Archive for March, 2013

How Can One Word Identify Anyone?

Friday, March 29th, 2013

“Trembling Before G-d” was a very moving film. After first reading the intro to Heeding Isaiah’s Call, I expected the movie to be about Jewish tolerance for queer Jews, so was in for a really sad surprise. The movie reminded me of the reading about genocide from last week where black women were sort of having to choose whether or not to be on the side of blacks or women in the fight against or for birth control. A similar thing is going on here, where queer Jews are being forced to choose between their religion/ethnicity and their sexuality.

The article by Schneer and Aviv seemed accurate when it talked about the shift away from a physical and political protest from queer Jews. In the movie, only two people went to a gay pride parade, and the one woman didn’t like how they were criticizing religion, specifically Jewish law. She said that she did not go their to advocate for gay rights. This seems a particularly difficult issue because queer Jews are not merely advocating for their freedom, but on some level, they don’t actually believe that they deserve that freedom. The film even talked about how it is hard to get other people to accept one when one doesn’t even except oneself.

I found a website for a group of queer jews up in New York who host gay Jew events. http://www.myhebro.com/home.html. However, by the looks of it, it is very urban and modern, so I don’t see how more traditional Jews would benefit from organizations such as these. Still, I suppose there are some places that are trying to support queer Jews, like the article said.

So many issues arise from people pretending to be something that they are not. It isn’t fair to them or to their spouses, in the cases of convenient marriages. I would think that being a queer Jew might even be harder than being an unaccepted queer in another religion, because even though they might lose their family, their church, etc., they wouldn’t also lose their heritage. For Jewish lesbians, it seems that there are even more issues at play, as they are pulled in four different directions: being a woman, being queer, their religious ties, and their ethnicity. One should never feel like they have to choose between all of these things. It is so sad that society, and in this case religion, makes people feel like they have to choose one thing to identify their entire selves.

birth CONTROL

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Aside from ethical issues (and arguably usually even in those) the issue of control is the central issue in arguments over birth control. Of course that could be said of all political issues but in this case it is especially applicable, as many people see control over reproduction as control over the future. As we discussed in class, this attitude can be seen in Instrument of Genocide, the Quiverfull movement, white Americans fear of no longer being the majority, and in many other groups that perceive themselves to have different actual and/or deserved power then other groups.
In Humanae Vitae, the Pope expresses his issues with people attempting to impose their will on areas that he views as solely the domain of the Christian god (who he sees himself as representing, of course). Many people would probably associate this back to the story of the Garden and its aftermath (as both result and source), where pregnancy is a consequence imposed on us instead a rational decision/plan of the people involved.

Trust Issues and Hypocrisy

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

14026-620x-4-4304-14026-hypocrisy1jpg-620xEver since our nation was formed back in 1776, the government has been operating in a bubble of hypocrisy. The founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and fighting for independence from Britain while at the same time allowing slavery and withholding rights from African-Americans and women. It says in the Bill of Rights that there should be a separation between church and state but yet there are laws against gay marriage under the guise of the religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. The same hypocrisy is seen during the time leading up to WWII and was called into play by the Black Panthers in the 1960’s – how can you have “a long history of state and corporate-sponsored eugenic population control in the United States” but yet fight a war against the Nazis and their eugenic policies that led to the Holocaust. Even though the United States had practiced population control themselves by infecting African-Americans and Latinos with syphilis and sterilizing unknowing women to keep them from reproducing, American exceptionalism distorted their view so that the government was unable to see or unwilling to see the hypocrisy of their ways. I now understand what Chris Rock was saying when he said, “if you’re black, you got to look at America a little bit different. You got to look at America like the uncle who paid for you to go to college, but who molested you.”

 

The Value of “Family”

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

It seems that in Humanae Vitae the idea of family is defined through “Married Love” and “Responsible Parenthood.” Inside these two very specific definitions is sort of a complicated vision of family and family value in the form of oppression and clearly identified separate spheres. “Family,” summed up in the Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today via Humanae Vitae, “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”

However, confusion forms in the process of eugenics to literally rid a race of existence. This obviously goes against any argument the Catholic church, or any religion can use to justify procreation, even though many people tried to with “helping their class.” While the Catholic church wasn’t a specific component of this, per se, as Dr. Mathews pointed out in class, via Kristen’s question about the Catholic church’s role in stopping it, they didn’t do much of anything.

