Sacred Traditions Should be Gender Blind
Former president Jimmy Carter and other world leaders issued this statement: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable." What's your reaction to these statements? Are 'male interpretations of religious texts' to blame for the 'deprivation of women's equal rights?'
Religion is too often a study in contrasts. Delve into the sacred scriptures of any faith tradition and be prepared to encounter conflicts, dichotomies and seeming contradictions that could render the uninitiated utterly befuddled. Read of tolerance and acceptance here, and turn over a few verses and behold a litany on this being the only Truth and no others. Peruse a celebration of love and fellowship in this chapter and be prepared to kill, convert or torture the non-believer in the next. Gender, the Goddess, the feminine divine are subjected too often to similar inconsistency.
After all, the direct word of God that central scriptures profess to merely transcribe is brought to us all by the hand of prophets--all men in Abrahamic traditions, and realized saints and sages in Indic traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, who were also mostly male.
As a scientist, my reading of scientific journals is cautioned by my scrutiny of publication bias, reporting bias, database bias and many other potential conflicts replete in medical literature. Conversely, our reading of scripture, if presumed to be the unadulterated word of God, necessarily overlooks any of these common biases as we subject conclusions to no bias test at all. It is the literalism with which religions approach their scriptures--no one can contest what is written and that there can be no evolution in interpretation, or that there are only certain scholars--a pope, a rabbi, an Ayatollah, a Brahmin--who can explicate the word of God, that has denied access to fifty percent of humanity.
As a Hindu male I can speak to the choices I can make. I can choose to see our most sacred scriptures, the Vedas, as influenced by some of the towering divine intellects that communed to put forth this compilation--Gargi, Savitri or Anasuya--who happened to be women. The four major divisions of my faith--Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Smartha and Shakti--all worship Femininity as an equal half to a male representation, but the Shakti followers worship the Mother Goddess as a representation of the creative feminine divine force and the central force to be worshipped.
Yes, males--mostly Brahmin--occupied the interpretive space of ancient Hinduism in the post-Vedic era, and the Manu Smriti, for example, is seen by many to reflect the privileged male despite the many exalting verses also found. But most Hindus see their religion as a living one, a faith whose revelatory power did not end millenia ago, but continues to this day. The modern spiritual masters, scores of whom are women, attest to this vivacity. A predominant male perspective dominated the past, but the future must hark to balance and empowerment of all voices of Truth--gender blind.
Posted by: mraghavan0128 | July 25, 2009 8:39 AM
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Posted by: Athena4 | July 23, 2009 11:09 PM
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