Recently I read a blog by a transgender woman who wrote her post as an open letter to conservative blogger Matt Walsh, making some well-reasoned arguments against some fairly narrow minded views expressed by him in his blog towards transgender people being mentally ill and against the teachings of Christ. I hit like on her post and went on my merry way. I was surprised to find that in seeing my “like” she checked out my blog and left a comment on one of the posts where I discussed religion and atheism and left a polite comment, but made sure that the first comment she left was how she wished I could know God the way she did. I checked out her blog and it made me rather sad, because it seems a lot of what she writes is the typical self-debasement so typical in evangelical communities and she basically justifies her own struggles and flaws being born a woman in a man’s body as a punishment for original sin, and that God is really loving and has done so much but she is the one at fault. She is the failure. She is imperfect. Victoria over at Victoria Neuronotes wrote about this topic recently.
Believe me, I’m not criticizing this woman, because I can’t even fathom the difficulties that someone like her must face in a world that has so little tolerance beyond the black and white world they see. I imagine given such difficult struggles trying to find something that will give you the strength to fight, the strength to make some sense out of it all is strong. What I don’t understand is how one reaches for a religion or continues to follow a religion that is the very same one that has prevented her from growing up to be free to be who she is. It is the same question that I have for many African-Americans who are Christian and don’t seem to have be bothered by the fact that this very religion was the one that was used to justify them as slaves, as being inferior, segregating them from whites, preventing them from marrying someone who was white and the history of white Christians using their religion to oppress African-Americans continue to this day.
Look, I know the “No True Scotsman” argument is coming and we all know that’s a fallacy, so let’s put that aside. We all know there are loving verses in the Bible and disturbingly evil verses is well and everybody cherry picks the one’s they want to prove they are the true Christian. I’m not making an argument against God either, because I can see oppressed groups rallying around a spiritually uplifting philosophy. But why the very one that oppressed them? Why not choose Buddhism, or Hinduism, or one of many other choices out there?
I mentioned in a comment on a blog post from Sirius Bizinus recently that it seems we should question the validity of a system of beliefs that produces people from extremely kind, compassionate, and generous to derisive, judgmental, and unfeeling as a questionable system. That perhaps goodness has it’s source elsewhere than, at the very least, the religion that has essentially made your life a living hell. For me the psychology of such things is hard for me to grasp. Is it because they want to turn something that was bad to them into something positive? Is it a way to directly challenge those who oppress them with the same tool they use to do the oppression? Like an atheist arguing with a Christian by quoting bible verses to show how their attitudes are not very Christ-like, But even so does that mean that one must actually be a member of that religion to challenge it effectively? That doesn’t seem like it should be the case, but maybe it is.
What are your thoughts?
11 thoughts on “Feeding Yourself to the Lions”
“But why the very one that oppressed them? Why not choose Buddhism, or Hinduism, or one of many other choices out there?”
As a woman, I’ve asked myself that question, too. This is a complex question. I have pondered about what I was thinking at the time I made a commitment to become a devout.
A couple of years back I watched The Help. If you have seen the movie then you know it’s about, and I quote An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
In one scene the young author (Skeeter) is interviewing one of the maids (Abiliene) at her home. Abiliene shared what had happened to her teen son, how he had been falsely accused of something and white men in the town brutally murdered him. She looks at her son’s picture hanging on the wall.
The scene focuses on just that one picture, then the next scene shows a framed picture of Jesus right next to her son’s picture. I think, for the first time, I understood why African-Americans are the most religious (Christian) here. They have suffered so much injustice, and I could see how difficult it would be to accept that this would be the one and only life — especially if this life was a life of slavery. The Christian message offered hope of a better life after this life on earth— an afterlife — heaven, where joy will abound, and there will be no more tears, no more suffering. Christianity offers that. The way the scene was set up, it suggested that Abiliene was thinking that someday she would be with her son, see him again in heaven.
Although I was a Christian, and definitely believed in god, I didn’t become devout until after my husband died, and as you know, he was only in his 20’s. First, I was traumatized because of the nature of his death, and I desperately wanted to make sense of this tragedy. I was overwhelmed with fear, and I also wanted, for myself and my daughter (an infant at the time) to see him again in heaven.
I can’t speak for the person you mentioned in your post, but I can tell you that from the time I was old enough to be indoctrinated by Christianity, it was instilled in me that Eastern religions were of the devil. That included Buddhism and Hinduism. Liberal or Progressive Christian denominations are far more inclusive. Also,
“Barna Research Ltd. is the most active religious polling organization in the United States. They conduct telephone polls about a variety of topics — mainly involving Christianity.
