How to talk about Judas

This is a guest post by honeyandlocusts. honeyandlocusts is a cis, white, queer, femme, young Episcopal priest whose work centers around bodies and sex and gender and the church, life with mental illness, rural identities, quality theological education, religion as an important instigator/sustainer of radical politics, religion as a simultaneous site of oppression and liberation, the pestilential nightmare that is fundamentalist USian Christianity and lots more. She blogs very, very sporadically with her heart community at specialcommunion.wordpress.com

So, Lady Gaga made a video called Judas that’s sort of about Jesus and Judas. Here it is:

Lyrics here.

It’s pretty classic Gaga, if we can talk about “classic” Gaga already: visually lush, intricately choreographed, fantastically costumed. Also, it’s a total fucking mess.

And a boring mess, at that, at least from a theological perspective. In this video, she’s manipulating serious and beautiful religious imagery to serve her own need for attention, her own drama, instead of tapping into the tremendous well of shock and life that is already present in the Jesus, Mary and Judas traditions.

I mean, first of all, one probably shouldn’t try to extract a coherent theology from the experience of having a difficult breakup with someone who apparently really liked to listen to Judas Priest.

Second of all, this kind of religious-cultural mashup is generally unhelpful to the many, many people who experience and practice liberation through religious traditions, including through Roman Catholicism. Lady Gaga trifling with being Mary of Magdala, torn between Jesus and Judas, only reinforces conservative theologies about Jesus and women.

See, the real Mary of Magdala was a phenomenal character in the story of the Jesus movement. She even had her own Gospel! Her own Gospel that actually describes and addresses the crisis of women in leadership in the Jesus movement! (Karen King is far and away the best source for information about this Gospel: check out the intro to her book here). Mary of Magdala was described in early Jesus communities as the apostle to the apostles and it is incontrovertible within the tradition that she and Jesus were especially close. To have such a vivid Magdalene tradition survive the efforts by misogynist patriarchs to erase her place in the Jesus movement only proves that her power was undeniable.

Because she freaked so many people out (though obvs not JC himself), the early church immediately started trying to figure out ways to tone down and phase out her memory. Through a ridiculous bit of biblically ungrounded sleight-of-hand, they tried to eliminate her priority by calling her a prostitute, claiming that the demons Jesus cast out of her were, of course, sexual in nature (we’ve never heard that before, right ladies?). There is no biblical evidence for this. It is pretty unlikely that she did sex work. (However! This doesn’t mean at all that Jesus was hostile to sex work, or that a negative valence is given to sex workers in the tradition. Within the first chapter of the first book of Christian Scripture/“New Testament”, we learn that Jesus is descended from at least two women – Tamar and Rahab – who did sex work. Maybe three, depending on how you read the book of Ruth. So it is wrong to try to get rid of Mary of Magdala in this misogynist/sexphobic way but also it is internally inconsistent with the tradition as it is being established.)

So why does this matter? It matters because it matters to get people’s stories right. It matters to respect culture, and religion, and not treat those things as your personal playthings. In justice communities, we hold an intention to not speak on behalf of communities of which we are not members. We place a high value on prioritizing voices within and from communities rather than imposing our own prejudices and stereotypes upon them. Many of us fail to keep ourselves from inscribing meanings on top of bodies and lives that aren’t our own, but we maintain that ideal and we hold each other accountable when we fail. The kind of co-opting that Lady Gaga is doing encourages people outside Christian practice to feel like access to deep, complex symbolic systems is up for grabs/community property. This soft imperialism only alienates religious practitioners and erases that productive, vibrant space where we can talk about the profound layering of people’s real whole lives.

It matters because Lady Gaga is actually siding with the patriarchs on this one, portraying Mary as a pretty corrupt person caught between two loves, one “good” and one “bad.” Don’t even get me started on the character of Judas and the ways the tradition solidified around him to make him the lone betrayer rather than focusing on, oh, you know the Roman Empire that was occupying Jesus’s land at the time, the empire that executed political rebels (crucifixion, as a labor-intensive, humiliating, and public execution method, was reserved by the Romans as a punishment for political insurgency).

It matters because Lady Gaga cannot be trusted to be acting in good faith (pun totally intended, and reading Flavia Dzodan’s excellent comments on this post are really helpful here). We’ve been through “pop stars should not eat,” the transphobia of the Telephone video, the WTF of the “Orient/Chola” lyrics of Born This Way, and the “disability chic” of Paparazzi. This doesn’t even touch the ways she visually draws on Latin@ and chol@ culture within the Judas video itself. Grossness.

It matters because good religious art is extremely valuable and healing. Andre Serrano’s Piss Christ was amazing because Serrano cared about the tradition he was engaging. Many years ago I heard him say that he that wanted people to experience viscerally the reality that Jesus was a person, who shit (shat? shitted?) and ate and peed and sweated. It’s incredibly orthodox, actually. Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary was profound and gorgeous in a similar way. Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Sweet Thing, the Mother of Jesus, is awesome and re-radicalizes Jesus’s mother in a necessary way. Note to Gaga: it can be done.

To her credit, she didn’t fail in all possible ways. Rick Gonzales’s Jesus is steaming hot (important when we’re tempted to sanitize Jesus!). A POC Jesus paired with a white Judas, given the history of artistic portrayals of Judas (particularly in Last Supper paintings) as “semitic”/dark/”ugly” vs. a pale and pretty Jesus, is a really compelling statement. Flipping the script on white, powerful, dude, USian Jesus imagery to make Jesus a gorgeous member of an oppressed and marginalized class is absolutely in line with the Christian story and the real power dynamics of Jesus’s political situation. But the confused lyrics, the fucked up dualistic theology, the appropriation of a particular cultural expression of Roman Catholicism, and the reification of Mary of Magdala as a troubled temptress figure only hurt the cause.

It matters because religious literacy matters. I found reading various online commentaries on the Judas video pretty off-putting, because there was a trend of Christians getting upset about the video (God, Christian touchiness is boundless) or people who aren’t Christians misrepresenting the traditions and the stories that are relevant to the tradition (Lesley Kinzel’s piece was the sole exception to this trend, with several points of excellence and only minor missteps, like stating that the Christ story “means little” without the crucifixion – actually in the Gospel according to Mary, there is no crucifixion and they seem to be making meaning just fine.).

Finally, it matters because the conversation around Christianities, appropriation, and colonization is super fraught, and we need to be able to have it. On the one hand, the moneyed minority position of some powerful douchey USian Christians is in fact just that: a moneyed minority position that ends up oppressing lots of people, including millions of other Christians like myself. Some powerful Christians force corrupt theologies and annihilating practices on other people, and that force has long-reaching consequences, including death, torture, hatred, and starvation. Some strains of Christianity are the “default/normal/natural” religion in many places, including the U.S., and that is viciously erasing and disastrous for our common life.

On the other hand, this video changes none of that. Lady Gaga is not challenging Pat Robertson’s Christianity or Jerry Falwell’s Christianity or Rick Santorum’s Christianity. Lady Gaga is amusing herself with a Latin@ Catholic aesthetic, because she’s a privileged lady and she can, and that’s pretty fucked up. And in point of fact, she’s using a cheap Christian stereotype as a substitute for what is already a profound and radical space within Christianity. The Judas video is symptomatic of a kind of religious dismissiveness that serves no one. We can choose to rediscover the wealth of hope and action at the roots of the Christian tradition, the wailing cries of an occupied people rebelling against empire, and the creation of a faithful community predicated on love and solidarity and bravery and, yes, tenderness. We can choose to honor the wildness of St. Mary of Magdala. We can do better. Let’s.

477 comments for “How to talk about Judas

  1. Anna
    June 1, 2011 at 8:47 am

    what a refreshing read! loved it!

  2. June 1, 2011 at 9:15 am

    As Anna said, this is a refreshing read, but I see so much of my own Catholic upbringing in this video that it’s difficult for me to write Gaga off. She went to Catholic school, as did I, and for me, this video is testament to the fucked-up-ness of the brand of Catholicism we were fed. I’m inclined to view the video, not as biblically accurate, but as a portrayal of a young woman struggling with her faith and expressing that struggle through art. I think Gaga is conflicted in the same way I am — wanting to reconcile her Catholic upbringing with the inconsistencies of its dogma and the reality of the world.

    I dig the video, but I think my frame of reference is entirely different.

  3. June 1, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I was very confused by Gaga’s use of Virgin Mary imagery when her role in the relationship is more that of Mary of Magdala. I’m not sure if that was intentional on her part or if she genuinely doesn’t know those are two different women.

  4. AnonForThis
    June 1, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I find it very difficult to take seriously complaints by Christians that a secular pop star “co-opted” their tradition when their tradition is itself built upon appropriations. The story of Jesus is suspiciously similar to several other competing (and later persecuted by a Christianized Rome) religious movements. The history of Christianity’s aggressive, intentionally colonial, violent co-opting of the symbols of others faiths as it spread from the Mediterranean is both well documented and still celebrated by many mainstream Christian groups. Christianity’s symbols were thrown into the public sphere by a near-constant gambit by Christians in the west to institutionalize their faith as a means of marginalizing, oppressing, and silencing members of other faiths or no faiths at all.

    So what did Gaga do? She followed a narrative she picked up in the culture she lives in and had some fun with it. Its a narrative that was put into the secular world for specific reasons. She seems interested in bucking some of those reasons and performing others. She took the piss. She made fun of the sacred because it isn’t too terribly significant to her in the ways it is to others. She democratized it and used it in a way that enriched her life and the life of others. She did it for herself, not for you. This is what art and culture does, its cannibalistic and inspiration is often rough.

    You can disagree with her stance or her story or the angle she’s playing all you’d like, but to criticize her for not making the art you’d like her to make strikes me as both terribly entitled and shockingly ignorant of the real history of oppression, violence, and horror that Christianity has to take responsibility for.

  5. Kate
    June 1, 2011 at 10:10 am

    “God, Christian touchiness is boundless”

    Seriously?!? You have NO right to tell someone they are being too sensitive.

  6. samanthab
    June 1, 2011 at 10:17 am

    AnonForThis, I don’t see where it was said that anyone was unaware of the history of violence and oppression that has been done in the name of Christianity. That’s not an argument made in good faith; it’s a strawman. And Gaga, likewise, is arguing with a disingenuous strawman in this video. That’s problematic.

    Are you unaware of the horrific things done in the name of democracy? Groups of people are capable of incredible perversions of an ideal; that much is clear. Does that mean that the ideal has no value? You want to very condescendingly tell people what they have to own up to and fail to consider that this is precisely a key reason they are in fact Christians. I myself consider that an important issue to grapple with, and I’m not going to shirk from it.

    And, really, the idea that Christianity somehow stole symbols is just silly. All culture builds off of other culture. The origins of most of those symbols is extremely unclear because they all derived from various sources and fused into one another.

  7. rupi
    June 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

    ths is realy disturbn to us christian 4rm al arwnd the world. Firstly we c the Holy Cros undr judus’ name, secondly the video is 2 gothic, has a guy as Christ n othrz as hs disyplz. As much as we respect evil n othr religions al ova the world, its unfair 4 gaga to disrespectd Jesus n most importantly my Lord Jevoha. We r al gona dy 1 day n i pray God b with u as He determins whr 1s soul wil go as He n Hs Son Jesus r mockd. Jesus is our Saviour n we shal worshp hm nomatr wat. Thru hs strypes we r heald n securd by Hs blood n the powr of the Holy Ghost. In Jesus name. Amen

  8. Aaron
    June 1, 2011 at 10:27 am

    LOVE this!!! Definitely a refreshing read. Like Zula said, the most probing question I come away with after watching this is, “Does Gaga know there are two different Marys?” I also grew up in church (not Catholic, Protestant, but definitely still with heavy doses of fuckedupness in the areas of gender and sexuality), and did four years of Catholic school. So many of the images in this video have deep meaning (and often deep baggage) for me, but I don’t come away from the video with new thoughts on any of them. Like honeyandlocusts says, it basically tells the same story about ladies’ sexuality I’ve heard all my life. Maybe I am too optimistic, but I still see pop as a place with so much potential to do good (if brief) political education through art. And with a few tweaks of the story-line/story-telling in this video, Gaga really could have pulled off something powerful. But without those tweaks, it remains (at least for me) an incoherent and confusing collage– a whole bunch of powerful images, none of which have been really tapped into in a way that makes people ask deeper questions (and I do believe good pop CAN produce those questions, once in a while).

    Anon, I think you’re correct about the historical practices of Christian appropriation. But I also think the power dynamics shift a few centuries out, particularly when the majority of Christians in the world are poor, living outside the US, and not white.

  9. June 1, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I’m Orthodox Christian – and read Gaga very differently. Or, rathert, I avoid reading her altogether. I just enjoy her. I like the hysteric undertone of her songs and videos. I think they’re often a comment on her wildness, rather than the wildness of any particular figure. The mixture of pleasure and pain she exhibits is attractive to me.

    But then again, this thread will devolve into “Christians are/are not evil” in roughly 3… 2… 1… anyway, so I’d just like to thank you for providing a different take on the video and song.

  10. June 1, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Serious question here…is it appropriation if someone uses stories and culture from a tradition they were raised in, but if they no longer identify with that tradition? But then, Lady Gaga has said that she believes in God and Jesus, even though she’s conflicted about specific religions.

    Now, I totally see where your coming from about reinforcement of the patriarchal narrative. Though I never really expect anything particularly radical out of Lady Gaga, I think rediscovery and building upon radical narratives within theologies is really important. It’s something I put a lot of thought and effort into for my own religious practice and community. Whether Lady Gaga is accomplishing that within this video seems to be kind of controversial. I can kind of understand where both you and Lesley are coming from here, even though you take away very different messages.

  11. June 1, 2011 at 10:42 am

    “I mean, first of all, one probably shouldn’t try to extract a coherent theology from the experience of having a difficult breakup with someone who apparently really liked to listen to Judas Priest.”
    I agree–so why would anybody expect this song/video to have a coherent theology? I wouldn’t guess that is a goal of the video.

    “So why does this matter? It matters because it matters to get people’s stories right.”
    …as if there were one right story about Jesus, or Judas, or Mary M. Don’t want to get all po-mo on you, but the meaning is in the margins, for most people, and your interpretation of these stories, as much as you might want it to be the Right interpretation, isn’t. Maybe lots of theologians back up your story of Jesus, but hers is different (assuming this video represents a theology at all).

    As far as respecting culture and religion–it’s a good idea to have a healthy respect for people’s ideas, but you talk as if a culture or a set of religious beliefs is monolithic in some way: If I were a Xtian, I might see this video as bringing a lot of important imagery into modern aesthetic–not “playing” with culture and religion, but exploring it.

    As far as not going beyond the misogyny of famous Xtians–it’s hard to throw a stick in Xtianity without hitting a misogynist. I like that the center of the video isn’t Jesus or Judas, but Gaga. Not the most deep kind of feminist ideas, but a step up from most stories that get told involving Jesus, as far as being women-centered goes…

  12. umami
    June 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Speaking as someone who didn’t have a choice about having my mind colonised by Catholicism, I could not disagree with you more.

    I’m not a Catholic and haven’t considered myself as such since I reached adulthood but those images are mine as much as they are anyone’s and distorting and playing with them is one way of dealing with the psychological damage that a Catholic education imposed on me. Deconstructing that crap can be very powerful. And if you want to argue that the highly damaging, toxic, “theological” narrative that was forced on to me against my will is something I don’t get to think about, question or play with, that it’s something I have some kind of obligation to take seriously just because the people who imposed it on me did, fuck that noise.

    Lady Gaga also comes from a Catholic background. She gets to screw with it too.

  13. tinfoil hattie
    June 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I’m with umami. As well as with others who have argued that there is no one “story” of Christianity.

    As far as this: It matters to respect culture, and religion, and not treat those things as your personal playthings.

    I disagree. I do not respect any religion. Not one whit. Especially not Catholicism. It “respected” me enough to do permanent damage to my psyche, so as umami said, “Fuck that noise.” Catholicism has done untold, vile damage to women and children for centuries. I have no respect.

  14. honeyandlocusts
    June 1, 2011 at 11:08 am

    So, a quick note before I head to work – one of the things I was trying to point out (and I think I did not do a good job of) is that Lady Gaga isn’t just toying with Christianity or Roman Catholicism in general. She’s using, specifically, particular cultural expressions of Catholicism. She is not Latin@, nor can she legitimately claim chol@.

    In some ways, this is like what Madonna did in “Like a Prayer.” Part of the “shock value” of that video was OMG Jesus is black! And then she brought out the tired old “black people and their gospel music is here to help white ladies figure themselves out!” thing. Lady Gaga is doing that here, except she’s using Latin@ culture and visual cues around Latin@ Catholicism, because…they’re “cool”? After the Born This Way lyrics, I don’t trust her to be interacting with these symbologies in ethical ways.

  15. June 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Lady Gaga is doing that here, except she’s using Latin@ culture and visual cues around Latin@ Catholicism, because…they’re “cool”? This makes a lot more sense to me than much of the original post, though I would say that making Judas white (a “flip” as you noted in the original post) and then not being able to give that up even while appropriating some latina cultural stuff might even be seen as a comment on her own colonialist streaks–though, like imagining that this video should have a consistent theology, I think that sort of interpretation is reaching. :)

  16. JP
    June 1, 2011 at 11:33 am

    There are no particularly good arguments for the claim that we owe respect to the religious beliefs of others, in any substantive sense of “respect.” Indeed, there are good arguments to think that respect cannot serve as the foundation of religious liberty in a pluralistic society. The proper foundation, instead, is toleration. For recent philosophical investigations of this, cf. Brian Leiter and Simon Blackburn, the latter published in an excellent collection edited by feminist philosopher Louise Antony.

    These repeated, rasping calls for respect really lead one to conclude that, in the author’s own words, Christian touchiness is boundless. It is also utterly unjustifiable.

  17. miga
    June 1, 2011 at 11:39 am

    As a Latina Catholic, I thank you for this article. There was something nagging me about that video, but really I couldn’t put my finger on it. I’m usually fine with people playing around with Christianity/Catholicism (do it myself a lot), and even when I’m not- Christianity and Catholicism have done some pretty effed up things, and Christianity has some extreme privilege issues in this country, so it’s not my place to tell people what they can and can’t do with it. Heck, many parts of Mexican Catholicism’s history is really really disturbing- colonialism, slavery, subjugation of previous religions all led up to 91% of Mexico’s population being Catholic, and 32% of the US Catholic pop. being Latin@. Of course! it’s complicated, Of COURSE people are going to want to unpack all this.

    However, your last two paragraphs really hit home with me. Especially this: “Lady Gaga is not challenging Pat Robertson’s Christianity or Jerry Falwell’s Christianity or Rick Santorum’s Christianity. Lady Gaga is amusing herself with a Latin@ Catholic aesthetic, because she’s a privileged lady and she can, and that’s pretty fucked up.”

    That’s my culture, Gaga. And considering you just threw around Chola and Orient at me a hot second ago, this bisexual POC Catholic ain’t pleased one bit.

  18. AnonForThis
    June 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Lady Gaga isn’t just toying with Christianity or Roman Catholicism in general. She’s using, specifically, particular cultural expressions of Catholicism. She is not Latin@, nor can she legitimately claim chol@.

    Except…looking at the video I see a lot of images coming from a lot of sources. Some of them are certainly Latin@, although its worth pointing out that theres a lot of overlap between cultural expression and some branches of Italian Roman Catholic. Theres also the biker angle thats being played with and a healthy dose of her general oddness. Theres a lot going on, some of it is hers, some isn’t, some is a blend.

    Lady Gaga is doing that here, except she’s using Latin@ culture and visual cues around Latin@ Catholicism, because…they’re “cool”? After the Born This Way lyrics, I don’t trust her to be interacting with these symbologies in ethical ways.

    I’ll be honest: whats getting my hackles up is that I don’t exactly trust you to be interacting ethically here either. You identify as “a cis, white, queer, femme, young Episcopal priest.” She identifies as a cis, Italian (seriously, some of what she’s had to say on responses to her perceived “ethnicness” is pretty interesting), bisexual, femme, young singer with a vague message of empowerment and a history of Catholicism. I’m wondering where a white protestant gets off attacking someone who was actually brought up in a Catholic context and had contact with the images you’re saying she doesn’t have a right to use. You’re a priest, you’re not Latin@, you’ve got a vested interest in protecting a narrative within Christianity that you’re obviously passionate about, and Gaga seems to have stepped over it because she has very different passions pointed at what seem to be different goals. I’m suspicious, because this isn’t my first dance and I’ve seen white Christians play white night for minority Christians in order to defend Christendom before. I’m suspicious because you’re attacking an imperfect someone I respect while wearing the robes of a group which has actively called for my extermination along a number of axis and some of those calls are still within my own living memory. I’m suspicious because you’re talking about what people ought to do and historically when priests have opened their mouthes to me with their tyranny of oughts there has been a very real threat lurking just beneath.

    Maybe you’re trying to find a more empowering and less oppressive brand of Christianity. Thats great, the world needs it. But you identify as a priest. Being white or cis or TAB brings it’s won baggage too. It comes with certain kinds of privilege. You have to know that you’re speaking from a pulpit which has murdered, raped, erased, co-opted, eradicated, banned, and politically maneuvered it’s way into being the backbone of oppression and colonialism for the majority of it’s existence. You stand side by side, even if you feel that you yourself stand in opposition and live your life accordingly, with people who continue to actively oppress others in the context of a faith which has done a lot of damage to a lot of people. Whether you intend them to or not your “shoulds” and “oughts” and declarations of what is “real” look a hell of a lot like knives to some of us.

  19. DP
    June 1, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Nobody’s fairy tale should have claim for superiority or dominion over anybody else’s…

  20. June 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    DP: Nobody’s fairy tale should have claim for superiority or dominion over anybody else’s…

    What the fuck?! I understand that there are people who have very serious grievances dealing with religion, Christianity in particular. But please remember that not everybody’s experiences are the same. You don’t have the respect the religion (any religion), but can we please respect the people who choose to worship by not dismissing their beliefs as “fairy tales”?

  21. tinfoil hattie
    June 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I’ll stop referring to religion as a “fairy tale” when religion stops basing its beliefs on hatred and oppression of women and children.

  22. June 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    “I’m wondering where a white protestant gets off attacking someone who was actually brought up in a Catholic context “

    I thought that’s where Protestantism CAME FROM, root word, Protest. Isn’t a critique of Catholicism intrinsic to Protestantism? How could it not be?

    In any event, loved the post…. but like Natalia, I could see where it was going in a heartbeat. (i.e. The anti-Christians will colonize the thread with their insults, while the rest of us dutifully shut up… but nice try!)

    And BTW, I am so glad you are a priest–I look forward to the day when ALL churches allow women priests, bishops, archbishops, Cardinals, Patriarchs and Popes.

  23. June 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    tinfoil hattie: I’ll stop referring to religion as a “fairy tale” when religion stops basing its beliefs on hatred and oppression of women and children.

    But that’s not true of all religions. Even people who worship religions that are commonly seen as “patriarchal” (such as the Abrahamic religions) have different interpretations of the Gospel.

    Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there. I won’t derail this discussion further.

  24. June 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Although I guess they’d call them Matriarchs, in that case, right? (duh!)

  25. June 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Oops…even though I tried to be inclusive, I mistakenly used “Gospel” to refer to the practice of religions other than Christianity. My apologies for the erasure.

    Also, co-sign Daisy.

  26. JP
    June 1, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Angel H.: but can we please respect the people who choose to worship by not dismissing their beliefs as “fairy tales”? [emphasis mine]

    You exhibit a deep misunderstanding of what respect for other people actually involves. Nobody is owed respect for holding a (putatively) false belief. And nobody here is infringing in any way on your (or anyone’s) ability to believe what you do, and to criticise those who do not, so you have no legitimate grievance at all.

  27. June 1, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    tinfoil hattie:
    I’ll stop referring to religion as a “fairy tale” when religion stops basing its beliefs on hatred and oppression of women and children.

    …Aaaaand here we go.

    Seriously, it would be awesome if we could have a discussion about religion and oppression and culture and whatnot without having this argument over and over again.

    Yes. Religion can be and is oppressive and murderous and a force for incredible evil.

