Monday, January 30, 2012

Treachery and Murder

"She gave the apple unto Adam, and Adam did eat thereof."
Adam's sin was simple disobedience, but Eve's was treachery. Treachery and murder.
To lead her lawful lord into mortal sin!
Therefore is woman ever the weaker vessel, whereby Satan first enters.
Tempted and tempter alike. The fingerhold of the beast upon our souls!
- The Unwritten #33.5
by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and Vince Locke

I highly doubt this is the personal opinion of the creators of The Unwritten. Instead it is a character saying a line that drives the plot of the story along. Unfortunately, countless ministers throughout the centuries have preached such drivel. Even more unfortunate, there are still preachers around today spewing this same vitriol of hate and ignorance from behind the pulpit.

The claim that females are inherently theologically inferior to males is ridiculous. Typically one of the first reasoning for such a claim is that God created man first. But did he really? Actually looking at the two accounts of creation in Genesis, we find that this assumption is not as apparent as the Sunday school version makes it seem.

In Genesis chapter 1 God creates both man and woman simultaneously.
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:27 (NRSV)
In the second version of creation that follows in chapter 2, one human is created first and God eventually creates a second human. But, in the Hebrew, no distinction of gender is made until the second human appears. So really, basing a view for male superiority on the Genesis accounts of creation is nonsense.

But what about the claim the minister in this issue of The Unwritten makes that Eve's sin was far worse than Adam's? That is also stupid. What he's doing is trying to argue degrees of sin. But it doesn't work that way. Sin is sin. Yes, Adam's sin was simple disobedience. But so was Eve's. That's all sin is: disobedience.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied:
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind'. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." - Matthew 22:37-40 (NRSV)
One of the great Jewish teachers, Rabbi Hillel, gave a similar reply to this question by saying, "What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor; that is the whole of the Torah, the rest is commentary; go and learn it."

When we go against the will of God or treat our fellow humans in a way that is not out of love, we sin. Both Eve and Adam disobeyed God. Neither sin was greater. And God punished both for their sins. However, it might be noteworthy that in his punishment for the Serpent, God also included (as Christianity has interpreted it) a promise of human redemption through the offspring of the woman.

True, Genesis 3:16 does recount God ordering the woman to be ruled by her husband, but this is clearly the negative fallout from sin and not God's ideal arrangement for humanity. Plus, there's that whole New Testament thing...
"There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." - Galatians 3:28 (NRSV)
"In that renewal there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, but Christ is all in all!" - Colossians 3:11
Paul seems like he's really into the whole equality thing. Well, not entirely. There's the 2nd chapter of 1 Timothy (where Paul would disagree with my reading of Genesis) and the examples of the "household codes" scattered throughout the New Testament.

The real problem with these verses comes with how we interpret them. The church has tended to "concretize" them - taking them at their literal face value and making them a universal edict for all time. This seems reckless to me since most of the books of the New Testament were letters written to specific people in specific places in specific times during specific circumstances. They are context heavy, and we don't always have a clear understanding of this context.

Another way to look at such passages of Scripture is to follow the trajectory of the sentiment. Yes, today many of the verses about women in the New Testament are very restricting and oppressive. But at the time, in the culture, they could have been seen as quite radical and liberating. If the church had followed such a trajectory in its approach to women, the state of Christianity today would be far less androcentric.

And I think that would be a good thing.

No, having women in charge wouldn't remove all the harm done by the church throughout history. Both men and women with ecclesiastical power have committed heinous atrocities. The problem with the church is not men or women in charge. It's the fact that it is run by humans.

In one of my seminary classes we had to write a paper about our views on God and humanity. I spent a preposterously large part of that paper discussing the implications of Adam being made in the anatomical image of God. Basically, if Adam is more like God because Adam has male genitalia, that would imply that God has male genitalia. I have a problem with that because if God has male genitalia that implies somewhere out there would be a deity with compatible genitalia. And then you can follow that into deity reproduction and soon we have a whole pantheon on our hands. The Trinity is confusing enough the way it is!

Yeah, I was a weird seminary student.

Over the course of history, the Bible has been used to justify or promote our various prejudices, especially sexism, racism, and even anti-Semitism (which is weird since its a book written by a bunch of Jews. And Luke). How about instead we start using the Bible to enact the commandments advocated by Jesus and Rabbi Hillel?

Love God. Love your neighbor.

The rest is commentary. Go and learn it.


Here begins a personal rant:

I wonder if this seems weird at all, my theological defense of women when I've recently been so tragically scarred by a female myself. Though it's greatly affected me emotionally, I know one incident with one individual does not exemplify an entire gender. I guess I'm kind of like Hume that way. Just because B follows A doesn't mean that A causes B or that B will always follow A. Likewise, my experience with one girl doesn't mean all girls will treat me the same way.

I probably lost everyone with that.

What I mean is just because she turned out to be a horrible person to me in no way signifies that all, most, or even some women are just as bad. Even through my pain I try to be the optimist. I'm sure there are countless women out there that base their love on more than just booze and dollar signs. I'm sure there are many women that can't comprehend spending 4 years with someone and then suddenly turning that all away and being perfectly content with never speaking to them again.

I know I can't understand that. I can't begin to understand what kind of mental and emotional processes occurred for such behavior to make sense. Maybe it's best that I don't know. I fear if I came to see what all was going on I'd start questioning how the hell I could have been in love with someone like that for so long. I'm not sure if that line of thinking would make me feel better or worse.

But the same goes for men. I am not a stereotypical example of all men. Believe me, I'm not. I write a blog about theology in comic books. I'm not really a stereotypical anything. But similarly, Adam is not an example of the behavior of all men. So really, basing any gender stereotypes on the story of Adam and Eve is complete nonsense.

Okay, that got way personal/bitter towards the end there. Sorry. When it comes to bitterness, I have good days and bad. This might fall into the bad category. Well, let's just press on and hope that tomorrow is better.

I may be bitter and sarcastic, but I'm always the optimist.

No comments:

Post a Comment