Last week, we were challenged to take a look at our religions and make sure that their man-made doctrine and traditions didn’t interfere with the message of the deity. Christianity and Christ were used as specific examples of a religion whose text is taken to have a more patriarchal meaning than the society in which it is practiced is striving for. Despite that some religions advocate egalitarian views in their texts, many of the cultures where they are practiced are still patriarchal in nature. Even in the West, where we consider ourselves having the most gender equality, the system is still patriarchal. Many see Christian denominations, to stick to them as an example, as advocating for male-domination over women and therefore denounce it as regressive.
It is important to challenge our religion when we feel like it’s devices are holding us back, but there’s more to religion and being known as a religious person than that. It is also important to take the message of those texts and bring it with us into secular spaces. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who labels themselves as any particular religion live, eat and breathe by the tenets of that faith. If we all attempted that all the time, we would most certainly fail and do so much more miserably than we do currently. I am simply advocating that when we sit in a pew, or whatever it is, and listen to a message of a better world, we should go out into the world and act on that message. We should stand up for the least of these and hold each other up. We should bring our faith in progress out of the church and into the world positively. We should do this without those big negative signs and with a little compassion for other people. We should do it inter-denominationally and inter-faith, if possible.
Reach out to each other, reach out to people without looking at what kind of people they are. In this respect, all cultures and religions can stand to improve. Groups are still marginalized in all places, religious and secular. There are almost always groups marginalized by gender or identifying the way they choose to in these places. We can take the words of our religious texts into action and reach out to them. We can take the examples of action by the great people who are mentioned in these texts and treat people with respect and dignity, even when we don’t feel like they deserve it by cultural standards. Not all people follow a religion or call themselves religious, but I find that this works much like people who do or don’t choose to wear the label of a feminist and their actions.
When you put a label on yourself, such as Christian or feminist, it is important to remember to model their ideals too. No one is perfect, but we should try and be known for trying to make positive changes in our cultures. We should be known for treating people in a manner that exemplifies the ideals of our labels, even if we fail sometimes. An important aspect of this is knowing what you’re talking about when you do it. There is nothing more off-putting, in my opinion, than a person who gives themselves a label and has no idea what the tenets of that label are. Feminists who are misandrists don’t understand equality any better than misogynists do. Religious people who don’t understand their religion or haven’t read their texts for themselves are doomed to misrepresent even the most founded of points within it and send people running for the hills. Worse than that, these people will deliver the wrong message to someone and keep others from the full promise of God or the understanding of what inequality exists.
In today’s world, it is rare to not have the internet at your fingertips and be able to look up something you don’t understand when talking to people about progressive changes in our cultures, religions and communities. As far as religious people defending their feminist, egalitarian or complimentarian views: know what you’re talking about. Reference the religious text itself and not some third century interpreter or some guy who gets paid to talk about it. To non-religious people talking about feminism, egalitarianism, or complimentarianism: any religious teacher who is worth anything will tell you exactly where the information can be referenced and what parts are the “word of God.” If they can’t do that, please realize that they are regurgitating someone else’s idea and look it up before judging the entire religion.
Not all advocates are well educated. Some say stupid things that they sincerely mean. Anyone who wants to really advocate for anything should at least know what they are advocating and have resources to identify their points and sometimes prove why they need to change. People who sit in pews on Sunday and listen to sermons should be able to take action on those sermons knowledgeably and improve their community without even saying a word about it. Should be able to make the world a better place by being the change that the religion requests of them. That’s faithfulness to a religion and the view of their deity. Religion can change the world for the better too, but it takes people acting on sermons when they are outside of the pew.
Not all religions teach egalitarian views, nor do I expect that all people of the religions that do to recognize it. This is a controversial idea in many religions and there are many who oppose it that are actively acting against feminism and egalitarianism every day. For those of us who do believe that, it is our duty to advocate for equality of all people within religion and society, it’s time to show up and be a greater force for change toward this progression. We will never see the change if we don’t make it ourselves in the every day things.
Radicalism persists in all of these spheres, but it is certainly not what I am talking about. Treating all people with respect and dignity is what most people of both religious and feminist labels should be doing.
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