I read a wide-ranging blog post this week that stands out as a prime example of how some people take verses from the Bible out of context, mold the words to fit their desires and then generalize to an extreme, all with the aim of promoting their own personal agenda.
The post was meant as a response to the horrific mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida on February 14th, and was on a blogging site that professes to promote Christian values. I will not share the link because I don’t want to ‘promote’ this site.
So without naming the site, and for the sake of clarity, I will refer to the blogger in question as ‘Roamer’.
Roamer’s post began by explaining there were two kinds of violence according to the Holy Scriptures—one that was ‘sanctioned’ under God’s laws and another kind that wasn’t.
Roamer then led the reader (with accompanying commentary) through passage after passage from both the Old and New Testaments in an effort to condone violent acts such a murder because, “God commanded it.”
Roamer continued by stating that in today’s world males are just doing what God intended them to do when they lash out violently, though Roamer did mention that the mass shooting in Florida was not on the ‘approved’ violence list.
Then it was on to blaming the usual suspects—feminists, liberal intellectuals, homosexuals and communists, plus Dr. Spock and Mr. Rogers—for the loss of male masculinity which the reader is led to believe represents an entire younger generation of ruined males—oh, except for the writer’s son.
Really? I keep hearing classroom teachers in the US complain about the epidemic of bullying in their schools, so I assumed there must still be enough testosterone left to go around.
A ‘real man’ accepts responsibility for mistakes, doesn’t condone violence and works to right wrongs.
The final third of Roamer’s post praises males as being naturally superior to females, despite their violent tendencies. Therefore, according to the writer, women should submit and accept the role of secondary mate and always obey the male’s wishes because that’s the way God ordained it.
Uhhh, I beg to disagree! This is not the world I experienced growing up, even though my family lived in rural North Carolina, a part of the American South that some in the country felt was the least enlightened region at the time.
Nor is it the world I’ve seen spinning around during my 15 years of living and working in various countries on four continents.
We need dialogue, not fuel thrown on the fire
Because of free speech protections, a blogger can write anything they’d like, but we all should be wise enough to recognize that doesn’t necessarily make it true. When I’m writing I admit to being opinionated on most topics, but I do try to state that what I write is just that—based on my own personal experiences and interactions with others.
My main aim in blogging is to add to the discussion and ask lots of questions, because I don’t believe any one person, group, institution or nation has the market cornered on truth. In my opinion, we need dialogue now more than ever—a shared dialogue with acceptable compromises.
Of course, I realize we all naturally have our biases, but from my point of view Roamer has a warped sense of reality. Not only did Roamer’s post fail miserably because it didn’t offer any constructive comments addressing the issue of mass shootings in America, but it instead condoned male violence as part of a ‘boys will be boys’ philosophy.
Roamer quickly diverted attention from a serious societal problem–gun violence–onto something that isn’t a problem—strong women.
Instead of declaring that women’s voices should be raised in an effort to bring the grief of Mothers into the picture, Roamer took direct aim at all the women who’ve been strong enough to work AND raise a family, especially those resilient single Moms that accepted total responsibility for child-rearing because they were abandoned by the fathers, uhh hum, the ‘stronger gender’.
I could compile a long list of dead-beat dads I’ve encountered over the years as well as an even longer list of super moms. Some of the dads on that list would also fit into the ‘violent’ category, but it isn’t clear if domestic violence is on Roamer’s approved list either.
Women are ‘strong’!
‘What planet is this writer living on,’ I wondered aloud? If they want to point to Biblical examples, then I’d suggest they read writer Paul Ellis’s post here.
Ellis does a great job of arguing that Biblical women are portrayed as being strong–both as teachers and as leaders.
How could Roamer ignore the contributions women have made to the development of civilization as we know it? And, not just as child-bearers.
Just because women haven’t always received the notoriety they deserve in many history books says a lot more about the people who recorded history than about female contributions to building societies in general.
On the other hand, since men have traditionally served in the highest positions of power (with a few notable exceptions), we can absolutely blame the sorry state of the world on them, right?
Despite my disagreement with Roamer’s interpretation of the scriptures and the statement that many instances of violence are merely expressions of true masculinity, I was mainly offended that they were presenting an unrealistic portrait of women around the world.
Do we judge strength solely by muscle mass and how much weight someone can lift, because even if that is the yardstick we’re using, there are plenty of men that would fail the test.
That’s as absurd as judging masculinity based on how violent a person’s actions are.
