Sunday, July 19, 2009

Personal Responsibility And The Religious Man

Every so often, I am slapped in the face with the reality of the elitist, sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic nature of the large network of fundamentalist Christians in our midst. I cannot lie and say that it doesn't disturb and, at times, enrage me, but I do know that I will probably run afoul of this despicable ignorance throughout the remainder of my life and I had best be able to shrug it off.

We just got back from a wonderful trip that included several nights in a rustic cabin on the side of a mountain in West Virginia. The nights and mornings were cool, the days were warm and balmy without the oppressive humidity of Florida and the scenery and wildlife were breathtakingly entrancing. Our cabin was one of a group off Hy19, north of the New River Bridge and close to a sweet little town called Summersville. Due to the abundance of Mountain Laurel that grew wild on that mountain, along with wild black raspberries, blackberries and wild red currants, sweet peas, daisies and Queen Anne's Lace, the spot was called Laurel Ridge Cabins. Deer shared the meadow with the owner's horses and let us get close enough to take pictures.

The only "off" moment of this idyllic situation was in the form of an agreement we were required to sign for the benefit of the owner, a former Texan turned WV mountain man, with a large brood of five children, and a very quiet wife, who was a leader in his local church. Said document stated that we agreed to no public drinking, no drunkenness, no consumption of spirits outside your cabin and no profanity. It also stated that we were to "dress modestly," which meant, no drooping pants or going shirtless for the guys, but, more emphatically, no tube tops, short shorts, spaghetti strap tops, backless tops or swimsuits without "street clothing" covering them for the female guests.

Now this is something with which my hubby and I had no problem. We are past the age to dress in that manner, though we would have when we were younger and had the bodies for it. But, on very hot days, and having struggled through Florida summers, I was compelled to tell Mr. G that, in our part of the country, such dress was common and, indeed, necessary in order to withstand the heat and humidity. His reply put my back up faster than a cat when cornered by a dog.

He first said that he sure was glad he didn't live in Florida. Then, he said that he didn't want any husbands being tempted to stray by the sight of these scantily-clad nymphs. I replied that we should hope that the husbands of which he spoke had the maturity and self-control to avoid infidelity. With his broad Texas accent and his stock delivery style of the fundamentalist Christian, he offered this "wisdom." "Well, to me, it's like taking a person who really loves to eat, sitting that person down at a banquet and then telling them that they can't eat any of the food."

"So," I countered, "it is your belief that infidelity is the fault of women in provocative dress, that she bears the total responsibility for the transgression and that the man is excused of responsibility because of his inherent appetites?" He started to quote scripture and invoke the image of Eve, the seductress and I had to stop him. I told him that we were paying guests and that his rules were easy enough for us to follow and that we would just agree to disagree. He said he would pray for me, which meant that he would pray that I would see things his way and the subject was dropped.

All this brought back the mindset of the EMS/BSE. We were the transgressors and the fathers of our children were just boys being boys with a wink and a nudge. It is unfortunate that this dusty, moldy, archaic attitude still exists. How convenient for the fathers of our children that we were seen as the ones who must control the lust and lack of self-control of the male gender. St. Paul did a really good job incorporating thinly disguised mysoginy and patriarchy into the early church. A predominately male clergy has taken his letters and run with them.

I watched Mrs. G, a very sweet, pretty and talented lady, as she quietly followed her husband's lead in everything. She baked me one of my favorites, a carrot cake, for my birthday which fell during the time we were there. Yet, it was Mr. G who graciously presented me with the cake as if he were totally responsible for its existence. I made it a point to express my thanks to Mrs. G and telling her that she was a formidable baker (which she is). I felt like, any minute, Mr. G was going to pat his wife on the head and talk about how well she followed his orders. This is a man who admits to being weak enough to let a bathing suit or a tube top tear his moral fiber and compel him to commit adultry, yet he is the leader over his wife in all things because he is a man. WHAT is wrong with that picture?

Now, our beef with the EMS is about coerced surrender, mandated secrecy, civil injustice and lack of access to information about our children, not sexual behavior, but I feel that we must address this whole "responsibility" thing. We still get that ignorant, self-righteous comment, "well, you were the one who spread your legs" from time to time...usually from an adopter or an angry adoptee. Don't forget, for a minute, that, from the fathers of our children, there was a lot of cajoling, begging, manipulating and even threats that went into our perhaps unwise, but normal and predictable encounters with the fathers of our children. With my first pregnancy, which I thought of as a tragic love story, I will acknowledge 50%, and no more than that, of the responsibility for the conception of my daughter. I give the responsibility of her subsequent surrender to the facilitators, social workers, tormenters, family members and her faithless father who pushed me into that horror.

The conception of my son is 100% the fault of his father. What I refused to give, he took. Even that trauma was blamed on me due to my previous behavior with the father of my daughter. I had been marked with a scarlet letter and the animal who fathered my son was ego-driven to not be turned down by someone with my "past." Even those in authority saw my sexual assault as something I had, more or less, "asked for."

So, these randy deacons and elders, patriarchs and judges feel that a woman who dresses in a certain manner, or is no longer a virgin is a Jezebel who will lure them to their doom. Ergo, they must see themselves as weak, sex-obsessed, drooling satyrs who can be led around by the foreskin by any decent-looking young woman showing cleavage. I wonder if Mr. G really thought about what he said and his reasoning.

