Example Of Religion And The Oppression Of Women Essay
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“The most serious and unaddressed challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls, largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and growing tolerance of violence and warfare.” (Carter,2014).
Jimmy Carter did not just speak those words. He lives by them. After sixty years of being active members of their church, he and his wife, Rosalynn, left the Southern Baptist Convention. This followed decisions by the leaders in 2000 to create further restrictions against women, including banning women from being deacons, pastors, or chaplains in the military. The Carters strongly disagreed with these decisions and determined this was the best course of action for them. Through his studies of the Bible, he describes a time when women were leaders within Christianity and how that evolved into the patriarchal views that were established during the fourth century (Carter, 2009).
The Southern Baptist Conference is not the only religious entity who presents the belief that women are inferior to men. Certain actions around the world are reflective of this, such as Boko Haram kidnapping a minimum of 2,000 women and girls since January 2014. Boko Haram is an Islamist militant group who has applied extremist connotations to the Islam religion. This group invaded a village in Chibok located in northeastern Nigeria on 14 April 2014, abducting 270 schoolgirls. These children have become the victims of gang rape and murder. These children have been forced to abandon their personal beliefs, undertake military-style training, and participate in attacks on their own villages. This children have witnessed friends’ and family members’ murders. The majority of the 270 schoolgirls remain in captivity (Cantilero, 2015).
The majority of religious leaders are men. These men have created an attitude toward women that encourage genital mutilation, child marriage, arranged marriage, honor killings, spousal abuse, prostitution, plural marriages, rape, and slavery. It has created cultures in many areas of the world where these activities have become normalized (Santora, 2014). This should serve as a wakeup call that indicates this world contains major problems, but for many, it is deeply ingrained that this is more than a belief, it is an inherent trait that was bestowed upon them for being born male.
Joyner White offers insight concerning statements made by women on a television show called Preachers of Detroit. One of the cast members, Dorinda Clark Cole, made the comment that “It is a man’s church”. Other statements include “Women are to be submissive to their husbands, so that means if I am sleepy and my husband is hungry, I have to get up and fix him something to eat” and “I would not vote for a woman for President because women can’t be leaders over a country, that’s a man’s job.” Another member of the cast, Bishop Corletta Vaughn attempted to provide clarification that the Bible teaches that we are to submit to one another and does not indicate submission is exclusive to women as well as pointing out that women have served as President in other countries. The responses indicated that as Christians, the standards established throughout the rest of the world do not apply as Christians should try to maintain higher standards. Joyner White postulates that this attitude is indicative of brainwashing (2015).
Based on her personal experiences, Hadsell opines that “religions in general can be, have been, and are both oppressive and empowering to women”. This is in response to the ideology that Islam is inherently oppressive to women. She provides details of events at a multidenominational celebration for International Women’s Day and her perception of the role of religion as it pertains to women. She presents that Islam teaches women should be free from violence within their homes and that serving others and the community is symbolic of piousness. In her opinion, being encouraged to participate outside the home is a method of empowering women (29 May 2014).
MacArthur argues that the Bible does not dictate the degradation of women and that the Bible teaches women are to be exalted. Passages such as Galations 3:28 are indicative of equality, yet Ephesians 5:23 defines the role of the man as one providing headship and protection within the home. MacArthur further postulates that the status of women was elevated through the influences of Christianity while claiming women are more abused now through pornography, sexual slavery, no-commitment sex, and abortion. The blame for the treatment of women lies not within the hands of the ones who mistreat others, but feminism as feminism diminishes the feminine aspect of women and the lack of Christianity in one’s life. In order for women to be exalted, they must remain feminine and virtuous (n.d.).
MacArthur’s claims that feminism is the reason why women are objectified and abused now is indicative of the underlying belief that women deserve to be objectified and abused. If she is not pious, she basically deserves what she gets. It does not imply that men who encourage women to participate in commitment-free sex, prostitution, pornography, sexual slavery, and abortion share in the responsibility. It is solely the woman’s responsibility, yet she is not strong enough to live without a man telling her what to do. This article was another example of how men degrade women by continuing to punish her for the original sin.
Feminism has become more concerned with true equality. It is about personal empowerment to prevent allowing someone else to persuade you into doing things that are socially and morally unacceptable. It is not about hating men. Even though the majority of women have entered the work force since the idealized era of the 1950s, they continue to be the minority within the household. They work full time jobs while earning less pay and continue to do the majority of the household chores and take care of the children. Women have not abandoned traditional roles; they have expanded these roles to encompass other tasks.
