Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Strong words

If I wrote down all the abuses of my childhood, you, dear reader would say something like: "I'm so sorry that happened to you. What a terrible thing! I guess I was lucky." Well, you were. But that aside, my story is just one in a million. Perhaps one in a billion. There are many, MANY other women who were and are being raised in homes where religious fundamentalism is the way that life is ordered. Many of them would read my blog and become angry- defend their upbringing and their faith. Some of them would try and cajole me into believing that they are happy and their faith gives them a better life. I am not going to argue with someone who has been fed lies by the people that a woman loves and trusts the most and I have no animosity toward such a person.

But I would and do argue with those that have chosen to hold their faith more lightly, to have it be a peripheral part of their existence all the while ignoring the abuses that occur in the guise of god's love. Let's not talk about the actual documented abuses of the church: priests who bugger boys, pastors who have affairs with women they are counseling, church leaders who rile their congregation up to such an extent that they will vote against the actual human rights of another. Those issues we all look at and shake our heads, a little confused by the extremes and helpless to know how to change it.

No, I am talking about the more subtle, personal abuses that occur in the guise of trying to live according to a book that originated two thousand years ago and has been modified by thousands of theologians to try and keep it relevant so that they can maintain their religious structures. What this produces on an individual level-- on a family to family to family basis, is a delicate system of maltreatment that goes on without so much as a pause by onlookers. To please god, missionaries will move to rugged and dangerous parts of the world, and then put their children in boarding schools, thus abdicating their responsibilities as parents and is plainly and simply neglect. To fulfill the mission for "love" and "forgiveness", people will leave their children among family members who are abusive-- sometimes physically but even sexually. So that they can be righteous, they will follow the co-called moral "guidelines" of the church and turn their back on their own children if they are gay. Or worse they'll put them in a program to "fix" them. In the name of religious purity and piety, honor killings occur at a frightening rate.

And these are still the more overt and obvious abuses that occur--. And once again, you can shake your head at the extremities, feeling a bit helpless and concerned. But here's the reality: these extremists are protected-- shielded by their less zealous counterparts.

But we have not even begun to talk about how all mainstream religions maintain a patriarchal system that destroys even the most cherished of daughters. When god is a man (and god is always a man), there is simply no way to keep from raising your little girls without a sense of alienation and strangeness. Before the little one even begins to form Personhood, she is given an innate sense of her own devaluation. And boys... well, what are they not entitled to having been made in god's own image? And if, as a boy, you don't meet the standard of the cultural code for what god expects you to be... (i.e. gay) then you really are not worth much more than a woman. And let's not even talk about lesbians!

I don't care how well intentioned you are. When you look the other way at the kind of abuse that is committed in the name of religion ( and it doesn't matter what religion you are talking about), you are part of that system. And whatever small amount of good you receive from your occasional spiritual massage, you are getting it with blood on your hands as surely as the extremists who commit the actual act.


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