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Killing the feminine: Misogyny in Christianity

Killing the feminine: Misogyny in Christianity



She can show you the world we come from. There’s no green there. They killed their Mother, and they’re gonna do the same thing here.” From the movie, Avatar.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? What happened to their mother? They killed their mother and now she is a ghost.” Executive and speaker Jeffrey Armstrong.

At the heart of the civilizing mission and the White man’s burden are the prejudices coming from Christian theology.  Only Christians can be saved, all others are in the grip of Satan.

Amy Carmichel, an early 20th century missionary to India, is quoted here in “Converting Women: Gender and Protestant Christianity in Colonial South India.”

Misogyny

 

It is the characterizing of others as Satanic that lead to the unspeakable crimes of Christianity, including, by one count, the extermination of nearly one hundred million natives in the Americas. These prejudices are alive and well and at the heart of exclusive Christianity and its missionary activities worldwide.

Though liberal Western society is shown up in opposition to right wing Christianity, the civilizing mission persists in the liberal West with some of the terminology changed.  Orientalist stereotypes of Hindus turn their Satanic nature into descriptions of culture-blame. Nothing is as important as “saving their women.” I had written earlier about the disproportionate coverage of rapes in India in Western media and how films and websites use their alleged “plight” as a fund-raising tool for NGO’s and evangelical missions.

The Indian elite has been schooled into the idea of Christianity as a benign force.  The white man’s burden has become the brown coconut’s burden. So what if all the people convert? Won’t we become advanced? As per the propaganda film, Veil of Tears, won’t conversion into Christianity rescue the poor Indian women?

As it turns out, not quite.  As nationmaster.com collates in a helpful chart, the top 6 countries by rape rate are all majority Christian.

Misogynygraph

Far from saving our souls or “rescuing” Indian women, Christian conversion will have precisely the opposite effect, an increased rate of rape.  This may explain the dramatic difference between the US and Canada as well.The stridently Christian evangelical US has nearly 16 times the rape rate of its northern neighbor.  As someone who has lived and studied in the US, I have been appalled at locker room and dorm talk that looks at women merely as sex-objects, as “whores and bitches”, a phenomena that is documented in the book “Boys Will Be Boys.” This is quite different from my experience of college talk about girls among boys in India, at least 20 or so years ago when I studied there, before the latest download of American modernity.

Why does Christianity lead to increased rape? Here are some preliminary ideas.

Firstly a Christian convert is cut of from their roots. This decreases the mitigating effect of the community and of natural law or dharma. Secondly, Christianity is deeply patriarchal and misogynistic, as has been documented by American feminist writers.  Of course, with Christianity being a $200 billion+ industry, new apologetics are quickly being made to put a woman-friendly niqab on Christianity.  While Indian texts like the Manusmriti have been criticized for misogynistic passages, many of the Indian commentators are simply unaware of the deep theological basis of misogyny in Christianity. After, all entire mankind is cursed because of the sin of Eve, as influential Church theologians over the years made clear.

“In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God.” Tertullian, the “father of Latin Christianity” 

Like any good theologian, he is getting this from the Good Book, of course, in a passage that ironically, showed up in a recent Anglican Church proceedings to finally allow women bishops.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14)

In case this is considered, only a facet of pre-modern Christianity, here are modern quotes from Southern Baptists, among the most powerful evangelical Churches in the world, quite active in India to save Indian women and men.

  • A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. —Official statement of Southern Baptist Convention, summer 1998 (15.7 million members)
  • The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. —Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist leader (1930–)

These quotes and attitudes go on an on, through Christian theology. It would run into hundreds of pages. In the Catholic Church, the Pope, literally, the father is the ultimate patriarch and priests held power over nuns, leading to unimaginable abuse.  But this misogyny exists at a deeper level. As former Catholic, Jeffrey Armstrong, said in a conference,  referring to the Christian trinity “The father, the son and the holy ghost! What happened to their mother? They killed the mother and she is now a ghost.”  Armstrong was only half-joking. Christianity is the ultimate triumph of the patriarchy over nature-based traditions that revered the divine as feminine. The Catholic Church carried out the witch hunts in Europe killing hundreds and thousands of women to exterminate women healers and spiritual women who were alternate sources of spiritual nurture. The same messages of the powerful women as the evil witch and the good girl as the damsel in distress are projected in Disneyfied modernity.

