Thursday, October 11, 2007

"the glorious inequalities of life"

"God values men and women equally... It's just that he's given them different responsibilities in life: Men make decisions. Women make dinner."
- from a recent story in the L.A. Times about a new course in homemakeing at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Living in England now I sometimes feel very sad to be an American, other times I am defensive of what I still think is a pretty great nation. Then I read things like that. On the one hand, I'm sooooo glad I was neither raised Southern Baptist nor did I somehow fall in love with one! On the other hand I am saddened that this is the state of our country.
"In their vision, graduates will create such gracious homes that strangers will take note. Their marriages will be so harmonious, other women will ask how they manage. By modeling traditional values, they will inspire friends and neighbors to read the Bible and then, perhaps, to follow the Lord."
There is certain truth in the fact that living well will attract others to your way of life. But I somehow doubt that homemaking courses are the foundation to a harmonious and inspirational marriage. Yet what really catches my attention and raises my blood pressure a bit was this:
"For the rest of the nearly three-hour class, guest lecturer Ashley Smith, the wife of a theology professor, laid out the biblical basis for what she calls 'the glorious inequalities of life.'"
Three hours to pound in the idea that the women in the room were in fact subservient! If women and men are willing to go along with this garbage about biblically founded 'glorious inequalities' in the 21st century then one really must wonder what will come next. We all know that the bible is rife with rotten things, from the subjugation of women, the acceptance of slavery, disdain for homosexuals, non-Christians (heretics) and so on. And countless individuals, especially in the last two hundred years have fought, and many have died trying to dispel these myths of inequality.

For their sake, and for that of ourselves and our children, we need to continue the struggle toward the 'glorious equalities' of our shared humanity. People may claim this needs to be tolerated in some kind of religious inclusivism, but I disagree. We can, and should, welcome and defend all faiths (and the faithless), but only so long as they recognize the basic equalities of all persons. These equalities must take precedence over any holy text or authority which may claim otherwise.


Patia said...

I don't know. I have to think that women that stupid deserve to be unequal.

Kelly said...

ACK! Thank goodness I didn't fall in love with a man who believes all this stuff!

Scary. Is the pendulum swinging back to the 1950s?

Tom said...

Some dinners, made by men and by women, are marvelous, delicious creations.

It is unclear to me what equality you seek, Justin. Do a married man and woman have a right, equal to other couples, to decide how decisions are made and how responsibilities are shared? Can a couple chose to be Southern Baptists?

It is good when anyone who is trapped breaks from his/her trap. A current good example is the wonderful Doris Lessing. I think I am right about this: She ran away from home at 15 and, while having little in a formal education, went on to exercise her creative talent, writing dozens and dozens of novels and short stories.

But most people end up having jobs or lives that are constrained in one way or another that they cannot escape, that don't challenge their intellect, perhaps. But most can find things that are marvelous in in the life they're stuck with.

We should broaden opportunities for people, but I am troubled by the societal disdain we have for "people who flip patties" or janitors or foreign-born cab drivers in New York City ... or homemakers. I worked as an accountant in the most expensive office space west of the Mississippi, for a while, when I was with Dresdner RCM Global Investors. They had this 'rump' trading floor that was a technological marvel. But I cannot see that what was going on there was more dignified that what goes on in an average kitchen ... particularly when you consider what happened to most of NASDAQ-preoccupied Dresdner's clients when the bubble began to burst on overpriced tech stocks in 2000.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Patia - if only it were that easy! :) The men too - if only they could all just go be unequal on some island somewhere, so long as they were free to leave if ever they wished... But my great worry is that their (acceptance of) inequality necessarily spills over onto you, Kelly, my sister and mother and every other woman out there. Buddhists call this the principle of interconnectedness - it's also known as right-wing voting blocks.

These are the same women, I fear, who will be at the front lines of anti-gay, anti-woman leaders, anti-choice rallies - and, because they have such well-kept homes and harmonious marriages (!?) they may well be swaying the next generation of 'glorious inequalities.'

Kelly, love! - I sure hope the pendulum isn't going that far back. We'll see though.

Tom - I don't mean to attack the whole of Southern Baptism, but rather to point out the apparent inconsistencies between some of their views (or some views from just a few of them) and the fundmental ideals of democracy and human rights.

People can choose whatever religion they want, but they cannot choose to both live in a nation that upholds human rights (well, usually) and swear allegiance to religious ideas that deny those same human rights withouth one of them being lost - eventually. Perhaps this is even a case of fundamentalism?

Buddhist_philosopher said...

As an aside, I did see a woman give a talk back in Hawaii about Southern Baptist women in the 1970s-80s and apparently they did undergo quite a revolution in rights and equality, only to have it forcibly (and humiliatingly for many of those women that rose to power in that time) crushed by new conservatism. Many women left the faith then, others - believing I would guess that salvation required submission - gave up their leadership positions.

Tom said...

That there are extreme -- seemingly crazy views -- in a country is precisely what makes a country free! And, I would contend, is the evidence that things are moving in the right direction toward maximum bliss and minimal suffering.

Fear not those "at the front lines of anti-gay, anti-woman leaders, anti-choice rallies." The more these issues are mulled over, the more likely society will move in the direction of compassion. Things in America now are not like things were in Germany in the 1930s; people have generous access to other perspectives and won't get swept away en mass by tribal passions. The vector of progress points unswervingly toward The Good, these days.

Old, crappy beliefs are in their last throes. But I think, too, that people dedicated to God and a 50s lifestyle suffer less and are less of a danger to others than you suppose. You're exhibiting an unhealthy prejudice against homemakers! Homemakers have a more-responsible job than most people.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Tom - right... but certain extreme views (think Charles Manson) need to be kept in special boxes (think asylum) outside of the mainstream if we are going to KEEP our fine and lovely diversity of views.

Sometimes I just don't share your optimism that Americans are out there 'mulling over' much beyond Teen Idol, Britney Spears, and debt statements. I think we were swept into the Iraq war on passions and fear (those calling for open deliberation were coined 'unpatriotic'), a member of the Executive branch of the government flauntingly committed treason by exposing the identity of a covert CIA agent and had his sentence commuted...

Old crappy beliefs make unexpected comebacks (A noose on a professor's door) if we aren't careful.

And finally (!), I could NOT be prejudiced against homemakers! I've had dreams in the past, and may again some time in the future, of actually being a homemaker, to some extent (you know, the stay at home dad type). If anything, I would be defensive against the Souther Baptists (or anyone else) telling me it isn't my place - because I'm a man.

Tom said...

Never one not to flog a dead horse [and believing that if you're going to flog a horse, a dead one is best], let me say this ...

I just believe that these days people aren't as fooled as they used to be. Those SB women know what they're getting into and they know the way out if they're miserable. Plus, I would wager that they can take the measure of Ashley Smith, preaching female servitude.

Plus, I would bet that behind closed doors the relationships in SB marriages is different than anything that is put out there on display and nobody knows that better than the people in SB churches.

I'm not discounting that setups like Southern Baptist communities hide a lot of misery, and that "fear of God" causes people, women especially, to stay trapped in miserable situations -- but a lot of people seek a kind of shelter, calm and predictability that comes from an extreme Christian life.

Plus, if an SB woman is abused, she is likely to tell other SB women and the power of the women will make itself known. This is the 21st Century.

[I was raised in the town of Oral and Richard Roberts. Though it was many years ago, I claim a tad of insight into all of this.]

Tom said...

As for the specific comments in your last comment, Justin [Tho I won't say anything about the last paragraph. I'll leave it to kelly to put you in your place, if she's not afraid of you.] ...

Public figures -- Brittany, Paris, Imus, Vick, et al -- are metaphors/icons/substitutes that allow us to share in a national discussion of important topics. True, these discussions are titilating or ghastly or nasty in certain ways necessary to get widespread exposure, but they serve an important and positive purpose, ultimately. We discuss race and language and the nature of celebrity and treatment of children and dogs and untalented ex-husbands. It's healthy.

As for Bush getting re-elected and having support, in the face of all the scandal and ongoing mayhem of his administration that nobody seems to care about: It's a mystery.

Carla said...

Hi Justin,

I'm an American Buddhist living in England,too. And unlike you I was raised in the Bible belt, first as a missionary Baptist, then a non-denominational Pentecostal. I struggled through my first marriage trying to be a Proverbs 31 woman. I hear where you are coming from, and share your concerns.

I've found a new home, a new life, a new path. I am very thankful for that.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Tom - I'll just say I appreciate your optimism. But for my own part I think things like people's undying support for Bush, nooses in New York, and the teaching of 'glorious inequalities' are all interrelated. No mystery. Just ignorance.

I agree that discussions are good, but more and more I think these are things we should have discussed in middle/high school and that as adults we should have this pretty well figured out. We should read the Autobiography of Frederick Douglas and know that slavery is wrong, The Vindication of the Rights of Women and know that 'glorious inequalities' are a sham. But, until we get there I guess we'll be here.

Carla - Glad to hear that you made it out of that - and into Buddhism and England no less! Nice blog too :)

Tom said...

Great, Justin. I will be interested to see your Constitutional Amendment or legislation against homemaking. [Maybe it can be found among your middle school papers.] And the kind of free society you determined we can have where nooses, "glorious inequalities" and voting for Bush are outlawed.