Spirituality and my "role" as a woman - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 10-07-2010, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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For starters: I have a Christian background but my question isn't only geared towards Christian women. I am from Germany and grew up in a Protestant family, although my parents weren't very observant. As a teenager, I was involved with our church choir and a bible study group at school - so I probably was the most "active" church member of our family.

I've been more or less close to a "Christian life" but I'm pretty much by myself with that. My husband is Protestant "on paper" but really doesn't want to have anything to do with faith anymore. (He's a professional engineer - for him, anything that happens has a rational explanation.)

In my own spiritual journey I've gone through a lot of ups and downs. Examples: My husband is not my daughter's (1st child) biological father, I had a child "out of wedlock". (So, I'm definitely not a shining example of a godly life.) I regularly attended Sunday services while I lived in the U. S., and I was part of a Bible study group in a different church there. I've been in several choirs which is relevant because I've sung a lot of Bible texts (mainly Psalms - some of them even in Hebrew, parts of the Gospels) and lithurgic texts (like "Gloria", "Missa" etc.). My children were all baptized, my 2nd child has just entered the preparation course for his confirmation. (Yes, we have a German-speaking "church" community within China.)

I find a lot of wisdom in the Bible, one verse even gave me the last kick to apply for leadership within LLL. However, there are definitely parts of the Bible I have a very hard time with. I especially struggle with the image of women in our Judaic-Christian culture and I am literally sick of the concept of original sin. How can our menstrual cycle be a "curse" and labor a punishment when at the same time children are considered to be a blessing? Where do I belong in a faith in whose name women have been burned at the stake, abused within marriage, denied electoral, possessive etc. rights? How am I supposed to grow when I'm expected to live in submission?

Thanks to anyone who has taken the time to read through my novel. Within the guidelines of this forum, I'd be interested to hear from other women how they made peace with being a woman within their faiths / forms of spirituality.

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#2 of 14 Old 10-07-2010, 09:43 AM
 
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I chucked my form of spirituality I grew a new one. I don't know if that fits what you want :
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Originally Posted by proudmomof4 View Post
how they made peace with being a woman within their faiths / forms of spirituality.
I chose not to try to force myself into something that wasn't working for me any longer. I'm still the same person. I still have a spiritual existence. I only changed the wallpaper in the background.

If the ideas of the "right" way to be a woman in your current framing of spiritual/religious ideas don't feel authentic and natural to you....if you feel you have to "try" to be a "good" woman according to those ideas.....then IMO it's your emotional guidance system telling you that some of those ideas don't fit your own truth and probably never will. It was a huge relief to me to let them go ! Now I only consider how to behave as an ethical person. I am not burdened by worries about how a "man" or a "woman" are "intended" or "designed" to live.

I do my best to be a good person, a good neighbor, a good friend, a good parent...to raise my own standards higher when they are challenged, and to constantly reach for what feels higher to me. I do my best to teach our children the same. IMO gender roles have nothing to do with it...they are only a construct of our biology and societal norms...there is no right or wrong to them. Thinking of them in moral terms was a confusing distraction I am happy to be free from.

I came back to add more: This "chucking" wasn't instant. It took a few years really...but the start was pretty instant. I was in a church and a relationship with a lot of ideas about being a "godly woman". The relationship became oppressive and I found the courage to get out. I quit attending the church. I read The Second Sex and Revolution from Within. I decided all the ideas I had tried so hard to swallow and force myself to accept for the last few years just didn't fit me. That was the start...the rest of the process was slower but once I started down that path I knew there was no going back.

I do not in any way feel that I've moved "away from God"...at all. I feel I have moved toward a more authentic awareness of myself and relationship with the Universe. I no longer need any person or church or book to give me all the answers. I am free to be who I am and to be okay with the Universe being all that it is. I can form my own beliefs based on my own experiences and be okay with others doing the same. Gender is not part of it. It's a very relaxed feeling compared to the things I used to worry about.

DS1 March 2003DS2 Sept 2005,
and 3 , in our happy secular
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#3 of 14 Old 10-07-2010, 10:58 AM
 
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A lot of things in that paragraph. I'll try not to sound nitpicky.

