I love watching the top 64 college teams trying to win the NCAA basketball championship. I only miss a few games. But watching the North Dakota Legislature and the U.S. Congress commit March Madness governance is also entertaining and very maddening at the same time.
And watching the Middle East March Madness erupting into wars among dozens of countries, regions, provinces, tribes, groups, armies and whatever, reminds me of a demolition derby with 300 cars — or a world-wide wrestling smackdown with 20 masked pro wrestlers in one ring — or working a Rubik’s Cube (remember, the CIA counted 1,200 different “free” Syrian organizations alone). Geez, Allah, Yahweh and Holy Spirit, what a mess!
We have been at war since October 2001. In just Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan we have been involved with an estimated 1.3 million deaths, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival and Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. And that’s just for starters.
Think of all of the deaths associated with Arab Springs in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Somalia and a dozen other African countries. Think of the battles and bombings of Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda, the Peshmerga, Yazidies, Boko Haram, ISIS, Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel is also no slouch at killing. And now we have the Saudis, who have probably funded as much as 90 percent of the wars in the Middle East, bombing the hell out of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The Middle East is a real snake pit with fangs, poisons, beheadings and suicide bombers. Please notice that all of these groups, states, tribes, boys-on-the-street-corners and the Best Congress Money Can Buy are led by men. I think it is apropos to use a New Yorker cartoon to elaborate on this point.
A lawyer is giving his final summation to a jury: “So, before passing judgment, please consider that science now shows that the male brain is not fully developed until never.” A curious but true statement. This fact is sustained by the 50 male North Dakota House members who voted against the recent anti-LGBT discrimination bill. Only five women voted against it. All Republicans, of course.
Three years ago a group of Minnesota women and pastors started to catalogue every word spoken by women in the Bible. About 1.1 million words are contained in the Bible—with only about 14,000 spoken by women from Abigail to Zipporah.
Eve the Apple Eater spoke only 74 words. Adam must have been very happy. Of the 93 women who speak in the Bible, only 49 have names. An unnamed Shulamite woman uses up 1,425 reciting the Song of Solomon. Judith, who murders an enemy soldier, uses the most with 2,689. The talkative Esther is next with 1,207. The mother of Jesus is the quiet type at 191. Mary Magdalene, the best friend of Jesus, responds with only 61. Abraham’s Sarah whispers out 141. Surprisingly, the Samaritan woman has the longest female conversation with Jesus at 151.
Along with the numbers, the researchers indicated the Bible women were discussing such issues as poverty, faith, infertility, marriage, prayer, rape and war. This proves they were also using their 86 billion neurons better than men.
In the past century we have had competent and sometimes inspirational leadership from a number of female prime ministers. Robin Williams once said that a man had just enough blood to operate the penis and the brain—but never at the same time. I think testosterone gets us into all kinds of trouble.
We have not had that female leadership for over 30 years. Golda Meir was a magnificent leader of the Israelis in the 1960s. Bibi Netanyahu cannot even carry her purse. The Hindu Indira Gandhi led India during the formative years of 1966-1984. Benazir Bhutto served Pakistan as a female Muslim prime minister for two terms in the 1990s. The Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher led England for 11 years and three terms as prime minister.
It’s a great tragedy that we have not had any of these ladies debating policy and avoiding stupid wars during the last 15 years. We are still trying to recover from almost a decade of George W. Bush, who acted as if he always had something else on his mind…
For well over 2,000 years Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious philosophy and policies have been established by men. Men in the three religions have tried their damnedest to keep women illiterate, pregnant and in the kitchens of the “civilized” world. They have dehumanized women, turning them into chattel, breeders, sex objects and second-class citizens of the lowest-caste.
Religious “scholarship” has been the sole realm of males for many centuries. Only men were educated to read Hebrew, Greek, and the Muslim languages. Only since the 1960s have females been able to become seminarians, ministers, even bishops and rabbis in some denominations. And they have only begun to explore the roles females should play in religion and government.
Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, the leader of the Minnesota study group, says that her group has discovered that “women in the Bible are healers, teachers, evangelists, wives, mothers — and the victims of gang-rape.” A member of the group added, “Some are showing how awful it was for women.”
Even the last holdouts for male domination, in the Western Taliban, the Roman Catholics and some of the Protestants created by Vatican policies and myths, are beginning to crack. The Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano is publishing a new woman’s supplement in the last Thursday edition of the month. The Vatican paper hired its first female journalist in 2008, over 700 years after the invention of the printing press.
According to the Vatican, the section called “Women, Church, and World” will “give voice to the value that women bring to the church.” The Vatican Old Guard has to be scared crapless about the fact that Pope Francis has approved this addition to the official paper.
