Friday, August 15, 2008

Contra Feministe

One of my newer favorite feminist feeds, Feministe, has been doing a series of numbers on traditional religious positions in an uninformed way that I, as an agnostic and former believer, find profoundly embarrassing.

Yes, Feministe folks, I agree that abortion should remain legal in the United States, the claim of the virgin birth of Jesus raises some pretty thorny questions and biblical dicta on homosexuality are ... um ... not au courant, to say the least. But that does not necessarily mean that
  • ipso facto, it is illogical and beyond comprehension that someone would be "politically opposed to safe, legal abortion and reproductive health services," as KaeLyn wrote;
  • the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth hinges on a mistranslation of Isaiah, as Sam wrote; or
  • the biblical injunctions against homosexual sex are inherently outdated, as Sam, somewhat more trenchantly than above, wrote.
Kaelyn's straw-man and ad hominem approach to abortion, a topic I hate to discuss (because all reasonable discussion has long ago become impossible), Sam's rabbinicocentric interpretation of Christian doctrine and her historical optimism have common limitations.

Central to all three is the their limited point of view.

Because she is "pro-choice" -- yet another abortion debate weasel word, but don't get me going -- is her position, Kaelyn seemingly cannot imagine that people whose religion makes abortion a very grave immorality would hold that the ideal law would ban such a thing.

Yet one need not revisit the hoariest theocracies to find explicit links between religious and political views -- John of Leiden, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Ghandi -- among folks with whom I imagine Kaelyn might find some common ground.

Similarly, Sam made a somewhat more forgivable mistake in hanging her intellectual hat regarding the virgin birth on a particular set of passages in Isaiah, which she deems "mistranslated." The birth narratives in the gospels owe as much to pagan sources as to Judaic; it was simply inconceivable to the ancient mind that a great personage would not have been born amid all manner of miraculous portents.

In her more recent and even more measured posts, Sam's even more forgivable limitation is that she does not seem to be able to see beyond her own time. Weighing whether to chuck biblical rejection of homosexuality or modernity it is clear that her dogma is the modern age. I have never been certain that being modern was always best and a solid reading of history supports that view.

In sum, my criticism is not about the opinions but rather the way they are delivered, which tend to make contrary opinion look more reasonable.

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