Religion and Spirituality

ON BOOKS, FAITH AND THE PATRIARCHY CONTINUED…

So, by way of comparison, here is the contents table of the bible stories book our church gave our daughter. From comments on my last post on this (and other offline conversations emanating from it), it does seem that my rant was understood by some to mean a rejection of the bible.

That’s completely the opposite of what I was aiming for.

As important as what is written (both in the bible and other books I guess) is the lens through which we read it and interpret it. To many African nationalists, the bible was yet another tool of colonisation. Slavery was justified by some using the bible. On the other hand, in the 60s at the height of the civil rights movement, many looked to it for inspiration against slavery, racism, inequality and their discontents. In fact, a lot of the black resistance and survival against slavery in the West has its roots in the Christian faith.

Those opposed to the bible and Christianity on grounds that it is patriarchal will soon find that their real fight is with the mainstream interpretation and application of it rather than the faith or its teachings themselves. Of course one may argue that the difference between these two is academic. But aren’t all discussions about interpretations and teachings at their heart, intellectual?

And so, my problem with the bible stories selected in the other children’s book was not that they were untrue, but that they were incomplete (to use Chimamanda’s phrasing). They purported to be representative of the bible, yet had no mention of main female characters in it. If my daughter used such a collection as her takeaway from the bible, it wouldn’t be surprising for her to abandon Christianity as soon as she starts looking for a faith she can identify with as a woman.

Now a question was put to me (by my big brother Bikie), about whether my position against patriarchy wouldn’t mean a total rejection of Christianity (given the patriarchal emphases made throughout it, from Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through to Jesus the Son of God). My position (and here I must add that my views are open to correction and/or challenge) is that this view itself, while widely adopted in Christendom, is not necessarily the only one to be considered.

For instance, we make quite a lot of noise about Abraham being the father of nations, owing to his son of the promise, Isaac. But Abraham had several other children. What makes Isaac different from the others is arguably, Sarah. Without Sarah, Isaac becomes just another son, alongside Ishmael (Muslims will likely take this view).

Jesus is said to be the son of David, owing to Joseph’s lineage. But Joseph had nothing to do with Christ’s conception. In fact, it is Mary, not Joseph that is the central figure in all this (which perhaps partially explains the Catholics’ emphasis on her as central to believers’ access to God). So there is a case to be made about women being far more central to the Christian faith than we have made them out to be.

As I mentioned earlier, my views on these things are evolving and open to further change. In some ways, these views may contradict those I held in the past and sometimes be at odds with my actions.

This is widely known as being human.

What won’t change for me though, is the desire to put the interests of my daughter at the fore of the literature she engages with. Which too, I would hope, is human.

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