Saturday, December 31, 2011

All Commandments Are Equal But Some Are More Equal Than Others

“All Animals are Equal but Some Animals are More Equal than Others.” – A very famous line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Certain parts of the patriarchy movement are very interesting to me and by turns, quite hilarious. You see, I just finished A Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. It’s basically Jacobs’ journal as he spent one year trying to follow every single rule in the Bible. It’s a thought-provoking read and I really enjoyed the insights into fundamentalism that Jacobs took away from his project. One of the biggest insights: even fundamentalists pick and choose which rules to follow from the Bible. Different groups get hung up on different rules, found in both the Old and New Testaments, and then they expect everyone to follow them. Fundamentalists also take the Bible literally in some places and figuratively in others―this seemingly hinges on how well a verse fits into their preconceived theory. I find it amusing (and sad) that patriarchy people are so hung up on the Numbers 30 vow passage that they believe binds daughters to serve their fathers until marriage. (Of course, I’ve never heard of a Jewish scholar ever coming up with that interpretation of Numbers 30 but who’s keeping track?) Yet, they don’t make their daughters or wives follow the monthly female impurity laws. As Jacobs points out, no one individual law in the Torah is specified to be more important than any of the others. (Except maybe the Ten Commandments… but still, they’re all given equal weight.) Isn’t the monthly impurity law as important as the (pseudo) command to stay at home and not go to college? For that matter, why do patriarchy followers wear clothes with mixed fibers? Or cut the hair on the sides of their heads? Do they always stand in the presence of the elderly? (Lev 19) If a man isn’t supposed to wear women’s clothing, (Deut 22) why can men in the patriarchy movement wear kilts? They are *cough* skirts *cough* and are worn by women as well as men. Of course, the women of the movement are (generally) not allowed to wear pants... hypocritical much? Moving to the New Testament, why doesn’t the patriarchy crowd steal the Shakers thunder and encourage celibacy instead of all these courtship ideas? After all, Jesus and Paul encourage believers not to marry (Matthew 19, 1 Cor 7) and courtship isn’t even in the Bible! It seems that the men leading the patriarchy movement have carefully chosen which rules they want to follow and ignored others that don’t fit into their theory. Who knows? Maybe Doug Phillips will suddenly advocate following the mixed fiber law and then sell special non-mixed fiber costumes? It could happen. :-D
Seriously, taking the Bible too literally is dangerous. In doing so, one misses the spirit of the whole. As A.J Jacobs wrote, “Here’s the amazing thing: those who overliteralize the words of God are mocked in the Bible itself,” (290). Jacobs then discusses Nicodemus’ literal understanding of Jesus’ telling him to be born again. “Nicodemus is like a sitcom dunderhead here…. He can’t see that Jesus’ words were figurative and poetic,” (291). Far too often, we focus on the wrong part of scripture. We take verses out of context, overliteralize them, or simply fail to grasp the true meaning in and behind the words. I think we all have a little bit of fundamentalism inside us and we have to fight it. Instead of just forgiving and letting go, we keep track of the 490 times we have to forgive. We lash out at our neighbors in “righteous judgment” instead of turning the other cheek. When the time does come to judge, our leaders especially, we are too scared or in awe of man to stand up for truth. We tell women and minorities to be silent and forget that Jesus talked to and loves the poor, the outcast, the hated, and the sinner. We fight about whether or not women should wear head coverings instead of caring about what’s going on in their hearts. In the 1850’s, we preached that slavery was biblical from the pulpit but ignored the fact that it just wasn’t right. We buy what we want instead of what we need in order to give away the difference. We truly do not know what we have done. Within the patriarchy movement, it all goes back to the same idea of picking and choosing which rules to follow from the Bible. In the patriarchy movement especially, some commandments are more equal than others―particularly the ones limiting women and children. By doing this, those in the movement are totally missing the spirit of the Gospel. You cannot approach the Bible with your own system and pull out verses that support your theory while ignoring contradictory passages and the spirit of the whole. However, that’s exactly what the patriarchy movement does. It’s a top-down, male dominated system and I find it amazing that free, redeemed people would want to shackle themselves to such a movement.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Locked in a Tower

So, a stay at home daughter picked on Tangled. I’m not surprised. It is, however, a little disappointing. The review by Amanda Reins is aptly titled Mangled because that’s exactly what it does to a beautiful film. I highly doubt that Disney knew that they were giving Rapunzel some of the traits of a stay at home daughter. Believe it or not ladies, the real world does not revolve around Vision Forum, the Botkins, or Ladies Against Feminism. To again take a quote from It’s a Wonderful Life, “You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn't, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.” You might want to read "Mangled" before reading this...otherwise, my response might not make sense. :-)