George Barna, president of Barna Research commented: “While many Americans are not practicing Christians, they retain some identity with the Christian faith and remain protective of it. They are suspicious of other faith groups because they are unknown but different—and we are generally uncomfortable with those who are not just like us…”
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*a devout Christian.
Thank you for that perspective Victoria. I guess it makes some sense and I do understand why one would need hope and if other religions are demonized I guess you are left with only one option. But when it’s those good Christians making you a slave or causing you to suffer it still seems like it would be a difficult choice to make. I guess it’s just from the outside looking in, but it seems I would be worried by adopting that faith I might become every bit as hateful as those that oppress me. But perhaps they too don’t see religion tied to the hate, they simply see those people as a product of their culture and not their religion.
I checked out the blog of the person you mentioned in your OP who is transgender to look for some clues as to why she’s a Christian and found this post, “Why I am a Christian and more.” Here’s an excerpt:
Are you seeing a common thread here?
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Indeed, and yeah I noticed this too that there was just a real need for escapism. I was very much struck about how much suffering she must have gone through and was desperate to cling on to something that allowed her to escape that. I guess reincarnation doesn’t compare to heaven that’s for sure. It just made me really sad to read her words and how much pain there must have been and perhaps still is inside her.
So, what you are asking is, considering that Christianity is so oppressive, judgmental, and derisive how could anyone who is already marginalized seek refuge there?
Perhaps your underlying assumptions are incorrect and perhaps people do find refuge.
Well I used Christianity as an example but there are likely examples from any particular religion because beliefs can be used to repress in all religions. My question is more why one would adopt the particular belief system that has been used to oppress them. And why a belief system that can produce a range of characters from kind to unkind (nice cherry picking of my words) can be seen as a system that ensures goodness , kindness, and safety.
There’s a young man who did an informative video series on how he became a devout Christian, what he experienced during that journey, and what he discovered about the nature of the belief system.
Also, why do you think your mother became a Christian? She apparently just identified with the positive aspects of Christianity. If one really studies the Bible, and dare I say, most Christians do not, then one will either experience cognitive dissonance, or they will start questioning why they are a part of a system that requires you to devalue yourself in order to be loved by said deity. This is not unconditional love, though many think Christianity is about unconditional love.
I also think that when you live in a Christian culture, you become desensitized to the core message because, as the research shows, shame is epidemic in our culture.
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Notwithstanding that I have found Christianity to produce freedom and not oppression, I’m not surprised that people would run to the very group that oppresses them. Why do immigrants vote conservatively, why do women stay in abusive relationships, why do people buy bottled water? Clearly they are getting something out of the arrangement even if it does not serve their best interests.
I think to say that anyone claims a particular religion or belief system ensures goodness, kindness, and safety is disingenuous. It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone would actually believe that. So I will rephrase your question as, given events such as the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition (no one expected that) and groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, how could anyone think that Christianity is a good thing? You can replace the specifics according to the religion/belief system of your choice. The obvious answer is that people think that fundamentally what they believe is good and true, but that it has been misappropriated at times by others.
Also, a lot of people aren’t particularly rational.
I’m not making an argument against God either, because I can see oppressed groups rallying around a spiritually uplifting philosophy. But why the very one that oppressed them?
If you believe that there is only one God and that God is Yahweh then you may not feel that you are being oppressed by Christianity. Oppression, if one believes in a literal translation of scripture, comes from Satan, not God.
I, for one, didn’t feel oppressed. Don’t get me wrong, I was. I just didn’t realize that at the time. But if you believe, as I did, that the Bible is God’s Holy Word and your instruction manual and rule book for life, then you just accept that God has particular roles for particular people and/or groups of people and that the best way to navigate through life is to try your best to follow those rules. You believe that any oppression you feel is a result of the Fall Of Man, original sin. That your lot in life has basically been determined by that.
Now, there are others who believe who don’t believe in a literal interpretation of scripture, attribute much, if not all, of it to men – not divine inspiration – who carve out all those nasty bits and write it off to man not understanding God’s revelation or just writing things down as they were, a history of sorts, not necessarily meant as a prescription for living.
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Thank you Ruth for this response. I see what you mean. I think with your explanation and what Victoria said it makes more sense. Given that many evangelical Christians would reject her outright doesn’t of course mean that she thinks those are good Christians and that it could be the devil tricking such people. And then couple that with the promise of everlasting life to overcome her suffering it does make more sense.