A cartoon in the first edition gives voice. A nun peeling potatoes thinks how lucky she is to have no husband to look after. But when she is handed another job by a priest, she states, “There are worse things than husbands.” Bravo!
I was a Catholic for 27 years until switching to Lutheranism for the next 56 years. Martin Luther may have nailed 95 challenges to the Catholic church on a door in Wittenberg, Germany, but he still had a helluva lot to learn about women. And many Lutherans still need to study sex and the sexes. One of Luther’s mistakes picked up from the Vatican: “The rule remains with the husband, and the wife is compelled to obey him by God’s command. He rules the home and the state, wages wars [does he ever!], and defends his possessions…The woman, on the other hand, is like a nail driven into the wall. She sits at home…She does not go beyond her most personal duties.”
Tell that to Margaret Thatcher, a Methodist-Anglican mix. Karl Barth, a religious philosopher oft-quoted by male ministers, ridiculed the intelligence of women in this sneaky sentence: “Properly speaking [!], the business of women, her task and function, is to actualize the fellowship in which man can only precede her, stimulating, leading, inspiring” (or, all these female dummies really need is our superior help!).
In 1 Corinthians, Paul says, “Women should be veiled in church to signal their subordination to men because the head of every man is Christ and the head of a woman is her husband. Women should keep silent in churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.”
Most evangelical Christians, such as the Southern Baptists, believe in Biblical patriarchy. Vision Form publishes that philosophy in “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy”: (1) God reveals Himself as masculine, not feminine; (2) God ordained distinct roles for man and woman as part of the created order; (3) Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres; (4) Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, as the bearer of children, and as a “keeper at home”, the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected to the home.
I will summarize some other “tenets.” Christian parents must provide children with a “thoroughly Christian education.” Some other tenets are surprising: women should not vote, higher education for women is not important, and unmarried adult women are still subject to their father’s authority! In some evangelical churches only the husband can vote on church matters.
Most Muslims, contrary to the Western belief that Islam started with the Prophet Muhammad, believe that their religion actually started with the prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others who were also Islamic prophets and receive equal veneration in the Bible and Koran. Those raised in the Christian tradition often forget that there was an early Golden Age of Islam before the Middle Ages.
Islam led the world in creating scientists, astronomers, doctors and nurses, mathematicians and philosophers. The Islamic Empire once extended from Spain to India after the death of Prophet Muhammad. Since our 21st century wars against Muslims, we have become more familiar with their ideology: the daily prayers to Allah, the sharia law, polygamy, honor killings and stoning, the rituals of removing shoes before entering prayer rooms and mosques, and the patriarchal attitudes toward government — although women have led Muslim countries.
But if we carefully examine the ideologies of Christians and Muslims over the last 2,000 years, the two religions are remarkable similar. If you want to get a better background on Islam, read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book “Infidel.” It’s a revelation of female genital mutilation, sharia law, forced marriages, honor killings — and that of 1.6 billion Muslims. Many are liberal or moderate and just want to be left alone.
With the fact that Roman Catholics, Protestants and Muslims follow the teachings of many of the same prophets, maybe that’s why the two religions are so patriarchal. Both religions over the last 2,000 years have become so hung up about sex they have generated thousands of other denominations, faiths, beliefs, laws — and millions of atheists, pantheists and even snake handlers.
Most modern problems for Catholics about sex and leadership are still based on a 1489 publication “Malleus Maleficarum,” also known as “The Hammer of Witches,” commissioned by Pope Innocent VIII. It became the “legal” basis for the various Inquisitions that resulted in burning heretics and witches at the stake. The publication cited some women as part of Satan’s harem and that their natural state was carnal lust. These women-witches were “insatiable.”
During the Middle Ages both men and women were tortured when suspected of witchcraft. The result? Those who confess to witchcraft deserve the stake and those that don’t confess also deserve the stake, because only the witch’s lover Satan could help them resist torture! Pope Honorius III also ordered: “Women should not speak. Their lips carry the stigma of Eve, who led men to perdition.”
With the Vatican’s current positions on abortion, contraceptives, homosexuality and LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, divorce and female roles in the governance and leadership of the Church, it simply reinforces the idiocy of that 15th century publication. By the way, most Orthodox Jewish men start each day by praying, “Thanks be to God for not making me a woman.”
Antonio Navarro Diaz wrote a letter to USA Today recently that outlines the way Bible-thumpers and their ilk are very selective in using the Bible to discriminate among people and refuse to serve ham sandwiches: “Americans have used the Bible to justify segregation, discrimination, war, genocide and murder. There always will be people who try to explain their bigotry as religious freedom. That’s why, for example, it took so long for civil rights laws to pass. That’s what we do here in America. We find some clever way to discriminate without admitting even to ourselves that is exactly what we are doing.”
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