    Yes. Religion can be uplifting and radical and comforting and a force for incredible good.

    Religion can be an important identity and source of community for marginalized people (Hi, I’m an observant Jew, nice to meet you).

    Those religious communities can also serve as a touchstone for oppression (Oh, hi, I’m also a queer woman who has lefty Israel politics).

    Religion is complicated. Can we stop derailing these conversations, now?

  28. gretel
    June 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    AnonForThis: I’m wondering where a white protestant gets off attacking someone who was actually brought up in a Catholic context and had contact with the images you’re saying she doesn’t have a right to use.

    Exactly. I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church, although I do not consider myself religious anymore. And honestly I know next-to-nothing about Mary Magdalene. Or the Virgin Mary. Basically because many (I’m not saying all) Protestant churches insist that one of the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants is the–and I’m quoting here–“Cult of Mary.” I was never taught to pray to the Virgin Mary. I was taught to pray directly to God. And maybe it’s an anomaly, but a lot of Episcopalians/Anglicans I know belittle Roman Catholic symbolism as a way to rail against the Roman Catholic church. So I don’t feel comfortable with Episcopalians criticizing Catholics with how they interpret/express their religion. While I think Lady Gaga needs to examine (read: stop) her ethnic appropriation, I’m going to give her a pass to say she can portray Roman Catholicism as she sees fit, because I have no idea what growing up in that particular religion is like.

  29. Aaron
    June 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Anon- All the atrocities you list are true. And they exist side by side (in history and in the present) with the Christian people and Christian communities that have mobilized for justice. In this country, a foundational part of our legacy that both slave owners/traders and enslaved people made crucial claims on Christian scripture, church space, and theological interpretation—for utterly opposite different ends. We have Pat Robertson and we also have Cesar Chavez. We have Harriet Tubman and we also have Sarah Palin. We have poor people’s revolutions throughout Central America that were incubated in churches and frequently led by priests, and we have Liberty University. There are members of honeyandlocusts’ own denomination that want her dead, and yet she’s still speaking. To me, this post seems honest about all these competing legacies and truth-claims.

    A note on the Episcopal church: it’s barely Protestant (it wasn’t born in the Reformation, it was born in its own very special hot political mess of monarchy, misogyny and murder—nothing romantic about that story, and I say this as an Episcopalian myself). Anyway, aside from the fact that you’ll occasionally find a lady and/or an openly queer person serving at the altar, the Episcopal church is symbolically, aesthetically and liturgically deeply parallel to Catholicism. The theology and church hierarchy, however, are really distinct. Reverence to Mary (Jesus’ mom), the saints, and even the rosary (though all slightly distinct from the Catholic traditions) are all part of Episcopal worship and tradition. So an Episcopal priest commenting on the power/usage of these symbols is not commenting as an outsider.

  30. JP
    June 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Shoshie: Aaaaand here we go.

    When the religious stop clawing for respect, which they are not owed, and settle for toleration, which they are, we won’t have to go there any more.

  31. Aaron
    June 1, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Gretel- I know pratices can and do vary a lot between local Episcopal churches, and really insidious, oppressive anti-Catholic sentiment definitely existence in my own tradition as well as other Protestant sects. That said, my first Episcopal church was called St. Mary’s, and steeped in some deep Mary love.

  32. Jill
    June 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Congratulations, Aletheia, you are now banned. We don’t out people on this site. You also appear to be the commenter formally known as Austin Nedved. We also don’t allow sockpuppeting, unless the poster has a good reason — like the poster who commented as “AnonForThis,” clearly indicating that s/he is a regular part of the community who isn’t comfortable using her/his usual handle.

    Goodbye!

  33. Emburii
    June 1, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    To add my own perspective to tinfoil hattie’s comment, I’ll stop referring to religions as “fairy tales” when they can demonstrate a factual and provable basis for the naturalistic claims they make.

  34. DP
    June 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Shoshie: …Aaaaand here we go.

    Seriously, it would be awesome if we could have a discussion about religion and oppression and culture and whatnot without having this argument over and over again.

    Yes.Religion can be and is oppressive and murderous and a force for incredible evil.

    Yes.Religion can be uplifting and radical and comforting and a force for incredible good.

    Religion can be an important identity and source of community for marginalized people (Hi, I’m an observant Jew, nice to meet you).

    Those religious communities can also serve as a touchstone for oppression (Oh, hi, I’m also a queer woman who has lefty Israel politics).

    Religion is complicated.Can we stop derailing these conversations, now?

    It’s at the heart of the conversation. You may believe very fervently and strongly in…whatever, the divinity of Jesus, the Chosen People, the 5 Pillars of Islam, the cycle of reincarnation and Nirvana. That’s your choice. No one can take that from you. No one should be allowed to ban you from (within reason) practicing, believing and living your way.

    But.

    There should not – indeed, in a heterogeneous society, there CAN’T be – a guarantee that people won’t disagree, criticize, trivialize or ignore your beliefs, because they’re all equally based on faith.

    This isn’t about whether the role of religion is fundamentally good or fundamentally evil or mixed. It’s about a society where, because we’ve realized that no religion has any better claim to the existence or nature of god then any other, we have to treat them all equally.

    I call them fairy tales because there’s no more evidence or reason to believe in God or a (non-historical, divine) Jesus or Moses or Buddha than there is to believe in Never-Never Land or Middle-Earth or Avalon.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy played a role in my life similar to the one that the Bible played in some of my teenage friends’ – it was a text that helped me make sense of a cruel and absurd world and gave me solace and made me think.

    That doesn’t mean I get to run around shouting at everyone who says it’s a shitty book (although if you get me drunk, I probably will. I guess drinking too much whisky and expounding on Douglas Adams is a KIND of religious ritual…)

  35. Q Grrl
    June 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    It matters because religious literacy matters.

    *sporfle*

    But if I say that god raped Mary, which is plainly the ‘literary’ take on things, I’m sure all sorts of shite would be heaped upon my head.

    Also, the ‘religious literacy’ changes over the decades. Even though the gospel of Mary’s existence has been known for 100+ years, it hasn’t been until very, very recently that anyone gave a damn. If the patriarchs can re-write their beliefs, why can’t anyone else?

  36. June 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    JP: You exhibit a deep misunderstanding of what respect for other people actually involves. Nobody is owed respect for holding a (putatively) false belief. And nobody here is infringing in any way on your (or anyone’s) ability to believe what you do, and to criticise those who do not, so you have no legitimate grievance at all.

    I never said that I deserve respect because I choose to worship. What I said was (as emphasized by you):

    but can we please respect the people who choose to worship by not dismissing their beliefs as “fairy tales”?

    I never asked anyone to respect the beliefs, but to respect the people who held them because they deserved respect as people not to be mocked.

  37. June 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Angel H.: I never asked anyone to respect the beliefs, but to respect the people who held them because they deserved respect as people not to be mocked.

    This.

    I don’t care what you actually think about my theology or my religious practices. But be respectful of me, the person, who holds and practices them.

  38. June 1, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I have been annoyed at Lady Gaga’s transphobic leanings for ages, I feel like she could actually say a lot through her work and chooses not to. That said, she’s never claimed to be anything but a performer. My expectations of her have become shiny but shallow.

    This is a derailment but I never actually realised that Mary Magdalene wasn’t actually a sex worker! And I was raised a Catholic. Goes to show you what you don’t learn even as a member of a faith. It kind of makes me sad though, I was always really pleased that one of the women who was significant within christianity was a sex worker (even if it was in her past). She was someone to be admired, unlike most of the other examples we got that combined sexuality and women.

  39. gretel
    June 1, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Aaron:
    Gretel- I know pratices can and do vary a lot between local Episcopal churches, and really insidious, oppressive anti-Catholic sentiment definitely existence in my own tradition as well as other Protestant sects.That said, my first Episcopal church was called St. Mary’s, and steeped in some deep Mary love.

    Thanks for pointing that out, Aaron. I do have a very narrow experience of the Anglican Communion, which is a very complicated institution.

  40. CateofTexas
    June 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Shoshie, thanks for your much needed comments. Religion is complicated. And while I think that attention needs to be paid to the ugly history of how religions have been USED by those in power, that is often quite different from all that they MEAN to the rest of us. I will not give up my faith or how I practice it because some a-holes had the bright idea of making it into a tool of oppression. I hate that my faith has been used that way and I want to make it different in the future. Call me naive or whatever, but I really do think that religion can be changed from within.

  41. licious
    June 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    So I have very little to say about the debate that is currently happening, but I want to say thank you honeyandlocusts for this post. I was not brought up in a christian/catholic faith, and despite living in Canada where christianity is a large part of the colonial legacy and institutional make up, I know very very very little about it. However, I appreciated the way your deconstructed the video re: appropriation of Latin@ religious cultural depictions.

  42. June 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    (i.e. The anti-Christians will colonize the thread with their insults, while the rest of us dutifully shut up… but nice try!)
    I think I must be ignorant about something important: Can somebody please explain to me how the word “colonize” is used here? How is its use different from white folks in the US crying “racism”? Xtians are by far the majority in the US (and the OP was clear in stating she was using a USian lens) by just about every available measurement.

  43. Q Grrl
    June 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I don’t care what you actually think about my theology or my religious practices. But be respectful of me, the person, who holds and practices them.

    Why? Because of the unexamined privilege you hold by making such a declaration/statement?

    Are you a US Citizen with full rights? I’m not. The number one reason I don’t have full rights? Christians.

    You want respect? OK. I want my rights.

  44. June 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Shoshie, don’t mind the circus. Grab some popcorn and enjoy.

  45. JP
    June 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Angel H.: I never asked anyone to respect the beliefs, but to respect the people who held them because they deserved respect as people not to be mocked.

    Shoshie: I don’t care what you actually think about my theology or my religious practices. But be respectful of me, the person, who holds and practices them.

    Your initial complaint was about people calling religious belief belief in fairy tales. Characterising your beliefs that way does not violate any obligation of respect for you as a person. Our duty of respect towards you, such as it may be, does not extend to us having to refrain from saying harsh things about your beliefs; we only have a weaker duty of toleration. This sort of thing, despite your denials, is a prime example of what Blackburn, in the paper I linked, calls “respect creep.” From Blackburn:

    `Respect’ of course is a tricky term. I may respect your gardening by just letting you get on with it. Or, I may respect it by admiring it and regarding it as a superior way to garden. The word seems to span a spectrum, from simply not interfering, passing by on the other side, through admiration, right up to reverance and deference. This makes it uniquely well-placed for ideological purposes. People might start out by insisting on respect in the minimal sense, and in a generally liberal world they may not find it too difficult to obtain it. But then what we might call respect creep sets in, where the request for minimal toleration turns into a demand for more substantial respect, such as fellow-feeling, or esteem, and finally deference and reverence. In the limit, unless you let me take over your mind and your life, you are not showing proper respect for my religious or ideological convictions.

  46. June 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Q Grrl: Why? Because of the unexamined privilege you hold by making such a declaration/statement?

    Are you a US Citizen with full rights? I’m not. The number one reason I don’t have full rights? Christians.

    You want respect? OK. I want my rights.

    FFS.

    Have you read anything that I’ve written on this thread? You really don’t think that I can understand oppression perpetuated by religious folks? Really? REALLY?

    I have no desire to play Oppression Olympics with you, but SERIOUSLY. UGH.

  47. gretel
    June 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Q Grrl: Are you a US Citizen with full rights? I’m not. The number one reason I don’t have full rights? Christians.

    There are a lot of Christians with U.S. citizenship who do not have full rights, so where does your statement leave them?

  48. June 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Thank you Jill. I had a WTF?! moment there with the outing.

    Anyway….caveat: I don’t care for Lady Gaga’s style of music, and what little familiarity I have with her videos, about the most charitable thing I can say is that she’s artistically shallow. And that was before her most recent execrable “Born That Way” or the asinine comments she made regarding her lack of support for the Arizona boycott.

    But. She is Siciliana, and the Catholic imagery employed in this video is standard-issue Sicilian iconography, including her “Virgin Mary” outfit (like other commenters, I’m thinking she is conflating the two Marys, which is why the whole thing comes off to me like more bogus hipster bullshit, throwing in assorted religious elements to appear edgy, but talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothing)—that’s straightforward Mater Dolorosa there, that particular shade of blue and the sacred heart. I also interpreted the gunplay toward the end as more of an operatic mafia romanticization (and that could be because the outfit she was wearing reminded me of something similar I saw in some cheesy mob flick). Neither would be appropriation coming from her; whether it served her intent or not is a different matter (I sure the hell didn’t “get it”, despite my familiarity with the imagery….it came off to me like she threw shit in the blender and hit “spin”.)

    Spin. Probably all there is to “get”.

  49. maribelle1963
    June 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    1. “I have been annoyed at Lady Gaga’s transphobic leanings for ages, I feel like she could actually say a lot through her work and chooses not to.”

    If Lady Gaga is too “transphobic” for you, I really can’t imagine who would satisfy you. She’s done more to foreground GLBT issues in this time period than nearly any other performer.

    You think she’s not choosing to say and do enough for trans people in her work, um, what?
    A. what more could she do and
    B. why is that her obligation?

    2. Religious people (in a variety of flavors) would do far more to engender respect with progressives if they would call out –and WEED OUT–the bigots, pedophiles, homophobes and misogynists in their own churches.

    Example: If you are tithing to the Catholic Church, you are actively paying for untold damage done to women and children worldwide. Full stop. (Yup, Catholics do some great work, too. Can’t separate it out.)

    Yup, it’s your right. Do as thou wilt. But don’t ask any progressive to respect it.

  50. Q Grrl
    June 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    There are a lot of Christians with U.S. citizenship who do not have full rights, so where does your statement leave them?

    My statement doesn’t leave them anywhere. Nor does the fact that these people exist change the fact the the oppression of queers is a direct result of Christian beliefs and practices.

    Have you read anything that I’ve written on this thread? You really don’t think that I can understand oppression perpetuated by religious folks? Really? REALLY?

    I have no desire to play Oppression Olympics with you, but SERIOUSLY. UGH.

    Oppression Olympics? Nice dismissal. I’m not going for cookies, nor am I saying that you don’t personally understand oppression. What I am saying is that there are enough people out there that suffer *directly* from the beliefs and practices of Christians that it is a bit difficult to swallow when well-meaning, but privileged, Christians try to make it sound like they are the ones bearing the heaviest burden of suffering. It is hard to take a post like this, on a progressive blog, seriously. The amount of mental gymnastics I would have to go through to even get to a level of mutual respect leaves me with a quickly vanishing sense of self-worth. Why do I have to keep denying my full humanity so that people can feel comfortable with a set of beliefs that *clearly* hurts, disenfranchises, and stigmatizes people like me?

    Lady Gaga somehow hurts Christians, but I can’t point out that Christians make my life hell because some people don’t want to examine what their beliefs mean in a larger context? That’s some ripe shit you want me to choke on.

  51. Valhallie
    June 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I think this was a really interesting post. I was raised in the black church and became an apostate when I was 14, but in college I got pretty into studying the early church and the gnostic gospels as part of my general study of ancient cultures. Even as a non-believer, I think religious literacy is super important.

    RE: Gaga; Personally, I think that Christianity has so forcefully insinuated itself into world culture that most people in the Western world, especially most USians, cannot really be “outsiders,” even if they do not believe in Christianity. So for me, playing with the “story”, is just a way of engaging with a dominant cultural narrative, but the use of Latin@ cultural imagery is just lazy appropriation.

  52. June 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Q Grrl: What I am saying is that there are enough people out there that suffer *directly* from the beliefs and practices of Christians that it is a bit difficult to swallow when well-meaning, but privileged, Christians try to make it sound like they are the ones bearing the heaviest burden of suffering.

    The fact that you’re trying to explain oppression by Christians to me is pretty fucking amusing, let me tell you.

    And I’m done with this. Shalom, y’all.

  53. June 1, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    JP: Your initial complaint was about people calling religious belief belief in fairy tales. Characterising your beliefs that way does not violate any obligation of respect for you as a person. :

    This is where I see the disconnect: To me, my Christianity is part of my personhood. I am a person who is a Christian and I am a Christian person. My Christian beliefs go to the very heart of who and what I am, so calling them fairy tales and, therefore, imaginary is (to me, anyway) very disrespectful. Knowing this, I asked to be respected as a person in the hopes that there would be some sort of understanding as to how deeply that cut me. Since you don’t see how this can be so personal me, I guess we’ll have to part ways on that issue.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see the link to Blackburn’s essay. I do want to say, however, that I recognize my religious privilege in the U.S. In no way was I trying to force Christianity or any other belief onto anyone else, and I apologize for coming across that way.

    Last derail! Promise!

  54. Q Grrl
    June 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Shoshie: I get it. I was going to give you the benefit of the doubt and I was really puzzled why you were making this all about you. I thought it was strange and a little over-the-top, but you know, I was still giving you the benefit of the doubt.

    Then I read your blog post. Wow. I’m not sure what to say.

    You accuse me of playing “Oppression Olympics” but then you run off (in a snit?) and play them in your own space.

    Okay. You win.

    Feel better? Because I don’t. And I still have problems with progressive spaces painting Christians as oppressed when Christians are the backbone of the oppression currently disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people, right here, right now.

  55. June 1, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    OK, I was going to disengage from this, but WTF, Q Grrl? You’re going to attack me for what I write about in my space? You’re going to accuse me of playing Oppression Olympics for asking others to stop doing so and to stop using my religion and culture as some fucking yardstick? Really?

    I’m not telling you that you have to love Christianity. We’re just saying that you should recognize that religious folks are people. These are people you’re talking to on the Internet. People who have interest in feminism. And who probably don’t want to see you oppressed. And who may in fact be oppressed themselves, even on the same axes as you are.

  56. June 1, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    BTW, Q Grrl, the most recent post on my site is from over a week ago, and was related to a completely different issue. Not a response to you or anything on this thread. ::eyeroll::

  57. Q Grrl
    June 1, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I get that your post wasn’t a response to this thread, but I don’t think it’s coincidental that you brought the “Oppression Olympics” meme into this thread. I’m not the one doing that.

    Sorry if my grammar was confusing.

    These are people you’re talking to on the Internet. People who have interest in feminism. And who probably don’t want to see you oppressed.

    And yet? They (and you) get defensive when it is pointed out to them that it might be highly problematic and offensive to carry on a conversation dripping in privilege that cannot happen unless everyone in the room ignore the oppression that Christianity heaps, you know, on real people like myself.

    Um. Yeah.

  58. AlsoAnonForThis
    June 1, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    I’m puzzled about the insistence by the author on “religious literacy” when she distorts the stories of three different important Jewish figures to call them “sex workers” in an attempt to somehow prove that Jesus was sex-worker-positive. I’m also puzzled that same author, in comments, confuses St. Martin De Porres in the “Like A Prayer” video for Jesus. While obviously it’s silly to expect everyone to be able to recognize every Catholic saint on sight, anyone familiar with basic Catholic imagery should be able to tell the difference. Which makes me wonder what exactly you, who is a white protestant, is doing taking a Catholic of Sicilian descent for religious ignorance regarding HER own religion.

    It’s also worth noting that a lot of the Latin@ imagery that the author sees is not unique to Latin@ Catholicism. I’m not saying there’s not appropriation here, but I question the charges coming from a white woman who does not appear to have an clear grasp on Catholicism. Any critique this strident, speaking from such a position of authority, from this angle really should be done by someone who grew up in the culture and/or religions being appropriated, don’t you think? While it’s obviously important for white allies to call out blatant cultural appropriation on the part of other white people, I think this situation regarding the blending of culture and religion is sensitive enough that a white protestant is probably the wrong person to be doing so.

  59. June 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I don’t appreciate one individual telling me THE CORRECT way to interpret religious symbols. No one person gets to decide that. Lady Gaga’s religious symbolism is neither WRONG, nor RIGHT. Unless assessed by a respected religious leader, from the standpoint of a certain religious tradition or doctrine, which is frozen in time and place, which is of course only going to be useful to those individuals who completely identify with that particular doctrine in that given time and place.

    Angel H says something interesting:

    To me, my Christianity is part of my personhood. I am a person who is a Christian and I am a Christian person. My Christian beliefs go to the very heart of who and what I am, so calling them fairy tales and, therefore, imaginary is (to me, anyway) very disrespectful.

    What if the “Christian beliefs” that go to the very heart of who you are, are beliefs that oppress or dehumanize me. (I.e. living them out would harm others.) Do I have to respect them? Or shouldn’t I rather fight the oppression and insist on my humanity by opposing them?

  60. IrishUp
    June 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I often read and hear one’s religion described as “a choice”; almost always by those who are not self-identifying as religious. The fact that a religious/spiritual identity is deemed a choice seems to me to be the basis for a lot of the “calling out” that goes on. And calling out a person for their choices is, as we all understand it, fair game. It’s criticizing someone’s actions, not who they are inherently born.

    It’s pretty privileged to view a person’s religion as a choice at all. Reallistically, in the US and elsewhere, how much choice does an individual actually get to exercise w/r/t religion? Doesn’t that vary with where you’re born, and in what class/ caste? Don’t the privileges of wealth, education, and gender play into it? How free are most people to explore further into their religious/spiritual identities, much less openly move into othe areas? For those of us who have no personal experience with the familial and societal costs of bucking religious traditions and expectations, can you at least imagine what daunting barriers are in the way? How much these costs might make the term “choice” a functional illusion for a given individual?

    The thing is, that for those of us who DO self-identify along a religious or spiritual axis, that identity is seldom experienced as “a choice”. It’s part of the metaframe of our existence. It is as central to who we are as our sexual identification, ethnic identification, gender identification. Thus, what might seem like a critique of someone’s choice, is in fact experienced as an attack on who thy are.

    On a structural level, how I, the individual, experience and practice MY religous/spiritual life is a far far different thing from the institutions of organized religion. Valid critiques of the organized institutions & the systems they put in place are necessary and important. Criticizing a person for being a part of such an organization gets right into the same territory as blaming someone for shopping at WalMart, and starts to get into victim blaming.

  61. June 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    After having made some deliberate attempts to become a bit less… er, hateful of religion and, honestly, Christians as a whole in many cases, I’ve come to some conclusions:

    1. It is entirely unhelpful to make statements about how you aren’t required to “respect Christianity” or any religion because oppression is enacted in its name. Everybody knows that most people who subscribe to the belief structures of most religions are fine people, and many are not only fine, but also wonderful. We make this distinction constantly when we get into a big Islam comment war, so we should be applying it equally to Christianity.

    Also, people do things in the name of all sorts of things, like science, that are also ridiculous, dangerous, oppressive, and lethal.

    2. People’s religious beliefs, whether they are rooted in Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, or anything else, are often community- and culture-based rather than dogma-based. Read a Reza Aslan book for more about this in Islam, or have a conversation with a liberal Catholic or an agnostic Jew. Many people raised in any number of different faiths who continue to practice that faith don’t even necessarily believe in “God” as many atheists understand a belief in God. It’s not always, or even all that often, that calling a person’s religious practice or vague faith in a higher power a “fairy tale” is even accurate, beyond an intent to throw some unneeded snark their way.

    3. People who consider themselves religious or who “believe in God” are not all irrational and ignorant assholes who hate science. They’re unfortunately just the loudest. And as a feminist community, we’d probably do well to remember how unhelpful and potentially damaging it can be when the most extreme (and often hateful) wings of our respective communities can color others’ perceptions of us.

    4. Religion is not the enemy; people and institutions who use religion, and people’s religious beliefs, as a tool of oppression are the enemy. Yes, this means that in order to remain consistent with any goal of “justice,” you can’t simply say that, because of the horrible things that people did to you in the name of [whatever] religion, the religion as a whole is terrible, oppressive, wrong, evil, hateful, and should be destroyed. It implies that ALL people whose faith is rooted in that religion’s history are, by association, guilty by association of the “sins” of others, which is clearly a false assumption.

    5. (Actually about the content of the post, rather than the comments!) I haven’t given much thought to the meaning of her religious imagery here, mostly because my knowledge of religious history is very limited. But while I really like the background information, I think that it it’s unfair to criticize her for being disrespectful or appropriating. As others have mentioned, she has roots in the Catholic Church as well. And anyway, it seems her blatant cultural appropriation is a little more problematic than the religious appropriation (anyone remember the Alejandro fight that I can’t find in the archives?), seeing as how religious beliefs are incredibly subjective and open to interpretation, much more so than a cultural identity.