Growing up, I experienced a life that was greatly influenced by two exceptionally strong women, my mother and grandmother. While neither one of them was domineering over the man they had married, they were both bright, capable, strong-willed and could hold their own whether discussing politics or target shooting.
Both of these women grew up at a time, and in circumstances, when women had to be strong physically, mentally, emotionally and actively participate in all areas of life as an equal to their spouse.
This included (but was not limited to) giving their husbands advice when they felt their husbands were wrong. It was a complimentary arrangement that worked well in both cases. This complimentary, yet equal, arrangement is also what I’ve observed in nature.
Think of the pioneer women from the days of the wagon trains heading West and you can visualize my mother and grandmother.
Not only did they prove that women were capable of handling the sometimes back-breaking work in the fields, they both were innately curious and were constantly busy reading medical articles, painting, building furniture, performing science experiments (yes, really) or trying a litany of other art forms and crafts.
And, all the while successfully raising families and maintaining leadership positions in church and community organizations.
They both cared deeply about educating their children and making sure they were prepared to face what they knew was a sometimes cruel world.
Having grown up with the belief that women are just as strong and capable as men—and often more so when it comes to having common sense and strength of character—naturally I’m shocked when I read something as blatantly ridiculous as Roamer’s post praising masculinity and violence, while demeaning women.
Maybe the writer isn’t aware that it was men’s violence—the twentieth century’s two world wars—that was the catalyst that propelled many average women out of the house and into the labor force in the first place.
My mother and grandmother were two people who lived as shining examples of Christian love and generosity, always there whenever they were needed and giving 100% of themselves in the service of others. Yet, they weren’t subservient to anyone, otherwise they would never have accomplished so much and helped so many people in need during their lives.
Likewise, my father and grandfather were both exceptional men and shining examples of their faith. They were both comfortable enough with their own masculinity that they could enjoy watching their wives spread their wings and pursuing their own dreams.
Was Roamer condemning my mother and grandmother because they were naturally strong?
Would the writer have objected to my father and grandfather’s natural inclination to let their wives be the masters of their own fate, and in doing so create an atmosphere where every member of the family was encouraged to have the maximum positive impact in the community?
Strong women around the world
Women in many other countries where I’ve lived often exhibit this same strength of character. They do a larger share of the work than the men and in some cultures, like Japan, may even be in charge of the family’s finances.
Thailand: In the rural countryside of tropical Thailand, the men often languished drinking local hooch in the afternoons while the women did double duty in order to complete the day’s work in the fields. I recognized that these women were true Matriarchs who were often more highly respected than men in these rural communities.
China: Since historically harsh conditions in China have traditionally required exceptionally hard work by both genders, I saw many women in positions of power while living there. For example, women often were the caretakers of the local Buddhist temple, a very high honor reserved exclusively for men in most other predominantly Buddhist countries.
Oman: Of all the regions where I’ve lived, I was most surprised by the strength of women in Oman. Western stereotypes often paint a picture of women in the Middle East as being completely subservient to all males because of the perceived hierarchy in Muslim culture.
Based on the interactions I had with my Omani students, teaching colleagues and personal friends, women may not wield as much power as men based on Sharia law, but the reality of daily life can be quite different.
While Omani men obviously have more freedom to come and go as they please, the women are given free-reign to run the household. When children—both male and female—need advice, they usually go to their Mothers. Since she is around more, the children develop closer bonds with her which translates into power within the family.
I can personally attest to the boldness and strength of Omani women. During my years in Oman, I taught many female students who weren’t afraid to challenge a teacher in class. Timid sometimes, maybe, but my female Omani students exhibited a desire and drive to learn that was certainly not matched by my male students.
I would often note that women in these foreign teaching contexts were truly the ones who were most adept at bringing about positive change within their countries.
All I can say is thanks to God, Allah, Buddha, the Hindu gods and all other celestial beings for giving us strong women, because I would truly hate to see the state of our world without them!
So, wake up men! From Columbine to Hollywood and from the political corridors of Washington, D. C. to the dangers posed by attending school these days, we are the ones who are most often messing up.
A ‘real man’ accepts responsibility for mistakes, doesn’t condone violence and works to right wrongs. And is strong enough in character to accept rejection without lashing out in a violent way.
Or, has ‘responsibility’ been feminized now along with civility? It seems that if some have their way, violence at any cost will become the norm.
Because the effect of violence is the creation of chaos. I hope I’m not around to witness such a descent into madness.