And I wonder if Mrs. G heard what he said and thought the same thing I was thinking. I am going to light a candle for her. She needs it.


Inspector Clouseau said...

There ought to be some value or upside to acknowledging mistakes, and taking responsibility for our actions; otherwise, folks might not be highly motivated to do so. Responsibility is more than an abstract concept.

Robin said...

Interesting comment and article, Inspector. However, the problem of the male of our species giving all the responsibility for sexual reserve to the female is alive and well and residing in the hearts and minds of the men of the far, religious right wing.

I have found that taking responsibility for my missteps in life has gained me a measure of humility and wisdom. These seem to be spiritual values that are not valued by most.

And it still seems easier for people to blame others for their misery rather than to look inside themselves for their own way to serenity and happiness.

Sandy Young said...

I wholeheartedly agree, Robin. I have recently come up again a woman who practices this CC ( Convenient Christianity) who told me that she was glad thinking of me screaming my lungs out in Hell because my opinion on a public opinion forum differed from hers. How very Christian of her. How convenient to be able to forget that in addition to Paul, the Bible also quotes Jesus and others who say, "Love thy neighbor as thy self", "Judge not lest ye be judged."

Seems that there are things in there about fornicators, and adulterers, as well, but, Pagan Me, I may have misread (but at least I actually READ it, unlike most of the fundamentalist, finger pointing Christians who live in those Great Big Glass Houses!) those. They could be actually saying fornicatresses and adulteresses, only.

Silly me...thinking those scamps who were merely sowing their wild oats should actually have been held accountable. Boys WILL be boys, doncha know. what about the natural consequences of these boys who sowed their wild they realize that as ye sow, so shall ye reap?

Karma's a BITCH, ain't she?

KathyMom said...

We have been led to believe that this idea of the sexual "power" of the female over the male is ancient. Many books and novels put forth the idea that ancient women were to be feared and controlled lest their menstrual blood taint the weapons, for example. These are only novels, but this has led to the subjugation of women today.
Because of the many female goddeses found in archealogy, I tend to believe that women were revered for their ability to bring forth life. In ancient times, women were NOT subjugated to men.
However, along comes the bible, which is estimated to have been written about 3500 years ago and suddenly the view of women changes, like in the story of Eve. This is also about the same time as the rise of large cities, so one wonders why women's roles suddenly changed then and most importantly NEVER CHANGED BACK. Maybe because being in a city, women no longer "ran" the household. It was men who made the decisions about building walls and government.
Fortunately, many of us are evolving into a new human being who is more enlightened and aware. Some people do not understand and probably literally do not have the "hardware" to understand this evolution. They will not survive and like the Neanderthal people, will become extinct.

Anonymous said...

Robin, I SO agree with you. Years ago my brother in law and I got into a "discussion" about this subject. His house was on a hill several steps above the sidewalk. He felt women sitting on his porch (me) should tuck our skirts around our legs so men walking the sidewalk wouldn't be able to "see up our legs." I told him it was "their responsibility to keep their eyes where they belonged." What a crock this attitude is. Shades of the taliban. Love, Fran

cmarie said...

I read you discription and thought "my God sounds like heaven why haven't I heard of this place" guess now I know. Glad you had a nice vacation otherwise though and happy birthday!

BD said...

Golda Meir had a wonderful comeback to that idea that men cannot be tempted lest they fall. I just can't find it right now. With it though she put a lot of Israeli politicians in their place a long time ago.

Robin said...

I would love to read her riposte, Marley. I am going to try to find it. Sly gave me a perfect comeback that I should have used with the "banquet" idea. Do we blame the food for us being fat?

Anonymous said...

kitta here:

well, if men cannot control themselves then I guess women should be in control..LOL..

Seriously, men's struggle to control women, other men, and themselves has led to all sorts of evil.

Just being attractive, used to get a young woman accused of "witchcraft."

On second thought, maybe women should be in control..seriously.

Freelance-coders said...

In Ireland, if a young girl was too pretty she was sent to the laundries, the laundry was a place that was also used to house pregnant women. Prisons where women sometimes stayed all their lives, for the mere fact, they were pregnant or too pretty.

Catholic Churches again exploiting their young, for their needs and wants. Oh, and a tidy little sale of a
young woman's baby for a profit.

Religions are all alike they do what they need to do to control, its all about the control. I do not like them and have had a few discussions with wondrrful reverant holier than thou church goers. They are a perfect in their eyes, never faltering, but dictating their religion like it was the ONLY religion that was the right one. WE all know the sayings, opinions are like assholes we all have one.

I do think maybe those who go to church might have two, one they speak from, and one they sit on.

Miz Kizzle said...

The Bible says a lot of bizarre stuff, particularly the Old Testament. That doesn't mean we should sell our daughters into slavery, sacrifice oxen on altars or stone our neighbors to death if they plant two different crops in the same field.
I don't think many of these crazy fundies actually ever read the Bible; they just skimmed the Cliff Notes version.
Your knuckle-dragging cabin owner would not have gotten my business.