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Fighting Fire With Water: The Christian Role in the War on Women

Sunday, 06 May 2012 14:36 By Nynia Chance, RH Reality Check | Op-Ed

Birth should never be about control, but there are those who are working very hard to make it so.  There are those who are doing their level best to usurp control over women's legal and moral rights to their own lives, under the pretense of protecting hypothetical lives that could come into being.  And they do so under the idea that it is their divinely-appointed place to ensure that each woman is put into hers, regardless of her own conscience and beliefs.  

That is, as Christians, they feel that Christ has commanded them to turn even birth control into a fight for Controlling Birth.  To those of us who feel a woman's right to her own life is a simple matter of fairness and decency, that can be very frustrating.  It can be especially frustrating to those of us who are Christians, and know a Christ who is so very forgiving and generous and kind to women.  We often want to ask them, “When the crowd surrounded Mary Magdalene to put her to death for prostitution, how many stones would you have thrown?”

But it's pretty hard for Christians to see themselves on the wrong side of Christ, especially as they take sides in history's latest Holy Crusade.  This is made worse by Fearmongers who will merely use the Bible as a tool for their own ends, seizing women's sexual health and reproduction as scare-tactic cattle prods to herd their followers to the ballot boxes.  They whip congregations up into a frenzy of fear and disgust over images of wanton women destroying civilization, then send them forth to do battle against these supposed enemies of Christ... coincidentally keeping the Fearmongers in power in the process.

Worse, some Fearmongers even believe their malicious twisting of Biblical passages, clinging to interpretations they feel can support the ancient patriarchal edifice that is crumbling around them.  Rather than let their privileges go gently into that good night, they relentlessly preach how the loss of those privileges is a threat to faith itself, and must be protected by any means necessary.  This isn't new; since the beginning of the religion, most faithful are taught to receive instruction in interpreting their religion, rather than engaging in critical investigation of its sources to form their own conclusions.  That's why history is filled with political and religious wars where each side is killing the other while praying for help from the same gods.

And that's how so many loving, humble, community-oriented Christians can feel morally compelled to enslave their mothers, sisters, daughters, and even themselves to their reproductive organs.  Because they have been led to believe that this is what the Bible commands, they simply don't feel they have any choice but to take away the choices of others.  They feel this so deeply in their heart-of-hearts, that the more opposition they face, the more their resolve is strengthened and honed to a spearpoint.

That's why the Controlling Birth Crusade has suddenly burst forth as the latest, hottest battle-front in the Culture Wars.  Though this has come as a shocking surprise to those of us who had taken it for granted that women were secure in our rights to our own lives, it really shouldn't have.  The way the Fearmongers have been stoking up the Culture Wars for decades, this was just the logical next step.  That is, if you think logically, which is really what keeps us from fighting back effectively.

Because remember, the fight over freedoms isn't logical.  We like to make our appeals on the flawlessness of facts and the foundations of fairness, but these have nothing on the firmness of faith.  Recent science is showing that even the most reasoned among us are led by how our emotional senses respond to the reasoning we work with.  So it's time we embrace our own relationships to feeling and faith, and use them to connect with those on the other side.

We've been saying for a while now that people respond more to ideals than ideas, and that narratives and heart-felt stories are the way to shape the understanding of those around us.  We're starting to get kinda good at that, but we're going to have to get better, faster.  We need to find more and better ways to get our stories out so those around us can feel what we're facing.  As they connect in their hearts with the in-our-lives ways we are impacted by the actions they take for their faith, they will gain a better understanding of what they're really fighting for, and how to help rather than harm those around them.

We also need to be comfortable talking about faith.  Those of us fighting for women's rights tend to view faith as a very private and personal matter, and don't wish to judge or challenge the faith of others.  We need to turn that around, and strive to develop the skill of gently challenging each others' faith, and take a humble but firm stand on our own religious beliefs.  This idea can make us uncomfortable, but we need to commit to learning how to do this wisely and well.  If we are willing to give up our lives in defense of what we believe, we need to be willing to give up a bit of comfort for it, too.