  62. Rare Vos
    June 1, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    This is where I see the disconnect: To me, my Christianity is part of my personhood.

    And there it is. The christian supremacy privilege display.

    No one can say anything about religion the *thing*, because its part of you, the *person*.

    Fucking convenient, that. This way no one can say anything about religion the *thing* WITHOUT you claiming to be personally insulted. Your privilege is not to be questioned!

    Fuck that noise. And fuck all imaginary friends.

  63. Rare Vos
    June 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    LOL Oh good – another “atheists! shut up and never point out the 400 lb gorilla in the room” speech.

  64. Mandolin
    June 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Angel H:

    So if my belief in materialism is fundamental to who I am as a person, does it therefore become disrespectful for you to talk about your belief system as real and therefore insinuate that MINE is imaginary?

  65. IrishUp
    June 1, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Rare Vos; in case that was directed at me, I would say that
    ““atheists! shut up and never point out the 400 lb gorilla in the room” speech” seems to have missed my point.

    Also this:
    “Fucking convenient, that. This way no one can say anything about religion the *thing* WITHOUT you claiming to be personally insulted. Your privilege is not to be questioned!” has carved out a huge section of the middle.

    Nothing in my post says don’t question Xtian privilege, or don’t rip into the $XFormal Religious Organization (sorta the opposite was said, I think). What I was speaking to, and what others have asked for, is can we have your 400lb gorilla conversation, without pissing on the person for who they are? Or is your position that all of those who self-identify religously/spiritually are unable to have any conversation about 400lb gorillas? I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the latter, but I’d be interested in understanding more about the reasoning for it.

  66. gretel
    June 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Havlová: What if the “Christian beliefs” that go to the very heart of who you are, are beliefs that oppress or dehumanize me. (I.e. living them out would harm others.) Do I have to respect them? Or shouldn’t I rather fight the oppression and insist on my humanity by opposing them?

    Well sure. If this hypothetical Christian shared the beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church members, for instance, I don’t think anyone should have to respect them. But as far as I know, there is no one set of “Christian beliefs.” There are disagreements between the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church, for instance, and disagreements within those churches. And of course these disagreements are also present in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and probably every single other religion. But religions aren’t static entities: they change. And there are lots of progressive people trying to change them from the inside. So although I am not religious, I do not have an objection when people use their religion for good in the world. If they use it for bad? That’s when I have a problem.

  67. b.g.
    June 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    You are not entitled to freedom from having your beliefs mocked or questioned. Deal.

  68. tomoe gozen
    June 1, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    not trying to stoke up controversy for its own sake, but to repeat some questions about gaga my friend and i have been talking over:

    would she feel as casual about appropriating something from jewish or islamic lore ? did she really think that the song and video wouldn’t be controversial ? do people really think that gaga’s material presents some kind of coherent and well thought out perspective on catholicism ?

  69. IrishUp
    June 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    @Mandolin not speaking for Angel H., but I hold that insinuating ANYONE’s dearly held fundamental belief is imaginary while in conversation with them is highly disrespectful. To use the psych term, that’s really invalidating behavior, and invalidating behavior brings constructive dialogue to a screetching halt.

    Also, my stating my belief X about the universe – as long as I couch it as My Belief X, not HOW THINGS ARE X -might imply that I don’t hold your belief Y and/or hir belief Z, but does it then follow that Y & Z are imaginary, or less valid, or untrue? AFAIK, the REAL STATE OF THE MULTIVERSE is a matter of pure speculation for all of us, right? This is not a zero sum game. That you and I and zie have differing views should not be a problem unless one of us is shitting on the other, right?

  70. PrettyAmiable
    June 1, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    tomoe gozen: did she really think that the song and video wouldn’t be controversial ?

    I think she was primarily focused on making a buck. I think controversy is often a necessary part of that, at least in the US as I’ve experienced it.

    tomoe gozen: do people really think that gaga’s material presents some kind of coherent and well thought out perspective on catholicism ?

    I don’t, but I also don’t think it needed to. If she wants to relate to her background, something that gave her privilege in society and subjugated her in a smaller community all at once, that’s her prerogative. With the possible exception of ethnic appropriation (and I say possible because I really don’t know how different people experience Catholicism than I did as a kid, so I don’t know the difference between Latin@ interpretations and Italian interpretations), I think she’s free to interpret it the way she did.

    tomoe gozen: would she feel as casual about appropriating something from jewish or islamic lore ?

    My gut is to say no, but I don’t know her. Maybe she’s willing to reach past her experiences. She does that with race, at the very least. “If you’re Lebanese or Orient” FFS.

  71. June 1, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Havlova:

    What if the “Christian beliefs” that go to the very heart of who you are, are beliefs that oppress or dehumanize me. (I.e. living them out would harm others.) Do I have to respect them? Or shouldn’t I rather fight the oppression and insist on my humanity by opposing them?

    As gretel said above, there is no “one set” of beliefs. In fact, the only thing we Christians have in common is belief in Christ, and even on that point there is disagreement on Who or What Christ is/was. Personally, I believe that Jesus Christ would want me to fight all forms of oppression, and I despise those who try to justify oppression in His name. Those people do not share my beliefs, and even though I understand it, I hate that we are all getting lumped together.

    Mandolin:

    Mandolin: Angel H:So if my belief in materialism is fundamental to who I am as a person, does it therefore become disrespectful for you to talk about your belief system as real and therefore insinuate that MINE is imaginary?

    I’m not sure how I insinuated that. Yes, I believe that my belief system is fundamental to who I am as a person, but I would also suspect that your belief system (whatever those beliefs are, and I don’t just mean religious beliefs) would be as fundamental to your personhood as mine are to me.

    Rare Vos:

    :rolleyes: Whatever.

  72. Mandolin
    June 1, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    So, by that logic, isn’t the expression of most forms of Christianity–by virtue of their assertions that they reveal fundamental universal truths and that others aren’t merely wrong about their imaginary theologies, but in fact hell-bound for them–inherently abusive to non-believers?

  73. June 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Mandolin:

    One more thing: If I did come off as though I was holding my beliefs above yours or anyone else’s I apologize.

  74. Emburii
    June 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    There is one constant for Christian beliefs; in order for even their basic tenant to be true, Judaism has to be false. (What with the savior supposedly having shown up and all). It means that First Nations religious beliefs can’t be true. It means that all people who claim Jedi as their religion are deluded. Because they can’t all be right…but they can all be wrong. So why are you claiming moral high ground on your view of what she’s ‘allowed’ to have spiritually when every religion is a retelling of the world through limited human means and no proof to back it up either way?

  75. June 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    My reaction to the video was “Is that all there is? A halfway retread of Jesus Christ Superstar, with line dancing?” The theology of it was old hat in 1973. There is nothing new to see here.

    Jesus was kissing back a decade ago and all this gave us was a cheek peck. Let’s go someplace new and exciting (and I was hoping for sexier, given Norman Reedus and the very hot Rick Gonzales) and SAY something. If you’re going to play with the love triangle, DO IT, don’t just hint and then give us more line dancing (with lots of arm choreography) and images of breaking waves.

    I’ve been rather disappointed in the tracks I’ve heard from this second album. Hair is pretty good, Born this way is listenable, even if the video is High Octane Nightmare Fuel (that chin eyeball!). But Edge of Glory is Shania Twain in a time machine to 1983 with a 2010 dance beat under it. Gaga keeps trying and not quite reaching her goal with the songs on this album.

  76. GinnyC
    June 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    So, I don’t particularly like her music, but I do think it is problematic to criticize Lady Gaga for not respecting Catholicism (or Christianity).

    Lady Gaga’s made a habit of profaning the sacred in her videos and music. I don’t see why that’s a problem unless religion is supposed to be something that cannot be criticized and reinterpreted and borrowed from. Catholic iconography is visually powerful, and what Gaga is doing with it is transgressive because it is sacrilegious.

    Also, I don’t see appropriation in her use of Catholic iconography. It fits with her Italian-American background. The iconography she uses is common to a lot of Latin Churches. If anything, it isn’t quite right for Spanish or many Mexican representations of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. Gaga is wearing a bright blue robe, and the robe is usually very dark blue and often embroidered with gold designs in those traditions.

    Catholic iconography has a lot in common and a lot of differences across place. But regardless, it is really powerful imagery. I think it is telling, that in the U.S. a lot of people tend to see “generic latin@” iconography in the video.

    I’m also not sure how to respond to the calls to respect Christianity as practiced while at the same time trying to recover historical “truths” about Christian figures and replace the understanding that is now traditional with a more “correct” interpretation.

  77. June 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Mandolin: So, by that logic, isn’t the expression of most forms of Christianity–by virtue of their assertions that they reveal fundamental universal truths and that others aren’t merely wrong about their imaginary theologies, but in fact hell-bound for them–inherently abusive to non-believers?

    You are right. Which is another difference between myself and other Christians: I’m not going to tell a non-believer that they’re going to hell just because they’re a non-believer; I personally believe that it’s not my right to do so. God makes the call.

    I’m not a theologian, and it’s been years since I’ve read the Bible all the way through, so I’m sorry I can’t give you a clearer answer than that.

  78. AnonForThis
    June 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Everybody knows that most people who subscribe to the belief structures of most religions are fine people, and many are not only fine, but also wonderful.

    No.

    One of my fundamental problems with the abrahamic religions is that the oppression that has been done, and that continues to be wrought, by their adherents is not a biproduct but a direct result of the central tenets of monotheism. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are intrinsically violent religions. That isn’t a result of fanaticism but of the basic assumptions these faiths make about the human experience. Each has their own flavor and spin on the justification for violence and oppression, but at the end of the day each is guilty of slaughtering others for being inferior. Each has the dehumanization of the Other built into its most basic material.

    Christianity, in specific, actively dehumanizes those who are not Christians. The entire story of Jesus is rooted in the idea that God has the right to torture and kill everyone for offenses against Him and that salvation is based on (depending on the flavor of Christianity) either adherence to God’s laws, faith in God, His arbitrary judgment, or some blend of the three. The underlying message is that those defined as Us are saved and will be rewarded while those defined as Them are, at best, fools to be converted for their own good. That leads to specific kinds of dehumanization and is, I would argue, the source of one of the major barriers western culture has faced in the long road towards liberation.

    I don’t think someone who believes that it is just for me to be tortured for an eternity for loving someone of the same gender or turning my back on a god that has hurt me is a good person. I don’t think they are wonderful. Honestly, I do not believe that they are worthy of my respect. They are not fine people, they are dangerous to me. Maybe some of us come out swinging hard when we’re faced with this, maybe some of us get ugly, but goddamn it look at what we’re being asked to tollerate. I can live with someone thinking that I’m an animal because I love the wrong person or worship the wrong gods or respect myself above some violent absentee landlord, I can handle it. But bare tolerance, holding in the incredible instinct to defend myself from someone whose basic belief is that I ought to be tortured for who I am, is about all I can muster.

  79. AnonForThis
    June 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    You are right. Which is another difference between myself and other Christians: I’m not going to tell a non-believer that they’re going to hell just because they’re a non-believer; I personally believe that it’s not my right to do so. God makes the call.

    And through that belief you dehumanize me. Through the mere belief that your God has the right to do with me as he pleases, you devalue me. Maybe your devaluation is a little less violent than that of a conquistador or a Bob Jones graduate but the gun is still loaded and still pointed at me.

  80. Athenia
    June 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Honestly, if you read her lyrics…..I think it’s really vague about who she’s talking about—is Judas the Catholic church for example? Judas betrays her 3 times, is she saying that Mary Magdalene is a Christ-like figure? Moreover, she is stoned to death just like adultresses were in biblical times. Is she saying “fuck you” to conservative theologies?

    The water imagery is also very fascinating—Gaga pours water over Jesus’s feet while Judas pours beer over her. Gaga gets rushed by a huge wave—is water purifying and beer corrupting? Or does it depend?

    At any rate, I was disappointed too that Gaga takes the Mary Magdalene-as-hooker stance because we’ve worked so hard to discredit that lie.

    However, I freakin’ LOVE her blue heart jacket so yeah…..

  81. honeyandlocusts
    June 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    One clarifying note, about me as white and (nominally) Protestant (we’re not called Anglo-Catholics for nothing): though I am white, I grew up in a small, rural town where the vast majority of the population was Mexican or Mexican-American and Catholic. The future “hipness” of the chol@ aesthetic was lost on the criminalized and policed kids I went to school with – the possibility that someday the #1 person on the Forbes Most Powerful Celebrities list might decide to dabble in their look was pretty far from their minds. When I came to faith, I came to faith in south central LA, within a Latin@ Catholic context. I am not Latin@; it is not my culture. I make no claims about it being mine to defend, nor am I its white knight or messiah. I do have intimate history with and knowledge of that particular expression of Catholicism, however, and thus I am not coming to this reading of the video from a strict Protestant/Anglican/Episcopal “outsider” place.

  82. June 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    And if you want to argue that the highly damaging, toxic, “theological” narrative that was forced on to me against my will is something I don’t get to think about, question or play with, that it’s something I have some kind of obligation to take seriously just because the people who imposed it on me did, fuck that noise.

    Co-signed.

    I’m extremely bothered by the OP’s idea that artists who engage with religious symbols must treat them seriously and respectfully and that religious art is more valuable if it reinforces someone else’s idea of orthodoxy. Catholicism is a big part of my history and of my family’s. I really don’t give a fuck if my experience of it isn’t serious and respectful enough for other people.

  83. Jade S
    June 1, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Mandolin:
    Angel H:

    So if my belief in materialism is fundamental to who I am as a person, does it therefore become disrespectful for you to talk about your belief system as real and therefore insinuate that MINE is imaginary?

    No. It is possible to have a conversation with someone with whom your beliefs are diametrically opposed to without disrespecting them. If you want to talk about gorillas in the room: I do not believe that those of you who are being blatantly disrespectful on this website don’t know that. Snark is snark, and it is not necessary for a conversation about disagreements. Deep disagreement is expressed as such, not as dismissing someone’s deeply held belief as trivial, stupid, insane, or fundamentally evil, or by discrediting that person as being qualified to speak from their own life experience. So I think you all already know that. But I’m going to humor you.
    I don’t necessarily know what everyone meant by their inflammatory comments, only the speaker did, but I’ll take a stab just to make a point about language. If I missed your point, then it might be my poor listening, or it might be that you expressed it poorly. You decide.
    Instead of: “I find it very difficult to take seriously complaints by Christians that a secular pop star ‘co-opted’ their tradition when their tradition is itself built upon appropriations.”
    Try: “I am outraged by the way that Christian churches have co-opted other cultures, and I see this video as a powerful response to that.” (Or, if not that, why is it acceptable in to you in the case of the video? Or if its not, then you could try “I’d agree, but I view the cultural appropriation within churches as being far more serious because______.”)
    Instead of: “There are no particularly good arguments for the claim that we owe respect to the religious beliefs of others, in any substantive sense of “respect.””
    Try: “I don’t agree with your religious beliefs or admire them, but I respect you as a person and that while you may be wrong about some things, (and I think you are) you deserve to make your own decisions about your life and how to understand it. I believe strongly that people have the right to speak freely, and I would defend that right for you or anyone, even if its voiced in a way that is disrespectful.”
    Instead of: “I’ll stop referring to religions as “fairy tales” when they can demonstrate a factual and provable basis for the naturalistic claims they make.”
    Try: “I don’t believe in the supernatural or miraculous. When people use the word ‘spirituality’, I understand what they are saying as being about what I would call emotions and ideas. I don’t experience anything that I would describe as ‘spiritual’, or see evidence of it in the world. I understand that for some people that language describes their perceptions and is important to them, but I approach and interpret the world in a more scientific or rational way than that. The truth is that when people talk about their faith it makes no sense to me. I could never accept a belief system like that. I view the bible as a set of stories that some people give meaning to, not as literal things that have happened. It means no more to me than any other book.”
    Instead of: “Fuck that noise. And fuck all imaginary friends.”
    Try: “This conversation is really difficult for me. I don’t think its going anywhere, its just pissing us all off. I don’t understand the way you look at the world.”…you get the idea.
    I am really not going to argue with anyone about the value of respect. These are suggestions of how you could express respect, if indeed that is something that you value. If the your intent was to insult and disrespect other people, I can’t change that and I don’t wish to argue about it. I value honesty and respect in dialogue, no matter what a jackass the person I am talking to is or how wrong they are. Maybe that comes from my Christian faith, but I’m pretty sure its not a uniquely Christian value. and I would say that any words that are designed to shame, discredit, or overpower someone else are coming from the same “colonialist” mentality that most here agree has been so harmful in our world. But if you feel that is justified for whatever reason, I really don’t need to hear about why. As far as I see it, there is no reason, scientific or religious, why you need to insult people when you talk about your disagreements, and that belief is not going to change.
    It makes me really sad that we as a people are so bad at being civil with each other in differences. And not trying to be an evangelist, but purely to share something about me: I believe that this is something God wants to free us from, regardless of our religion or lack thereof. I believe in freedom of speech as a matter of law, but I do think our world depends on a responsible sort of pluralism, where we consider ourselves accountable to each other in how we communicate. Yes, it is our “right” to violate that, and no one should go to jail for it. But we do so at the expense of our dignity, relationships, families, community life. No one can force you or debate you to care about how your words hurt someone else. You do, or you don’t.

  84. Emburii
    June 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    (…)And not trying to be an evangelist, but purely to share something about me: I believe that this is something God wants to free us from, regardless of our religion or lack thereof(…)

    …then why doesn’t it/he/she/they DO something that could conclusively prove the existence of such an overriding entity with such a strong desire? There is no naturalistic evidence or supernatural proof that elevates the worth of one religion over another.
    If we go purely by respecting cultural or religious norms, the woman mutilating her daughters’ genitals for Allah can claim the same moral prerogative as the liberal Christian campaigning for gay rights. How do you know one is wrong and the other is right? By your own personal morals? By what your section of society has taught you? I will not justify the involuntary cutting of a minor’s, anyone’s, body with some soft-pedaled ‘this is what I believe but I respect your right to think as you will because all religions are sacred’. By rephrasing my words to that effect, you are appropriating and shaping my feelings to your agenda, and as a religious minority I object to being so rewritten.

  85. Jade S
    June 1, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    ANd, btw, GinnyC, Havlova, Renee, Natalia, Shoshie, April…it seems there are plenty of voices here expressing disagreement in a way that is respectful of the humanity of the other.

  86. Kristen J.
    June 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    @Jade – Briefly, to some people “god” is not just a value-neutral word. It is emblematic of hate and abuse, both physical and psychological. Please respect that experience and refrain from telling people that they need to “be nice” when expressing their frustration.

  87. June 1, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Emburii: …then why doesn’t it/he/she/they DO something that could conclusively prove the existence of such an overriding entity with such a strong desire? There is no naturalistic evidence or supernatural proof that elevates the worth of one religion over another.

    You don’t honestly expect an answer to this, do you? Even if I could offer you “proof” on a silver platter, you wouldn’t accept it. Just as I wouldn’t accept any “proof” that my God doesn’t exist. So why bother with the gotcha tactics?

    As for the rest, you’re projecting into these comments what no one here has done: claim superiority of one belief system over another. I don’t argue that it happens, especially in the U.S. by Christians, but it hasn’t happened here on this page. So how are we supposed to respond to something that hasn’t been said?

  88. June 1, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    @gretel & Angela H:

    Right. I realize that different people believe in different Christianities and experience Christianity differently.

    What I am trying to point out is that anyone can claim any belief as central to their personhood, and so long as they claim it is a religious belief, your position appears to be that we cannot challenge it, for that would be disrespect.

    Either we can challenge deeply held religious beliefs or we can’t. Otherwise, who is to decide which beliefs we can question and which we cannot without offending someone’s very “personhood”?

    My stance is that they can all be challenged. I can respect a person as a human being and still challenge their religious beliefs. Putting the designation “religion” on a belief does not remove it from the sphere of inquiry. I would expect others to do the same if they oppose my own deeply held beliefs, though I do not designate them as “religious”.

  89. shah8
    June 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    You know, I am just so sick of this. I enjoyed the OP. Just like the fact that I think I got something out of “Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness” despite the huge use of Freudian terminology and general Freudian sensibility. Just because I think Freud is bunk does not mean that the book is without some merit, and moreover, a good challenge to why I think Freud is bunk. That same measure of respect should be given to an OP that uses her specific brand of chrisitan theology to critique a pop act. In no way was I, an atheist, compelled to believe that her value system has merit. It was only an invitation to see it her way, and nothing in it requires us to act on her beliefs.

    In other words, I am especially with IrishUp and Valhallie.

    Also, DP, U’re doing it wrong, actually in reverse. DP made a singularly irrelevant, content free, and insulting post that was meant to terminate or derail the discussion. It was clearly about lack of even “toleration”.

    I *like* cultural posts like this. That’s why I grit my teeth when the blogosphere stay so close to pop culture at times, and there does seem to be an interesting conversation that was possible, which was derailed.

  90. Jade S
    June 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Emburii: …then why doesn’t it/he/she/they DO something that could conclusively prove the existence of such an overriding entity with such a strong desire?

    From my vantage point, God has made God’s desire for people to treat each other with respect quite obviously and painfully clear. It seems to me that the whole of human experience demonstrates that disrespect is a horrible way for us all to live. This is something I find a lot of people agree with me about, but popularity does not relate to somethign being true or not. The fact that some people don’t share this perspective (that is, that respect is what is right) is so hard for me to make sense of, that its like people are speaking a different language when they question that. I am vulnerable to being wrong about things, just like everyone. And I’m certainly vulnerable to being disrespectful, but I would see that as something I should correct when I become aware of it. To me, the fundamental rightness of respect is plainer and more sure than any scientific discovery that has ever been made. I’m as sure of it as I am sure that the earth is here under my feet. If you’re not, that doesn’t make you an idiot, or less than human. It makes you a person who sees things far differently than I do.

    Emburii:
    If we go purely by respecting cultural or religious norms, the woman mutilating her daughters’ genitals for Allah can claim the same moral prerogative as the liberal Christian campaigning for gay rights.How do you know one is wrong and the other is right?By your own personal morals? By what your section of society has taught you?

    I think discerning the truth can be confusing, but that there is such thing as clear truth. I think really getting the full and trustworthy truth is not something that an individual or community could accomplish on their own, and it would only be possible in a world that was much more healthy than ours is currently. The world is fucked up and its confusing and a lot of us are wrong a lot of the time. I believe respect for each other creates the possibility of understanding truth more fully, but its not truth in and of itself, it just provides a way forward. Its not like “I’m ok you’re ok” moral relativism, or assimilation, but its also not like you having a different belief will cancel me out if I don’t kill it.
    Respect doesn’t compromise truth, imo. It makes it possible for people to realize when they might have been confused. None of us know with absolute certainty when we might be wrong, but we’ve got strong feelings about when we are NOT wrong (ie atrocious violence). There are varying degrees of certainty we have but certainty has nothing to do with respect. I don’t think you have to compromise or water down a truth you are certain of in order to treat other people with respect. Obviously that gets more difficult with bigger issues like genital mutilation which I would share your fierce opposition to. But I still think its possible. On the issue of a blog about the symbols in a music video, I think it should be relatively easy for us.

    Emburii
    By rephrasing my words to that effect, you are appropriating and shaping my feelings to your agenda, and as a religious minority I object to being so rewritten.

    I tried to say that my suggestions for language were merely examples of how a person *might* express a point of view less disrespectfully. I stated outright that I don’t know what the speakers intentions were, and couldn’t express them since they’re not mine. I’m suggesting that we could phrase things in a way that doesn’t insult each other, and my point is to say that you could still express disagreement. You have to decide what language expresses what you’re saying and I would never want you to lie or tell a half-truth or use my words. That’s not my point. I was trying to throw a few examples out there with my best understanding of what I heard people saying that potentially could have been worded without degrading language. But its all subjective and has to be tested against the truth. If you felt I was putting words in your mouth, I’m sorry. What I meant was to throw out an example so people knew what I meant.

