So in quick synopsis, as far as I can tell, people stick with harmful doctrines (such as religions which label you guilty simply on the basis of something completely out of your control, such as gender) because they truly believe the doctrine is correct, because they’re refusing to be pushed into something they’re not ready for, because they’re terrified and feel helpless in the face of change, or because the excitement of temporary fame and adulation by those they consider powerful means it hasn’t yet registered that they’re harming themselves.
A clerical bourgeoisie
Quite honestly I do not see christianity (or any of the modern “major” world religions, to be fair) as changing into something more humano-centric, rather than androcentric, in any kind of reasonable time frame. Supposedly devout men have hogged all the good / powerful / meaningful / relevant parts of the religion, then (perhaps unwittingly) fed their ensuing and usually misogynistic attitude over into the hosting culture as well.
It’s unsurprising these men don’t wish to lose any of that power or prestige — however fictional the justificatory basis of that power may seem on the outside. I still have to laugh every time I hear whichever pope is current claiming there can be no female priests because there were no female apostles. Firstly, there are biblical references to female apostles, and Mary of Magdalene is referred to as the apostle to the apostles in the apocrypha. Further, clearly it is the deity itself who decides who is an apostle, not humans — Paul considers himself an apostle even though Jesus was already crucified by the time Paul started his ministry. Considering both women and men taught equally until Timothy’s misogyny became prevalent, it is therefore rather shortsighted of the pope to claim there were no female apostles.
Secondly: if we’re going to accept this argument — that modern-day priests must be modeled after the apostles — then we should certainly have married priests. The bible contains several references to apostles talking about their wives or mothers-in-law. In fact, let’s keep running with this: there weren’t any black apostles, and the apostles were all Jewish converts. So this means there can be no black priests today as well as no female, and I’m guessing they all must be Jewish converts too, right?
The history of gender, not class, struggles
A friend of mine was disturbed to hear I was focusing on women in this discussion, and pointed out that christianity isn’t necessarily good for men either. After all, any time you have rigid social or gender roles for an eminently flexible species, there will be those who do not fit — who have violence done to some part of their psyche in order to force a societal match. Further, as the old saying goes, slavery is damaging for the master as well as for the slave.
My point was simply that the religion was set up to benefit men, with its single male deity — a peculiar aberration compared to the vast majority of world religions — its male-only priests, and its unpleasant myth claiming women are responsible for the ills of the world. Everyone in the religion is focused around the male gender as more important, and considering men have arrogated to themselves all the positions of power, if the religion is to change dramatically it will be through the actions of men. It’s been two millennia now, though… and women are still being treated shabbily. The men have had quite enough time and attention and pandering to their needs, as far as I’m concerned. Heck, maybe if the women all leave, the men will get off their dead asses and fix their damn dogma.
The heart of a heartless land
Which brings me to one last, curious, recent occurrence. There is a song I rather like, which is on my favorite music rotation. The singer is a young woman with a rich, melancholy, passionate voice. The refrain contains the crooned line, “Hold me, Jordan,” which made me wonder idly if it was about lovers parting. The music is haunting and lyrical… and at some point, since I liked the song, I curiously searched for the lyrics. Unfortunately, I found them.
I was shocked to discover this song contained a strong christian theme, and it presented me with a small moral dilemma: if I supported the musician with my money through purchasing her music, then wasn’t I also indirectly supporting the very religious concepts I consider so terribly damaging to the world? I was also perplexed to realize this song had been sung at Lilith Fair. Weren’t those particular gatherings supposed to be all about the strength and support of independent women? If so, why sing this song there — effectively sponsoring christianity, with its horrific emphasis on constant guilt and submission for women?
It was an unpleasant shock to discover this information about the song, and I pondered the issue with a friend over lunch. He had an interesting point when I asked what made this different from my enjoying classical, with its near-constant christian theme running throughout: he noted that any damage which would be done by the classical has already been done. Encouraging the production of yet more christian-themed pop music, however, continues to promulgate this damaging meme. I do not know if this is true or not; has anyone been converted or strengthened in their religion by very old music? I would hazard the answer is yes… and yet, I really love my classical music. I don’t want to give it up without compelling reason.
I’ve pulled the song off my favorites list as I ponder this issue, and in the interim I’ll not be purchasing any more of the musician’s music. I’m curious for more perspectives, however: does beauty trump truth? Should we give up something we love, to vote with our money for a better world? How do you see this issue?