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.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Of course, as a dyed-in-the-wool Jacobite, I think of kilts as thoroughly manly. Ladies' kilts (though utterly gorgeous and I flaunt mine with pride) are a late-twentieth-century innovation.

Let us remember that trousers were the original unisex garment (from 5th century BCE, both sexes among horse-riding cultures wore them, for the obvious practical reason). They were only for peasant barbarians though -- the civilized macho Romans referred to pants as FEMINalia and eschewed them in favour of the drapy dress-like himation. Our ancient palestinian role-models wore caftans -- dresses; just as our european forebears wore skirted coats and stockings up until the eighteenth century.

So why not let patriarchal men-folk dress -- like the patriarchs of old -- in flowing dresses, while we women-folk humbly dress as peasants in our blue denim "feminalia" by Levi.