  91. June 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Havlová: @gretel & Angela H:Right. I realize that different people believe in different Christianities and experience Christianity differently.What I am trying to point out is that anyone can claim any belief as central to their personhood, and so long as they claim it is a religious belief, your position appears to be that we cannot challenge it, for that would be disrespect.Either we can challenge deeply held religious beliefs or we can’t. Otherwise, who is to decide which beliefs we can question and which we cannot without offending someone’s very “personhood”?My stance is that they can all be challenged. I can respect a person as a human being and still challenge their religious beliefs. Putting the designation “religion” on a belief does not remove it from the sphere of inquiry. I would expect others to do the same if they oppose my own deeply held beliefs, though I do not designate them as “religious”.

    I actually agree with you 100%. It wasn’t because my belief system was religious that I believed it deserved respect, but because it was my belief system.

    I’m not making myself clear: By belief system, I mean any foundation on which one builds their values, morals, culture, and identity, that may or may not include a person’s religion or spirituality. (Note: I don’t know of any academic definition. This is merely what I understand a belief system to be.) I believe that disrespect of anybody’s belief system (as I defined it above) is wrong. I believe that belief can and should be challenged, but telling someone that their beliefs are based on fairy tales is not only unconstructive but rude and disrespectful.

    I hope this clears things up now. :-)

  92. Mechelle
    June 1, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Angel H.: You don’t honestly expect an answer to this, do you? Even if I could offer you “proof” on a silver platter, you wouldn’t accept it. Just as I wouldn’t accept any “proof” that my God doesn’t exist. So why bother with the gotcha tactics?

    How do you know Emburii wouldn’t accept proof? I am atheist but if there was definite proof given to me tomorrow to support the existence of any God(s), I would believe in that God(s). That being said, many people (like myself) are non-believers because they refuse to believe anything that doesn’t have any support or good, quality, evidence to back it up, which I think is a good thing.

    The fact that you said you would refuse to accept *any* proof, real or not (and of course you should always accept the -real- evidence which means it has good statistics, etc. to back it up), that wouldn’t support what you already believe makes me a bit worried. I feel like people who won’t accept any evidence whatsoever, and will continue to believe whatever they want even if they are proven wrong are just not worth debating. I just don’t understand why people are like that anyways.

  93. Jade S
    June 1, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Shah8: Word.

  94. Emburii
    June 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Angel H.: You don’t honestly expect an answer to this, do you? Even if I could offer you “proof” on a silver platter, you wouldn’t accept it. Just as I wouldn’t accept any “proof” that my God doesn’t exist. So why bother with the gotcha tactics?

    As for the rest, you’re projecting into these comments what no one here has done: claim superiority of one belief system over another. I don’t argue that it happens, especially in the U.S. by Christians, but it hasn’t happened here on this page. So how are we supposed to respond to something that hasn’t been said?

    For your first paragraph, I would actually accept proof. Not ‘proof’, as you put it; you’re right that anecdotes and irregularities in our understanding of the world are not enough to reify directly contradictory claims to me, but I would accept a clear, documented pattern with no other explanation than a specific religious one as evidence. Please do not compare my position of skepticism to your blind faith.

    As for the second matter, it related directly to the discussion at hand because the OP is asserting that their theology is ‘better’ and ‘right’, accusing Lady Gaga of religious illiteracy as if that assertion completely erases any validity to her alternate viewpoint. I question the right for any religious tradition to be elevated over another because none of them have proof for their moral claims, and that is exactly what the original post is trying to do. The post has a great deal of religious privilege embedded in a matrix of socialization, and I am trying to highlight these things for the fallacies they are.

  95. shah8
    June 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Well, Havlova, can you at least sum up the creativity to vent that spleen and *challenge* honeyandlocusts’s original post? I assure you, there are ways you can say that honeyandlocust’s focus on approaching Lady Gaga from a theological point of view is fallacious–ie, who cares whether some random fan could appreciate that there were two Marys, we have to approach this video from standpoint of critical theory (mebbe some marxist) and decipher Lady Gaga intended to determine the relationship of each fan with each other and not necessarily with the Gaga or the Church. Catholic theology is only meant to be a common language, and while these religious themes are present, they are absent of religious power, so….

    see where I’m going? Isn’t this so much more interesting than me reading yet another sturm und drang from yet another petty atheist who likes his/her space to be “God Free”. Act on people who are symbol propagators, regurgitators, who are hegemonic noise in the space. Don’t act as if everytime someone says God, or My Beliefs compels me to say, you’re uncomfortable and they shouldn’t be making you uncomfortable.

  96. June 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Mechelle:

    The reason I responded to Emburii the way I did is that I’ve noticed a common trend among many non-believers to say “Prove to me that God/a deity/a supernatural being/miracles/etc. exist” knowing that it can’t definitively be done. They aren’t interested in being proven wrong; they want believers to fail and prove them right. I admit, however, that I could be wrong about Emburii’s motives.

    As for my absolute faith in my God: Please understand that I’d rather not get into that here with a group of strangers on the Internet.

  97. June 1, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Emburii:

    Since you responded before I submitted my last comment, I do apologize for misinterpretting your motives. I also apologize for not seeing carefully what point you were trying to make in regards to the OP.

    That’s what I get for not getting enough sleep…g’night, folks!

  98. Miss S
    June 1, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    It seems like Q grrl doesn’t understand the concept of intersectionality. Many people are christian and oppressed in other ways. My African American family is Christian. Hell alotbof slaves were Christian. Obviously Didn’t offer them the kind of privilege and power that you seem to think bring a Christian does.

    Also, Christians are the backbone of oppression for… Hundreds of thousands of people? Well so are white people. Should I come on here ranting and being snarky to all white people because of it?? Should I talk down to every white person I see? Seriously?

  99. Emburii
    June 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Angel H.:
    Mechelle:

    The reason I responded to Emburii the way I did is that I’ve noticed a common trend among many non-believers to say “Prove to me that God/a deity/a supernatural being/miracles/etc. exist” knowing that it can’t definitively be done. They aren’t interested in being proven wrong; they want believers to fail and prove them right. I admit, however, that I could be wrong about Emburii’s motives.

    As for my absolute faith in my God: Please understand that I’d rather not get into that here with a group of strangers on the Internet.

    I am interested in the truth, whatever it may be. I don’t want you to fail, I want to understand the Universe in the most accurate and applicable terms possible. Specific deities and religious claims have thus far not proven to be useful to that understanding, but if you can advance useful information to that end I’d certainly want to know more.

    And you are the one who introduced your belief in God to the discussion as a silencing tactic, but don’t actually want to go further into the subject when it doesn’t work as intended? Who’s playing ‘gotcha’ now?

  100. GinnyC
    June 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I am not in anyway minimizing the horrors committed in the name of Christianity, or contesting that many Christians somehow believe that they can legislate queer people out of existence. But I think that the problem is fundamentalism in general and not one particular religious tradition.

    Several people have singled out Christianity or monotheism as more repressive than other religions. I think that particular assumption is super-problematic. Polytheistic religions do not necessarily promote greater social equality than monotheistic ones. For instance, many Dalit and other lower-caste people in India and South Asia converted to Islam or Sikhism historically to escape the institutionalized caste oppression they faced in Hinduism.

    On another note, I’m not surprised at all that people are getting upset. Criticism of people, including Lady Gaga, for being sacrilegious or not treating religious iconography in a Church-sponsored fashion feels an awful lot like humorless fundamentalism even if the person making the argument is actually calling for a more intellectual and analytical treatment of religion than fundamentalists would ever allow. From her posts, honeyandlocusts is queer herself and an anti-racist ally, but the type of argument she makes hurts. It echoes, even if unintentionally, the “people like you shouldn’t exist according to my religion, and if you criticize my faith you’re the bigot” shit we hear from the fundamentalists.

  101. Shaun
    June 1, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Emburii: If we go purely by respecting cultural or religious norms, the woman mutilating her daughters’ genitals for Allah can claim the same moral prerogative as the liberal Christian campaigning for gay rights.

    Oh FFS. Islam doesn’t advocate FGM (only male); just because some Muslim-majority countries practice this doesn’t mean it’s a Muslim religious practice.

  102. Emburii
    June 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Angel H.:
    Emburii:

    Since you responded before I submitted my last comment, I do apologize for misinterpretting your motives. I also apologize for not seeing carefully what point you were trying to make in regards to the OP.

    That’s what I get for not getting enough sleep…g’night, folks!

    And now I’m the one to apologize for missing a post and responding too quickly, and too combatively at that. Thank you for your graceful response, and I think I’ll be joining your lead in this ‘sleep’ thing.

  103. tomoe gozen
    June 1, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    angel h. – way to dodge the request for proof with a personal insult, to wit the claim that unbelievers are in fulsome denial of supposedly apparent evidence.

    but isn’t that just what the reprobate are destined to do ?

  104. Athenia
    June 1, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    honeyandlocusts:
    One clarifying note, about me as white and (nominally) Protestant (we’re not called Anglo-Catholics for nothing):though I am white, I grew up in a small, rural town where the vast majority of the population was Mexican or Mexican-American and Catholic.The future “hipness” of the chol@ aesthetic was lost on the criminalized and policed kids I went to school with – the possibility that someday the #1 person on the Forbes Most Powerful Celebrities list might decide to dabble in their look was pretty far from their minds.When I came to faith, I came to faith in south central LA, within a Latin@ Catholic context.I am not Latin@; it is not my culture.I make no claims about it being mine to defend, nor am I its white knight or messiah. I do have intimate history with and knowledge of that particular expression of Catholicism, however, and thus I am not coming to this reading of the video from a strict Protestant/Anglican/Episcopal “outsider” place.

    And who’s the say that Lady Gaga isn’t familiar with the “latin@” context? She’s from New York City. There are tons of latin@s here. Perhaps chol@ means something different in NYC?

  105. Doña Eagle
    June 1, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Dig the original post, dig the comments, thank you all.

    Most of humanity seems to lean to one religion or another. And religion is routinely accused of being the primary vehicle of oppression. It certainly has been so, but also may provide solace, relief or hope when all else has fallen away. If most people have religion (or other objectively unprovable belief) and religion is bad, then most people must be bad. Or power dynamics is a general problem with humanity, and religion (or political affiliation, or nationality, or…) is just the vehicle. Getting rid of religion would just unmask the next most likely human tendency to exploit, subjugate, degrade and dominate. Better to know your enemy.

    The stuff I don’t know fills libraries. As a middle-aged person of little religion, I’ve become tempted to appreciate some measure of faith in the incomprehensible. Some sound so sure, but I cannot be. Lady Gaga expresses some good life-force, but I’ve read that she did graduate from Spence, so privilege of a high degree has been experienced. If someone is privileged, does that invalidate every single thing they do or express? My (apparently gay) pig farming obsessed seven year old nephew in a het household LOVES her, which is inspiration for me. We’re probably reading all of this here because she has been a positive voice. I’ll take a superficial fashion plate if she speaks truth once in awhile. In the words of Gil Scott Heron, “Would I take Jesse Jackson? Hell, I’d take Michael Jackson!”

    Can humans be only so good? I understand that is the opposite of being progressive, but I wonder. Just how I get through my day.

  106. JP
    June 1, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Jade S: Instead of: “There are no particularly good arguments for the claim that we owe respect to the religious beliefs of others, in any substantive sense of “respect.””
    Try: “I don’t agree with your religious beliefs or admire them, but I respect you as a person and that while you may be wrong about some things, (and I think you are) you deserve to make your own decisions about your life and how to understand it. I believe strongly that people have the right to speak freely, and I would defend that right for you or anyone, even if its voiced in a way that is disrespectful.”

    Your proposed rephrasing does not capture the content of the original. While I happen to agree with all that the paraphrase says, it would be perfectly consistent to accept it and deny the original, and vice versa. The paraphrase, among other things, seems to focus on the political commitment to the freedom of speech. The original (without your truncation), and not the paraphrase, additionally implies that there is nothing morally wrong with saying disrespectful things about people’s religious beliefs – doing so does not violate any duties we have towards each other. This claim is rather different from a blanket commitment to the freedom of speech that also covers cases in which the relevant speech is morally bad in some way.

    You should also note that while I provided references, which you conveniently truncated, to actual arguments for the assertion I made, you made no attempt to give anything resembling an argument to the contrary. In fact, nobody defending your position (and similar ones) here has done so (it’s like the veganism thread all over again, with the attendant foot-stomping and self-righteousness).

    Finally, some people do have deeply held beliefs that are in fact “trivial, stupid, insane, or fundamentally evil” (I’m going to interpret your use of “insane” here charitably). There is nothing wrong with saying so forthrightly. Many people also have deeply held beliefs that are mistaken, but are non-trivial, clever, “sane,” or morally neutral. Many of us are able, fallibly, to judge the difference and act accordingly.

  107. June 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Belief in anything—religious or not—is polarizing, if we let it be polarizing, because the very nature of belief implies that the alternatives are either not correct, not morally right, not aligned with my own sensibilities.

    I’m a Christian, and I’m aware of “The Church”‘s many atrocities. I’m also going to insist that The Church cannot be equated with Jesus or his message, because no matter what flavor of Christianity one claims, none of us come close to living the kind of love, acceptance, kindness and compassion that Jesus practiced and taught.

    Calling others’ faith-based beliefs “fairy tales” is invalidating and silly, because every single person has faith in something, whether it’s in God or the fact that there is no God. Somehow I don’t think insults have any place in toleration—which must also extend to Christians, many of whom are not the nutso, awful, decidedly UNChristian fundamentalists who resemble the teachings of Jesus in approximately zero ways. Just like angry, hurt-based lashing out against all people of faith and all faiths doesn’t well represent feminism as a whole or the point(s) of the person who is saying/writing those things.

    All that being said, I don’t think GaGa was trying to do anything with this video besides stir the pot (a job well done, no?) and toss out yet another artistic take on some well-worn cultural symbolism.

  108. honeyandlocusts
    June 1, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    One of the myths of neoliberalist ideology is that everything is a commodity and that everything should be framed in terms of “personal choice”, including religion. Some commenters reflect this when they state that they think that the religious aspects of the video are communal property and are up for grabs while they critique the cultural appropriation happening in the video. I am grateful that we have some collective alignment that cultural appropriation is not acceptable, that cultures should be treated with respect and thoughtfulness. However, religious expression and cultural expression are often so deeply interwoven as to be nearly indistinguishable. For many, many people religious life is enmeshed and interwoven with cultural and ethnic expression, and it is not reducible to a matter of “personal belief.” To pretend that religious life is solely about “belief” and not about people’s deep, complex, intimate, and communal selves is to buy into the commodification of persons, which I find unacceptable. If we insist that religion and culture are separate categories, we are going to start drawing heavy lines on peoples bodies, on people’s communities. So part of my issue with Lady Gaga is not that she’s using Catholicism per se, but that she is manipulating a particular cultural expression of it. In this, she is behaving consistently with other thin, white, cis, het singers who have accessorized themselves with religious and/or cultural expression (Madonna in “Like a Prayer”, Madonna in her bindis and saris and mehndi, Gwen Stefani with her Harajuku Girls, Gwen Stefani with her early chola thing, etc.). Because of the examples cited in the OP, I am no longer willing to assume Gaga’s good faith.

    I’d also like to reiterate that I love challenging, difficult art that works with religious themes. In no way do I advocate for a single and hegemonic interpretation of any piece of the tradition: I love my religious tradition precisely because it is so dynamic, vivid, shifting, and moving. I am grateful to commenters who are swift to reject even a whiff of replacing one hegemony with another. The pieces I cited above – Piss Christ, The Holy Virgin Mary, and Sweet Thing – are not church-sponsored or church-approved. (The attacks against the first two were massive, fierce, international, and sometimes physical.) But I love those pieces because they didn’t cheapen what was already present in the tradition. Piss Christ made the “fully human” doctrine of Jesus shocking again. The Holy Virgin Mary had pictures of pussies and butts shaped like little cherubs floating around Mary, which re-visceralizes the birth of Jesus, and has echoes of the naked little penis-having bodies common in centuries of religious art, challenging which bodies are seen as obscene. Sweet Thing forces us to confront the common trope of a subservient, disinfected, and pale Mary. I in no way desire religious art that only reinforces official doctrine. I do desire the kinds of care and honor with which we would approach any honest and critical investigation of major phenomena that involve real people, and real peoples’ lives. And there is value in research and dialogue in religious conversation: not to find the “correct” interpretation and to stick with that for eternity, but to make sure we are doing right by people. There is a lot of Islamophobia “in the air” right now, in the national dialogue, with all kinds of inaccurate things being said about “what those Muslims believe”. It is not acceptable to take that at face value. It is worthwhile to step back and ask, “Are those claims true? Is there other data? What do Muslim people and Muslim groups say about that? Is it fair to make blanket statements about what ‘Muslims’ believe?” Likewise, it is not in line with our best practices to say, “Well, all these misogynist readings of Mary of Magdala are just out there in the ether, and it’s OK to just use them uncritically.” The art I listed above interrogates Christianity really intensely, but from a place of actual engagement with Christian history and practice, rather than from a place of, “I broke up with someone who listens to heavy metal and also I’m pretty casual about how I play around with other people’s identities.”

  109. tinfoil hattie
    June 1, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Still not convinced that my disagreeing with all religions’ inherent hatred of and violence toward “the other” (to be defined by each specific religion) is somehow disrespectful of people I don’t even know. If you “are” your religion, that’s your choice. I don’t respect any religion. I don’t believe any religion. I think religion is one of the biggest perpetrators of harm in history.

    That has nothing to do with “respecting” anyone here.

  110. JP
    June 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    honeyandlocusts: One of the myths of neoliberalist ideology is that everything is a commodity and that everything should be framed in terms of “personal choice”, including religion. Some commenters reflect this when they state that they think that the religious aspects of the video are communal property and are up for grabs while they critique the cultural appropriation happening in the video.

    The glaring inconsistency that underlies that pair of sentences rather renders one speechless.

  111. anotheranonforthis
    June 1, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Thank you IrishUp. I’m finally admitting to myself that I’m agnostic, for the past four years or so I’ve called myself a liberal Christian, even though it was a lie for myself–admitting I was no longer a Christian in any form was like pulling myself out of cement–very difficult. It was hard because I was raised to be very religious. Church was my life, and being a Christian was all that was around me. I’m not out to my parents or any of my childhood acquaintances as anything but a good little pro-life Christian, even though I volunteer for Planned Parenthood and am a Socialist Feminist Agnostic… I don’t know if I’ll ever come out to them–to someone raised the way I was, admitting leaving the religion is unthinkable. Our relationship would never be fixable, as they would forever be praying for my redemption.

    It took years to admit I wasn’t a Christian, even to MYSELF, because I couldn’t let it go. It was what I was raised to be. So no, I did not have a “choice” whatsoever in my religion. I was hurt by it, psychologically, but even if I still identified as Christian, I never “chose” that lifestyle. It was put upon me by my parents. Parents like mine raise children in a very controlling way, to make them exactly what they want. And they often succeed. Somehow they failed with me, they just don’t know that–and I still have the mental scars.

    IrishUp:
    I often read and hear one’s religion described as “a choice”; almost always by those who are not self-identifying as religious. The fact that a religious/spiritual identity is deemed a choice seems to me to be the basis for a lot of the “calling out” that goes on. And calling out a person for their choices is, as we all understand it, fair game. It’s criticizing someone’s actions, not who they are inherently born.

    It’s pretty privileged to view a person’s religion as a choice at all. Reallistically, in the US and elsewhere, how much choice does an individual actually get to exercise w/r/t religion? Doesn’t that vary with where you’re born, and in what class/ caste? Don’t the privileges of wealth, education, and gender play into it? How free are most people to explore further into their religious/spiritual identities, much less openly move into othe areas? For those of us who have no personal experience with the familial and societal costs of bucking religious traditions and expectations, can you at least imagine what daunting barriers are in the way? How much these costs might make the term “choice” a functional illusion for a given individual?

    The thing is, that for those of us who DO self-identify along a religious or spiritual axis, that identity is seldom experienced as “a choice”. It’s part of the metaframe of our existence. It is as central to who we are as our sexual identification, ethnic identification, gender identification. Thus, what might seem like a critique of someone’s choice, is in fact experienced as an attack on who thy are.

    On a structural level, how I, the individual, experience and practice MY religous/spiritual life is a far far different thing from the institutions of organized religion. Valid critiques of the organized institutions & the systems they put in place are necessary and important. Criticizing a person for being a part of such an organization gets right into the same territory as blaming someone for shopping at WalMart, and starts to get into victim blaming.

  112. AnonForThis
    June 1, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    One of the myths of neoliberalist ideology is that everything is a commodity and that everything should be framed in terms of “personal choice”, including religion.

    One of the myths of Christianity is that there is such a thing as right and wrong and that their specific myths are True in such a way as to render other choices and systems of value both objectively incorrect and subjectively evil.

    You keep hammering on your claims of objective truth. For reference, that complete invalidation of individual choice and human dignity is what scares the hell out of me about even the most seemingly progressive of Christians. I could give two shits how you came to the faith or who was around you when you got there. All I care about is that you believe, very deeply, that at the end of the day you are not only doing what is best for yourself but what is best for others. Thats paternalistic bullshit, its oppressive, and it flows from the same source as the uglier examples of American theocracy. You’re just so damned sure you’re right and so damned sure the rest of the world just doesn’t get it.

    Also, for the record, my religion was a matter of personal experience. I was raised with the emotional abuse and moral slavery that I’ve experienced of Christianity, I was brought up with the fear and the guilt and the same and the absolute self-loathing that Christianity is uniquely good at promoting. Then something happened in my life and I came to the very simple conclusion that I’d rather burn than submit. It was a choice. I moved through life mourning the loss of something that had abused me and eventually I became disgusted by that and decided to find something new. That was a choice. I actively sought out different expressions of faith. That was a choice. Finally I found one that spoke to me and I chose to listen.

  113. annalouise
    June 1, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I’m not feeling this post and I don’t think it was well thought out, for the reasons that La Lubu and the Alsoanon at comment 58 pointed out.

    I think it wasn’t a good idea, to right out of the gate speak about specifically Catholic imagery as a Protestant, because I find more and more that there are nuances and experience in Catholic beliefs that I, as a Protestant am going to be a long, long way from wrapping my mind around. The emotional meaning of Mary in the Catholic tradition is so rich, that even as feminist Protestants and those trying to reconcile with the mother church try to re-discover Mary, we are rediscovering something very different from the experience of Mary in Catholicism. And I think, even with that, talking about cultural appropriation in the context of a religion that makes claims towards universality and their being neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, etc (however flawed the reality of that is) is complicated.

    And I think Lady Gaga is just messing around and that’s okay.

    However, I’m glad to see a religious guest blogger and I hope this will be part of a trend. I hope that religious guest bloggers may, at some point, be able to post complicated, nuanced posts about religion without them getting bogged down in snide atheist comment insisting that “all Christians” do a collection of things that I’ve known a single Christian in my life to do or believe.

    I look forward to your next post, honeyandlocusts. Have you thought about talking about the sexism in the emergent church? I saw you had some references to that topic in your blog and I think it’s a really interesting one that needs to get talked about a lot more.

    It’ll blow y’all’s mind. Then you can start angrily denouncing Christians for having all the unpleasant character traits of white hippie dudes.

  114. GinnyC
    June 1, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    honeyandlocusts:
    So part of my issue with Lady Gaga is not that she’s using Catholicism per se, but that she is manipulating a particular cultural expression of it.In this, she is behaving consistently with other thin, white, cis, het singers who have accessorized themselves with religious and/or cultural expression….

    But she’s not het! She’s bi. Please don’t erase bi identities! Even if this wasn’t intentional, it perpetuates the myth that bi women are pretending to be queer or just acting out for attention. Bi identities are queer identities too; hence lBgt.

  115. June 1, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    This is a very compelling interpretation and challenge of Gaga’s recent work, and our own readings of pop culture. Thanks for the insights.

  116. honeyandlocusts
    June 1, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    @GinnyC, thank you so much for sticking up for her as bi! Somewhere along the way in my following and then not following and then following the antics of Lady Gaga, I had a memory of being like “Oh she’s queer!” and then some memory of reading something that was like, “Oh she’s distancing herself from being queer, that feels icky!” and then I never followed up. This is super sloppy on my part, and not acceptable. It is definitely my fault for erasing her in that way in that comment, and contributing to the erasure of people who are bi, and I apologize.