Hadsell’s argument that religion empowers women is true to an extent. The empowerment of women is achieved through service, which provides a holistic connection to their faith. The ways in which women are empowered continue to be within the traditional the role of the women is to serve as a caregiver. However, this argument continues to restrict the woman to minor roles within the church and the community. It continues to emphasis that women are to be subservient and pious.
Joyner White presents a point of view of a changing perspective. The women she mentions as brainwashed have been to a point. These women are repeating the rhetoric presented that often begin with childhood. The father rules the house, the mother obeys. The man says jump, the woman says how high. Christian men are poised to take over the world while Christian women stand back and cook. This is supposed to achieve the higher standard presented through Christianity, according to these women. Women are not supposed to have control and women are not supposed to display strength.
Rape, prostitution, and spousal abuse have established a pervasive presence throughout the media. Each of these contains a certain stigma associated with it. Rape victims are often blamed for becoming a victim with an emphasis placed on her wardrobe. In the United States, prostitutes are arrested and charged with sex crimes while the men who are attempting to purchase her services and the men who are selling her services are not charges as often. The majority of spousal abuse is caused by men who are controlling their wives. It is not the fault of the woman that the man is so insecure in his marriage that he has the urge to physically or mentally assault her. This issue has come to the forefront more recently as feminism has helped women realize that they are not to blame for attempting to be the pious, obedient wife as prescribed throughout the Bible. Women should not automatically receive blame for the actions of others, yet that happens.
Boko Haram is an extremist group. This is indicative of what can and will happen when enough people with unconventional interpretations of holy books unite, apply their own meaning to those books, and carry out their plans for world domination. The women and children that have been kidnapped by this group were often abducted while participating in normal events, such as attending weddings or school. The tactics used by this group and those similar are designed to create fear. It is designed to establish control. It is designed to denigrate. The Taliban is a similar group. Likewise, on a much smaller scale and without the level of violence these groups present, are cults. Charles Manson’s family was an extremist group as was David Koresh.
A highly publicized case currently in the United States concerns Warren Jeffs and his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) demonstrates how religion can be used to control others. Jeffs was the leader and prophet of FLDS. FLDS adhered to a tenet of absolute secrecy. What happened within the confines of their compound should be of no concern to anyone. What was actually occurring is troubling at best, which is compounded with the realization that it was all done in the name of religion. Jeffs has been convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Warren Jeffs has at least 50 wives. Many of these wives were children he watched as they grew up within the FLDS compound. Many were selected at young ages to obtain the exalted position of being another wife of the prophet. Details began to emerge following a keep-the-peace call which enabled one of his wives, who was 25 years old at the time, to escape. During his trial, DNA evidence was presented that he fathered a child with a 15 year old, who was also one of his wives. Jurors listened to audio recording of Jeffs sexually assaulting a 12 year old, while other recordings were of him instructing children on how to please him sexually. These children were instructed from early ages that this was the best thing possible as they were pleasing God and atoning for the sins of the community (Bentley, 2011). This is a definitely a case of extremists views within religion with a primary purpose of abusing females.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter should be hailed as a hero, not because of accomplishments during his presidency, but for his undying devotion to a wide variety of causes. He is a true humanitarian through his works with Habitat for Humanity and other programs he has established, including human rights and conflict resolution programs. He served his presidency as a man of peace and has lived his life in peace. He has remained true to his beliefs and demonstrated that by leaving the Southern Baptist Conference instead of becoming a hypocrite by not expressing his dissension with the Conference’s plans.
Carter, Santora, and Joyner White appear to be trying to help women escape from oppression that is quite often applied in the name of religion, especially by those who apply extremist messages to the sacred texts. Each champion the rights of female empowerment as it could be applied by a loving forgiving deity. Others display a tendency to say a little oppression is acceptable while not defining the point of unacceptability.
Throughout history and throughout the Bible, women have suffered oppression. Various verses describe the wife as property while others detail the punishment that women would receive if her husband divorces her or if there is an extramarital affair. At the same time, there are very few, if any verses that detail punishment for the husband if he falters and in the Old Testament, is encouraged to have multiple wives. Even though those verses are in the Old Testament, does that mean Warren Jeffs is right and that he is a prophet who is destined to reproduce with children?
