Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A righteous man

Over the last couple of days, I have found myself thinking back to a time many years ago when I wanted answers and decided to read the bible from beginning to end. Here was the book I had been assured I needed to accept for my salvation. The book that would show me God’s infinite love and wisdom. Having, a short time before, been knocked into a nightmare spiral through a combination of personal crisis, acid, amphetamine and the book of revelations I felt in need of salvation. So, I opened the book and read. A story of words spoken and they were good and a garden was planted. And then I read on and saw a god who was petty and vindictive – often acting like a child in a tantrum. I read on until the entry of the Israelites into Canaan and this is where I had to put the book down. Genocide upon genocide as they took the “promised land”. Brutality and deceit being rewarded and the perpetrators held up as righteous servants of the lord.

What reminded me of this was a chance sentence that came into my head as I was whiling away my time on Yahoo answers. I was feeling a bit provocative and had typed in a few questions and then typed this “What was so righteous about Lot offering his daughters to the mob?”. And then I started to get angry as I though about how the story encapsulates why I could never accept the abrahamic faiths and why I came to goddess. Lot, nephew of Abraham is a “righteous” man we are told and angels go to visit him to see if there are enough other righteous men to stay the hand of god from smiting Sodom. So, the mob sees these young “men” and demand to “know” them. Whereupon our righteous Lot produces his daughters and offers them instead. The mob turns down the offer, the angels smite them, then god smites Sodom, taking the time out to turn Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. Later, Lot gets drunk and impregnates each of his daughters in turn.

This is a righteous man. One that I, as a man, am encouraged to emulate. I do not want to. I am not righteous- I am, if not fully aware of all my faults, aware how far short I often fall from what I consider to be right. BUT, to offer young women to be raped by a mob is not something that remotely fits my idea of righteousness. It is indefensible. And, to be fair, it has troubled christian commentators too – one of my answerers treated me to a rather incomprehensible sentence from Wesley.

So, I started to think. How, in this episode did Lot prove that he was righteous? And I put into the context that I have now but lacked when I first stumbled horrified on this episode. The cities of the plain – civilisations that honoured the Goddess – were undoubtedly anathema to the new arrivals and their angry and jealous god. Yet Lot went to live there. Were the people of Sodom matrilocal? Very possibly. So, emissaries are sent to find if he has been corrupted and whether he will side with his wife against his tribe. He passes the test by a graphic demonstration of women as chattels of men and not free agents. His wife, as they are leaving for the desert, looks back at her old home, her old ways – and is killed. Lot then rapes his daughters for they are now his breeding stock. In this lies his righteousness – he has demonstrated his fitness for the new order of patriarchal dominance and his complete rejection of the wicked ways of the cities where women, if not by that time equal, were treated with respect and honour. It is a perfect parable of the new world order that Abraham has been charged with fathering.


Paul said...

An interesting analysis of how Lot is considered "righteous" in a patriarchal society. I was at a family wedding last Friday. It was a civil ceremony with no religious connotations yet the registrar asked, "who gives this woman to this man". In response a man handed her over to her husband. It is hard to express how ashamed this made me feel as a man, yet the idea of a woman being under the guardianship of a man is so deeply ingrained that those devastating word passed without comment.

Brian Charles said...

Thanks paul

i have had my own journey with shame about being a man. There is no doubt more to come - i believe there are deep wells of shame in our culture. My feeling at the moment, however, is anger.

Patriarchy is a poison that has affected all - men and women. We, who are on the "privileged" side are trapped into being half-people - permanently infantilised and playing our games, both lethal and non-lethal, of dominance and competition - which in the end boil down to unconscious sexual -if homo-social - display - strutting our stuff into oblivion.

Lisa said...

Incredibly interesting, Brian! There are plenty of good men in the world, men who are righteous in a very different sense than that in the Bible, but I absolutely understand your anger. And second it, although I'm not a man.

The Bible is such a story of power; of how the Abrahamic faith was used as a power tool to bring the old cultures down, and read in that context, I understand my own objections to the Old Testament. That God is just very human in his pettiness and vindictiveness.

It's not easy to break free from the gender bonds of society and culture and rediscover what it can mean to be a woman and man in a different sense and a Goddess centred culture. I guess that struggle may be more obvious for men, but it's just as challenging for women. But interesting and rewarding!

Thanks for the thoughtful post; it's certainly got me thinking.

Brian Charles said...

Thanks, Lisa

I know that i have met particular challenges as I have grown towards greater knowledge of Goddess. Foremost among them is the exact nature of masculinity and and femininity and what those words mean in a Goddess context. For example - Sakti is seen as the active, creative force in some Hinduism with Siva being passive - the exact opposite of traditional western thought