Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Like our personal genetic inheritance, we cannot simply walk away from our religious past.

“Gender provides a revealing entrance into the world’s religious traditions. How gender is viewed reflects itself not simply in the moral practices of those traditions, but in their metaphysics. Gender shapes their worldview and ethos. In Taoism, for example, ultimate reality is feminine, and what is seen as truly powerful is what adapts and adjusts. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam privilege the masculine. For these religions, what counts for ultimately is the power to control and command. Religions are gendered entities, although often presenting themselves as something simply natural or God-ordained, and therefore objective and universal. Viewing the various religions through the lens of gender, opens up a hidden landscape. It reveals what is usually veiled, puts voices into officially sanctioned silences, and makes more complex what we see and hear and learn from the past. It enriches our grasp upon the heritage of the sacred.

Like our personal genetic inheritance, we cannot simply walk away from our religious past. That past is alive and powerful within our various cultures, even those that seem quite secular. Two-thirds of the world’s humans affiliate with one or another of the world religions. And the other third continues to live out cultural scripts whose deep roots reach back into religion. To pursue gender justice demands of us that we engage actively in the struggle over interpretation, the struggle over the perceived meanings of the texts and teachings of our religious legacies. It is a contentious terrain precisely because it continues to deeply affect people in their daily lives. Yes, interpreting the sacred is a scholarly task, but it is also a highly political task because interpreting the sacred shapes how power is used in society. To interpret the religious tradition is to enter a conflict and to make a choice. Our appropriation of our heritage is never neutral; it displays our intention and purpose for its use. It is taking up sides, even if, or perhaps especially if it claims not to.” – John C. Raines , What Men Owe to Women

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