Posted in A2 Sociology: Religion

Perspectives: Jesus was a feminist and so am I

I find myself living in an interesting tension. My Christian friends chide me for my overtly feminist views, while the atheist-feminist circles I move in despair at my commitment to what they see as a patriarchal religion.

It would be much easier to choose one or the other; Christianity or feminism, but I believe they should be – and are – utterly compatible.

Empathising with my non-religious feminist community is easy. From an initial glance Christianity does seem overtly male; its language is strongly masculine, using terms like father and son rather than mother and daughter, to describe two thirds of the Trinity.

Jesus and his men

The key players in the religion are mostly men: the patriarchs, the Jewish priesthood, Jesus, the 12 apostles and St Paul. Their stories are recorded in a sacred canon of texts, the Bible, written down by (you’ve guessed it) men.

Add to that a few voices from Church history like St Augustine, who once said that “women should not be educated in any way; they should be segregated” and it’s not exactly rocket science to grasp why many forward thinking women are initially suspicious of Christianity.

I’ll be honest, I have found the dominant male imagery of the Christian story difficult to embrace at times.

The Church has also directed its fair share of criticism toward me for being a woman who is passionate about teaching theology, and for campaigning on issues of gender equality. Suffice it to say, it has not been an easy journey.

So, why do I stay? Because I believe those masculine impressions of Christianity are not, by any means, the full story. When you take a long hard look at the life of Christ, you see a radical revolutionary.

Jesus didn’t just overturn the tables in the temple, he overturned the cultural norms of his society and sent them crashing to the ground. The way he related to women was a key part of this.

Jesus and his women

Women in the Anglican Church

Elizabeth Ferard (used by permission of Richard Mammana / Anglicanhistory.org)
  • 1862: Elizabeth Ferard (pictured) becomes the Church of England’s first deaconess of modern times. The role is considered an office of the Church rather than part of the formal ministry
  • 1944: Florence Li-Tim Oi, was ordained the first female Anglican priest in Hong Kong. She voluntarily resigned her orders at the end of WWII
  • 1989: In the US, Barbara Harris is ordained as the first female Anglican bishop
  • 1992: The General Synod vote allows women to become priests in England- eight years after the law is proposed – the first 32 are ordained in 1994
  • November 2012: The synod rejects women bishops in England after failing to secure a two-thirds majority in the House of Laity

In an era when women were uneducated, not given a legally valid voice, and treated like property, Christ refused to bow to those cultural stigmas.

He talked freely with women to the shock of those watching. He encouraged women to engage in theological study. He also chose to appear to Mary after he rose from the dead, making her the first official witness of the resurrection and the person who delivered the news to the male apostles.

Many of Jesus’s followers were female. They were not included in the 12 apostles, but the community surrounding him was far larger than that. Women were also among his key financial supporters, paying the bills for him, his team and their mission.

So, Jesus treated women with dignity, equality and respect. But how about St Paul? Initially he may seem difficult for a feminist to embrace, but a deeper look into his writings suggests this is not the case.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul highly commends Junias, thought by many scholars to have been a female apostle. Paul also penned the powerful statement in Galatians 3:28 that there is “neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus”.

Many believe that these words transcend his culture-specific concerns about uneducated women teaching in Church.

Christianity and bra-burning

Even if I can convince my feminist friends that the Christian faith embodies radical equality for women, it is still a hard sell to persuade my Christian friends to embrace the term “feminist”.

They ask: “Isn’t it a shrill, harsh movement of bra-burning and man hating?” Yes, feminism has been caricatured by the media of the 1960s and is sometimes presented as abrasive and anti-men.

But the real meaning of the term needs to be reclaimed: true feminism is simply a belief in the total equality, dignity and value of women.

Christianity and feminism are often misunderstood by one another; each side needs a PR overhaul to slough off the old stereotypes and see with new eyes. Far from being an oxymoron, the two perspectives are deeply compatible.

I look forward to the day when eyebrows will no longer be raised at that notion, but in order to achieve this the Church must continue to move forwards in living up to the high standard set by Christ himself.