  117. Valhallie
    June 1, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I wasn’t saying that belief and culture are separate entities per se, but that Christianity is a part of the collective culture of most USians, such that Gaga’s playing with Biblical themes is not appropriation, whereas the use of Latino@ cultural imagery is.

    I don’t think it’s neoliberalism that makes people think of Christianity as a commodity. I think it’s part of the very nature of the religion, and definitely why it’s been so successful. You can, and people certainly have, export it anywhere. The entire reason we are having this conversation is because it was exported by colonialists to the Americas. We are not talking about the commodification of persons but of ideas, ideas that were tailored by certain dudes named Paul to be easily exportable and universalist. Individual and communal practices are certainly an issue of culture, but the base ideology exists on its own as well.

    Also, I guess I sort of believe that in an ideal world, cultural mash-ups and blending and reinterpretations would happen pretty freely. Thoughtfully, but freely. The problem, though, is that, given all the various -isms we have to deal with, free transfer of culture becomes appropriation and imperialism pretty easily. So I guess I have limited sympathy for the “appropriation” of the West’s most dominant cultural narrative.

  118. some_kid
    June 1, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I really wish that there could be two different threads on these comments. One could be for the important tasks of policing language and continuing the debate about the intrinsic goodness/badness of religion (esp. monotheism) and the other could be for addressing the ideas raised in the post, such as religion in culture, religious literacy, and art and religion.

    Collectively, we’ve proved in these comments that the conversations in this hypothetical “second thread” are difficult to have and so needed all the more. I’ll second annalouise (comment 111, first part of paragraph 4) and add that I hope future religious posts (and hopefully more from honeyandlocusts!!!) become places where ideas are fleshed out and where opposition, honestly expressed, is raised in order to share a perspective. Sometimes we did this and sometimes we did not.

    I read this post with a friend and we shared a moment thinking about justice communities: we’re supposed to be like showing a model of a somehow “better” way to live but often derail ourselves with debates over semantics. I hope (pray?) that posts like these can become a place where we express compassion in our conversations.

    (As far as Gaga goes: I believe that music reflects cultural values more than it influences cultural values. This is why it’s important to me to have the conversation about literacy, intersections of “culture” with religion, etc as I wrote above. I’m really interested in the limited, semi-accurate narrative about Jesus, Judas, and Mary that she uses because it reflects the limited, semi-accurate religious understandings that I see in US society. So when honeyandlocusts writes that “Judas” is “symptomatic of a kind of religious dismissiveness that serves no one” I’m inclined to agree. Also I think that the same culture that gives rise to a song/video like “Judas” is the culture that allows ignorant dialogues about (for example) Islam, the variety of religious traditions that are not Judeo-Christian and traditions of non-religious people to continue. I think this limited dialogue only serves the people in power and therefore we should be calling it out. I guess I’m just sort of summarizing OP at this point, oh well.)

  119. honeyandlocusts
    June 1, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    @annalouise, Thanks for that feedback. You are right – it is complex to be ordained in a Protestant church and to be speaking about Mary the Mother of Jesus in relationship to Catholicism. Most of the post was about Mary of Magdala, though as other commenters have pointed out, it seems that Lady Gaga is a little confused about which Mary she’s trying to reference.

    I will say again that my tradition-of-origin is Roman Catholicism, and my devotional practice has changed very little since my days going to Catholic Mass and living in a convent. I learned to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe before I was even willing to consider thinking about Jesus. Because of how official Roman Catholic policy interprets bodies and genders, I am not permitted to serve in a priestly capacity in Roman Catholicism. If I were, I would probably still be there. Fortunately, Anglicanism gives a very wide berth in terms of permitting people to practice according to their consciences, both individually and collectively, so there has been no need to give up my devotion to Mary. Many Protestant traditions are very, very skeptical of a deep and passionate love of Mary, but Anglicanism is not one of them. There is high level ecclesiastical nerdery and documents around this, but I fear I’m wandering down a derail. Back to topic!

    Also, sexism in the emergent church is one of my (least) favorite topics. ARRRRRRGGGHHHH, and yes, folks at my blog collective and I write about it a lot. It would be interesting to try and write about it in this space. At least we would have some common starting language about mansplaining, which many emergent church leaders seem to be specialists in.

  120. Valhallie
    June 1, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    I would also add that I agree with the OP that Gaga’s message is reductive and kind of silly. I just don’t think it’s necessarily an issue of appropriation outside of the Latin@ imagery.

  121. Jade S
    June 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    JP: Your proposed rephrasing does not capture the content of the original. While I happen to agree with all that the paraphrase says, it would be perfectly consistent to accept it and deny the original, and vice versa. The paraphrase, among other things, seems to focus on the political commitment to the freedom of speech. The original (without your truncation), and not the paraphrase, additionally implies that there is nothing morally wrong with saying disrespectful things about people’s religious beliefs – doing so does not violate any duties we have towards each other. This claim is rather different from a blanket commitment to the freedom of speech that also covers cases in which the relevant speech is morally bad in some way.

    You should also note that while I provided references, which you conveniently truncated, to actual arguments for the assertion I made, you made no attempt to give anything resembling an argument to the contrary. In fact, nobody defending your position (and similar ones) here has done so (it’s like the veganism thread all over again, with the attendant foot-stomping and self-righteousness).

    Finally, some people do have deeply held beliefs that are in fact “trivial, stupid, insane, or fundamentally evil” (I’m going to interpret your use of “insane” here charitably). There is nothing wrong with saying so forthrightly. Many people also have deeply held beliefs that are mistaken, but are non-trivial, clever, “sane,” or morally neutral. Many of us are able, fallibly, to judge the difference and act accordingly.

    I’m not arguing.
    Arguing would imply that I think I should change someone’s mind, or that “proving someone wrong” through a rhetorical competition is desirable for me. But its not. That is not how I make decisions or find the truth, and its not how I expect others to, and it does not interest me. I respect that some people enjoy argument and I don’t think its morally wrong. Its just not how I roll.
    I’m here to understand different perspectives and share mine. I actually respect many people’s beliefs that I also consider wrong. And I don’t want or need to defend my beliefs here, any more than I want or need to defend other parts of who I am, or view them as being endangered by someone else’s different way of seeing things or living. I’m not here to convince or change anyone. Maybe that’s where we are missing each other.
    My suggestion about one potential respectful thing a person could say included the freedom of speech bit because I was remaining open to one *possibility* of many, which is that you do indeed share my belief that people should be treated with respect, but that you were defending disrespect on principle because you believe in freedom of speech. I have no idea if you believe that. I threw it out there as one belief that a person might have that might lead them to say that they do not feel the need to respect other people. And I used what you said as an example, but I really meant for anyone to consider. Like I said, I am really not interested in hearing people’s reasons why they don’t feel compelled to respect other people. Its not important to me and its not something I’m interested in or value at all. And I certainly don’t think I could change your mind. But I think its possible that some people may have just made a mistake saying things disrespectfully, because of a different conviction that might be not based in disrespect. I guess those were people I was talking to, because a number of people have said they don’t disrespect another person whilst saying things that sound like blatant disrespect, so I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt…ha no pun intended.and clarify what I mean when I say respect, which is actually an action. If you just want to disrespect, then I really have nothing to say about that except that we see the world in really diametrically different ways.

  122. June 1, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    The art I listed above interrogates Christianity really intensely, but from a place of actual engagement with Christian history and practice, rather than from a place of, “I broke up with someone who listens to heavy metal and also I’m pretty casual about how I play around with other people’s identities.”

    But when Lady Gaga uses Catholic imagery, she isn’t simply “playing around with other people’s identities.” Catholicism is (or once was) part of her identity. The same goes for a lot of the people critiquing Christianity on this thread.

    I find it strange that you would relate Western Islamophobia to the critiques of Christianity being discussed here. A whole lot of the secular people who criticize Christianity are very familiar with it, having been raised as Christians themselves, having had family members who are Christians, having grown up in a culture where Christianity is the dominant religion.

    So, no, me criticizing the Christianity I was brought up with is not at all the same as a white Christian Westerner bashing Islam out of malice and ignorance. That my experience of Christianity differs from yours doesn’t make me an outsider.

  123. June 1, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Wow! I had so many great thoughts about 100 comments ago, but now there are 100 more comments! Forgive me for any incoherence, or comments I may have missed as I rolled down here to the comment box.

    Here is a true thing about religion and “choice”: I chose to lean on the strength and love of God when I chose to come out as trans to myself, my family, and my community. In this instance of choosing, it didn’t really matter to me what Pat Robertson thought. It didn’t matter to me what my preacher father thought. It didn’t matter to me what people at my seminary would think. What mattered to me in this choosing is that I already knew God loved me, and that I was finally ready to take God up on that promise. I had a choice between slow-but-certain death, and thriving in the fullness of my whole being. I chose thriving. For me, that meant choosing God. That language and experience doesn’t translate to other people. I don’t need it to. I do, however, need to be alive– and this is the symbolic and spoken language in which I know how to fully live. I am grateful for honeyandlocusts’ recognition that we live in a political economy and culture that seeks (and profits off of) our fragmentation, and her recognition that religion *can be* a resistance to this fragmentation. Maybe Gaga is also just trying to thrive and glue her pieces together like I am– that would make a lot of sense to me. However, if I were getting sweet paychecks like Gaga, I would consider myself morally obligated to do something that made sense to more people… especially if I were making money off of the religious iconography that is the basis for so many other people’s survival and resistance. I don’t think it’s fundamentalist to say that the rich are obligated to do more than navel-gaze.

  124. June 2, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Uh oh! I accidentally posted under my partner’s moniker, “Ms. Rev.” Ms. Rev actually = Aaron (same Aaron of the much earlier comments). Apologies for the confusion!

  125. June 2, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Sorry moderator, could you please swap out “Ms. Rev.” for “Aaron”– for clarity’s sake? Accidentally posted under my partner’s name! Thank you :)

  126. honeyandlocusts
    June 2, 2011 at 12:44 am

    @thewhatfor and others, I do see your point. I just am not convinced at this point that there is a culturally neutral Christianity to draw from, a “basic model” as it were. To have one (very violent) strain of imperial Christianity function as the dominant religious voice in the US is so, so toxic, and it actively hurts people (including many Christians, including me and my family). However, being familiar with “Christianity” through that experience of domination and through the interactions with family and friends may not be sufficient to claim it as collective property. Because our friends might be Armenian Orthodox, or A.M.E. Zion, or Moravian, or MCC, or Southern Baptist, or “Anglican Church in America”, Christian UU’s, or one of the last remaining Shakers. And each of those expressions carries history, weight, particularities, stories, narratives, culture, expectations, variations, practices.

    And what I am perhaps not clearly communicating is concerns about our methods, about Lady Gaga’s method (or lack thereof) for interacting with this material. (This post is entitled “How to talk about Judas” and not “What to think about Judas” for a reason. I may not have very many firm beliefs about anything in my religious tradition, but I do have firm values about how we interact with one another.) I do not think that white Christian westerners bashing Islam out of malice and ignorance is the same, in terms of power dynamics, as Lady Gaga’s use of a particular Christianity. As I stated in the OP, her use is symptomatic of a larger trend in dialogue about religious practice. I think the “how” of conversations about religious practice and aesthetics is really important, and I drew parallels between a use of a Christianity with the “how” of plucking things out of the “common discourse” about Islam.

  127. Kristen J.
    June 2, 2011 at 1:27 am

    @honeyandlocust,

    What I’m hearing from you is that you would like people to have discussions about religion based a coherent theology (regardless of what that theology happens to be).

    My response is that many people don’t experience religion as a coherent theology, we experience it as a hodpodge of stories created to harm us and so we cannot have that discussion. Our experiences with religion are fundamentally different. You experience it as a set of ideas. I experienced it as child abuse. Both experiences are equally valid. Any expression of that experience (that doesn’t add to the oppression of others) is also equally valid regardless of the tone or the “accuracy.”

  128. Annaleigh
    June 2, 2011 at 1:33 am

    I just thought I would pop in say that as a bi Chicana and an agnostic ex-evangelical that who is still fascinated by world religions, I really appreciated honeyandlocusts’ post. It was very well done and very interesting.

    Though I am half-Mexican-American, I wasn’t raised Catholic; my grandmother had an interesting approach to religion…even though she was essentially Catholic through and through, as a migrant farmworker, she was inclined to involve herself in other sects if the local culture where she was living at the time was not especially Catholic. So my grandparents were baptised and buried in the Catholic religion, their first marriages were Catholic, but their marriage to each other was Mormon and my mother had both a Catholic and a Mormon baptism. Later on Grandma was accepting of me back when I was evangelical for a few years (but got out), accepting of her other evangelical relatives, and of my cousin who joined the Latter-Day Saints. My mother didn’t raise me with a religion, and on my own I explored Wicca and then had a terrible stint in the Word of Faith movement before getting out, thank God (pun not intended, and it’s a long story).

    Ok, I realize I’m rambling now, but I’m explaining the hodge-podge of my family’s religious experiences because even though I’m not Catholic and I don’t have in-depth knowledge of my heritage of Mexican Catholicism, it’s still very much a part of me and my culture. La Virgen de Guadalupe is sort of the emblem of the loving, accepting, Latina woman. And she’s a part of everyone’s life. My Christmas isn’t complete until at least December 12th because I watch the Mexican celebrations of her feast day every year on Univision. Imagery of La Virgen is an instant connection to my roots, to strong Mexicanas. So even I would wear a Virgen medallion, despite my non-Catholicism.

    What I guess I’m trying to say that there are arguements to be made against religious appropriation, but in my mind at least, Latino/a Catholic imagery is so entwined with our culture that any religious appropriation is still also cultural appropriation.

    And Born this Way? Don’t get me started. I would like the song so much if it weren’t for the facepalm problematic parts of the lyrics.

    And now I will excuse myself because virtually any religious discussion eventually hits the fan, and I would rather not be posting by then. Just thought I would say my piece now.

  129. June 2, 2011 at 3:26 am

    I read Lady gaga and Jesus … and that was enough for me to be offended and I am about the opposite of a Christian.

    tinfoil hattie: Still not convinced that my disagreeing with all religions’ inherent hatred of and violence toward “the other” (to be defined by each specific religion) is somehow disrespectful of people I don’t even know. If you “are” your religion, that’s your choice. I don’t respect any religion. I don’t believe any religion. I think religion is one of the biggest perpetrators of harm in history.

    That has nothing to do with “respecting” anyone here.

    As a Master of Divinity student I find your comments troublesome.
    While, I understand that people have been hurt by religions and so-called religious people. Saying you don’t respect all religions means that you have a disrespect for a crucial part of many peoples’ identity.
    In fact, I don’t think you can respect culture or diversity if you have a disrespect for all religions.
    How can you respect Natives peoples if you don’t respect a Native person’s faith?
    How can you respect Black American if you don’t respect that history of Black Christianity and other Black spiritualities and its use in Black liberation and activism?

    And you are lumping religions together which is disrespectful to marginalized faiths and those of that faith. Personally, my Wiccan faith is as important part of my identity as anything else. So respecting me means respecting my faith.

  130. June 2, 2011 at 3:26 am

    I read Lady gaga and Jesus … and that was enough for me to be offended and I am about the opposite of a Christian.

    tinfoil hattie: Still not convinced that my disagreeing with all religions’ inherent hatred of and violence toward “the other” (to be defined by each specific religion) is somehow disrespectful of people I don’t even know. If you “are” your religion, that’s your choice. I don’t respect any religion. I don’t believe any religion. I think religion is one of the biggest perpetrators of harm in history.

    That has nothing to do with “respecting” anyone here.

    As a Master of Divinity student I find your comments troublesome.
    While, I understand that people have been hurt by religions and so-called religious people. Saying you don’t respect all religions means that you have a disrespect for a crucial part of many peoples’ identity.
    In fact, I don’t think you can respect culture or diversity if you have a disrespect for all religions.
    How can you respect Natives peoples if you don’t respect a Native person’s faith?
    How can you respect Black American if you don’t respect that history of Black Christianity and other Black spiritualities and its use in Black liberation and activism?

    And you are lumping religions together which is disrespectful to marginalized faiths and those of that faith. Personally, my Wiccan faith is as important part of my identity as anything else. So respecting me means respecting my faith.

  131. Momentary
    June 2, 2011 at 5:49 am

    @honeyandlocusts I appreciate how you have engaged with the criticisms in this thread so far. I’d like to add, speaking as a member of a New York Italian-American family, that I didn’t see anything in the aesthetic of that video that was outside of what I saw in my Italian Catholic relatives’ homes growing up. I think you should consider re-examining your charge of cultural appropriation, or be specific about which elements you are claiming are specifically Latin@ and not Italian.

  132. June 2, 2011 at 6:31 am

    So part of my issue with Lady Gaga is not that she’s using Catholicism per se, but that she is manipulating a particular cultural expression of it.

    Honeyandlocusts, can you identify for me the specific elements of Catholic imagery in this video that are foreign to Sicilian Catholic expression? Just the specific religious imagery and symbolism that are not reflections of Sicilian Catholic and/or cultural identity. I strongly feel that one should retain “fair use” of one’s own cultural heritage, especially important to artists, and it seems as if you’re trying to erase her ethnic heritage in order to make the larger point about artists and cultural appropriation (whether or to what degree Gaga herself erases her background when it’s convenient—that blonde ambition, just like Madonna!—is another conversation).

  133. June 2, 2011 at 7:45 am

    ….rather than from a place of, “I broke up with someone who listens to heavy metal and also I’m pretty casual about how I play around with other people’s identities.”

    Yeah, but she’s also a pop star. Myself, I don’t expect her to do something in the same vein as Piss Christ. Not because I think she’s incapable – but because she’s operating within a completely different market and has completely different goals. Angst for Mr. Heavy Metal makes for much better pop song and video material. You’re not going to have something that sounds more like, “And Jesus peed – just like everyone else! / And he sweated – ’cause it just makes sense!” go to number one on the charts. You’re appealing to a big cross-section of people, and most of those people don’t want to think about Jesus peeing.

    Then something happened in my life and I came to the very simple conclusion that I’d rather burn than submit.

    You know, based on this kind of rhetoric – burning, also comparing other people’s beliefs to a gun that’s pointed at you – I would guess that the faith you left behind still has tremendous power over you. I mean, the image with the gun (since this is a thread about imagery at least in part) – that’s an image of power, the one who’s holding the gun has the power.

    This may be neither here nor there, but I have been thinking about ways in which to neutralize the power that negative forces within religion have over us. I’ll try to do a post sometime over at my place about this today – maybe you or anyone else who might be reading will find it useful. Considering how much emotion religion provokes, in myself included – though I haven’t left my faith, it can be really hard to just deal with it on a very basic level. Maybe tips can be shared. I’ll go think about it now, since I have the day off.

  134. JP
    June 2, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Jade S: But I think its possible that some people may have just made a mistake saying things disrespectfully, because of a different conviction that might be not based in disrespect. I guess those were people I was talking to, because a number of people have said they don’t disrespect another person whilst saying things that sound like blatant disrespect […]

    Assuming that your interlocutors are not competent to say what they mean is almost never productive. And neither is calling on people to alter their behaviour if you are unwilling or uninterested to provide any reasons beyond an avowal of your own distaste for it (saying, in retrospect, that you were only addressing people who already agree with you is disingenuous, since you were clearly addressing me, among others, and my comments indicated quite clearly that I do not). Nor is continuing to misrepresent their views after several rounds of clarification. But let’s go over it again. The assertions being made are that whatever duties we have of respect for people, these duties do not extend to a duty of respect for their religious beliefs (practices, etc.), no matter how important these may be to them. What we in fact owe them is toleration, which, unlike respect, can serve as the basis of religious liberty in pluralistic societies. Reasons to think that these assertions are true are given, among other places, in the essays I linked to by Leiter and Blackburn, whom you are apparently willing to misrepresent as defending the idea that we ought not have respect for persons, without bothering to read what they have to say (I’d go as far as to call this intellectually dishonest).

    Since some commenters seem to be puzzled about why this is not a conversation separate from the discussion of the original post, let me state it explicitly. The original post contains a number of criticisms of Lady Gaga’s video (many of which, like the charge that she is appropriating religious imagery of another, disadvantaged, cultural group have been thoroughly debunked by a number of commenters). One of them is that her work is disrespectful to religion. This is where the discussion of Serrano, Ofili, and Fazlalizadeh comes in. Honeyandlocusts appraises their work positively in comparison to Gaga’s, not because of any independent view of their artistic merits, but because they, in spite of initial appearances, respect the religion they are treating. But if respect is in fact not owed to religion, this criticism of Gaga’s video is moot (I also get the impression that this criticism is the central one in the original post, and the others are so much window-dressing, but that is neither here nor there).

  135. June 2, 2011 at 9:21 am

    maribelle1963:
    1.“I have been annoyed at Lady Gaga’s transphobic leanings for ages, I feel like she could actually say a lot through her work and chooses not to.”

    If Lady Gaga is too “transphobic” for you, I really can’t imagine who would satisfy you.She’s done more to foreground GLBT issues in this time period than nearly any other performer.

    She puts trans people in her vids to emphasize how cis she is. That’s a load of bull.
    Just because she’s done something at all doesn’t mean I can’t be critical of the mistakes she’s made in using trans people as set pieces.

  136. Courtney
    June 2, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Erin @ Fierce Beagle: Calling others’ faith-based beliefs “fairy tales” is invalidating and silly, because every single person has faith in something, whether it’s in God or the fact that there is no God.

    The ‘atheists have faith there is no god, therefore theists’ faith that there is on equal footing’ claim is fairly common in these sorts of discussions.

    Of course, I can’t speak for every atheist/non-believer, but I can say that I do not have faith that there is no god or gods or other supernatural force that created and/or controls the universe and/or humanity. I have no compelling evidence that there IS a god or gods. That is not faith. As others have mentioned, if there was evidence, I would be obliged to revise my beliefs. However, supernatural claims are extraordinary ones, and would require extraordinary evidence to prove them.

  137. AnonForThis
    June 2, 2011 at 9:48 am

    You know, based on this kind of rhetoric – burning, also comparing other people’s beliefs to a gun that’s pointed at you – I would guess that the faith you left behind still has tremendous power over you. I mean, the image with the gun (since this is a thread about imagery at least in part) – that’s an image of power, the one who’s holding the gun has the power.

    You’re right, and I think thats a big part of whats happening here for me. It is not an exaggeration to say that my relationship to Christianity as a concept is extremely similar to my relationship to the man who raped me. The damage, the trauma, the level of violation I have subjectively experienced, the kinds of responses I have had to unlearn, are of a very similar quality.

    The thing is, I was able to upend that power with my rapist, I was able to move past it and grow. I can’t do that with Christianity. I’m posting under an assumed name for plausible deniability. I have to dodge questions or lie about what I did on my holy days and remember to tell lies of omission for theirs. I have to keep my mouth shut about who I am because I know damned well how Christians, even progressive liberal Christians, are going to feel if they know I’m not one of them. I don’t think that many Christians realize just how closeting our culture is for someone who is not either a monotheist or an atheist.

    Here we are on a feminist board with a lot of regulars talking about the very real ways in which one of the most aggressive and patriarchal ideologies in western culture has hurt us and theres a crush of people saying we aren’t being respectful. Christianity still holds a privileged position. We’ve got a guest poster here, one who is a WASP priest, who forgot that Gaga was a queer, attacked a Sicilian for using religious imagery that she doesn’t seem to realize is pretty consistent between Latin@ and Italian cultures, has a lot to say about how people ought to express themselves, and has some pretty rigid conditions for whats a myth and whats real. That looks a lot like privilege to me.

  138. June 2, 2011 at 10:01 am

    JP, I’d like to thank you for your elaboration; I was having a hard time understanding what the hell you were talking about….and then realized it was all about the different definitions you and I have for the word “respect”. For me, toleration *is* respect, cannot be separated from the concept of respect.

  139. llama
    June 2, 2011 at 10:01 am

    What lady gaga has done with the these traditionally christian icons is as valid as what many Christians have done with them previously. She isn’t inciting a crusade, she isn’t inciting sectarian violence, there is no suggestion of initiating an inquisition. The positive aspects of Christianity only apply to those that believe, does it matter ? if you think that the belief systems of others should be respected.

