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I just finished reading an excellent book, a collection of essays by Rebecca Solnit called Men Explain Things to Me. You must read it.
Here is one quote:
“Having public standing as a writer of history helped me stand my ground, but few women get that boost, and billions of women must be out there on this seven-billion-person planet being told that they are not reliable witnesses to their own lives, that the truth is not their property, now or ever.”
She also quotes the British columnist Laurie Penny, who wrote:
“An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the internet. Having one and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they’d like to rape, kill, and urinate on you…”
So the problem isn’t just within the Christian tradition, but within our societies that have religions of all kinds woven into the very DNA of our cultures. Whether the primitive misogyny was validated and fueled by religion or religion generated the misogyny in the first place is, in my opinion, too subtle a distinction to discern. I think our religions and cultures, our beliefs and our character, are so interwoven, so codependent, so symbiotic, that it’s no longer helpful to distinguish them. The memory of misogyny is in our cells, and extracting religion from it still leaves the residue of it behind.
I wanted to deconstruct this passage in 1 Peter to demonstrate just how difficult it is for women in our culture, especially Christian ones, to be feminists, and just how difficult it may be for some men to not feel they have scriptural and therefore divine support for their sexism. There’s no dodging this bullet: this passage claims that the best woman is a pure and silent one who is submissive to men.
For me, it’s about how we view the Bible.
This reminds me of a passage I read many years ago in David J. Garrow’s book, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference:
“The exposure to new bodies of knowledge also heightened King’s doubts about the religious teachings he had learned at Ebenezer. His sophomore year witnessed what King later called ‘a state of skepticism’ on his part toward religion. This problem persisted, he said, ‘until I studied a course in Bible in which I came to see that behind the legends and myths of the Book were many profound truths which one could not escape.’ At Morehouse, ‘the shackles of fundamentalism were removed’ from his mind.”
What took King a semester to accomplish took me years. But now I see this passage in Peter as an expression of an ancient male-dominated culture that has no hold on us today.
Or should not.