about our opinions. Many of us do not like being likened to fanaticism.

Jean Marie said...

And I'm sitting here reading what's just been written and wondering...okay. I'm "thinking" about getting ready to go to church/Mass, and, umm, getting confused. Now what?

I've always noticed these discrepancies too, Sean and yes, Mac. I was, well, it wasn't appropriate to voice them in my family. And my brother still believes some of this.

My head's spinning a bit...

Sean D. Schaffer said...

Jean Marie,

Before you decide not to go to Church or anything like that, try to think about how not all Churches believe the stuff I mentioned. I was raised in a Fundamental Baptist Church, and things were quite different there than it sounds like they would be in yours.

Besides, just because the Apostle Paul may have been out there, try to remember that Christ Himself was not. Christianity follows Christ, not the Apostle Paul. It's meant to worship the Savior, not the Servant. That's what I was trying to point out before. I admit I can be overzealous when pointing out what I believe.

Whatever you do, I would not give up on Church just because there was one guy in the faith I disagree with. If I had given up like that, I never would have found out what Christianity really is all about.

I'm just saying that people should be able to ask questions of whatever God they worship, and expect a good honest answer from him or her.:)

Mac said...

Sean, I think that's a very wise and sane way to approach the issue. For the record, I'm not trying to strip anyone of their faith. I believe in faith. I believe that faith helps us rise above our animal nature.

I also believe in intellect. A church that expects you to check your brain at the door is a church with something to hide.

Sean D. Schaffer said...

I agree, Mac. I've been treated very badly in fundamental churches because I asked too many questions. Some were simple questions like, "What does this word mean in this particular instance?" Others were harder questions, such as, "Can you prove this verse means what you (the Preacher, many times) say it means?"

For instances like those, I've gotten in major trouble in a fundamental Baptist Church, because the questions were deemed inappropriate.

So like I said, I agree with your assessment, Mac. If I have to close my eyes because the church doesn't want me to see the 'bridge out ahead' sign, they're not the kind of Church I want to be associated with.

Dawno said...

The first thing that came to mind after I read the post was that we don't know what peace (in this context) is without it being the (all too brief) aftermath of war.

I believe that humanity has a deeply imprinted genetic tendency towards xenophobia. That's why we immediately react to differences instead of latching on to similarities.

Differences are apparent and the reaction to them is somewhat instinctual, so it takes an intellectual recognition of that flaw and then an effort to overcome it and find the common ground. Until you understand why you fear the 'outsider' you may just feel that it's right to fear them and be open to the persuasion that it's also right to make war against them.

There are some who are less prone to xenophobia than others. Unfortunately those folk seem to be in the minority. Until a much greater percentage of humanity gets beyond fear and starts seeing how we're alike, and strives to build on commonalities, we'll be more likely to start wars than start peace.

The question about how to build bridges is a good one. I feel it has to come from free and open lines of communication everywhere on the globe. As long as any one group has no real knowledge or understanding of another they will continue to fear the outsider and want them to be 'defeated' before the outsider comes to 'defeat us'. There are way too many people of that mindset on this planet. I fear for us all if we don't get our acts together.

Sean D. Schaffer said...

I seem to remember the Bible talking about there someday being a one-world government on this Earth, before Christ returns and brings real peace to all the Earth.

The peace that Humanity will try to bring will be, if I understand my Bible correctly, a non-faith government that will eventually demand that its leader be worshipped as though he were God.

I've heard a lot of speculation about where this government will be located, and who the leader of this government will be, but the Bible is very vague about it so far as I can tell.

I do know that this person will bring all the peoples of the Earth together somehow, and that it will be through a promise he makes of worldwide peace.

One of the interesting things about this government, is that Christianity will be an illegal religion according to the Bible. I'm willing to bet that this scenario is one reason many Christian Churches preach against the one-world government so vehemently, and against anyone who tries to bring all the peoples of the world together.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that a lot of the junk that goes on that keeps the world from being at peace with itself is members of my own faith. They want the One-World Government defeated before it even takes shape, and frankly, God says it's not going to happen.

I'm thinking that if Christianity is made illegal by this one-world dictator fellow Christians constantly refer to, it'll be because Christianity will seem so opposed to the idea of world peace in the first place.

This scenario bothers me, because Jesus never said to keep this one-world government from coming into power in the first place.

Jean Marie said...

I sometimes experience Dawnophobia, but I manage to deal w/ it when it arises!

Matter of fact, I thought we'd gone off on a tangent discussing Paul's weirdness toward women. Actually, his completely bent views. More like anti what Jesus taught. However, it ties in perfectly w/ the way Hamas used women to win the election in Palestine.

It also ties in w/ how Islam views women as less than on a social scale. Hamas claims women will be part of the new government (6) in all. They'll be figurehead only w/ no power whatsoever. Strictly for show. In some ways, they'll be treated a bit better than Paul would have.

In the Muslim world, from my understanding, women are not held in the highest of regard.

So, how do we arrive at peace? Dawno made a perfect point-after a war has been fought.

W/ so many varying cultures come an = number of opinions and viewpoints. W/o a willingness to accept our differences and co-exist, there can't be peace, IMO. Two perfect examples that come to mind are Palestine and Israel or England and Ireland. Those arguments/wars are based on religion/refusal to accept differences of faith.

I realize that sounds completely negative and against the teachings of Jesus, but now at least I know who to blame! Paul!!

Sean, thanks for your comments. I would never throw the baby out w/ the bath water, so to speak. I've always asked questions about my religion and will continue to do so. Actually, I question everything these days.

weasel said...

One quick point of order- "Two perfect examples that come to mind are Palestine and Israel or England and Ireland. Those arguments/wars are based on religion/refusal to accept differences of faith."

As an Englishman, can I point out that the shooting conflict between England and the Irish may have originated back in Tudor times as a religious conflict (shutting the back door to the pope after Henry VIII had broken with Rome was the general strategy for the English involvement in Ireland back then) but by the time that Britain relinquished control of all but the six counties of Ulster (1922) it was down to a recognition of an untenable colonial situation? England stopped having the ability to conduct independent foreign policy with the Act of Union of 1707 which formally recognized the political entity of "Great Britain". Its just one (albeit the largest) of the component parts of a bigger political union.

The situation I think you are rerering to would be the conflict between the predominantly protestant Unionists and the predominantly catholic Nationalists of Northern Ireland; a horrible mixture of religious and national identity issues. I can promise you that if you ever called even the most loyalist, royalist protestant Ulsterman "English" he'd bite your head off!

Enough pedantry; this is a great dialogue going here.