Odd allies

One of the interesting things that is happening in today’s religious landscape are the various odd-looking alliances that take place. One I wasn’t expecting was with an atheist over Biblical exegesis.

In her interview with Francesca Stavrakopoulou who is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter, Vicky Beeching asks her, ‘Is there any way of being a feminist and following one of the Abrahamic faiths?’

The professors response is fascinating:

“The only way devotees of these religions can serve the cause for equality is by renouncing those aspects which undermine equality in all its forms. This is what some Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers almost seem to do – downplaying or distorting certain aspects; over-emphasizing or transforming others – but it demands an approach to their religious texts, traditions and practices which is so selective that the end result might as well be the formation of a spin-off sect. Ultimately, religious beliefs and practices are human, social constructions. For the religiously inclined, it would be better to rip up the old blueprints and start again.”

Unsurprisingly evangelical egalitarians are up in arms about it or at the very least vaguely troubled by how their use of scripture appears to someone who should be an ally. So for example Gillan Scott says,

“I have to say that I completely disagree with Stavrakopoulou and find her stance troublesome and lacking in understanding. I don’t see anywhere near that level of conflict in my faith…”

Well, no, if you did see that level of conflict you’d probably change your views.

Now, I’m not without my disagreements with the good professor because I don’t see my faith as a human construct but as a divine initiative and I certainly don’t think the old blueprint should be ripped up but I see what she sees in how those on the ‘other side’ of the gender debate handle scripture.

Texts are downplayed, distorted, over-emphasised and transformed so that Scripture instead of saying one thing now appears to be saying almost the opposite. Of, course the same is said about me and my views. So there’s that.

One of the dangers as Gillan realises is that allies on the issue of equality may not be allies elsewhere because there is,

“a form of identity politics where women’s rights become tied to a pro-choice, anti-marriage, secularist agenda supportive of LGBT rights and hostile towards perceived masculine privilege.”

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

So I’m with Francesca against Gillan & co on their use of scripture but I’m with Gillan & co against Francesca because we believe in God and Jesus (and the reality is, that I have far more in common with them than I do with Ms Stavrakopoulou).

The challenge as ever for those who hold a high-view of Scripture, as evangelicals on both sides claim to do, is to work out how to work and worship together. Fresh thinking is needed as to how alliances can be formed amongst those who really should be friends, after all as Gillan rightly says, “there are far bigger obstacles for the vast majority of people stopping them entering into a church than whether there are any women bishops.”

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