In another light, because the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam were so adamant during this time against birth control, I have to wonder what their response to Martin Luther King’s stance on birth control was. I know the two parties didn’t have a very good relationship to begin with, but did this make it worse? What did they make of him?

Because birth control and abortion are controversial subjects still today, it seems appropriate to point out some arguments happening in the Supreme Court right now. So, if I can apply our readings to today, more specifically to the past few days, why are we still deciding on the legitimacy of people who are in love getting married? It does seem like a simple concept to much of the general public, with people often pointing out for the Supreme Court to “not be on the wrong side of history again,” emphasize AGAIN.

Connecting this back to religion and Catholicism, regulating birth and creating whatever the “right” idea of family is, is really the center of the argument, along with keeping one’s body a temple of God and obeying God through the submission to one’s husband and other religious connotations.

But it’s hard not to ask what really makes a good parent and what if a man and a woman together don’t fit this idea anyway and why do they have to and what does family really even mean?

Often times we distort our vision of what’s right and wrong to fit into a compact definition, if there even needs to be one, of family and love and religion, because we think we’re making something right out of it. However, manipulating the existence of a race of people and denying human beings to live as human beings doesn’t seem like the right definition to me.

 

Hell Now or Later? Disease and Eternal Punishment: The Will of God in Sex

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Back Foul Beast!

I wanted to start off by saying I don’t really know all that much about birth control- not all the ins and outs anyway.  All the differences of nuance and meaning between contraception and birth control, how ‘the pill’ works exactly, exactly what is family planning, and this whole business of a woman’s menstruation cycle is something of a mystery to me and, for now in part, I’d like to keep it that way.  I don’t normally advocate for ignorance-is-bliss but I’d rather learn it bit by bit.  I’ve often joked about representing the old guard of husbands who waited outside the delivery room for his child to be born (I’m sure if and when I come to it, I will be on hand, although at that point I’d need my own medical attention).

To the reading, I found it curious how similar much of the language was concerning religion and the worlds problems.  It seems as we have been traveling through time that the medium and language of analysis has shifted.  We have addressed the purely theological approach to sex and gender, the ‘new science’ of the late 19th century, early psychology, and now, continuing in this social science trend, economics.  Clearly a backdrop to the issues raised in “An Instrument of Genocide,” this new application of an economic consideration on a familial as well as a global scale seems to influence religion in a serious manner.  Humanae Vitae mentions this economic– and social– consideration before discussing the Catholic position on contraception and family planning and the churches counsel in such matters.  Martin Luther King, Jr. goes against the prevailing wisdom of his day in detailing how an intelligent mother would want to be a responsible mother who was able to afford the proper care of her children, aka. don’t have so many you cannot sufficiently feed, clothe, and support them.  This dynamic often, even now, comes between Protestants and Catholics as farcically represented in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life:

This notion of God’s will is a curious business.  Can a human being frustrate, interfere, or thwart the will of God?  It seems a reasonable question in light of birth control since we’ve said of the Catholic position that if God wants you to have a baby, then you will have a baby.  If that is so, then why not simply use protection and if you are truly meant to get pregnant, then you will?  Would you end up in hell for such a thing? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC6UrMTC73A