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I find a lot of wisdom in the Bible, one verse even gave me the last kick to apply for leadership within LLL. However, there are definitely parts of the Bible I have a very hard time with. I especially struggle with the image of women in our Judaic-Christian culture and I am literally sick of the concept of original sin. How can our menstrual cycle be a "curse" and labor a punishment when at the same time children are considered to be a blessing?
It wasn't God who called the menstrual cycle a "curse". That's a cultural thing. The actual verse has to do with bearing children and different translations and commentaries have different opinions of what exactly it means.. Furthermore, Even wasn't the only one given a serious consequence for rebellion against God. Keep reading and Adam gets it pretty harshly too. Both Adam and Eve, after the Fall, now have to work and struggle and sweat to recieve those blessings which previously had been handed to them.


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Where do I belong in a faith in whose name women have been burned at the stake, abused within marriage, denied electoral, possessive etc. rights?
Where do men belong in a faith in whose name men have been burned at stake, abused by the powers that be, and denied electoral and possessive rights? Historically the majority of men lacked education, opportunity, and power along with women. Both men and women in feudal societies were mostly powerless. And both men and women could join religious communities which were often their once chance at education. We belong in this faith because those abuses are not teachings of the faith, but constructs of power-hungry people who grasped at anything in order to maintain and expand their power. Those abuses directly oppose what Christ and his apostles taught. Including within marriage. The Scriptures on marriage do call for submission, but they leave no room for abuse. Period. A man who oppresses or abuses his wife is in direct conflict with Christian doctrine on marriage, and thus in sin, and furthermore in great danger of a broken relationship with God.

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How am I supposed to grow when I'm expected to live in submission?
All Christians, male and female, are expected to live in submission--to Christ, to the laws of God, to the authority within the church, and to each other. Submisison is not oppression, and does not hinder spiritual or personal growth. Submission is an individual choice. If we submit to God, we refrain from disobeying him. If we submit to each other, we refrain from doing those things which would injure, or be a cause for sin, or other hurtful things. I suppose it very much depends on your definitions of "submission" and of "growth". If by growth you mean doing whatever you feel like doing, because you want to, then probably submission would hinder that. But that is not a woman-only restriction, but an overall principal of Christianity, not to do our own will and please our own flesh, but to put self aside and follow God.

I do not feel that even my view of fairly conservative gender roles is something to make peace with. I'm already OK with it. I know that God created me, loves me, and that Christ died for my sins. I know that my gender has nothing to do with my salvation or my value to God. I believe that the social "rules" for men and women in the Bible are broad principles, not legalistic rules to control the minutia of life. I know that God demands that my husband love me, cherish me, and treat me with the same care and consideration he would naturally give himself. And because my husband believes these to be true as well, and believes that God's Word trumps his feelings or his cultural upbringing, I have no worries, and no resentment for him, and no feeling of being "less than" or oppressed.
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#4 of 14 Old 10-07-2010, 11:11 AM
 
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Proudmomof4, there are lots of other ways to explore your spirituality without adhering to the bible or any bible based religion. I was brought up Catholic and started steering off that path during my confirmation classes (I did end up getting confirmed, because, well, that's what you do when you're 13 and your parents tell you that you must), but it was also when I started questioning more. Too much of the bible looked to me like the writings of flawed humans rather than an all-knowing, etc god - especially WRT women. That's when I began looking for information on religions and spirituality that were not dependent on the bible. I"m glad I did. I'm a UU and Pagan now.

A really interesting book, along these lines, is Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. I really appreciated the personal thoughts and journey she outlined in this book. And while the author went through this journey, she is still Christian, though a rather different flavor than she had been before. You might find Christianity still rings true to you, or you might find something else on your search.

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#5 of 14 Old 10-07-2010, 11:36 AM
 
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One of the things that drew me towards Islam was the Qur'an view on women compared to the Bible. One still has the story of Adam and Eve, yet both are blamed for giving into temptation. There's no implication that Adam is any less responsible. There's also no mention of any curse of childbirth or any such thing.