The other factor for a high degree of rapes in Christian society is the widespread institutional abuse of children by the Christian priesthood. This was so widespread that, according to a New York Times report,  that it took place in every single Catholic diocese in America. Abused children often grow to be abusers themselves, creating a society of violence towards women and children. While Catholic priests have been held to account for many countries, there has almost been no prosecution in India despite a large number of Catholic priests having access to vulnerable children in schools and churches.




Even within the United States, Alaska has the highest rates of rape, 250% the national average, with a child sexual assault rate 600% of the national average.  Like in other places, the native Alaskans were Christianized “for their own good”, the same gifts that the evangelicals are bringing to India in their conversion mission.  As The Atlantic notes,  “many Native Alaskan children were shipped off to boarding schools—some as young as 6 years old—and many were beaten, sexually abused, and urged to forget their languages and cultures.”  Suits have been filed “against Catholic priests and church workers for molesting almost an entire generation of Alaska Native children.”  It is not surprising that this cycle of abuse perpetuates in Alaska as it does in other Christian societies.

Another reason offered for the high rape of rates is the remoteness of Alaskan localities and the difficulty of law enforcement.  As I pointed out in my article on dharma and law, the US has 20 times the incarceration rate (people in prison) of India, yet still has a higher homicide rate. It also has a much higher number of police per capita. It is a society governed by law. When law enforcement decreases, crime skyrockets. In book-based normative morality conscience atrophies.  People are kept in line by fear of the law.  In a society governed by dharma, such as India, we need to be more concerned about the atrophy of dharma.

The native tribes of Alaska have been Christianized and lost touch with their traditions and cultures that maintained their natural harmony.  In such a rootless condition, crime naturally rises. But it will not be difficult to find subtly racist analysis of the Alaskan problem alluding to the high percentage of native population as justification for high crime rather than the destruction of their traditions due to Christianization.  Since God and His Son are perfect, Church-driven scholarship will constantly place the blame on native cultures and “man’s sinful nature” for any problems rather than its own destructive theology.

This phenomenon is found in India as well, in places like Nagaland, which has been completely Christianized via unchecked conversions by American Baptists, now having a 90% Christian population. With the destruction of native traditions, alcoholism and drug abuse are rampant. Naturally,  Baptist theologians have the cure.  In a multi-part article published in the Eastern mirror, the Christian controlled Nagaland newspaper, the find the answer in more Christianity, by increasing the cultivation of Christian ethics. At the same time Naga people are constantly reinforced by stories of their ancestors’ barbaric headhunting behavior before the arrival of Christianity to save them.

If India were to be completely Christianized, as is the intent of the heavily funded conversion war being waged against it, there is little doubt that the rate rape would skyrocket   All through this process, native culture would continue to be blamed for this crime, the problem always being that the people were not Christian enough.  Since no one can ever be adequately Christian, this is an endlessly applicable explanation.  Colonial consciousness, internalized by the Indian English-speaking liberal already secularizes the descriptions given by missionaries of Hindus being satanic and immoral into “root causes” of culture-blame for any criminal acts.

Hinduism is the biggest danger to Christianity as the last of the major earth-bound nature traditions. While patriarchal elements certainly crept into Hindu society, in contrast to Christianity it values the divine feminine. Since this feminine is a threat for the ultimate domination of the patriarchal Church, it becomes even more necessary to prove that Indian culture is women-oppressing “despite goddess worship”. This theme is repeatedly found in Hinduism and South Asian scholarship emanating from the West, and dutifully reproduced and aped by Indian “liberals”. (Movements like Vandana Shiva’s eco-feminism being notable exceptions).  In attacking Hinduism, Indian feminists unwittingly push the patriarchal agenda of the dominance of exclusive male-God religions aiming for the final extinction of the divine feminine.