Perhaps I am looking at this issue too simply.  If the Christian God exists he would have created the universe and all therein.  That would necessitate a movement of the will toward creating which presupposes an intelligence.  One cannot will anything to my knowledge without an intelligence to move toward an end.  So, in this action it seems God’s will can be absolute and immutable (I said light and I could not not have created it) but it also seems there exists a will that is more equated with desire or pleasure.  The apostle Paul writes “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (2 Thessalonians 4:3).  He is addressing a community of professing followers of Christ and telling them that it is the will of God that they be continually set apart unto God, to be sanctified, to be made holy daily.  He goes on in the same verse to implore these early Christians to “abstain from sexual immorality” so obviously there were temptations and quite likely failures to abstain entirely and always which would suggest that God’s will used here is meant to express the desire of God that his people would abstain from sexual immorality and not that he absolutely ensures by an absolute will their obedience.  At this point, I’m not sure if this helps to clarify my original wondering at all.  I suppose what I’m really driving at is whether or not God’s will, when employed for explanatory purposes by the Catholic Church, is meant to be taken absolutely when it comes to having children (God said let her have a child and she did) or simply that he maintains a will of desire toward procreation (God said I want you to have a child and I chose to/not to have one).  To me, and I’m sure I’m showing my Protestant colors– not that I haven’t already, mind you– it seems uncharitable and unreasonable to so strongly advocate against the use of contraception when AIDS/HIV ravages sub-Saharan Africa, when families have too many mouths to feed and not enough means by which to provide food, and when the resources of our planet are not limitless.  You might say ‘God will provide’ for me and mine but might not the condom be a provision overlooked?

Shout-out to Dr. Cain’s 101

Thank you Snoopy.  That said, we could all use a little humor:

 

The Body as a Locus for Control

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

It is important to note that whether it is through religious means or governmental control, the body in theoretical as well as physical means has served as a locus for control for the religious as well as governmental bodies.  For example, in The Theology of the Body: A New Look at Human Viate states that in order to understand God’s plan for us we must first understand how “God has created us to transcend ourselves, that is realized through the body as we learn to lose it through mutual surrender” (Miller 505).    However, from a feminist perspective this article reads poorly.  Miller further emphasizes that in order for a woman and a man together they must be united as one whole entity under the trinity of the father, son and holy spirit.  However, in Miller’s article it would appear that the woman is seen as something more disposable than useful.  There is no real equity on the behalf of the woman.  In order for her to become one with man she must “lose herself,” and from a feminist perspective this can imply her voice.  As Miller states the woman must “offer herself as a gift to man,” (Miller 506).    In this case Biblical reference is used to justify the idea that women are somehow incomplete without man.

An additional, ,idea of power and the bodies as a locus of control, which is explored in our readings is reflected inside of the article, “An Instrument of Genocide.”   In this article the governmental body one that has used their influence to target minorities and those who they deemed unfit for reproduction and the use of their bodies for reproductive purposes.  The common theme of the body between the two above articles indicates a prevalent idea that in order to be relevant one must use their body for a higher purposes.  The themes which play a significant factor are race and gender.  In order to for a woman to be validated  they must be some how united and eternally unionized with man in mind, body and spirit which the woman as a “gift,” rather than an active participant.

In terms of race, the government or “Big Brother,” specifically the Planned Parenthood entities pressured African Americans in communities to use the controversial methods of sterilization.  However, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam criticized these programs stating that they failed to address the larger issues in the black community such as poverty and hunger.    (Nelson 89).  There seems to be a discrepancy in how women are validated and how the religious influence on God, race and ones body are tied to the racist, reproductive controls by the federal government through their sterilization programs.  It is sad to know that if you can’t trust the government, then who can one trust?

Taken from: https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT0zhLTKpTQExf_Pa11vI-xTOTRyoDHzeZgiuy_YgE_47lNlxuzWA

The Body of Christ?/Marriage: The Eternal Love Triangle

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Okay, not to say that our other readings weren’t interesting and all– they were– but I was fascinated by Paula Jean Miller’s “The Theology of the Body.” One point of interest has a lot to do with Kristen’s earlier post, in defining the role of marriage and both (or roughly speaking, all three) parties contained within it: “…John Paul focuses on the true goal of human sexuality: the union of man and woman, body and spirit” (502). Although Miller proceeds to say that John Paul perceives this institution to be “the basis for a fully human, sexual-personal relationship,” (502), I wanted to push this a little further and argue that it is actually the basis for, scripturally-speaking, a sexual-personal-metaphysical/spiritual interrelationship. How’s THAT for complicating things??

I mean, New Order says it best when they beg the beloved addressee of the song below to pay attention and work on the relationship: “Every time I see you falling/I get down on my knees and pray/I’m prayin’ for that final moment/to say the words that I can’t say.”

Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order

The delightful throwback moment of classic New Wave Brit Pop Electronica circa 1982 aside, I’m serious when I say that God/the Holy Spirit is the third “partner” in marriage, and that this, instead of increasing the sin in carnal feeling, actually alleviates some of it (within the confines/context of traditional, legal Christian marriage, of course). Rather than being ashamed of the body (Eve/Fall from Eden, anyone?), “…the Holy Father teaches that the body is the very oldest sacrament, instituted by God at the dawn of creation: He calls it the ‘primordial sacrament'” (502). This seems to suggest a certain growing tolerance on the part of the Catholic church towards sex for pleasure (no birth control though!), and that our bodies are, indeed, a blessing, an instrument, and a constant source of temptation.

This is a frightening, weird, and tantalizing contradiction, when we think about it. Our bodies can be used for either evil or good, and we can neither become too appreciative of them (lest we fall prey to vanity), nor too harsh about them (lest we begin to covet aspects of our neighbor’s physique).Gosh, the seven deadly sins are everywhere, aren’t they?! Reminds me of Cyndi Lauper’s album “12 Deadly Cyns (And Then Some).” 🙂

12 Deadly Cyns And Then Some

What complicates this seemingly-impossible avoidance of body-related sin even FURTHER is that Miller outlines how our bodies are indistinct from our essential “selves.” In fact, she claims, we are all physical manifestations of God’s “body,” so that in order to be embodied, we must carry on with God’s perfect plan, or else we are not our actual selves, if that makes sense…or that our physical skin, muscles, bones and brain are somehow wasted, since we are not the “incarnate spirits” we are supposed to be. I think Miller puts it best in the following passage: “As embodied persons, there is no way for us to come to know one another except through glances, words, gestures, idiosyncrasies, hugs, and withdrawals, all of which we experience through the personal body” (502).

And then, of course, there’s the sexual-spiritual element we discussed in class last week when we talked about spiritualists/spirituality/spiritualism– after all, this class is about Sex AND Religion! But just for kicks and giggles (and good music), here’s John Mayer to teach you the good news: 😉

Haha 😉

 

Everyone has something to say about birth control

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

I don’t know about you all but as much as I love reality TV and reading way too much about people’s personal lives in magaiznes, I don’t actually want to know that much about anyone’s sex life. So I was interested in why so many different groups, Religious and political, have such strong opinions about the use of birth control. What makes these groups think that they should have sway in if people choose to use birth control? And really, why does anyone care what other people do in regards to birth control, really only people who really need to worry about it are the two people who are actually in the relationship.  As I was thinking through these questions, I came to the conclusion that really differs depending on the group, as to why they have such strong feelings about the wide spread use of birth control.

Lets start with the The Black Nationalist Campaign against Birth Control. Their opposing to birth control actually makes a lot of since. As a group that has been extremely oppressed throughout American history, it makes complete since that they would be weary of the new Birth Control techniques that were coming out, like the pill. As we discussed in class, African Americans has been experiencing all kind of unwanted sterilization throughout history. The Tuskegee Experiments that we discussed in class are a perfect example of why these African Americans would be fearful, of any new “technology” that could reduce the amount of children people have, I don’t think it was unreasonable for them to assume that the pill would be used to oppression them. (If you don’t know about the Tuskegee Experiments I would suggest watching the video I hyperlinked, because it is a really significant moment of American history that we should all be aware of)