The Qur'an also gave women guaranteed inheritance from their husbands and fathers back in the 7th century--when usually in Western culture. only the eldest son would inherit. Right to own property, run her own business, seek out education, etc.--all there. (You can read more here: http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/w_islam/intro.htm)

Is it perfect? Nope. And it bugs me to no end that in some parts of the world, Muslim women have less rights today then they did in the 7th century. I often wonder where Muslim women would be today if the Qur'an had been a starting point, and things had continued to evolve over the past 1300 years.

In Islam, as a woman and mother, I am told that paradise (heaven) lies at my feet. I am told that even the act of breastfeeding my kids pleases God. I am told that my children should respect and revere me. These are all great. I know that even in the 7th century, the Prophet's first wife was a powerful business woman. She was also 15 years older than him. I know that one of his other wives was a scholar and judge--revered by many. I know that in the 9th century, there were already esteemed Muslim female physicians. I know that Muslim women have been heads of state for many centuries. I know that in Iran, Muslim women make up more than half of all engineering and science University students. (In the US, it's probably 20% or less.) Yet I know that some Muslim women are treated like crap in the name of my religion as well.

I'm at peace with this (well sort of) in knowing that no religion is practiced the way God intended it to be on Earth. Nobody practices in perfectly. I look at the various amazing women of my faith and take comfort int heir accomplishments. I try to do what I can to support organizations which are trying to help women of my faith to have at least the basic rights granted to them in the Qur'an.

As for submission, Islam means submitting to God. So, that's kind of a given. Only I am responsible for my actions before God. Islam is also very clear that you shouldn't obey anybody which encourages you to do something which God would displease of. You can't use the excuse, well, he told me to do it and I was just obeying.

The thing that drew me more than any of this to Islam was the whole concept of God's mercy and forgiveness in Islam. It's everywhere. It's the most important thing IMHO about the faith. Muslims say "Bismillah ar Rahman ar Rahim" probably at least 100 times per day. You say it before you begin anything. What you're saying is "In the name of God, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate." That's the thing we're supposed to remember above anything. We're also told that if we want God to forgive us, we need to forgive others. We're told that if we take one step towards God, God runs at full speed towards us. And nowhere does it matter if one is female or male. God's mercy is for all.

Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1).  "Kids do as well as they can."

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#6 of 14 Old 10-07-2010, 12:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your replies so far. It feels so good not to be alone with this! It's really bedtime around here, but I hope to read and write more tomorrow.

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#7 of 14 Old 10-09-2010, 08:58 PM
 
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To me, starting from a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint, I think the first steps of moving toward a more positve view of womanhood and human nature in general happened when I stopped seeing the Bible as the 100% inspired word of God.

For instance, I'd say that I agree with cappuccinosmom about menstruation not being a curse. That's because I don't see all those instructions about separating menstruating women from everyone else as direct commands from God, but (as she said) as cultural constructs. Ditto the idea that we're unclean after giving birth, and especially after giving birth to daughters.

One thing that I think is ridiculous is the way that some anti-feminism folks act like feminists would have everyone be "the same." Of course, I don't know the view of "all" feminists on this subject, since feminists are such a large and diverse group -- but I actually feel like freedom from set roles allows each of us more room, not less, to be the unique individual that each one of us truly is.

I do believe that our personalities and giftings are shaped by many different factors, including biology, but because each one of us is so unique, this means that the ways in which our biology interacts with all of our different traits is going to create unique results in each individual person.

I'm all for just enjoying our uniquenesses! -- embracing, not prescribing.

I find it very freeing to not look to any book as the be-all, end-all -- but, rather, to explore many sources with an openness to hearing Truth wherever I find it. And, to me, any religion or religious group that would say that menstruation is dirty or that breastfeeding is obscene and shouldn't happen in public, or that the female body is evil and must be concealed -- to me, anyone who would say or preach anything like this is very anti-life.