Thus the necessity of highlighting Indian rapes comes from two important and well-funded imperatives. The first is that Hinduism is “oppressive of women” and Christianity, or its dual in the White Man’s civilizing burden, Western liberalism, must rescue these women.  Secondly, Hinduism is a theological challenge and poses a great danger in attracting an increasing interest from Western women finding their own power through it, exemplified by the Yoga movement.

Hinduism in the form of the yoga movement is extremely popular among Western women. Nearly 80% of yoga practitioners in the US are women.  Many of these have taken in a deeper way to Hindu spirituality with its empowerment of the divine feminine. The book and movie “Eat, Pray, Love” further fuelled this movement in recent times, with popular actress Julia Roberts also declaring her conversion to Hinduism.  This is extremely threatening to Christianity.  People don’t get that, unlike Hinduism, Christianity is largely an institutionalized religion and a very organized force. When a threat like this is perceived, systematic institutional efforts and strategies are set into motion to counter it. I have various unconfirmed reports of journalists being specifically tasked to source rape stories from India that are them amplified in world media. This serves the dual purpose of culture-blame of Hinduism and painting India as an unsafe place for Western woman tourists inclined to undertake the “Eat, Pray, Love” journey into Hinduism. Unfortunately many deracinated Indian “liberals”, cut off from Hindu traditions are useful idiots, though some are also likely paid sepoys in this conversion war.

As Maria Wirth, a German native who grew up Christian, points out,  “…the exclusive focus by the world media on “rapes in India’ is not justified and raises suspicion of an agenda behind it. Articles appeared now, often written by Indians with Hindu names, that Indian (read Hindu) culture is to be blamed for the rapes, because it does not consider women as ‘autonomous entities’, which probably means that they can’t do what they want. The Washington Post proclaimed that sexual violence was endemic in India. The Reuters Trust Law group named India one of the worst countries in the world for women. A Harvard committee crafted strategies for ‘adolescent education’ to change the Indian mindset about gender. It was getting a bit much. Don’t westerners look at their own record – past and present – and compare it with that of India? Are they not ashamed?

Speaking of shame, while passages from the Manusmriti relating to marriage among  varnas are often quoted as examples of misogyny, it is important to remember its broadest injunction, as reminded to me by Rohini Bakshi.

3.56. The society that provides respect and dignity to women flourishes with nobility and prosperity. And a society that does not put women on such a high place has to face miseries and failures regardless of whatever noble deeds they perform otherwise.

We must not be in denial about real problems that exist in our society that impact women and men. But it is important to build on our own strong traditions of respect for women and the feminine, including have the courage to reform and change where needed.

I was in Toronto  some months after the gruesome Delhi rape. I met a Canadian film-maker who had gone to Delhi to make a documentary on sexual violence against women.  She recalled that she was amazed at the level of protest and people coming out onto the streets for the Nirbhaya rape case.  She said she wished people in the West cared as much for the rampant incidents of violence against women in their countries. Respect for women has been part of Indian traditions, and it also must be one reason we are aghast at the rising rapes, despite the rape-rate in India being among the lowest. We need to have a rational discussion of rape-prevention in India, including safety measures in a modernizing society, while being careful of sensationalism, fed and exploited by those with an agenda inimical to us.

While we need to strive for reform within India, we most also be aware of not becoming tools in those that would seek to destroy us. Christian evangelism comes from a deeply wounded culture. Every Christian carries the latent memory and karma of their own uprooting and the burden of violence inflicted on them in Christianity’s imperial expansion.  Before Europe colonized others, it was itself colonized by Christianity, its traditions destroyed and its wise strong women burnt at the stake as witches. This civilization cannot but help inflict violence on others. While we protect ourselves, we must also help them see light. This has been the role of our gurus bringing yoga and Indian spiritual wisdom to the West for decades, without carrying the agenda of religious conversion, to help heal the Christian West before it destroys itself and others.  To help restore their mother, we must first connect to our own mother traditions and restore the balance of feminine power.

~ Sankrant Sanu is an entrepreneur, author and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon. His essays in the book “Invading the Sacred” contested Western academic writing on Hinduism. He is a graduate of IIT Kanpur and the University of Texas and holds six technology patents. His latest book is “The English Medium Myth.” He blogs at sankrant.org 

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