Oo, I know! Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Except, of course, you have frightening groups like Christian Domestic Discipline that seem to think the Bible is all about wife-slapping. So what do the Jehovah's Witnesses have to say?
First, there's an introduction called "Violence Against Women: A Global Problem," which quotes Amnesty International describing anti-woman violence as "today's most pervasive human rights challenge. The following article, titled "How Do God and Christ View Women?", uses examples from the Bible to show that Jesus treated women as equals. They do a nice job of presenting cultural context, describing how scandalous Jesus' interactions with the Samaritan woman, the woman at the well and Mary Magdalene must have seemed in a culture that often equated women with slaves. (I would have included more New Testament examples, like Jesus' friendship with Mary and Martha, and Paul's commission of Phoebe as a Christian leader.) The article then moves onto the Old Testament and some generalizations from Proverbs, concluding that "all women should be treated with honor and respect."
Hell yeah! Good on you, Jehovah's Witnesses!
That was the cover story at the front of the magazine. Here's the story at the back of the magazine:
What, did I get too uppity between pages 3 and 28?
Somehow we went from "Jesus didn't condone chauvinistic attitudes" to "Many women chafe at the idea of male headship in marriage... (but) you will find that its position is balanced and practical." The article tries very hard to seem feminist, saying that a husband's job as the head of the household is to put his wife's needs above his own, and that women "provide valuable input" into marriages. (Gee, thanks.) These statements that are quickly followed up with the qualifier "Of course, as the family head, the husband is responsible for making final decisions."
Their example of a well-balanced marriage is the real kicker: they cite the story of Abraham and Sarah, specifically the part in which Sarah gets pissed because Abraham knocked up one of the servants. She tells him to kick the girl out of the house, and he considers it, but only after he goes off by himself and contemplates it does he do it. In other words, it was his decision, not hers, which makes the whole thing okay.
Did the connection between this type of arrangement (condoned on page 28) and global violence against women (condemned on page 3) never occur to the editors at Awake? It's this idea of male headship that causes men to believe they have the right to abuse their wives, women to think it's their duty to submit to it, and -- worst of all -- leads to the laws in many cultures that give men the right to abuse, punish, or even kill disobedient female family members. If the Jehovah's Witnesses are looking to separate themselves from such cultures, they need to take a long hard look at their beliefs about patriarchy -- which stem from the same ancient Middle Eastern desert culture as the religion they're implicitly condemning.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
The Jehovah's Witnesses Came By Today
... and dropped off the latest issue of Awake!, the monthly magazine that seems to be replacing Watchtower as the de facto door-to-door handout. Here's the cover story: