Saturday, March 1, 2008

Jesus, God, and sexism

I’ve been smiling at myself because of what I wrote yesterday. I said a common iteration of official belief is “God reveals self in Jesus.” Actually, it’s “God reveals Himself in Jesus.” I’m so used to striking offending male bias out of religious language that I misrepresented the official teaching.

The vile bias creeps in everywhere. Everywhere. Even the alluring, enigmatic words of the seer Meister Eckhart are spoiled by Father-Son language. And the Church goes on with its He-man language, blithely ignorant that it insults the Majestic Power of the Universe by limiting It to one gender.

I like to draw distinctions. Let me draw another one—between devotion to Jesus and worship of Jesus. Devotion to Jesus as a link to God brings rich soul food. Worship of Jesus as God is a form of idolatry. Most offensive is demanding that everyone else conform to faith in Jesus.

Such conformity is what emperors and bishops (who borrowed imperial regalia) imposed on the Roman Empire, then on the Holy Roman Empire formed in the tenth century, then on European colonies. It’s what started the crusades against Muslims. We are kidding ourselves if we think Muslims started the present clashes. They were initiated centuries ago—by Christians.

I challenge readers to translate Eckhart’s words (See prior posts) into language suitable for our time. Any takers of my challenge?


Florian said...

This is nit-picky; but it is good to catch ourselves from falling into the temptation of oversimplifying history. The Muslim Turks were threatening the Byzantine Empire in the 1000's. The Byzantine Emperor called on the West for help; and Pope Urban II called for the first crusade. So I think we can blame the Muslims for starting that one, not the Christians.

SMK said...

The limitation with that analyses is that it treats the Moslems as a monolithic group and also ignores their own history. Reviewing the history of the Umayyad, Abbasid, and Fatimid Caliphates may be instructive though there's so much to wade through.

The Umayyad period saw mass conversions who "... were often better educated and more civilised than their Arab masters. The new converts, on the basis of equality of all Muslims, transformed the political landscape." So read that more carefully and you see that the Umayyad, as opposed to the teachings of Islam itself, were severely racist.

It's not until you get to the Fatimids that could get a sense of the civilization Islam was set to create - though it took the Muslims 300 odd years to make it happen..."Fatimid advancement in state offices was based more on merit than on heredity. Members of other branches of Islam, like the Sunnis, were just as likely to be appointed to government posts as Shiites. Tolerance was extended even to non-Muslims such as Christians and Jews, who occupied high levels in government based solely on ability.... "

all quotes form wikipedia. So rather than blaming Islam you'd be better off blaming the Umayyad Caliphate.

Now compare that to Shi' today. Anyway... so much more history there. In fact most every extremist group puts their hat on the pole of expecting the End Days to favor them in redressing the wrongs of history. When was the last time God fulfilled any of those expectations?!

Looking at the Byzantine Empire conflict is looking to a period of Islamic history where norms not from the Qur'an dominated. It would be like making Catholicism responsible for the devastations of colonialism when in fact Protestants played a huge role as did the burgeoning capitalists.

One of the limitations of imagining each religion and people as distinct and separate is to miss threads of humanity that cross the lines that we think are so obvious.

florian said...

In response to smk: I was not blaming Islam, nor the Umayyad Caliphate. I was not intending to treat Muslims as a monolithic group. I was putting the blame on the Seljuk Turks, who had only recently converted to Islam anyway, as I understand it. When I said "blame the Muslims, not the Christians", I simply meant that those to blame (the Turks) turned out to be Muslims and not Christians.