It is easy to sit here and wonder if these people really do live the lives as they preach. The actions of Jeffs do. He had his believers convinced that the life purpose of their daughters was to serve as wives to him. He had members of his church cultivate these girls for that role; however, the plural marriage was a benefit which was available only to him. Boko Haram also practice what they preach. They make threats and follow through on most of them. They are wreaking havoc in certain parts of the world, especially through their actions against women. Carter definitely does. By refusing to sacrifice his principles and leaving the Southern Baptist Convention, he proves this. His personal belief is that women should be, and are, completely equal and should not be subjugated to anything less.
No woman has ever asked to be oppressed. Most men who do so use manipulation to achieve this and many women are unaware of these behaviors until they find themselves in situations where they believe these men love them and are going to take care of them only to discover that their realities have become the opposite. This happens in marriages that have foundations within religious boundaries as well as those without.
The Bible and other religious texts are open to interpretation. If not, there would be universal agreement on the treatment of everyone, not just women. The modern Bible was translated from ancient texts and each version was commissioned by a man. This leads one to wonder if these versions are as accurate as they are claimed to be or if each commissioned version was modified to reflect individual beliefs. The texts of each religion are accepted as being true and while there are similarities among religions, there are discrepancies as well. This also leads one to ponder which the real, true version is or does each contain aspects of truth.
The harsh reality is that women, by being defined as the weaker sex, are easily exploited. Many religious leaders may not be aware of contributing to this oppression and may believe it does not exist, at least not in their church, but it does. There may be subtleties, such as the woman’s place is in the home, taking care of the children. This is a form of oppression in a society where women have to work outside of the home in order to provide support for the family. No one is above reproach especially in an area which is subjective and open for interpretation.
Religion does have a purpose. It provides a moral guideline to detail acceptable behavior and is the basis for numerous laws. It provides the promise of forgiveness and the promise of unconditional love. But when religious leaders use the power of religion to oppress, degrade, or diminish the purpose of anyone, not just women, it should be unacceptable, especially when one acknowledges that the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ considered prostitutes to be among his closest friends. This can easily lead one to believe that Jesus would not condone oppression of women for any reason, but this is just a matter of perception.
Bentley, P., 09 August 2011, Warren Jeffs sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison as picture emerges of 50 brides, bred to worship the polygamous ‘prophet’, Daily Mail, 09 August 2011, [online] Available at <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2024150/Warren-Jeffs-trial-Paedophile-gets-life-sentence-50-brides-photo-emerges.html> [Accessed 17 April 2015]
Cantilero, M., 17 April 2015, Boko Haram News 2015: A Year After Mass Kidnapping in Nigeria, Many Girls Still in Captivity, The Christian Times, [online] Available at <http://www.christiantimes.com/article/boko.haram.news.2015.a.year.after.mass.kidnapping.in.nigeria.many.girls.still.held.captive/52139.htm> [Accessed 17 April 2015].
Carter, J., 17 March 2014, A CALL TO ACTION: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, The Carter Center, [online] Available at <http://www.cartercenter.org/news/features/p/human_rights/a-call-to-action.html> [Accessed 17 April 2015].
Carter, J., 15 July 2009, Losing my religion for equalityby Jimmy Carter, Women’s Press, 25 January 2013, [online] Available at <http://www.womenspress-slo.org/?p=11440> [Accessed 17 April 2015].
Hadsell, H., 29 May 2014, Religion: Empowering or Oppressive to Women? Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs, 29 May 2014, [online] Available at <http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/posts/religion-empowering-or-oppressive-to-women> [Accessed 17 April 2015].
Joyner White, T., 05 March 2015, Women, Misogyny, and the Culture of Oppression, Rhetoric Race and Religion, 05 March 2015, [online] Available at <http://rhetoricraceandreligion.blogspot.com/2015/03/women-misogyny-and-culture-of-oppression.html> [Accessed 17 April 2015].
MacArthur, J., n.d., The Biblical Portrait of Women: Setting the Record Straight, Grace to You, [online] Available at <http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A265/The-Biblical-Portrait-of-Women-Setting-the-Record-Straight> [Accessed 17 April 2015].
Santora, A., 17 December 2014, Rejecting religious oppression of women in the world, nj.com, 17 December 2014, [online] Available at <http://www.nj.com/jjournal-news/index.ssf/2014/07/rejecting_religious_oppression.html> [Accessed 17 April 2015].
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