So I understand the The Black Nationalist Campaign against Birth Control view, but really interests me is the Catholic Church’s stance on this issue. In summery the Catholic Church believes that the purpose of sex is for reproduction, in the context of marriage. So if God wants you to have a baby, you will have a baby, and if he doesn’t then you won’t. Interestingly enough, I was discussing this very topic with my cousins last week and my fourteen year old cousin said “So God is their birth control?” which, essentially is how it is. But why do Catholics think this way? When I was reading Humanae Vitae I kept noticing the phrase “natural law” come up over and over again. I did a quick search through the article and found that the word “natural” appears over 2o times, so I am thinking that is the key to this. The idea I suppose is that artificial means of controlling reproduction, is just that, artificial aka not natural. This idea of “natural” get really interesting when it comes to other social issues. As you all probably know there is a big supreme court hearing  is a big supreme court hearing going on in regards to prop 8 and other marriage equality issues, and if you have been on Facebook this week, you also have noticed that social media is all over this issue. Like everyone else, I have been reading all the things that both sides are posting, and what struck me was the amount of times that I have seen the word “natural” come up, on both sides. I am beginning to think that we as Americans have this idea that natural is good and that we should strive for that, of course the issue becomes that everyone kind of has a different idea of what “natural” is, thus lies the controversy.

The final group that I want to take a look at is not actually from the readings, rather, from a website that I stumbled upon a while ago, that deals with the issue of birth control. This organization, is called “1 flesh” and is geared toward college students, trying to convince them that using any kind contraception. Check out their website because it is super interesting in light of what we have been talking about. They aren’t officially affiliated with any religious group, but I will say that the way I found this website was from a Facebook friend who is very active in the Catholic Church. What I found to be the most interesting where some of their reasons for opposing contraception and birth control. They say that it decreases sexual pleasure (which is interesting because we read that the Catholic Church is not opposed to sexual pleasure for married people). They also claim that birth control is bad for our health, relationship and environment. Now looking through this website I must say some of their “facts” don’t seem all that plausible, but it  IS interesting that this website and view point exists outside of a religious context. This website also talks about what “natural” sex is and isn’t.

But I really wish the RRR reading was longer

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Humanae Vitae demonstrates rather nicely the importance of pronoun use in theological texts.  Whereas contemporary writers shun the universal use of “man” or “him” to apply to all people, writers of ancient works such as the Bible were hardly concerned with the matter.  Whether they intended for their use of male pronouns to refer to men or to all humans could probably be debated, but the outcome of such writing, which was taken and continues to be taken literally by many, is undeniable.  Out of the church has come a hierarchy whose model has become almost an image of what it means to be a Christian.  (Speaking in very general terms; obviously there is no one ‘image’ or ‘definition’) Although this did show up on Google Images:

Christian

In Humanae Vitae under the section heading “Married Love,” Pope Paul VI wrote of married love between a man and a woman to that in it, “husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.”  This takes on a different meaning given that the idea that formed early in the tradition was that men were formed in God’s image and that women were formed from men; men were made in the image of God and when women were joined in marriage with men, they too were the image of God.  Even the marital relationship described God as man’s head and man as his wife’s head.  In this light, “together attain their human fulfillment,” might still mean that both man and woman become closer to God, but either women are still substantially ‘less than’ or are equal because they’ve been redeemed by a marriage to a man.   The contradiction becomes apparent in Paula Jean Miller’s “Theology of the Body” when she says “the body, both male and female, is the image of God,” and then continues later to insist that women love/give by receiving men and men love by giving themselves; she describes men’s bodies as sacramental and then says that women represent the son, or the receiver of the Father’s love, while men represent the Father.  How much more obvious can the dichotomy get?

Granted, Google Images is not where you want to do your ‘research,’ but these were two of the top results for the search “god husband wife.”

This is relevant because the questions central to this week’s reading involved birth control and abortion.  Both of these, historically (for the most part) and in more recent times are issues specific to women and even more specifically, their bodies.  Men have some responsibility to the children born of their sexual partners (who are supposedly only their wives) but it is women who carry the children and who might die during childbirth or afterwards due to complications.  It is women who might have illnesses which can’t be treated if she becomes pregnant. And even if she is healthy and able to have children, she is still the one who is responsible for raising the child.  The issue of birth control, whether is in reference to modern medicine and technology or to historical methods of self-regulation and abortion, has always been a ‘women’s issue.’  It is hard to give women a voice, however, in a system which talks about people as though they are all subject to the same rules when according to Christianity’s own ‘fathers,’ men and women aren’t even playing on the same field.  Even more frustrating is that when “the system talks,” it is really “when the men talk.” (The men who have never/will never have to deal with pregnancy either through celibacy or through the fact that they are men)