First, the beginning of the film showing Rapunzel’s skills is a pretty accurate depiction of homemaking and I found it very sweet. She seems to enjoy what she does with her time but realizes that there’s way more to life than baking, ballet, and chess all alone. Is there something wrong with that?
One of the worst parts of this review is where it brushes aside the facts that Rapunzel is kidnapped, locked in a tower, and emotionally abused! “Of course, we could overlook this because, after all, Mother Gothel is really just a wicked captor bent on using Rapunzel for her own ends. But, the fact is that Rapunzel’s actions are carried out in the understanding that this is her mother and it’s really not until the last few minutes of the film that she finds out otherwise. Theirs is the relationship which is modeled throughout the film as mother/daughter.” (For some reason, whenever I read that I feeling like yelling, “Mother Gothel locked Rapunzel in a freaking tower!!!!” Anyone else feel that way? :-D) What was Rapunzel supposed to do? Never seek help? Stay for fear of disobeying her mother figure? There is no one in the tower to mediate for her! Mother Gothel is emotionally and verbally abusive! In fact, it’s clear that Gothel only sees Rapunzel for her hair. She objectifies Rapunzel’s hair and ignores the fact that Rapunzel is a living human being with hopes and dreams of her own. In a line from “Mother Knows Best” Gothel sings, “to keep you safe and sound dear” while cradling Rapunzel’s hair. Creepy, yes? The advice often given in abusive relationships is “get out and get help” and that is exactly what Rapunzel does. “If we’re prepared to say that Mother Gothel’s sins are inexcusable, we must be prepared to say the same of Rapunzel’s.” What “sin” has Rapunzel supposedly committed? Rebellion due to leaving home? I guess this “sin” is too great to be excused for any reason in the eyes of a stay-at-home daughter.
I think the paragraph about the tiara symbolizing purity is reading too deeply into the scenes. It’s a tiara; Flynn stole it, and wants it back. It could be valid that a girl watching could parrot Rapunzel’s response to Flynn about something different but I doubt that this would be the movie anyone would think of regarding ways to lose purity. Sometimes, stay at home daughters react to things that normal people would never notice and this makes me think that they are focusing on their own perfection and purity just a little too much. Be it in life, a film, or a novel, it almost seems like they’re waiting for someone else to make a mistake so they can pick on it. They are so sensitive to any idea of impurity that they are far more imaginative and dark than I would ever think of being.

Of Flynn and Rapunzel’s relationship, Reins writes, “Their relationship is one of mutual, self-serving interest.” Yes it is... at first. Then it becomes something much more special―full of mutual respect and sacrifice. “He’s a helpless, sensitive, emotional male- an accessory to the capable, brilliant, amazing Rapunzel.” Apparently, sensitivity and emotion in men are considered qualities of helplessness by Miss Reins. (That’s pretty sad. I hope, if I'm so blessed, that my husband is sensitive and emotional when he needs to be someday.) I honestly don’t see Flynn as an accessory to Rapunzel. To me, he’s an important character; without whom, Rapunzel would never have been able to succeed in her adventure or even start at all. In a way, each saves the other. Flynn saves Rapunzel from mother Gothel, twice in fact, and even sacrifices himself for her freedom while Rapunzel saves Flynn's life and also inspires him to leave his life of crime and think about what really matters. Throughout the film, Rapunzel accepts Flynn for who he is and helps him to overcome his past. Of course a stay-at-home daughter would not like him because he’s not the perfect prince type. They like to forget that people are flawed and that everyone carries emotional baggage. “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?” Proverbs 20:9. See: Seeking Perfection.
The saddest part of this review is the end: “In the end, Rapunzel is finally reunited with the king and queen and as the film closes, we discover some final lessons- that good governments reward sin and indulgent parents are real parents. Flynn is embraced, his thievery ignored, and welcomed, as Rapunzel’s new husband, a prince in their kingdom.” Heaven forbid we forgive anyone! Forgiveness and mercy are traits which must not be acceptable or familiar to Miss Reins. Jesus ate and talked with sinners because He had mercy and He always makes it clear that they leave their life of sin behind when they believe in His name. Rapunzel’s parents accept Flynn by showing him mercy and obviously, Flynn leaves his life of sin behind. This is a beautiful story of redemption because it shows the power and healing effect of Christ’s love and mercy.
Again, I am not surprised that a stay at home daughter did not like this film. I knew it was coming. Why? Because Tangled is too close to their own lives. It comes too close and it scares them. And because they can’t like it or don’t understand it, they decide to pick it apart. Badly done, Miss Reins, badly done.