    Now that is interesting because if you think the belief systems of Christians should be respected even though they have led to the aforementioned atrocities then perhaps other belief systems that have had negative outcomes should be respected.

    So what is so bad about the patriarchal system of beliefs we have lived with for so long ?

  140. Aaron
    June 2, 2011 at 11:18 am

    You know, I’m vacillating on the cultural appropriation piece. On one hand, I definitely know what folks are talking about when they say the religious imagery in the video fits with Italian expressions of Roman Catholicism—I grew up in a heavily Roman Catholic Italian-American town, and every other house had one of those half-bathtub shrines to Our Lady in the front yard. That’s part of Gaga’s background for sure. On the other hand, as pointed out in the OP, Gaga’s got a bad track record when it comes to responsible interaction with other folks’ racial and ethnic identities. I would not put it past her to capitalize (literally, economically) on the ambiguity/parallels here between Italian and Latin@ expressions of Catholicism. Kind of like Madonna in the “Like a Prayer” video (as pointed out earlier, the dude in the video was St. Martin de Porres, but I did four years with the Jesuits and still thought he was supposed to be a black Christ—embarrassing!). When that video came out, LOTS of folks freaked because they also thought he was supposed to be Jesus (folks seem to be a lot more territorial about Jesus than they are the lesser-known saints). Madonna was damn skilled at building a career off this kind of controversy, and I suspect she knew there’d be confusion on that front, played into it, and took it to the bank. I think Gaga is capable of a similar thing. And in this sense, both of them may be far more religiously literate than we give them credit for (at least when it comes to knowing how to get people riled up)—but for what end? Mostly likely profit.

    Again—all total speculation. We can’t know Madonna’s or Gaga’s intentions. And I don’t expect either of them to change, because (like Natalia said), they’ve figured out their market niche and are milking it. It would be fab if they dug a little deeper, I would love that. It would be fab if they had a more responsible approach to engaging other people’s cultures and traditions. I don’t expect them to do that, though—so for now their work is total fair game for critique, along the lines of this thread.

  141. AlsoAnonForThis
    June 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    “We’ve got a guest poster here, one who is a WASP priest, who forgot that Gaga was a queer, attacked a Sicilian for using religious imagery that she doesn’t seem to realize is pretty consistent between Latin@ and Italian cultures, has a lot to say about how people ought to express themselves, and has some pretty rigid conditions for whats a myth and whats real. That looks a lot like privilege to me”

    Quoting to point this out again. I am actually also thrilled to have an actively religious poster on a feminist board. However, I think she needs to not necessarily portray herself as a voice of authority when it comes to deciding what is or isn’t cultural/religious appropriation from a Sicilian or Latin@ standpoint. It almost ends up looking like people associate colorful, “gaudy” (from a fucked-up WASP point-of-view) expressions of Catholicism that include one or more famous female figures (like either or both of the Marys) as indications of Mexican Catholicism, which is what I think most of these people mean when they throw about “Latin@” for the sake of this discussion. (Or are we actually saying that Gaga appeared to be appropriating, say, Argentinian Catholicism and style in this video? Yeah, no.)

    OP, I don’t want to come down too hard on you because I think progressive religious voices should be part of feminist discussion, but your “I grew up in South Central” thing raises a red flag. I too come from a majority Mexican-American area. Even if I agreed with you 100% about the cultural appropriation aspect of the video (which I’m not sure I do because honestly my knowledge of Italian Catholic imagery is really lacking) it’s not necessarily my place to be the person shouting the loudest about that – which is something I have been guilty of in the past and have worked to try to do better on. I think we can raise the issue of “This might be…” but to say “This is!” implying position of authority on matters of cultural appropriation that aren’t specific to our culture is inherently, well…problematic, for lack of a better word. I’ve seen other white bloggers critique the video without positioning themselves as voices of authority on the issue of cultural appropriation here, and I think that’s a better route.

  142. Shaun
    June 2, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Iany, can you provide an example where she spoke about how cis she is? Because during the whole public debate about whether or not Lady Gaga had a penis, she publicly responded by saying she had a vagina.

    She didn’t say she was a woman. She said she had a vagina.

    That implies a far greater understanding of gender to me than most celebrities have EVER had.

  143. Rare Vos
    June 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    :rolleyes: Whatever.

    LOL I guessed that response almost verbatim. This privilege is *special* and exempt. Message received.

  144. Rare Vos
    June 2, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    For the “religion is not a choice” crowd – atheists and/or converts don’t exist?

    People chose to stop following a religion. People chose to convert to other religions. That others don’t doesn’t make religion not a choice.

    I don’t get to be white simply because I want to be. My race is not a choice. I can, and did, jettison religion from my life. Religion is a choice.

    Where one might be imprisioned, or killed, etc. for not believing in that particular area’s gods – THAT is an instance where religion is not a choice.

    Though, a case could be made for the brainwashy nature of religion removing that choice as well.

  145. June 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    The OP has stated multiple times that she serves in the Anglican communion, which is closer to Roman Catholicism than it is with Protestantism. And has also stated that she was raised–and her current practices are informed by–Roman Catholicism.

    Repeatedly referring to her as sinply protestant is disingenuous and dismissive. Have at her piece (I’m enriched by all of these comments!), but don’t erase her identities to serve your purpose.

    I’d also contend that there is a substantive difference between a queer person holding a position within Christianity and actively resisting the oppression of Christianity from within (queering spaces as an act of resistance and survival) and a straight person holding that position and actively or implicitly supporting the oppression.

    I think there are many ways to resist and revolt against the powers-that-be and the OP seems to be actively engaged in thoughtful, intersectional resistance.

  146. Aaron
    June 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    AlsoAnon: I don’t know that the “forgetting Gaga’s queer” piece is a matter of privilege. I too “forgot” Gaga was queer when she started being super transphobic/trans-appropriative. Call it the political equivalent of a gag reflex. I know that we’re required to still honor the way Gaga self-IDs even when she betrays others—but for real, I don’t feel all that protective of her. She sold my (trans) ass out and made money at the same time.

    In terms of an Episcopalian speaking about Catholic appropriation: I commented way earlier about the presence that Mary, the saints, and iconography have in Episcopal worship. I also commented on the barely-Protestant status of Episcopalians (sit through an Episcopal mass sometime and count the parallels to a Catholic one). I pray to images of Saints and statues of Mary, I pray the rosary, and I am an Episcopalian. “Gaudiness”, bright colors, and all, much of this art is not outside of Episcopal tradition (even the whitest cultural expressions of the tradition). It is inaccurate to lump the liturgy and traditions of Episcopalians in with most other Protestant denominations. They call us “Anglo-Catholics” for a reason.

    In terms of a white person speaking about cultural appropriation: Yes, this is sticky territory. I am white, committed to ending racism, and I get shit wrong sometimes. I tend to think the impulse to speak up when something seems fishy is a good one for anyone committed to anti-racist work. And parsing out the fishiness, nuance, accuracy, and intersections in a publicly accessible space with folks who will hold you accountable for your arguments (like most folks seem to be doing here) looks to me like a fairly healthy strategy in such work. If other folks, particularly people of color, experienced the OP and comment thread differently, yes, that feedback is super important to hear (and the OP indicates, to me at least, that honeyandlocusts would take such feedback seriously).

  147. Mechelle
    June 2, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Shaun:
    Iany, can you provide an example where she spoke about how cis she is? Because during the whole public debate about whether or not Lady Gaga had a penis, she publicly responded by saying she had a vagina.

    She didn’t say she was a woman. She said she had a vagina.

    That implies a far greater understanding of gender to me than most celebrities have EVER had.

    Just from a quick internet search on Gaga’s transphobia, I came across this article. It explains it pretty well.

    http://gudbuytjane.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/lady-gaga-sets-the-record-straight/

  148. June 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    AnonForThis: I don’t think someone who believes that it is just for me to be tortured for an eternity for loving someone of the same gender or turning my back on a god that has hurt me is a good person. I don’t think they are wonderful. Honestly, I do not believe that they are worthy of my respect. They are not fine people, they are dangerous to me. Maybe some of us come out swinging hard when we’re faced with this, maybe some of us get ugly, but goddamn it look at what we’re being asked to tollerate.

    I hear what you’re saying, but you ignored a huge part of the point I was making. The Christians you and many others hate are not representative of all Christians, and Christianity — all religions, in fact — is not a monolith, and when people rail against all Christians as if they are, it’s not only ignorant, but also disrespectful. You’re very literally slicing one part of one belief that a percentage of Christians literally and wholeheartedly believe in, and applying it to something like 2 billion people. It’s just rude. And sure, you have every right in the world to be rude, stereotyping, and hostile, but don’t pretend that those behaviors fall within the framework of justice.

  149. Emburii
    June 2, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    honeyandlocusts:
    (…)However, religious expression and cultural expression are often so deeply interwoven as to be nearly indistinguishable.(…)

    You’re right, they are very much intertwined. Religion and culture are both potent examples of groupthink, with a lot of power and possibility to shape the world around them especially when combined. But then, patriotism. If someone came to maturity during the Cold War and advocated state censorship and rampant wiretapping because ‘there are commies everywhere’, well, one way to handle that is to point out that communism is not that widespread and does not present a threat that needs such drastic measures. Facts. If someone tries to claim that the South should have been able to keep its states’ rights because they’re from a heavily Southern family and then tries to justify that slaves weren’t so badly off, one only has to point out the floggings, the abuse, the broken families, the deaths…the facts. And if someone tries to claim that we all need someone’s lingering demise as a cleansing act, that implies that we are dirty and cannot change except through death and suffering and that we cannot be ethical creatures otherwise. So then, like anyone else making a potentially harmful or prejudicial claim (‘her use of this imagery is harmful and wrong and illegitimate’) I ask you for facts. And they just aren’t there. So yes, I am going to question a cultural tradition that tries to assert unproven (and, in some cases, disproven) statements as proper paths, because without the proof none of it is reliable. You talk about tolerance and respect but, between you and Pat Robertson, neither has proof for your particular story. And if I believe you at face value on your culture and traditions, without proof or question, I have to accept him as valid as well. In order to separate your claims I /have/ to question the cultures and circumstances you both grew up in and chose to engage, trying to figure where and why you’re different and who’s got more of a claim on morality.
    And in the end that difference comes down to socialization, conditioning, exposure…privilege. You see your religious tradition from the inside, rationalized into a whole; your religion shapes your view of the world. But from the outside, your religious tradition has no more to prove itself true than different stories of Cinderella; both are old tales passed down through family or social lines, filtered through several different cultures and shaped through each retelling, and internalized by everyone differently…and backed up by any naturalistic circumstances or supernatural claims. I love fairy tales and fables, I think they’re fascinating…but they’re none of them factual. So when you say that Lady Gaga is wrong to play out her understanding of Catholicism, the claim as itself deserves no more ‘respect’ than saying that no one is allowed to tell a story about a girl who lost something at an event and had someone return it to her as part of romantic pursual. To so many people telling atheists that our conversation doesn’t matter, or that we’re being disrespectful just for trying to explain how it’s all just stories from the outside? Check your privilege. It’s like telling a woman that she’s shrill or hysterical.

  150. Emburii
    June 2, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Ack, part of my last paragraph should read:

    But from the outside, your religious tradition has no more to prove itself true than different stories of Cinderella; both are old tales passed down through family or social lines, filtered through several different cultures and shaped through each retelling, and internalized by everyone differently…but NOT backed up by any naturalistic circumstances or supernatural claims.

  151. Rare Vos
    June 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    It’s just rude. And sure, you have every right in the world to be rude, stereotyping, and hostile, but don’t pretend that those behaviors fall within the framework of justice.

    Being “rude” to a religion is < being victimised by it. And if you're "just rude" to religion, you're a bigot.

    the christian supremacy display redux.

  152. Emburii
    June 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Rare Vos: Being “rude” to a religion is < being victimised by it.And if you’re “just rude” to religion, you’re a bigot.

    the christian supremacy display redux.

    It’s not just a Christian thing, to be fair. Most people get annoyed when you challenge their particular privilege, religion included.

  153. Rare Vos
    June 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    To so many people telling atheists that our conversation doesn’t matter, or that we’re being disrespectful just for trying to explain how it’s all just stories from the outside? Check your privilege. It’s like telling a woman that she’s shrill or hysterical.

    Bingo. Though its more like a rape-apologists “not all men are rapists!” cry when the topic comes up.

    A woman, on a feminist blog, can say that she is distrustful of men owing to x, y, z. No one accepts “not all men are like that” as an excuse to berate her for that choice.

    But on that same blog, an atheist is a rude bigot who hates justice if they say they are distrustful of religion because of x, y, z. And, suddenly, magically, “not all theists are like that!” is a valid response.

    Privilege in a nutshell.

  154. Rare Vos
    June 2, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    It’s not just a Christian thing, to be fair.

    100% true, however its only Christians pulling the Special Pleading fallacy on this thread.

  155. zzTop
    June 2, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I’m just disappointed that Gaga hasn’t got the guts to declare herself Jesus. ‘Cos it really is time for that paradigm shift in all religions.

    (You know, if He ever returns to Earth, He won’t be white. Or a man. ;)

  156. Emburii
    June 2, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Not entirely; at least one person has invoked Wicca as their religious bias. It is mostly Christians, though. I guess I’m trying to keep it general so that people can’t just dismiss it as ‘anti-Christianity’, much the way other minorities can’t slip up or else be dismissed as ‘too angry’.

  157. Q Grrl
    June 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    It seems like Q grrl doesn’t understand the concept of intersectionality. Many people are christian and oppressed in other ways. My African American family is Christian. Hell alotbof slaves were Christian. Obviously Didn’t offer them the kind of privilege and power that you seem to think bring a Christian does.

    I understand intersectionality just fine. Perhaps you don’t though.

    Christians are the most powerful and privileged in the US right now and they hold the key to my civil rights/liberties. How is it that you can ignore *that* to take pot-shots at me?

    Even if any particular Christian may also suffer oppression, it does not negate the oppression that Christianity, as a whole and as practiced today, in modern times, in the US, practices. Even if a minority of Christians don’t actively participate in oppressive measures, the deafening silence and lack of action in the face of blatant social injustices is damning. Today’s Christians are obviously content to lay the blame of Christianity’s oppression at the feet of what they call “fundamentalism”. Seeing as it is 2011 and I still don’t count as a full citizen in this country, I don’t think that fundamentalism is the problem.

    This leaves me in the position to not be overly concerned when Christian X wants to opine about appropriation. From where I sit, all the Christians posting here are appropriating my existence and then brushing it under the rug (and making claims that I don’t understand oppression or intersectionality, etc.). This reads like a classic denialist mindfuck, quite frankly.

    How am I supposed to care about individual Christians when they want to claim that their hurt fee-fees, vis-a-vis their Christianity, are a greater social ill than my lack of civil rights? I just don’t get it.

  158. honeyandlocusts
    June 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I am grateful to the commenters who resist my voice as “the voice of authority” about the religio-cultural appropriation in this video, particularly given that I am white, and nominally Protestant. Please know that I agree with you wholeheartedly, and please notice that in instances above where I was clarifying my background, I was responding to particular criticisms of me as a strict outsider in this conversation. And those were great criticisms, because in the OP, I was clear that it’s not appropriate to use other people’s stuff casually. So for the intelligent and aware commenting community of Feministe to come back to me and be like, “Um, you’re white and Protestant, how do you have any knowledge of this at all either?” is really useful, and is part of why I love Feministe. My responses to that criticism were to state that I am not cleanly divorced from nor “above” nor hypothetically/idly speculating about nor the white knight/savior figure for Latin@ expressions of Catholicism. They were not to set me up as The One Who Is The Defender Of Latin@ Catholicism.

    Which leaves me in an awkward position in relationship to the requests for lists of specific instances in which I think Lady Gaga is using Latin@ Catholic expressions. I do have several things that set off all my alarms, but if we get into a conversation where I’m listing them and then people are debating them, then I am really actually setting myself up as The Identifier and Defender and Definer of Latin@-ness, which, we agree, is not appropriate for me. What I will say is that there are specifics in the video that register to me, with my history, as religious/cultural appropriation, and I do reserve the right to trust the alarms that go off in my head when I see them, alongside trusting those alarm bells as they have gone off for other people, especially for those who are Latin@ and/or Catholic. Trusting those alarms is related to now having a string of alarms about Lady Gaga, and my gradual loss of trust in her accountability. Being able to trust those alarms is connected too, for me, to my belief that it is extremely difficult to start slicing up peoples’ lives and putting “religion” in one box and “culture” in another box. I think “choice” language is very slippery when we are talking about people’s religious histories and practices. (This obviously does not mean that no choice is involved or even possible – it means that “choice” is really complex when it comes to religious life and practice, and we need to not erase people by drawing their lives in black or white. Several commenters have also drawn attention to this, most recently Annaleigh).

    As we’ve seen on this thread, religious history is woven very, very deeply into many of us, into our bodies and lives. It is intimate. It is precisely because of how intricately religion is laced through many of us – and how easily people can be hurt and abused, and have been hurt and abused – that I urge intentionality and thoughtfulness in dealing with religious topics, imagery and symbolism. I do not think that Lady Gaga, by virtue of being a pop star or an artist, should be excused from that standard.

  159. Emburii
    June 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Q Grrl(…) Even if a minority of Christians don’t actively participate in oppressive measures, the deafening silence and lack of action in the face of blatant social injustices is damning. Today’s Christians are obviously content to lay the blame of Christianity’s oppression at the feet of what they call “fundamentalism”.Seeing as it is 2011 and I still don’t count as a full citizen in this country, I don’t think that fundamentalism is the problem.(…)

    Oh, many moderate Christians do protest it, they’ll loudly say
    ‘that’s awful’…and then follow it up with ‘that’s not what Jesus wanted! That’s not what it means to me! Bad Scotsman, bad!’ [1]

    Then the question comes, how do they know what their religous figure of choice means? In the case of the Abrahamic traditions, there’s compassion and barbarity all wrapped up in the same text. If I give weight to the happy-fluffy-bunny version, with all its lack of proof, then I also have to consider the stuff about slaughtering babies or eternal punishment for temporal error to be just as valid. And considering that religion is a heavily social construct as well, people will use whatever they can to bulwark their squicks and prejudices. If they hate gay people, the liberal can’t tell them they’re wrong according to the Bible, for instance, and then say that they’re right because they’re citing the Bible. Believers give credence to the bad parts by citing the good parts, since if one part is true without proof then we have to hold the rest of it to the same standard. In that way every liberal and moderate religionist is still feeding the Falwells and enabling the Osamas and holding Indian woman hostage for dowries, no matter how enlightened their philosophies might otherwise be.

  160. Emburii
    June 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Ack, the [1] being a reference to the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy.

    So, honeyandlocusts, given

    honeyandlocusts:
    (…)I urge intentionality and thoughtfulness in dealing with religious topics, imagery and symbolism.I do not think that Lady Gaga, by virtue of being a pop star or an artist, should be excused from that standard.

    …why do you think she hasn’t thought it through? How do you know that she didn’t intentionally interweave symbolism of both Virgin and Magdalene, for instance, because she looked at the first Mary as something other than just rape victim and mother of a god, maybe as a fellow human being to Mary Magdalene with sexual thoughts and desires of her own? It still sounds like you don’t think she did it right because it’s not your particular orthodoxy.

  161. Momentary
    June 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for your very thoughtful reply, honeyandlocusts. I acknowledge your point about why you don’t want to go down the path of listing and arguing for which aspects are specifically Latin@. If you are interested, I might suggest that if you search on “guido” online (which is certainly a problematic word but is nonetheless probably the most useful as a search keyword for this) and compare the clothing, jewelry, bandanas, etc aesthetic there to what you consider to be a Latin@ cultural aesthetic, it might give you food for thought.

    Another point I would like to bring up is that I do get the impression you are (perhaps unintentionally) only considering explicitly reasoned, organized symbolism, with carefully drawn distinctions, to be respectful, and that you are assuming that playing with/evoking symbolism in a messy associative way is inherently disrespectful. Is that your intent?

  162. Rare Vos
    June 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    How am I supposed to care about individual Christians when they want to claim that their hurt fee-fees, vis-a-vis their Christianity, are a greater social ill than my lack of civil rights? I just don’t get it.

    Again, privilege in a nutshell. They chose to be religious. Chose to the degree to which they adhere, chose what parts to believe, etc etc etc and then appropriate the language of social justice to claim that theire chosen belief system deserves the same protections as human being minorities -the ones who didn’t get to chose.

    The person should be treated with respect. Not the religion. Not their privilege.

  163. June 2, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Jeff @ 42, sorry I missed your question. I was afraid to revisit the thread.

    Can somebody please explain to me how the word “colonize” is used here?

    Sure:

    col·o·nize (kl-nz)
    v. col·o·nized, col·o·niz·ing, col·o·niz·es
    v.tr.
    1. To form or establish a colony or colonies in.
    2. To migrate to and settle in; occupy as a colony.
    3. To resettle or confine (persons) in or as if in a colony.
    4. To subjugate (a population) to or as if to a colonial government

    Second usage–to occupy. Example: a thread started by a Christian about religion and culture has been taken over and OCCUPIED by people who proudly and openly hate the people represented by the author of the thread, who is a priest.

    My turn to ask questions: What are “Xtians”? I don’t know any Christians who voluntarily call themselves this, so this is meant as a deliberate insult, correct? X-ing the Christians out of the world, something like that?

    How about: we all drop the insulting terms and try to show each other some basic respect?

    Note: I live in the south and totally concede the atheists are shit on. That’s not open for debate at all. I concede my Christian privilege since I have discovered I lose significant portions of it when not acting in a properly Christian manner (i.e. getting nonChristian tattoos) or admitting I do not subscribe to various dogmas… working up to a blog post about this, but it’s been so raw and scary to me that I find it almost impossible and actually disorienting.

    One often doesn’t realize one has privilege until you lose it.

  164. Emburii
    June 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    DaisyDeadhead:
    Jeff @ 42, sorry I missed your question.I was afraid to revisit the thread.

    Can somebody please explain to me how the word “colonize” is used here?

    Sure:

    col·o·nize (kl-nz)
    v. col·o·nized, col·o·niz·ing, col·o·niz·es
    v.tr.
    1. To form or establish a colony or colonies in.
    2. To migrate to and settle in; occupy as a colony.
    3. To resettle or confine (persons) in or as if in a colony.
    4. To subjugate (a population) to or as if to a colonial government

    Second usage–to occupy.Example:a thread started by a Christian about religion and culture has been taken over and OCCUPIED by people who proudly and openly hate the people represented by the author of the thread, who is a priest.

    My turn to ask questions:What are “Xtians”?I don’t know any Christians who voluntarily call themselves this, so this is meant as a deliberate insult, correct?X-ing the Christians out of the world, something like that?

    How about:we all drop the insulting terms and try to show each other some basic respect?

    Note:I live in the south and totally concede the atheists are shit on.That’s not open for debate at all.I concede my Christianprivilege since I have discovered I lose significant portions of it when not acting in a properly Christian manner (i.e. getting nonChristian tattoos) or admitting I do not subscribe to various dogmas… working up to a blog post about this, but it’s been so raw and scary to me that I find it almost impossible and actually disorienting.

    One often doesn’t realize one has privilege until you lose it.

    In quoting that definition you include subjugation. You treat atheist presence, period, as forceful and unlawful. You take a blog post about one Christian criticizing another’s very validity and turn it into how hateful ‘all’ atheists are. In short, you are engaging in silencing tactics because some of us are a little more raw than others on the subject. (Shades of ‘why are you so ANGRY, anyone?) Please please PLEASE check your privilege and examine the meaning of your own writing before you put your words in my mouth and your thoughts in my head.

  165. AnonCoward23
    June 2, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    DaisyDeadhead:

    My turn to ask questions: What are “Xtians”? I don’t know any Christians who voluntarily call themselves this, so this is meant as a deliberate insult, correct? X-ing the Christians out of the world, something like that?

    *cough*:
    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Xmas#Usage_of_.22X.22_for_.22Christ.22

  166. PrettyAmiable
    June 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Daisy, using the definition you picked out, you’re defaulting the Christian position. Everyone else is an occupier. That’s not conceding your Christian privilege. That’s acting on it.