Hopefully he’ll continue his work of turning over temple tables in our generation, until women have an equal voice and an equal place inside the doors of his house.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/0/20393178

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Posted in A2 Sociology: Religion

A2 Exam Essay

In two lessons time you will all sit a timed essay under exam conditions. Please prepare as much as possible. The question is:

Evaluate the functionalist views on the roles and functions of religion today (33 marks)

http://hirr.hartsem.edu/ency/functionalism.htm

https://www.boundless.com/sociology/textbooks/boundless-sociology-textbook/religion-14/the-functionalist-perspective-106/functions-of-religion-593-8141/

http://sossociology.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/functionalist-theories-of-religion/

Posted in A2 Sociology: Crime and Deviance

Michael Brown Protests: Militarisation of the US Police

There have been four nights of protests thus far in St Louis, Missouri over the police shooting of Michael Brown. There are parallels to be drawn between the unrest in the summer of 2011 which was also triggered by the police shooting of Mark Duggan.

The police response in St Lous has been heavily criticised for being militaristic and is seen by many as a general trend in American society:

http://billmoyers.com/2014/08/13/not-just-ferguson-11-eye-opening-facts-about-americas-militarized-police-forces/

Will the UK follow America’s lead? Boris Johnson has ordered water cannons for London…however, it appears that at the moment, the government is not keen to militarise UK forces too much:

http://www.politics.co.uk/reference/police-arms-and-weaponry

Moreover, the unrest surely signals a deep rooted tension between the police and many American citizens. In this case, many African Americans feel furious about the amount of times they are stopped and searched by an overwhelmingly white police force.

Furthermore, it seems that the life chances for local residents are poor. Only 35% of students in the district pass maths tests and 41% pass the English test used by the state to assess schools.

About 22% of Missouri’s residents live below the federal poverty line.

ferguson getty sniper

police officer ferguson

Missouri riot police

Posted in A2 Sociology: Crime and Deviance

The border town

I watched a really shocking news documentary on Al Jazeera International  yesterday, it charted some of the extreme violence that is plaguing parts of Mexico such as Juarez (“one of the most dangerous places on earth”). http://english.aljazeera.net/InDepth/spotlight/mexicoonthebrink/default

The documentary was not scared to pull any punches, we saw a number of fresh corpses with blood spilling from gun shot wounds. A mother of one of the deceased boys was only metres away and her words (“I have a profound pain in my heart that will never leave me”) summed up the futility of the bloodshed and really encouraged the audience to personalise the deaths to some extent. Incredibly, it is claimed that 95% of murders are not investigated in Juarez.

Only around 2% result in convictions. According to borderlandbeat.com, murders in the city increased 40 percent in February 2011 over the same month the previous year: A total of 229 people in the city were executed in just one month, up from 163 in the same time period in 2010. The murder rate in the biggest city in the UK, London (7 million) pales in comparison to Juarez (1.5 million people ), in 2010, only 127 people were killed in London. 

It is clear that this region is largely devoid of what Functionalist thinkers class as “social solidarity”, the police enjoy very little public confidence, traditional institutions such as medical clinics are closing down largely to escape the violent threats of criminal cartels who demand protection money and law abiding citizens are suffering from the high levels of corruption and  .

Durkheim’s ‘anomie’ could be applied readily to the region; clearly there is a discontinuity between cultural goals and the accepted methods available for reaching them. Perhaps because Juarez is so close to the USA, Robert Merton’s ‘American Dream’ thesis might be relevant; those who are resorting to violence are perhaps motivated by the material gains that they witness from the border, yet of course find it very hard to reach these goals, thus criminality is a very tempting option especially when the world’s largest drug market is just a stone’s throw away. Although, fom a contrasting school, a Left Realist concept, ‘relative deprivation’ can also be applied to this increase in criminality – perhaps many Mexicans living in Juarez are not motivated by outright poverty, rather they are motivated by a relative poverty to that of their neighbours…

Having personally spoken to a number of Mexicans, it appears that whilst the media perhaps does often sensationalise the violence and general criminality, the excess of crime is a reality and it is clear that many parts of the country are experiencing a massive turmoil. Some argue that a lot of the violence would decrease massively if the U.S legalised the selling of certain drugs, others argue for a more repressive police approach, whilst others argue that social welfare programmes such as the ones trialled in Columbia (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2010/0804/Colombia-offers-clues-for-solution-to-Mexico-drug-war) are the best solutions.

What is clear, is that the violence seems to be getting worse rather than abating.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/442618.stm

http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-mainmenu-26/north-america-mainmenu-36/6543-juarez-mexico-murder-rate-up-40-percent