That isn't to say we need to start doing the same thing we oppose, and claim that we alone have the true answers to spiritual questions.  We know better than that.  But we also know that there are multiple ways of interpreting religious matters, and that ours are at least as valid as any other.  But these interpretations obviously aren't speaking for themselves; they need us to speak up for them.  And as we do so, we'll find that there are some hearts on the other side who are ready to feel our sincerity in what we have to say, and begin questioning their own answers.  As they do so, they just might be ready to lay down their arms from the War on Women, or even take them up again on the side of women's freedoms.

And that's why I'm starting my own defensive push against the War on Women.  I've written a novel exploring a young Christian's discovery of how this Crusade harms women and families, and how this causes her faith to grow in new and compassionate ways.  In the process of writing When Atlas Shirked, I learned how deeply I feel that the answer to the War on Women isn't to fight back against our perceived "enemy" with the same condescension, derision and dogma we feel assaulted by.  We can't win by returning anger with anger, and fighting fire with fire.

Instead, we must fight fire with water, returning their anger with patience and love.  We must struggle to develop new ways to show them how we're ultimately on the same team.  We want the same things: a peaceful world where families can grow up happy and healthy and complete, cared for by each other and their community.  We need to show them how their actions are preventing these values from bearing good fruit.  We need to find better ways of working together to make our shared goals real.

So now, I'm starting up a blog to address the inclusiveness and generosity I find inherent in Christian faith, and the Bible.  In a series of (much shorter) bulletins, I'll be picking up some of the most common points used to stoke up the War on Women, and show how this War isn't the only way of understanding the doctrine.  I know that just one laywoman's views on the Bible and such probably isn't going to convince a legion of anti-freedom Prayer Warriors to turn away from the Controlling Birth Crusade.

But if my work helps even one of us to stop and take a closer look at our role in the lives and faith of those around us, then I'll feel my efforts have been well-rewarded.  If you have your own story or point of faith that you would like to share, please let me know.  After all, if we each can get just a little better at connecting more with one another, we'll find we can't help but create a better world.

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
This article is republished from RH Reality Check, a progressive online publication covering global reproductive and sexual health news and information.

Nynia Chance

Nynia Chance is the author of When Atlas Shirked, the narrative of an alternate America illustrating the moral and existential crises facing their world, as well as one Christian woman's community-driven solutions to win Liberty and Justice for All.


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Fighting Fire With Water: The Christian Role in the War on Women

Sunday, 06 May 2012 14:36 By Nynia Chance, RH Reality Check | Op-Ed

Birth should never be about control, but there are those who are working very hard to make it so.  There are those who are doing their level best to usurp control over women's legal and moral rights to their own lives, under the pretense of protecting hypothetical lives that could come into being.  And they do so under the idea that it is their divinely-appointed place to ensure that each woman is put into hers, regardless of her own conscience and beliefs.  

That is, as Christians, they feel that Christ has commanded them to turn even birth control into a fight for Controlling Birth.  To those of us who feel a woman's right to her own life is a simple matter of fairness and decency, that can be very frustrating.  It can be especially frustrating to those of us who are Christians, and know a Christ who is so very forgiving and generous and kind to women.  We often want to ask them, “When the crowd surrounded Mary Magdalene to put her to death for prostitution, how many stones would you have thrown?”

But it's pretty hard for Christians to see themselves on the wrong side of Christ, especially as they take sides in history's latest Holy Crusade.  This is made worse by Fearmongers who will merely use the Bible as a tool for their own ends, seizing women's sexual health and reproduction as scare-tactic cattle prods to herd their followers to the ballot boxes.  They whip congregations up into a frenzy of fear and disgust over images of wanton women destroying civilization, then send them forth to do battle against these supposed enemies of Christ... coincidentally keeping the Fearmongers in power in the process.

Worse, some Fearmongers even believe their malicious twisting of Biblical passages, clinging to interpretations they feel can support the ancient patriarchal edifice that is crumbling around them.  Rather than let their privileges go gently into that good night, they relentlessly preach how the loss of those privileges is a threat to faith itself, and must be protected by any means necessary.  This isn't new; since the beginning of the religion, most faithful are taught to receive instruction in interpreting their religion, rather than engaging in critical investigation of its sources to form their own conclusions.  That's why history is filled with political and religious wars where each side is killing the other while praying for help from the same gods.