  167. June 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    @Courtney I don’t categorize faith as belief in the supernatural, but an acceptance of things that can’t be proven. What I’m saying is belief in the unprovable or as-yet-unproven is not exclusive to Christians and Muslims and Jews etc etc. So it’s disingenuous to use belief in the unproven as a jab at religious folks, as well as useless to the discussion at hand.

  168. June 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Rare Vos: Being “rude” to a religion is < being victimised by it. And if you're "just rude" to religion, you're a bigot.

    Again, religions aren’t inherently bad, wrong, or evil. People who use religion, and people who exploit other people’s religious beliefs in order to oppress others are bad, wrong, evil, oppressive, etc. Not religion.

    And, again, saying that a person’s religious beliefs are 100% a free choice that people consciously make in every circumstance and that they should be fine with ridicule and personal over beliefs that may largely only affect themselves is oftentimes asking people to cut a part of their culture away from themselves.

  169. June 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    honeyandlocusts, I appreciate the way you are engaging with critique here; I think it’s productive. The “alarm bells” that went off for me were the ones of cultural erasure—the non-acknowledgement that Sicilian Catholic imagery is parallel to (and often identical to) Latin American Catholic imagery (which shouldn’t be a surprise, as both were occupied by Spain, no?), and that as a Sicilian-identified person, Lady Gaga is entitled to the use of cultural imagery from her own culture. It reminded me of the many different ways in which people are pressured to assimilate into norms that just don’t fit—divorce themselves from what feeds their souls. And how one of the means of doing this is to question their authenticity. Your omission (of her cultural background as a source for her imagery—Gaga claims she wanted the video to invoke Fellini) read to me like a backhanded way of revoking her authenticity (which you’ve acknowledged you have no right to do).

  170. Momentary
    June 2, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    *wave* to La Lubu, since we seem to be arguing in parallel. Although I’ve been saying “Italian” in fact my family is specifically Sicilian (Agrigento) and Neapolitan and I agree these points are probably more applicable to Sicily than, perhaps, Milan.

  171. tinfoil hattie
    June 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Sisou, I’m sure you’ll be just fine without an anonymous commenter on the internet declining to give your religion, or any religion, respect. I respect no religion. None. Not even if it hurts your personal feelings.

  172. June 2, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    honeyandlocusts: So part of my issue with Lady Gaga is not that she’s using Catholicism per se, but that she is manipulating a particular cultural expression of it. In this, she is behaving consistently with other thin, white, cis, het singers who have accessorized themselves with religious and/or cultural expression (Madonna in “Like a Prayer”, Madonna in her bindis and saris and mehndi, Gwen Stefani with her Harajuku Girls, Gwen Stefani with her early chola thing, etc.).

    This may have been addressed earlier, but Madonna and Gaga are both Italians who were raised Catholic. They’re not appropriating Catholic imagery; it was theirs to begin with. Culturally, even if they don’t subscribe to the particular belief systems. And, as LaLubu pointed out, you’re incorrect on the source of Gaga’s imagery, as you are about the source of that in Like a Prayer (as someone else pointed out). Why would Italians raised on the East Coast or Detroit be appropriating LA-based Catholic iconography when they’ve got their own to use?

    Also, good to see the No True Scotsman fallacy getting a good workout in this thread.

  173. Kristen J.
    June 2, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    April: is oftentimes asking people to cut a part of their culture away from themselves.

    If part of your culture involves actively oppressing people then maybe you should not ask those people you participate in oppressing to respect that particular part of your culture.

  174. Some Guy
    June 2, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Regarding getting stories straight, there’s no reason to believe that the Gospel of Mary Magdeline is any more “true” than any of the other gospels. It was most likely made up decades after the fact and then attributed to one of the characters just like all the others were.

    The Gospel of Mary Magdeline doesn’t do a better or worse job of telling the true story from Mary’s perspective than Lady Gaga’s video does.

  175. June 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Brian G Murphy: The OP has stated multiple times that she serves in the Anglican communion, which is closer to Roman Catholicism than it is with Protestantism.

    And yet it’s not Catholicism.

    Let me tell you a story about my uncle Jackie. Jackie was a very, very good student. He wanted to go to top schools, and he had the goods to do it. And yet even though he was fantastic, he was unable to get into his top choices in the 1950s.

    Why? Because he was a Catholic. And they had already filled their Catholic quota. Episcopalians who belonged to the Anglican Communion? No quota for them.

    There’s a reason the Catholic university system exists. My grandfather (Jackie’s father) went to Georgetown because he was Catholic and couldn’t get in anywhere else. Fortunately, the Jesuits are devoted to good education.

    So there’s a reason — a cultural, historical one — that some of us are a little tetchy about a) Episcopalians telling the Catholics what to be upset about; b) the claim that this is okay because the Anglican Communion is sooooo much like Catholicism. It ignores the fact that there has historically in the US been a whole lot of discrimination against Catholics by Protestants, and given that so many Catholics belonged to ethic groups the Protestants didn’t like, it was convenient to target them.

    So, yeah, I’ll give your assertion the respect it deserves.

    As for the larger issue of respect, I think what people are missing is that religion is, indeed privileged in a lot of ways. Places like the UK have a state religion. In the US, there are not many ways to challenge discrimination or abuse by religions because religions can easily raise First Amendment defenses, which prevent courts and legislatures from punishing their behavior if doing so would require them to get too deep into the weeds of theology.

    So you get a lot of cases where really hideous abuse — such as the widespread Catholic sex abuse scandal — is protected by law, because some courts have decided that they’re not permitted to pass judgment on the actions of the church because the state should not be getting involved in regulating religious practice (and that does protect minority faiths from oppression by majority-faith lawmakers). Some have decided they can do so without getting into theology, so the protection isn’t universal. But there’s all kinds of fraud, abuse and predation that goes on that the victims can get no recourse for because in the US, churches can throw up a First Amendment defense and get out of liability free in many cases. I should know – I recently researched all this.

    So, you see, religion does get a lot of respect and privilege and protection in the US. But just as free speech doesn’t mean that you can’t be criticized, freedom of religion doesn’t mean you can’t be disrespected.

  176. June 2, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    honeyandlocusts: given that I am white, and nominally Protestant

    Um, you’re an Episcopal priest. The “nominal” horse left the barn a long time ago.

  177. June 2, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    DaisyDeadhead:”…I don’t know any Christians who voluntarily call themselves [Xtians]”

    Lots of ’em do, though they sometimes spell it “Xian”, and some are offended by it, sure. Some people are offended by feminism, too. Anyway, I was just using it as shorthand, and apparently, historically lots of Xtians have:
    I hate to correct you, but on this issue I have to. I’ve seen this argument before, but it normally arises over the use of “Xmas” for “Christmas.” I’m frankly surprised to see it on the use of “Xian” for “Christian.” Neither usage is disrespectful. Some nonChristians may intend it to be, but the joke is on them; “Xian” has a long and honorable history among Christians themselves. The “X” is not the English X, for “unknown”; but the Greek X, the letter chi; the first letter of Christos, Christ. It’s also found as the second letter of Ichthus, the Greek word for “fish,” which is commonly seen written in the crude fish-symbol that was the earliest emblem of Christians. It’s an early acronym for Iesous Christos, Theou Uios, Soter, or “Jesus the Christ, of God the Son, Savior.”
    If you want to continue to be offended by it, knock yourself out.

    As far as your use of “colonizing” goes–I’d be more likely to agree with you if this were a Xtian blog, but just because the OP is a Xtian, that doesn’t mean this is a Xtian space (e.g. folks who disagree with Xtians and Xtianity in general aren’t occupying a Xtian space, but rather a feminist space, when they comment here).

    At any rate, your disingenuous call for civility in terms is sort of undermined by your use of “anti-Christians” (yeah, that’s not a contested or possibly offensive term for atheists/agnostics!) and by your use of “colonizing” that ignores the way most feminist critiques use the word: As a recognition of one type of oppression. Xtians aren’t being oppressed by the criticisms here, and I would imagine that folks who have suffered (and continue to suffer) through actual colonization might have something to say ’bout that.

  178. June 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    zuzu: So, you see, religion does get a lot of respect and privilege and protection in the US. But just as free speech doesn’t mean that you can’t be criticized, freedom of religion doesn’t mean you can’t be disrespected.

    This. Thank you zuzu, for spelling it out so simply.

  179. AnonForThis
    June 2, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I hear what you’re saying, but you ignored a huge part of the point I was making. The Christians you and many others hate are not representative of all Christians, and Christianity — all religions, in fact — is not a monolith, and when people rail against all Christians as if they are, it’s not only ignorant, but also disrespectful. You’re very literally slicing one part of one belief that a percentage of Christians literally and wholeheartedly believe in, and applying it to something like 2 billion people. It’s just rude. And sure, you have every right in the world to be rude, stereotyping, and hostile, but don’t pretend that those behaviors fall within the framework of justice.

    No, I’m not cutting a piece off. I know it can be difficult to see thing from someone else’s perspective but what I am object to are the very roots of Christian belief: monotheism and divine judgement. If you are a Christian as defined by even a loose interpretation of the Nicene Creed, that is, if you believe that there is one God, that he gave Jesus to redeem the sins of man, and that this god claims judgement over mankind, then part of your fundamental worldview is that it is just for me to suffer for my rejection of that salvation. The bottom line is that if you believe in salvation you must necessarily believe in damnation (otherwise theres nothing to be saved from) and if you believe that salvation comes through Jesus then you believe that I merit damnation. You can spin it however you please, but at the end of the day I find the most basic assumptions of Christianity to be both dehumanizing and threatening to my very being. Thats part of the baggage of believing in the story of Christ no matter how progressive you might want to be: God still judges.

    As for justice…we could begin by examining how, exactly, 2 billion people ended up Christians. We could talk about the violent colonization. Christianity didn’t come to be one of the world’s dominant religions in a free market. Like most political movements it’s dominance was bought with blood and power and privilege. Just because most people in the world use paper money and participate in a capitalist system doesn’t mean we’re all capitalists. We could talk about the rapes, the genocide, the forced removal of children, the violent extermination of religious traditions, the murders of indigenous religious leaders, the physical occupation of holy place, the willful appropriation of gods and holidays with the express purpose of co-opting those festivals, the fear mongering which continues to this day, we could talk about St. Boniface, we could talk about the use of Christianity as a tool of colonization by the Romans, or centuries later by the European powers the Romans colonized. Keep scrubbing, maybe someday you’ll get that damned spot out, gods know its your responsibility, not ours. Until then I’m unmoved by complaints that Christianity’s long and illustrious history of crimes against humanity somehow isn’t fair game and doesn’t have implications on (to invoke Nietzsche) the impotent love of today’s Christians.

    I’m hostile, you’re damned right. And I’m rude. My faith doesn’t demand that I turn the other cheek or love my enemies. I’m not here to be nice to those whose very beliefs serve to dehumanize, oppress, and erase me. Call me an asshole, but don’t you dare suggest that somehow my rage is unjust. It isn’t the responsibility of the oppressed person to be pleasant. I’m no more here for your edification or enjoyment than I am for that of your God. You get toleration. I know that feels like a loss because you’re used to privilege, I just don’t really care.

  180. shfree
    June 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    AnonForThis:

    As for justice…we could begin by examining how, exactly, 2 billion people ended up Christians. We could talk about the violent colonization. Christianity didn’t come to be one of the world’s dominant religions in a free market. Like most political movements it’s dominance was bought with blood and power and privilege. Just because most people in the world use paper money and participate in a capitalist system doesn’t mean we’re all capitalists. We could talk about the rapes, the genocide, the forced removal of children, the violent extermination of religious traditions, the murders of indigenous religious leaders, the physical occupation of holy place, the willful appropriation of gods and holidays with the express purpose of co-opting those festivals, the fear mongering which continues to this day, we could talk about St. Boniface, we could talk about the use of Christianity as a tool of colonization by the Romans, or centuries later by the European powers the Romans colonized. Keep scrubbing, maybe someday you’ll get that damned spot out, gods know its your responsibility, not ours. Until then I’m unmoved by complaints that Christianity’s long and illustrious history of crimes against humanity somehow isn’t fair game and doesn’t have implications on (to invoke Nietzsche) the impotent love of today’s Christians.

    And the fact is, you simply can’t erase this. It so fundamental to how Christianity was spread that as far as I’m concerned it is wedded to the faith. And I say that as an atheist who was privileged enough to be raised in a liberal, love-thy-neighbor Christian home. You just can’t wipe away violent forced conversions as saying “Oh, it’s just the people, not the religion” if it was done for CENTURIES.

  181. June 2, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    AnonForThis: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are intrinsically violent religions.

    Damn, somehow whenever there’s a discussion about one religion in the trilogy the other two are dragged into it.

    When you tell someone, especially someone who is otherwise underprivileged in terms of race and sex, that their beliefs are intrinsically violent it just… disturbs me.

    That’s all.

  182. PrettyAmiable
    June 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    zuzu: There’s a reason the Catholic university system exists.My grandfather (Jackie’s father) went to Georgetown because he was Catholic and couldn’t get in anywhere else.Fortunately, the Jesuits are devoted to good education.

    HOYA SAXA!!

    (Sorry)

  183. June 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    I feel that, when we talk about violent colonizations, we say Christians (which is not untrue) when we mean white people. That does not make the discomfort of nonreligious people any less legitimate, nor the association of religion and being triggered any less legitimate, and I can clearly see that in REALITY the nature of beliefs don’t matter when actions say otherwise. So someone who has been seriously hurt by people pretending to act in the name of Islam can be like “your religion is atrocious!” and I could be like “but it’s not the religion it’s the peo–” and they could be like “Fuck you!” And they’d be right. They shouldn’t have to give a fuck about theories when the reality they’re living is oppressing and marginalizing them.

    I don’t want to keep anyone from expressing their hurt.

    At the same time there are people of color, women, and women of color who are suffering from the misplaced blame.

    I wish everyone in the world knew everyone else as human beings and friends. And then we’d all just shut up and see movies together.

  184. June 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Fuck. What the fuck made me put “people of color” and “women of color” in different categories?

  185. June 2, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    …in my head, I was combining the first two. X_X My apologies.

  186. June 2, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    So there’s a reason — a cultural, historical one — that some of us are a little tetchy about a) Episcopalians telling the Catholics what to be upset about; b) the claim that this is okay because the Anglican Communion is sooooo much like Catholicism. It ignores the fact that there has historically in the US been a whole lot of discrimination against Catholics by Protestants, and given that so many Catholics belonged to ethic groups the Protestants didn’t like, it was convenient to target them.

    Not only that, but I’m not buying this idea that Anglicanism is so totally the same as Catholicism. Doctrinally, that’s sort of true, but there’s a whole lot of nuance and particularity to Catholic religious practice–especially the cult aspects of Mary and the Saints. Saying that it’s all the same because some Anglican churches have statues of Mary and some Anglicans pray the Rosary is pretty glib.

  187. June 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Nahida: I feel that, when we talk about violent colonizations, we say Christians (which is not untrue) when we mean white people. . .

    At the same time there are people of color, women, and women of color who are suffering from the misplaced blame.

    Well, just because someone is a person of color and a Christian as well doesn’t get them off the hook if their religion espouses beliefs harmful to others. For example, there are certainly people of color whose Christianity is a bit hard on the gays, or which is oppressive to women.

    The problem in these discussions isn’t that the atheists are rude, or mean, or colonizing (!!!!!!) a discussion which would go so much more comfortably if they didn’t persist in challenging some of the basic beliefs of a dominant group. It’s that there are so many people who want head-pats for being The Right Kind of Christian, or who want everyone to ignore the more unsavory bits of the theology and the history while still demanding that their own particular brand of individual Christianity be respected because religion has to be respected or the person questioning it can be dismissed as a hater. Even when your own special exemption from being painted with the same brush as, say, the people who make the decisions in your own particular sect and maybe hold some hateful views that they present as theology has to be taken on faith.

    And, you know, asking atheists to take stuff on faith? Kind of a bad idea.

    Plus, it’s inside baseball. There are a lot of ways you can shade this stuff so you feel comfortable with following your particular faith, and maybe you don’t really believe most of what they’re selling, but it’s your culture and your community and you want to feel part of it even if you reject their teachings on gays or abortion or the ordination of women. But for those on the outside, whether they have never been Christians at all or they have been driven away from Christianity due to the institution, all they really have to go on is the official theology and the actions of the institutions.

    And let’s admit it, people, there’s a whole fuck of a lot of bad stuff that Christianity is responsible for, officially. The Catholic Church alone has been responsible for a worldwide criminal conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse and blame it on the gays. Christianity has been used to justify slavery and murder and war and all kinds of oppression.

    That you (general you) want your own personal beliefs to be respected while asking everyone to ignore centuries of what shaped those beliefs because you can’t deal with a little rudeness from those who are actively harmed by what you seek to protect? Hm.

  188. Courtney
    June 2, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Erin @ Fierce Beagle: I don’t categorize faith as belief in the supernatural, but an acceptance of things that can’t be proven. What I’m saying is belief in the unprovable or as-yet-unproven is not exclusive to Christians and Muslims and Jews etc etc. So it’s disingenuous to use belief in the unproven as a jab at religious folks, as well as useless to the discussion at hand.

    First, I didn’t mean the word ‘supernatural’ in a derisive way–I meant as in “attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding” so I think we are talking about the same thing.

    Your comment, which said “every single person has faith in something, whether it’s in God or the fact that there is no God,” says something which is simply not true of most atheists, though again I certainly do not claim to speak for all.

    I do not have faith, that is, “strong belief based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof” or even “complete trust or confidence” that there is no god. I have no evidence that there IS a god and as such am not obliged to believe that such a being or beings exist. It is therefore simply incorrect to claim that every single person has faith in something.

  189. June 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    zuzu: For example, there are certainly people of color whose Christianity is a bit hard on the gays, or which is oppressive to women.

    This is true. And there is no excuse. But I do feel that you can’t, in a practical sense, hold everyone to the same standards and expect them to achieve these standards while they are hugely underprivileged.

  190. June 2, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    On a slightly irrelevant note, I have a thought. It’s actually kind of a question. I don’t know. A lot of the time the sentiment I detect is that people choose their religion. I personally don’t believe that you can choose to believe what you believe as readily as it’s claimed you can. There are plenty of things I’d choose not to believe if it were up to me. I could say I don’t believe something, but it won’t magically make me stop believing it. And I realize that’s a really stupid way to feel, because it can be used excuse really fucked up beliefs, beliefs like “gay people are an abomination” and “women are inferior” with well, they can’t help feeling that way and I don’t at all mean to imply that it’s entirely out of our control what we believe. But as a woman, and as a woman of color, I have actually had people say things to me like, “Why are you choosing religion when it’s been so cruel to POC and women? I mean you complain about how fucked up religious men are and you’re always acting against them and yet you’re still here. You’ve been brainwashed by your oppressors–and now you’re too stupid to make your own decisions. You’re not really Muslim, see, you just think you are because you’ve been oppressed by evil Muslim men and you can’t see the truth.” Let us save you.

    But I think at this point, I’m talking about something completely different. Bleh. I’m not even sure anymore. I’m gonna submit this anyway in case I’m not, and then if it’s confirmed that this is further derailing the derail or otherwise totally going into a whole different irrelevant sphere of experience (which I suspect it is) or if it’s my privilege as a religious person talking I shall drop it. I don’t want to take away from agnostics and atheists whose voices have been marginalized more than any religious person’s.

  191. CateofTexas
    June 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    “It’s that there are so many people who want head-pats for being The Right Kind of Christian”

    What an insulting, patronizing, bullshit thing to say. Seeking some understanding and sticking up for one’s beliefs is wanting “head-pats”?

  192. CateofTexas
    June 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Incidentally, zuzu, I do agree with just about everything else you said there. That one thing just made me want to scream!

  193. June 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Nahida: This is true. And there is no excuse. But I do feel that you can’t, in a practical sense, hold everyone to the same standards and expect them to achieve these standards while they are hugely underprivileged.

    I’m not following. Who shouldn’t be held to the same standards? People of color who believe in the same hateful things that many white Christians do? Are you asking the people who are the targets of that hatred to be understanding? I mean, it all comes from the same place — there’s always someone who’s got some Biblical justification for it, and they usually use the same few verses — so why is it excusable based on race? What does relative privilege have to do with not being a hateful asshat?

  194. June 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    zuzu: Are you asking the people who are the targets of that hatred to be understanding?

    X_X No, I’m asking for the people who marginalize them to be understanding. I’m thinking of developing countries, many of whom are religious, and the people in developed countries who are quick to call them asshats even while they may not have the same resources.

  195. June 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    CateofTexas: What an insulting, patronizing, bullshit thing to say. Seeking some understanding and sticking up for one’s beliefs is wanting “head-pats”?

    No, demanding that you be respected because you hold religious beliefs, just because your beliefs are religious (but not the Bad Kind of Religious) and whining when someone points out that your beliefs are no more or less entitled to respect, particularly automatic and unquestioning belief, than any other belief? Because No True Scotsman believes what those other people do? Yeah, kind of head-pat-seeking.

    You may find that insulting. I find it insulting to be told to shut up and stop questioning religious beliefs because they have to be respected Because God Said So, That’s Why. Especially when those beliefs are being used to support and promote policies harmful to me and mine and hold a legally and socially privileged position in many places in the world.

    Which reminds me of something I always wonder when these discussions happen: is Christian faith really that fragile that in addition to power, privilege, and legal and moral authority, it needs constant affirmation from nonbelievers as well?

  196. June 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Nahida: I’m thinking of developing countries, many of whom are religious, and the people in developed countries who are quick to call them asshats even while they may not have the same resources.

    Well, generally, they’re called asshats and worse because their religious belief gets enacted into policies that actively harm the people in their countries. Like Uganda’s let’s-kill-the-gays law. Or any country, especially those where AIDS is rampant and spread mainly through heterosexual contact or maternal transmission, where programs to distribute condoms are blocked on religious grounds (and this is something else the Catholic church should be deeply ashamed about). Or any country that uses religion as an excuse to oppress others, commit genocide, wage war or keep women subservient.

  197. Iany
    June 2, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Shaun: Iany, can you provide an example where she spoke about how cis she is?

    She said she had a vagina.

    I’d really rather stop derailing this from a discussion about religion and appropriation…

    Shaun, that really is the definition of cis. Emphasising the importance of your physical body and then shoving trans artists in your clips just to prove how physically female you are compared to them. It’s rank.

    And in my original comment, “That said, she’s never claimed to be anything but a performer.” She’s a performer, she’s performing, she didn’t used to consider herself a feminist and she makes videos that look great. You can still criticise the content for being shallow.

  198. AnonForThis
    June 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    When you tell someone, especially someone who is otherwise underprivileged in terms of race and sex, that their beliefs are intrinsically violent it just… disturbs me.

    That’s all.

    I get that. At the same time…all three are fundamentally based around the idea of submission to a male authority figure. All three exalt violence in their holy books, often uncritically. Both Christianity and Islam have historically been spread primarily through violence. The only thing that seems to reliably defang the Abrahamic religions is being removed from the apparatuses of power.

    Oppression leaves scars. Certain kinds of oppression are specifically designed to propagate themselves not only in the bodies of oppressed persons but by colonizing the minds of oppressed persons in order to make them become oppressors. It isn’t a coincidence that women internalize a lot of misogyny in our culture and end up policing other women for the patriarchy. Slut shaming that comes from a woman is still misogyny. That someone is a victim of the same system of power that they’ve been trained to aim at others doesn’t make that power any less oppressive. Its tough to police an entire populace and even then you only get control so long as you’re watching. The nature of discipline is to get a population to police itself, to worm that oppression in so deeply that it ceases to feel intrusive or alien and instead gets called morality.

  199. June 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    AnonForThis: At the same time…all three are fundamentally based around the idea of submission to a male authority figure. All three exalt violence in their holy books, often uncritically. Both Christianity and Islam have historically been spread primarily through violence.

    That’s because men are douches. =-= It depends entirely on who reads it and whose influence is most prominent. Religions have only become more and more patriarchal over time… because men are douches. Men read God as male. I can’t speak for Christianity–but if I take Islam from its roots and ignore all the shit patriarchy’s pulled out of its ass I can just easily construct a pro-woman, pro-LGBT society.