Since I see the Truth as being very much about embracing and nurturing life, I feel very free to discard any teaching that goes against this life. Women are a huge component of the lifegiveing Force, so I think we should love ourselves and we should never feel inferior.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#8 of 14 Old 10-09-2010, 09:08 PM
 
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I think I'll add that one red flag that made me realize our former church was no longer for us was when my oldest, then about 7, came home from Sunday School worried because her Sunday School teacher had told her that no one should ever see her breasts but her husband.

She asked the teacher if it was okay that she and I still took baths together, and the teacher said it was probably okay since that had probably only happened when dd was really little. Uh, no, it was just last week.

I attended the class with her after that, and discovered that the whole topic of study, for these, like, 6-8 year old girls, seemed to be about learning how their bodies could be tempting to the opposite sex and how careful they needed to be about how they dressed and so on.

The teacher commented that since the teenaged girls in the church had such a problem with dressing inappropriately, the leadership had decided that it was important to instill modesty in girls early on.

We quit going, and soon after that dd quit worrying about whether she was revealing too much of her body in the house at home.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#9 of 14 Old 10-10-2010, 11:42 PM
 
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http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/shadya/film.html

Here's a link to an article about an interesting documentary I just watched on public television. I'm really glad I looked this up because the documentary had ended on a rather sour note, but the update is most uplifting.

It's about a young Arab-Israeli girl whose father was willing to diverge from the norms of his culture and support his girls in pursuing their dreams. Both girls love karate and his oldest, Shadya, at seventeen is at the top.

Shadya's brothers feel that allowing her to continue this sport is demeaning to their family. Though the father stands up to the brothers in many ways, he ends up giving into the pressure of his sons and his wife, and giving Shadya's hand in marriage when she's only eighteen. To be fair, Shadya seems to be totally in love with her groom and eager to marry him, though also very intent on continuing her Karate.

Throughout the courtship, Shadya's young man pledges his support to Shadya's desire to continue with the Karate, but, by the wedding day, one of Shadya's brothers victoriously announces that the groom has changed his mind, and Shadya will have to give up competing.

He gloatingly tells the journalist that this was his goal all along, because he'd just hated living with Shadya and seeing her smiling face. Sure enough, after the wedding the groom indeed lays the law down, though he does "let" her do some coaching. She does make one final attempt to compete but is too out-of-condition.

The documentary ends with her walking along, visibly pregnant -- which of course is not a sad thing, since new life is wonderful, but it's sad that you get the sense that her culture, and her culture's interpretation of their religion, pushed her into adult life and motherhood before she was really ready to move on.

But in the update in the link above, I learned that Shadya's husband has since returned to his supportive attitude, and his extended family also loves and supports Shadya. She should be ready to resume competing soon.

This is exciting to me, and I rather hope that they'll do another documentary, showing this Arab-Israeli woman nurturing her family and pursuing her dreams, blazing a trail for other girls and women of her culture and religion.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#10 of 14 Old 10-11-2010, 01:44 AM
 
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One of the reasons my father converted to Catholicism is that there are many different ways that Catholicism can be practiced, from very conservative to pretty liberal.

My mother believed in the father as head of the household, that wife and children had to submit to. They're also pretty close to Quiverful.

I've known all my life that I wanted a career. Spouse and children too, but my career has been my dream.

I did a lot of reading, a lot of research into early Christianity and religions around the world, a lot of praying and a lot of practicing. I found that a semi-Taoist/panentheist model of Oneness who became God (energy, and more) and Goddess (matter, and more), who became all things, works for me. I'm also an engineer.

I know that there are women within the Abrahamic religions who are comfortable with their faith. That there are role models of women within the Bible, Torah, and Qu'ran. I'm glad that you've been able to hear this perspective from some of the other posters.

The main thing I can suggest is that you continue reading, continue studying, continue praying, and find YOUR answer. Faith is a journey.

Unitarian Universalist Pagan
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#11 of 14 Old 10-11-2010, 08:01 PM
 
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I know that there are women within the Abrahamic religions who are comfortable with their faith. That there are role models of women within the Bible, Torah, and Qu'ran.
Yes, I agree with this.

This is why I was careful in my last post, about Shadya, to specify that I felt it was her culture's interpretation of her religion that was oppressive and that was causing her brothers to pressure her dad to disallow her pursuit of her dream.

Also, the way the brother in the video was just gloating on Shadya's wedding day about how she was going to have to give up Karate competitions -- it was just so evil. This man hated to see his sister smile.

Whereas, I just see religion itself as promoting love and the wellbeing of mankind -- not as an urge to wipe the smile off someone's face.

This is why I feel that it's interpretations that are causing the oppression we often see or hear about in some fundamentalist religious communities. Sadly, it seems that it's often a highly-literalist interpretation of Holy Scriptures that leads to some really bad stuff.

And, really weirdly, having heard Christian rationales for both sides -- equality and patriarchy or complementariansim -- I really think that both sides are able to use the Bible to support their points of view. This is one reason why I no longer see it as "sola Scriptura" -- I think I should weigh everything I read, whatever the source, in the balance with reason and experience.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#12 of 14 Old 10-12-2010, 11:04 AM
 
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Although I grew up Roman Catholic, I think that we have a lot in common in regards to our background. I have always had trouble with certain aspects of the bible. As a teen, I voluntarily went to weekly discussion sessions with the Dean to help clear up these doubts.

While I respect and appreciate all that the RC church and its community have given me during my youth, I simply could not adhere to the various beliefs and rules and still be my authentic self. As with my siblings and my mom, we eventually all left the RC church.

Since then, I have learned so much about the world, politics, history, social science, women's studies, that it would be impossible for me even to consider condoning some of the practices of the RC church.

I still cherish my love for Maria (the female deity), her statues all over, the church buildings. There is so much spirituality and beauty to be found there. I am still a very spiritual person, but have adopted a more eclectic repertoire to answer to my spiritual side and still remain authentic as a human being.

I wish you well with reconciling your authentic self with your religion/spiritual side. It may take some time, but is a great journey nonetheless.
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#13 of 14 Old 10-14-2010, 04:17 AM
 
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I found that a semi-Taoist/panentheist model of Oneness who became God (energy, and more) and Goddess (matter, and more), who became all things, works for me.
This is truly fascinating! I am also finding myself drawn toward Taoism and possibly even pantheism, since I really do see my spiritual journey now as being a movement toward increasing awareness of my connection to all living things. I believe the connection is already there and it's simply my goal to feel it and experience it consistently, day in and day out, to the best of my ability.

Also, the following quote from Picard means a lot to me:

"I still cherish my love for Maria (the female deity), her statues all over, the church buildings. There is so much spirituality and beauty to be found there. I am still a very spiritual person, but have adopted a more eclectic repertoire to answer to my spiritual side and still remain authentic as a human being."

I think that adapting and using some of the Catholic rosary prayers as part of my own spiritual practice has been very instrumental in leading me toward a greater awareness of the divine feminine.

Which leads me back to what kcstar said here:

"...Oneness who became God (energy, and more) and Goddess (matter, and more), who became all things..."

In many ways, it seems like our feminine role is that of nurturing life and helping it to be more fully itself, just as we nurture our children and help them to be more fully themselves. We are the Earth. The good soil (Mark 4).

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#14 of 14 Old 10-14-2010, 04:58 AM
 
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cappuccinosmom said most of what I wanted to say.
I do also want to point out the difference between christianity and religion. christanity is believing Christ is your savour, religion is mans attempt to clump like-minded people together, imho.
You do not need to subscribe to an organized religions entire doctrine to be Christian.
I was baptised Catholic, then Baptist in my teens, and joined an anabaptist movement in my early 30's. At this point I consider myself to be nondenominational christian and go to a nondenom. conservative church.
I listen to anabaptist sermons online and read the Bible.

Your mention of women kinda made me sad. I do remember feeling like a 2nd class citizen until I found a titus2 mentor who explained to me that as a woman I was more precious than jewels and my value is far ABOVE RUBIES or pearls.
Being submissive doesnt mean doormat or mousy. My mentor said it was like on a ship, there is one cpt and the first mate. They cant work without each other, neither are more important, each has their own job to do so that the ship runs smoothly. That made sense to me.

ugh Ive yet again novelized my answer.sorry. ;-)
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