The reason this is important is that as a country where the majority of the population is Christian and the people holding political offices are almost always Christians as well, Christianity’s stance on issues of birth control and abortion and more generally, women’s issues is important.  In “An Instrument of Genocide,” the discussion centers on the struggles of Black Nationalists and members of the Nation of Islam with the American government.  Minorities in the U.S. certainly had reason to be suspicious of the government, and the government’s approach of handing contraception to Women of Color instead of providing those communities with the resources they needed was problematic on several levels.  However, what was going on in a more broad context was also interesting to me.  The common trait between the Black Nationalists and minority communities and mainstream U.S. society was Christianity.

As Christianity had a set pattern of keeping in place its sex-based hierarchy while those in power (read: men) simultaneously claimed to speak for/to Christians and restricted visibility of women’s perspectives.   This trend wasn’t and isn’t limited to white power structures; it is pervasive and extends through many Christianity-dominated groups.  This was evident in “An Instrument of Genocide” in that the question of birth control and the strong opposition to it was being had and coming from men who were turning around and telling their wives to have more children because they needed more men for their cause (and women to have more children).

There are few (if any) Christian cultures in which this hierarchy doesn’t exist.  Even feminist Evangelical circles seek women’s liberation through total and complete submission to God, who is, of course, male.  Any fight for liberation anywhere in the world is incomplete if the fight doesn’t include women’s issues as well as men’s and if the voices speaking on behalf of women’s issues aren’t coming from women.

I was pretty disappointed by how short our RRR reading was this week.  I tried desperately to find audio for her talking about this issue but there were very few clips of her on youtube and none of them were relevant to this.  What I did find though was an article she wrote entitled “Women, Reproductive Rights and the Catholic Church,” which you should definitely check out.  I cited her work extensively in my thesis though, and never imagined this is what she looks like:

The Problem that Never Goes Away

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I must be honest in saying that it is quite difficult to take myself out of the 21st-century millennial white feminist lens, and write a non-biased blog post, looking at these texts objectively and through the eyes of the writers, themselves.

I’ve heard it said that feminism is a “white women” sport–that it is actually exclusive of black feminist issues, and only focuses on the concerns of the white community. Actually, this was said to me the other day by a friend of mine. When I asked her what she meant, she told me to look at the example of contraceptive and reproductive rights, “Those issues are important to white women, sure, but they don’t appeal to the black or hispanic communities. And they seems to be all that feminists are focused on, nowadays.”

When she said this, I understood what she meant, but couldn’t understand why. However, after reading An Instrument of Genocide, it all made sense. The cultural avoidance of contraception issues within the black community has its roots in the fear of racial genocide.

This is not the first time a theory like this has existed. There is the theory that the AIDS virus was created by government scientists to eradicate black people and homosexuals.

However, what is interesting is the religious aspect in all this. According the the Humanae Vitae, conjugal relations are meant to transpire only within a marital relationship.
“As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.”
According to Catholic law, it is the duty of a man and his wife to procreate. To limit that would be to go against the forces of both God and nature. However, the Humanae Vitae carefully avoids issues of feminism. At the beginning, it briefly mentions the challenge of working around women’s newfound “dignity” in society, yet does not go on to say much more about the woman’s choice in her reproductivity. It is God’s choice, and she is God’s creation. Therefore, her lack of choice in the matter has less to do with her sex, and more to do with the fact that she is below God, and must therefore abide by her wifely duties.

What’s interesting is Martin Luther King Jr.’s perspective on the matter, since it ties in both Christianity and the black community. However, as a Protestant, he shares different views than are expressed in the Humanae Vitae. MLK claims that women are more than “Breeding Machines,” though motherhood is their primary responsibility. The common denominator being that motherhood is a woman’s responsibility. However, MLK believes that women have a say in the matter, unlike his counterparts.

It is interesting to examine how this issue is one that transcends over time. It is, and always has been a hot topic in the Christian community (Catholics especially) and amongst feminists as well–even the Black community is involved in, though, according to Genocide highly opposed to the contraceptive debate.