I’m beginning to develop a love/strong-disregard relationship with religion. Note the emphasis on religion as traditional institution rather than a dilemma with spirituality. I have and forever will accept Jesus Christ as the singular Savior.
It was draining to divorce the Baptist church in 2011. But non-denominational identification isn’t faring much better. The violent bloodshed, patriarchal ideologies and exclusion of individual adoption in Christianity is beginning to traipse on a sensitive nerve. In response, my conscious keeps encouraging me to disavow from religion and pursue wholeness with God instead. I’m beginning to listen and others as well.
A Pew Research Center study determined one-fifth of American adults have no definitive religious affiliation. This rapidly-increasing number of atheists, agnostics and others – referred to as “nones” – includes over 33 million Americans.
Heidi Glinn, a correspondent for National Public Radio, attributes this shift from reliance on the church for guidance to self-seeking destinies to a rise in post-secondary education. Critical thinking leads to the questioning of religious practices.
I agree with Glinn’s premise. It has been difficult to reconcile the rampant sexism within Christianity and the ideologies I espouse as a newly-minted womanist. I love God and have an inextinguishable faith. I am a womanist and view the world through that lens often. These conflicting considerations leave me in a perpetual state of disarray.
In an effort to continue existing in these two worlds, I dissected the Bible’s historical context as well as the depiction of women within those scriptures I spew with such indignant passion. What I discovered has left me hurt, puzzled and at a religious crossroads. These conflicting considerations have me considering a return to an existence where I never considered sexism within religious texts.
What is most bothersome is when I think I’ve found peace in life as a Christian and a womanist, another news headline, conversation or television episode topples me again.
The Church of England prohibits women from assuming roles as bishops after a controversial vote.
Chick-Fil-A uses religion and the first amendment to promote homophobia and droves of African-American Christians support their efforts.
“Iyanla, Fix My Life” debuts an episode featuring a pastor that was spreading his seed as well as the Word in a church that he’s shepherding. Yet, even after he confessed his sins to the congregation, his flock agreed to keep him behind the pulpit.
A piece at the New York Times on the blatant exclusion of women from the Western Wall in Jerusalem solidified this eternal struggle for me.
“For more than two decades, women have been making a monthly pilgrimage to pray at one of Judaism’s holiest sites in a manner traditionally preserved for men, and the police have stopped them in the name of maintaining public order
But after a flurry of arrests this fall that set off an international outcry, the women arrived for December’s service to find a new protocol ordered by the ultra-Orthodox rabbi who controls the site. To prevent the women from defying a Supreme Court ruling that bars them from wearing ritual garments at the wall, they were blocked by police officers from bringing them in.
After years of legislative and legal fights, the movement for equal access for people to pray as they wish at the site has become a rallying cause for liberal Jews in the United States and around the world, though it has long struggled to gain traction here in Israel, where the ultra-Orthodox retain great sway over public life.
This has deepened a divide between the Jewish state and the Jewish diaspora, in which some leaders have become increasingly vocal in criticizing Israel’s policies on settlements in the Palestinian territories; laws and proposals that are seen as antidemocratic or discriminatory against Arab citizens; the treatment of women; and the ultra-Orthodox control over conversion and marriage.
While more than 60 percent of Jews in the United States identify with the Reform or Conservative movements, where women and men have equal standing in prayer and many feminists have adopted ritual garments, in Israel it is one in 10. Instead, about half call themselves secular, and experts say that most of those consider Orthodoxy as the true Judaism, feel alienated from holy sites like the Western Wall, and view a woman in a prayer shawl as an alien import from abroad.”
Absorbing this and hundreds of other instances of exclusion and relegation of women to second-class citizenship within religion impacts me. These realizations keep me ostracized within a religion that was created to promote eternal love, but instead uses scripture to rationalize intolerance and sexism.
I don’t know if it will ever be possible to merge these conflicting dogmas, even though I aligned with womanist theology rather than feminist thought because it included spiritual considerations.
Confusion persists, but eventually I hope I find clarity within the love.