And that's how so many loving, humble, community-oriented Christians can feel morally compelled to enslave their mothers, sisters, daughters, and even themselves to their reproductive organs.  Because they have been led to believe that this is what the Bible commands, they simply don't feel they have any choice but to take away the choices of others.  They feel this so deeply in their heart-of-hearts, that the more opposition they face, the more their resolve is strengthened and honed to a spearpoint.

That's why the Controlling Birth Crusade has suddenly burst forth as the latest, hottest battle-front in the Culture Wars.  Though this has come as a shocking surprise to those of us who had taken it for granted that women were secure in our rights to our own lives, it really shouldn't have.  The way the Fearmongers have been stoking up the Culture Wars for decades, this was just the logical next step.  That is, if you think logically, which is really what keeps us from fighting back effectively.

Because remember, the fight over freedoms isn't logical.  We like to make our appeals on the flawlessness of facts and the foundations of fairness, but these have nothing on the firmness of faith.  Recent science is showing that even the most reasoned among us are led by how our emotional senses respond to the reasoning we work with.  So it's time we embrace our own relationships to feeling and faith, and use them to connect with those on the other side.

We've been saying for a while now that people respond more to ideals than ideas, and that narratives and heart-felt stories are the way to shape the understanding of those around us.  We're starting to get kinda good at that, but we're going to have to get better, faster.  We need to find more and better ways to get our stories out so those around us can feel what we're facing.  As they connect in their hearts with the in-our-lives ways we are impacted by the actions they take for their faith, they will gain a better understanding of what they're really fighting for, and how to help rather than harm those around them.

We also need to be comfortable talking about faith.  Those of us fighting for women's rights tend to view faith as a very private and personal matter, and don't wish to judge or challenge the faith of others.  We need to turn that around, and strive to develop the skill of gently challenging each others' faith, and take a humble but firm stand on our own religious beliefs.  This idea can make us uncomfortable, but we need to commit to learning how to do this wisely and well.  If we are willing to give up our lives in defense of what we believe, we need to be willing to give up a bit of comfort for it, too.

That isn't to say we need to start doing the same thing we oppose, and claim that we alone have the true answers to spiritual questions.  We know better than that.  But we also know that there are multiple ways of interpreting religious matters, and that ours are at least as valid as any other.  But these interpretations obviously aren't speaking for themselves; they need us to speak up for them.  And as we do so, we'll find that there are some hearts on the other side who are ready to feel our sincerity in what we have to say, and begin questioning their own answers.  As they do so, they just might be ready to lay down their arms from the War on Women, or even take them up again on the side of women's freedoms.

And that's why I'm starting my own defensive push against the War on Women.  I've written a novel exploring a young Christian's discovery of how this Crusade harms women and families, and how this causes her faith to grow in new and compassionate ways.  In the process of writing When Atlas Shirked, I learned how deeply I feel that the answer to the War on Women isn't to fight back against our perceived "enemy" with the same condescension, derision and dogma we feel assaulted by.  We can't win by returning anger with anger, and fighting fire with fire.

Instead, we must fight fire with water, returning their anger with patience and love.  We must struggle to develop new ways to show them how we're ultimately on the same team.  We want the same things: a peaceful world where families can grow up happy and healthy and complete, cared for by each other and their community.  We need to show them how their actions are preventing these values from bearing good fruit.  We need to find better ways of working together to make our shared goals real.

So now, I'm starting up a blog to address the inclusiveness and generosity I find inherent in Christian faith, and the Bible.  In a series of (much shorter) bulletins, I'll be picking up some of the most common points used to stoke up the War on Women, and show how this War isn't the only way of understanding the doctrine.  I know that just one laywoman's views on the Bible and such probably isn't going to convince a legion of anti-freedom Prayer Warriors to turn away from the Controlling Birth Crusade.

But if my work helps even one of us to stop and take a closer look at our role in the lives and faith of those around us, then I'll feel my efforts have been well-rewarded.  If you have your own story or point of faith that you would like to share, please let me know.  After all, if we each can get just a little better at connecting more with one another, we'll find we can't help but create a better world.

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
This article is republished from RH Reality Check, a progressive online publication covering global reproductive and sexual health news and information.

Nynia Chance

Nynia Chance is the author of When Atlas Shirked, the narrative of an alternate America illustrating the moral and existential crises facing their world, as well as one Christian woman's community-driven solutions to win Liberty and Justice for All.


Hide Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus