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The Book of Ruth

January 25, 2017

 

 Painting by Gaza, Palestine based artist Irina Yurievna Rumyansteva-Naji

 

 

 

 

She answered: Be not against me, to desire that I should leave thee and depart: for whithersoever thou shalt go, I will go: and where thou shalt dwell, I also will dwell. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.

(The Book of Ruth 1:16)

 

 

 

My faith is profound.  It is also intensely personal.  I am an omnist.  I have read [parts] and taken wisdom and comfort from the Old Testament.  The New Testament.  An Introduction to the Mishna.  And the Talmud.  The Ways of the Jewish Mystics.  The Qur’an.  And for a period of time delved into Jewish Philosophy. 

 

I fell in love with the collective wisdom of the Native American Indians.  A People who were criminalised for practicing their spirituality.  That they still stand as the Guardians of the Earth despite colonisation screams to their fortitude, flexibility and authenticity. 

 

 

 

Knowledge was inherent in all things.  The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of the earth.

(Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux)

 

 

While the congregation of the Roman Catholic Church and its leaders were busy judging me, ostracizing me and, let’s be honest, being downright cruel and malicious, the Jewish Community gave me spiritual shelter when I needed it the most.  I am emotionally invested in Israel-Palestine.  It holds much of me.

 

Listening to criticism of the RCC was easy.  I needed validation.  I felt better knowing I wasn’t the only one.  After a while I realised nothing really changed and I got bored by the same recital playing in the echo chamber. 

 

Listening to criticism of Israel-Palestine was hard.  It felt like a personal attack.  An attack on Judaism.  An attack on the Qua’ran.  I took the knife out of my heart and walked far enough away so that I didn’t have to hear it anymore.

 

Years later someone posted a poem on Facebook.  And I heard.  And it was difficult.  To separate the emotional attachment of belonging from what is right in the face of human suffering and injustice.  We really do believe only that which we can live with.

 

As the realisation dripped down on me of how our way of thinking is manipulated, twisted and framed for the purpose of compliance.  The purpose of governance and power – I was left with a deep anger and chastising myself for my foolishness.

 

We are left then to our own devices to discover the difference between insult, anger and challenge.  Some never differentiate them.  Simply because they have no model to learn from.  Or have been so beaten down they no longer care.

 

Even now the illusions presented anger me.

 

The KKK.  Ku Klux Klan.  White Supremacists.  People who are of the belief that People of Colour, Jewish decent and Gypsies should be eradicated.  White people who pray to a White, Blond, Blue Eyed Jesus.

 

A Jesus that was taken to the continent of Africa and other places that were deemed in need of a White Saviour.  And the people in those places were told that they must strive to be like the White Saviours that were preaching to them, to become worthy.

 

Racism became a prayer and a business.  It has become so normalised we seem not to notice it anymore.

 

But. Jesus was in fact an Aramaic Jew.  Dark skin.  More than likely brown or green eyes.  Jewish.  To escape his persecutors he travelled to Egypt not Europe.

 

Political representatives did not struggle with the concept of same-sex marriage, as they so often propound.  They are invested in maintaining their privilege. 

 

When Prop 8 (legalising same-sex marriage) was first introduced in 2008, The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints raised $22 million to fight it through its members in Public Office.

 

The Southern Baptist Church, which Jimmy Carter was a member of but later disassociated himself from, forbade women being in decision making positions.

 

 

I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; she is to remain quiet.

(1 Timothy 2:12)

 

But.

 

We carry on with our lives.  Its struggles.  Searching for ourselves and our place in the community.  The world.  Silently suffering the abuse, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, racism and injustice done to us by Institutions of Religion, Government and Business.  In the silence, we take years to connect the dots.  We still aren’t doing it.

 

We speak of love and kindness changing the world.  It is easier.  It takes less energy.  It requires little commitment or engagement.  Or thinking or reflection.  The divides in society become bigger.

 

Then.

 

Someone falls through loudly.  The anger is channelled through a person too small to take the burden.  We get angry.  We insult.  We blame.  We return to our struggles silently.  Until the next time we hear a thud in public spaces.

 

We pray to private Gods.  We convince ourselves we are good people.  We pray that others will follow so that we are not alone.

 

We do not defend when others are attacked with the lie,

 

“I don’t want to be seen insulting another’s beliefs”

 

We grow older.  We need targets to blame.  To take the burden of our bad choices.  We select those that do not look like us.  Those who will not or cannot fight back.  Those who do not look like our oppressors and rebrand them as such.

 

We feel relief only briefly.  We think we have become powerful without having to think, inform or reflect on ourselves.

 

We deny the truth that Church and State are not in fact separate.  We only need to look to the Irish male who sits in a leadership role in Government and his recent visit to the Vatican.   Or the schools who religious beliefs dictate who learns and who learns what, in them.

 

We do not ask how much money the Iona Institute, a fundamentalist organisation is receiving from the State?  The Establishment make announcements that sporting bodies will lose funding for not meeting gender quotas.  Yet, we are not asking why charities, including religious ones are receiving tax benefits while supporting misogyny, racism and sexism.

 

We do not want to feel inadequate so we stay away from those who think.   Who speak with Arrows.

 

And while we were distracted, the powers that be grew strong.  Those men who sit in Churches, Mosques and Synagogues, Governments, Knesset and Houses of Representatives make no attempt to guide us.  Only direct us towards complicity.  And punish us for resisting.

 

Morals, Ethics and Values have been embedded in religious thought.  Governments and Corporations have bought shares in this thinking.  And they market them and sell them as commodities and brands.  They have joined forces, covertly, unaccountably.  The corruption appearing almost invincible.

 

The malignancy has grown into such a tumour we find ourselves overwhelmed by which means and where to begin cutting it away.

 

So we take the parts under the spotlight.

 

God’s word in controlling women’s reproductive rights.  We are told it is for our own good.  We are being guided by their love and kindness.  Their ability to reason.  Aristotle and Nietzsche told them only men could.

 

They are careful not to speak of the female prophets.

 

In the Jewish tradition when a pregnancy is made public, you say b’sha’ah tova. “may it happen in a good hour, in the right time”

 

In the Book of Numbers there are five women named.  Malah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah.  Tirzah, the youngest is referred to again in the Song of Songs.  Tirzah, is the one referred to as having an abortion.

 

 

The midwife gave me a small vessel, and we returned to our tent.  I followed Shifra’s direction and drank the strange smelling potion.  My sisters held me as the liquid entered my body, and they cared for me and sang to me as the hours passed and my body expelled the unripe seed.  On the second day, I joined my sisters at the evening meal…

 

When the moon was round again, I bled with my sisters.

 

 

When I read this story, inevitably I think of the women burnt at the stake.  The witch hunt that eradicated herbalists and midwives throughout Europe and America.  The Vatican declaring only men could practice medicine.  I think of the Vatican’s need to separate from its Jewish ancestry.  I remember Moses declaring that women could inherit in the absence of a male heir.  Doing so because he was lobbied by the five sisters named in the Book of Numbers.

 

These are some of the reasons I hold Chelsea Fields in high regard.  An activist and bio-cultural anthropologist, who challenges religious structure by stating,

 

If a business in the Western World stood and publicly [publicly being the operative word] said that,

 

  • No female could be on a leadership board

  • No woman could have decision making authority

 

There would be outrage and sanctions.  Why then do we so passively accept it from religions?

 

We being women and men.

 

Independent Fundamental Baptists direct that the King James Bible is the only true word of God.

 

  • They hold that black people have the mark of Cain and therefore should not be in power.

  • Homosexuals and transsexuals are evil perverts (they are the ones who led the charge banning transgendered women in ladies toilet facilities)

  • For a woman to be pleasing to God she must always and in all things remain perfectly submissive, first to her father and then to her husband. The primary function of a woman is to have children.

 

If a woman belonging to the IFB congregation is raped and then reports it, she is excommunicated for being unclean and un-Godly.

 

After Trump was elected , The Duggars, of 19 Kids and Counting fame, who are also Independent Fundamental Baptists posted this on their Facebook page,

 

Evangelicals played a huge role in Donald Trump becoming our new President this week. We all know that we need to see our country turn back to God. As a new president takes office, we need to take advantage of this opportunity to teach our kids about God’s grace on our nation

 

It seems everyone was distracted.  With ISIS, Muslims and Immigrants.

 

It is a dangerous naivety to believe this movement is not global.

 

If our way of being is to be massacred, let it be on the Battle Field and not on Our Knees.

 

With a new prayer….

 

It's time for white feminism to divest from white power. Time to build a more resilient solidarity that gives no one up

(Malkia C. Cyril, Director, Center For Media Justice)

 

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