    And I get that it doesn’t matter–because that’s not what happened. And what did happen–and what’s still happening–can’t be undone or erased and should NEVER be ignored. But I genuinely don’t believe that these religions are intrinsically violent, just that they’ve been corrupted and used for corruption like most things are when they touch power and patriarchy.

    We’ll probably never agree on this, which I’m fine with, because to argue that something is or isn’t intrinsically violent is irrelevant in the face of reality anyway. What is really happening is more important than the theoretical when so many lives are destroyed.

  200. AnonForThis
    June 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    X_X No, I’m asking for the people who marginalize them to be understanding. I’m thinking of developing countries, many of whom are religious, and the people in developed countries who are quick to call them asshats even while they may not have the same resources.

    In addition to what Zuzu said, I think theres another problem with that line of reasoning. To be honest, I just don’t trust many Christians (especially those high on the privilege hog) to argue in good faith. Context matters, you know? This isn’t a post about some god awful artifact of colonialism fucking up a developing country and a marginalized people by replicating oppression. This post is about a WASP with the considerable relative social power that comes with being a Priest calling out a highly assimilated, massively successful, and hugely influential recording artist of Sicilian heritage on appropriating symbols which really do seem to belong to her. This lead to an argument about religion and it’s place in society and how much it ought to be respected.

    This isn’t a discussion by relatively privileged people about marginalized people. It’s a discussion about relatively privileged people by relatively privileged people. People in developing countries have really only been part of the discussion as they are included in the broad religious categories being discussed. More to the point, it seems that the religious experience of marginalized people is being invoked by one side of the discussion in a very specific manner. That makes me wonder why. To me, it looks suspiciously like privileged religious people who are pissed that their religion isn’t being treated with the deference they have come to respect due to their privilege appropriating the image of marginalized members of their faiths in order to deflect foundational attacks on their faith.

    Person A: Religion seems pretty oppressive.
    Person B: Don’t criticize my religion, it deserves respect.
    Person A: Fuck that noise, religion oppressed me in ways X, Y, and Z and shat all over my heritage in ways 1, 2, and 3.
    Person B: Marginalized Group C is primarily of my religion, if you say my religion is oppressive you’re beating up on Marginalized Group C!

    Doesn’t really pass the sniff test to me, you know?

  201. shah8
    June 2, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    /me rubs forehead…

    Okay, all you progressive religious folks? It would really help if one avoids most of the cheap pitfalls of rhetoric in these common derails. Obviously, part of the privilege in being of a majority religion is that one doesn’t examine history, actions, or consider arguments in a way that an outsider does. Making an effort at understanding some of this stuff probably would count more, because your *learned* actions preserve your ability to talk about the things you actually want to talk about in a mixed crowd on the internet (and gain the benefits of diverse interpretation). This would be because you’d be able to shut down the territorial pissers who have “liberal” ideas about what space is and who belongs in it, with aplomb, and you’d also teach alot of other believers who want to play with all sorts how to fight back effectively and with the sort of charm that brings the conversation back. Knowing basic stuff like atheism isn’t about the belief in no god, it’s simple disbelief–that’s kinda important. Don’t play oppression olympics, that widens the stage for ever more confusing and narcissic trollery. You want to constantly *narrow* the point down (pointedly and obviously so all the other religious commentators gets what’s going on), and force the agree to disagree, i.e., the clarity that this is bull (when that is true of course, plenty of pitfalls when that wouldn’t be true and you might have learning to do) and drive the commentary back into a mutual playground.

    This is all tricky, not least because you’ll have plenty of co-religionists trolling too, and expecting some degree of privilege. ‘s all about navigating among people who like to “hear themselves” just a little too loudly.

  202. June 2, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    AnonForThis: Doesn’t really pass the sniff test to me, you know?

    Yeah, I get that, and what shah8 said. Okay.

  203. PrettyAmiable
    June 2, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Nahida: A lot of the time the sentiment I detect is that people choose their religion. I personally don’t believe that you can choose to believe what you believe as readily as it’s claimed you can.

    I was raised Roman Catholic and am now an atheist. A preface: in many (or perhaps most) ways, I’m extremely privileged.

    I was one of those shitty Catholics. “The God-man! He says the abortion must be awful, therefore there is a special circle of hell for all people with hangers and vaccuums, Revelations 1624:1.” It’s an exaggeration, for sure, but I was pro-life, at least. Things started falling apart for me when I just couldn’t fathom that the gay community was somehow “wrong.” So that tore a hole in my Catholicism.

    Then! I decided God really had better shit to do than to worry about whether or not we were fucking before getting married. And to top it off, on the sixth day, God said, let there be clits! So another chink formed.

    Then! Somewhere in there I decided I had better shit to do than to patrol the lives of women who were leading different lives than me. Something about not having all the answers in the universe, so how the fuck should I know what God thought about abortion? Then! I started fucking and knew that if I got knocked up, I’d get an abortion myself. I had far too much shit to do and I was privileged enough to know it was a real option for me. God did not factor into this decision at all.

    Then! I had a breakdown in college. I just couldn’t fathom why, with all the pain in the world and all the omniscience fabled in the countryside, there would be a being who would let this shit go on.

    And this is where choice played a factor for me. Because I could say, “He [that’s how He exited my life – with a dick and definitely cis, so He’s frozen like that, as far as I’m concerned] is testing us. Or He wants us to learn something from this. Or I cannot fathom His Awesome Power.” At one point, I was convinced that reincarnation was something I could totally buy into and still be Catholic. And all of those things are fine as beliefs. But instead, I chose to say fuck it. Probably not. And even if He is real, do I actually want to worship someone who is willing to do this shit just to teach us a lesson? And the answer is no. That’s not for me.

    So, tl;dr: I don’t think you choose how you’re raised or what you’re exposed to. However, at some point and with the right amount of privilege, you have a hand in how you integrate new knowledge to supplement or refute your beliefs. I don’t think atheism is The Answer for Everyone (and the truth is, I don’t know 100% there is no God or Gods or something else entirely), and I do think you can believe in God and be an awesome humanitarian without any interest in genocide or revoking gay rights or pissing on women- and trans-folk. But I’d rather those people stop aligning themselves with the organized religions we have in place when organized religions have done or continue to do shitty things. Fuck it! Start a new religion! If you’re a monotheist, borrow liberally from existing religions! Or maybe your religion can be intentionally vague, like you think, “There’s some outside force that’s compelling you to do well by others. Also, there were some badass prophets who might have been god, or might have just been awesome. They were role models. Let’s be like them.” Hyper-privileged people like me DO get to choose our institutions, especially when we find that we don’t even believe in the central tenets of existing institutions.

    I mean, I can only speak for the Roman Catholic church. I really hear what many of you are saying about wanting to change the institution from the inside out. I bought into reincarnation and still called myself a Catholic. We all know I wasn’t, by definition, a Catholic, but fucked if I wasn’t willing to do the backflips necessary to keep the title. But its kind of like having a shitty boyfriend. That fucker isn’t going to change no matter how much you want him to. Maybe you should dump him and do something that is right for you. You don’t have to say, “Fuck all dudes! I’m never banging dudes again!” like I did, in this analogy, but maybe there’s a better dude for you if you want to keep fucking ’em.

  204. Shaun
    June 2, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Iany, I thought the definition of cis was having your sex, gender, and body all align with cultural norms (the best way I can put it, I don’t feel like I have the language to articulate this well)–being able to say it’s your vagina that makes you a woman. Gaga was asked if she had a penis, she answered she had a vagina–NOT that she was a woman, as a lot of artists might have done. This isn’t emphasizing the importance of your physical body, it’s straightforwardly answering a question and avoiding conflating your genitals with your womanhood. I’m not aware of where Gaga put trans people in her video to emphasize how feminine she is, either.

    While I can respect not wanting to derail the thread, you brought it up in the first place, and I’d say the thread is pretty derailed with or without us…

  205. PrettyAmiable
    June 2, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Oh, and I know you’re getting a lot of comments directed at you, Nahida, so I hope you don’t think I’m attacking you (or theists, in general). But the idea of “choice” in religion has been on my mind all day because of this thread. I DID have a choice. I made a choice, after all. But I can definitely see that as being the result of my other privileges. Anyway, I wanted to share those thoughts. I don’t think it came off attack-y, but wanted to be clear with a follow up.

  206. Shaun
    June 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Mechelle (just saw your comment), I read that article, and I was actually thinking about it when Iany made her post. But I didn’t know if that was what she was referring to and I didn’t want to make any assumptions.

    That said, I didn’t think the article made a lot of sense, for the reasons I listed. I’m open to the argument about the guards, though I didn’t see it that way, because I’m still somewhat new to TGQI liberation and recognizing harmful media representations–but none of the other trans people I know saw it that way either, so it can’t necessarily be said to be a universal truth.

    This doesn’t mean Gaga isn’t cissexist, I’m sure being cis she at least fucks up sometimes, but that’s why I was asking what she said that implied gender had anything to do with a physical body.

  207. June 2, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    @PA, it’s okay, I know you weren’t attacking. I figured it was an anecdote and your perspective.

    PrettyAmiable: But its kind of like having a shitty boyfriend. That fucker isn’t going to change no matter how much you want him to.

    The thing is, I haven’t gone through the same stuff where things start falling apart in terms of what I believe. Abortion is legal according to my religion, and the people who say that gay people are all going to hell because God destroyed a civilization because they were gay? When I actually go looking for where the fuck it says that, I find that it was a civilization of RAPISTS. And it happened to be anal sex, which is why they came to that conclusion. And men have been pulling things out of their ass like that when “analyzing” religious texts for centuries, and the fact that I’m turning on them now is exactly the reason they kept women from becoming educated since forever even though to prevent them is a clear violation of the religion itself. Like IT SAYS YOU MUST EDUCATE YOUR DAUGHTERS. The way it is for me, my boyfriend isn’t the shitty one–it’s the people who are also trying to fuck him. I don’t believe anything that would contradict the religion at its most fundamental beliefs, like reincarnation, (in fact–even if I did believe in reincarnation, that still doesn’t ENTIRELY make you stop being Muslim) so what’s actually going on is a reclamation of what I view as rightfully mine from douchebags who’ve drafted an anti-woman, anti-LGBT, anti-everything-that-is-threatening-to-patriarchal-power code of lifestyle and enforced it on others because they were insecure and frantic about all the power they lost when the religion was first established. And most of me is like FUCK NO you think you can get away with that shit?

    About choice, I didn’t mean so much the religion itself as the actual individual beliefs. For example, I could never believe that God would ever send a woman to hell for an abortion her situation called for. Or send someone to Hell for simply being gay. (Especially since it doesn’t even fucking say that anywhere in any religious text I follow.) I couldn’t change that belief even if I tried. I don’t feel that I choose to believe it. I just do. But I know that’s different for different people, and many do make a choice. I think it does vary from person to person, and each experience is important and valid.

  208. June 2, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    …I just realized said “A lot of the time the sentiment I detect is that people choose their religion“; I meant that the individual beliefs that could define it, if they fall into the category of one. Not whether or not you’d call yourself something.

  209. June 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    PrettyAmiable: I DID have a choice. I made a choice, after all.

    PrettyAmiable- Thank you for writing your comment! This thread has been on my mind all day today too. I’ve done a lot of thinking about why I reacted so strongly at the beginning of this thread.

    For me, religion and culture are totally twisted together and I think it’s pretty impossible for me (though not for some other people) to untwist.

    I believe in God. I’m not sure I can choose to unbelieve that. I don’t think there’s a reason for me to unbelieve that.

    If I decided that I’d had it with Judaism and I was going to go form my own religion, that would also be abandoning my culture and my community that’s struggling to survive. So, for me, it’s just not as simple as leaving. People have started several new denominations within the past 100 years or so that have faced issues of misogyny and homophobia head on. But breaking off from Judaism entirely seems…just terrible. Because it’s my heritage and my culture that my ancestors have struggled for the right to practice over and over again, oppressed by the same people who we’re being lumped in with right now.

    So, I think there’s privilege, too, in saying that people who are religious should choose to stop being religious or should stop associating with their particular religion. I feel like it assumes a particular relationship with religion that isn’t true to my experience. It’s also possible that I’m misinterpreting you, so let me know if I am. But I hope that it explains at least my visceral reaction at being told that, due to my affiliation with a religion, I will not be respected as a person.

    But then, I also realize that there is great privilege in being a theist in the first place. Privilege that I failed to recognize in my earlier exchange with Q Grrl, so if she’s still reading, I’m really sorry. I’m sorry for trying to speak over people who have been hurt by Christianity in a thread about Christianity. And I’m sorry for my assumption of bad faith.

  210. June 2, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Oh, and pretty much everything Nahida has said. Times, like, 1000000.

  211. June 2, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    That stuff wasn’t meant to be in bold. o.O

  212. AnonForThis
    June 2, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    So, for me, it’s just not as simple as leaving. People have started several new denominations within the past 100 years or so that have faced issues of misogyny and homophobia head on. But breaking off from Judaism entirely seems…just terrible. Because it’s my heritage and my culture that my ancestors have struggled for the right to practice over and over again, oppressed by the same people who we’re being lumped in with right now.

    You still have a choice there. You could leave Judaism, you could break off entirely, turn your back on the culture, and walk away. It wouldn’t be simple or easy, but you could and other people in your position have. What you’ve done is thought about the problems you have with the faith you’re a part of and decided that they don’t outweigh the benefits. You value a lot of aspects of your faith and that value is enough to keep you there. Theres absolutely nothing wrong with that, but to say it isn’t a choice I think takes away not only a lot of your agency (because staying isn’t so simple a thing either, I suspect) but I think oversimplifies the complex experiences of everyone involved. Not that that means it feels like a choice, but we can all stay or go as we please. Both take strength, both can be lazy. The devil, I suppose, is in the “please.”

  213. June 3, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Kristen J.: If part of your culture involves actively oppressing people then maybe you should not ask those people you participate in oppressing to respect that particular part of your culture.

    Or, in other words, “all Christians actively oppress people, or are complicit in the oppression of others.” This is the path I’m trying to avoid going down, because it’s the opposite of a dialog. It’s an obviously false accusation.

  214. June 3, 2011 at 1:08 am

    AnonForThis: The bottom line is that if you believe in salvation you must necessarily believe in damnation (otherwise theres nothing to be saved from) and if you believe that salvation comes through Jesus then you believe that I merit damnation. You can spin it however you please, but at the end of the day I find the most basic assumptions of Christianity to be both dehumanizing and threatening to my very being. Thats part of the baggage of believing in the story of Christ no matter how progressive you might want to be: God still judges.

    This is part of what I meant in my very first comment about this, when I said that you’d be surprised just how many people who call themselves Christian, or who go to church, or who, in other words, are involved in their community and culture, don’t actually believe much of any of that, but who still very much identify as “Christian.” And along those same lines, it’s really interesting how atheists and agnostics often seem to take the Bible and other Abrahamic religious texts far more seriously than the followers of the religions themselves. You might be interested in this debate (4 parts) between Reza Aslan, a Muslim, and Sam Harris, an atheist. I think they both do a great job and I learned a lot from both of them, but what Reza said is really informing a lot of my newfound extra-tolerance for religion as a general concept, and not conflating the institution of religion and the political and oppressive role it takes, with the individuals who are tied to a faith for whatever reason.

    And anyway, I’ve already said I’m trying to get over my hatred for religion and by extension, religious people, so I’m sorry if it wasn’t clear, but I’m not a Christian, I’m an atheist. So you don’t have to lecture me about my so-called Christian Privilege.

  215. June 3, 2011 at 1:09 am

    April: And along those same lines, it’s really interesting how atheists and agnostics often seem to take the Bible and other Abrahamic religious texts far more seriously than the followers of the religions themselves.

    That should have read “…often seem to take the Bible literally.

  216. June 3, 2011 at 2:06 am

    AnonForThis: The bottom line is that if you believe in salvation you must necessarily believe in damnation (otherwise theres nothing to be saved from) and if you believe that salvation comes through Jesus then you believe that I merit damnation.

    Sorry for the multiple-commenting, but I want to expand on this a little more. I was raised Episcopalian, and was sort of as-a-default Christian, like probably a lot of white kids in the US, and for the entirety of my childhood until I was about 15, I just believed in God and thought that good people went to Heaven, and bad people went to Hell. It was never contingent upon “accepting Jesus” or being a follower of a different religion. And I’m not just sharing some tidbit about how I was a “good Christian” or whatever. This was my community. It wasn’t until I joined an evangelical youth group on the insistence of a newly-“saved” friend that I started to understand this other, more radical belief that access to “Heaven” is only granted if you’re lucky enough to be born in the right time and place with a specific religious understanding and all of that bullshit. I am personally extremely offended that my aunt and uncle literally believe that I am damned to “Hell,” even though I can’t even muster the energy required to pretend that I believe in such a place.

    But what I’m saying in all of these comments is that there is a huge difference between the evangelicals who take every word of the Bible literally, and the regular folks who like science and understand meteorology but still attribute emotionally attribute weather patterns to God. And what I meant to say in the previous comment was that it seems that atheists and critics of religion take religious texts far more literally than the followers of those religions. And the understanding of “eternal damnation without Jesus” definitely falls into the frequently-not-taken-literally category.

    There have also been recent polls indicating that while a majority of Americans believe in “Heaven,” much fewer believe in “Hell,” and most of those people believe that Jesus is the son of God. Meaning, many people believe all that stuff without having to offend us by also believing we’re going to burn in hell for eternity.

    If anyone deserves blame and hatred, it’s the evangelicals, not Christians at large.

  217. shfree
    June 3, 2011 at 3:16 am

    There have also been recent polls indicating that while a majority of Americans believe in “Heaven,” much fewer believe in “Hell,” and most of those people believe that Jesus is the son of God.Meaning, many people believe all that stuff without having to offend us by also believing we’re going to burn in hell for eternity.

    If anyone deserves blame and hatred, it’s the evangelicals, not Christians at large.

    Evangelical, you are all going to hell if you don’t believe the way they do, or happy lovey liberal love thy neighbor Christian, both have privilege in US society. And the oppressed get to decide how they feel about their oppressors, no matter how nice they might be.

  218. Kristen J.
    June 3, 2011 at 4:00 am

    @April,

    Hey look there is this awesome social group over here that is culturally relevant to us. They have some political and economic power which is nice, plus cake! Oh I know what you’re gonna say, members of that group have been committing genocide in its name for…years. BUT! If you read their charter from this other perspective then it doesn’t have to be about genocide. It has all these bits about kindness and love. So what do you say? Want to join?

    (Not going to engage the choice thing, you can re-read as want to stay if you prefer).

  219. June 3, 2011 at 4:17 am

    Kristen J.:
    @April,

    Hey look there is this awesome social group over here that is culturally relevant to us.They have some political and economic power which is nice, plus cake!Oh I know what you’re gonna say, members of that group have been committing genocide in its name for…years.BUT!If you read their charter from this other perspective then it doesn’t have to be about genocide.It has all these bits about kindness and love.So what do you say?Want to join?

    (Not going to engage the choice thing, you can re-read as want to stay if you prefer).

    Have you renounced your American citizenship?
    (I seem to recall your being American, and forgive me if I’m wrong. But I’m willing to guess that wherever, the point stands.)

  220. Jade S
    June 3, 2011 at 4:31 am

    I hate when people play the devil’s advocate in arguments. But I can’t help it anymore. I am going to try to offer a similar line of logic to what I hear people saying here, and see if it anyone can see why I find it problematic:

    “Science is inherently violent. Evidence: Colleges and universities are owned, controlled, and accessed by majority white, male, cis, young, economically-privileged people and designed for the purpose of defending their privilege. Who is “science”? Who decides what is “science” as opposed to BS? Oh, the elite. Therefore science is synonymous with the elite. Science forces the whole world to believe whatever they decide is true, which constantly changes according to the whims of the privileged. Its domination is enforced through “technology”, i.e. all systemic violence that has happened since the dawn of human history. This violent, white, rich, male, system of violence which we charitably refer to as “science” determines what the “important” and “scientific” questions are, constantly make “new discoveries” according to what they decide to throw money at and have a stake in”discovering”, even if it contradicts other previous “discoveries”. Yet they claim that scientific inquiry is trustworthy, even if it goes against the lived experiences of oppressed people. Scientific inquiry is nothing but a tool of violence against oppressed classes of people, but it constantly promises that it is going to free them from oppression by “educating” them and letting them join the elite, or even “creating a more enlightened world through secular humanism and ‘understanding'”. It promises to spread feminism when in fact it is the author of reproductive oppression, technological violent patriarchal birth practices, the practice of rape as a tool for social control, the justifications of rape in “psychology” and all other oppression against women. All violence that has ever happened has been justified and supported by the scientific evidence of its period, and executed by technology. The atomic bomb, mass incarceration, and every tool of colonization…Name one event of oppression that has not been backed up by your “science” (the philosophy of violence) and its weapon, technology: you can’t. Therefore, I am right. If you can’t present compelling evidence to me that science is not inherently violent, then I don’t have to respect you, because you are “educated”. You demand that everyone not just tolerate your education but admire and elevate it. You are oppressing me by claiming that your “discoveries” are accurate, when they are fictions made by white elite men for the purpose of protecting privilege. Science is self-referential, therefore it is not trustworthy. It uses circular logic to defend itself: ____is scientifically true because We (the privileged) “discovered” it, using the methods that We (the privileged) “discovered” can be Trusted. If you don’t trust them we will label you as ignorant or mentally ill (we “discover” new mental illnesses and discard the old ones every couple years.) and you might suffer, be incarcerated, poisoned or killed as punishment. Science erases justice and injustice because “morality cannot be known or proven”, and thereby continues oppression, and therefore it is a lie. Scientific evidence often contradicts itself, therefore it is clearly untrustworthy and anyone who uses science to back up a claim they make should not be trusted. They are either a liar or stupid and being oppressed by the violence of science and the violent threat that comes with the rejection of science. I don’t care if you are the first person in your family to go to college, or if you are “using” academia as a place for feminist thought, or if you are bringing your “knowledge” back to a marginalized community, or if you are using it to “access systems of power”. Those are all fairy tales that the establishment has made up to control you. Academia has not delivered on those promises, it has further expanded marginalization. Prove to me it has created greater equality as more people have accessed it: you can’t. The opposite is true. So I don’t want to hear any more ‘educated’ people talk on this blog about “your experience” and “knowledge” and how incredibly liberating it is, and how I should believe it too. Fuck that noise. You are already commiting violence against ME by joining an institution that excludes people like me and authors ALL systemic violence that ever existed and everything you say is inherently biased by your “education” which trained you to defend the elite and believe its fairy tales. I do not respect the voice of the privileged, either “science” or “education” and I will not treat its adherents with respect because they don’t deserve it. They are the oppressor. ”

    I do not believe the above, but *not* because there’s no evidence or facts to support it. Because I believe in listening to other people’s experiences and what has been meaningful for them, and not disrespecting any of the good work going on in this world for justice, if its in churches or mosques or front porches or big universities or hospitals or whatever. So anyway. If you think that tyrade is simplistic, inflammatory, triggering, dismissive, unproductive, uncaring, and lacking in much really great substance, then you are in a closer place to understanding how I have felt during much of this conversation.

  221. Kristen J.
    June 3, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Come on little light. You know that comparison is disingenuous. Its brought up everytime based on the same theory that nationalities are comparable to social groups. Citizenship is not the same as a the elks club, the church, the community center, etc. But I’ll be the first to join the mythical nation of non-oppression just as soon as its established on previously uninhabited land, preferably in a warm climate.

  222. June 3, 2011 at 4:40 am

    AnonForThis: You still have a choice there. You could leave Judaism, you could break off entirely, turn your back on the culture, and walk away. It wouldn’t be simple or easy, but you could and other people in your position have. What you’ve done is thought about the problems you have with the faith you’re a part of and decided that they don’t outweigh the benefits. You value a lot of aspects of your faith and that value is enough to keep you there. Theres absolutely nothing wrong with that, but to say it isn’t a choice I think takes away not only a lot of your agency (because staying isn’t so simple a thing either, I suspect) but I think oversimplifies the complex experiences of everyone involved. Not that that means it feels like a choice, but we can all stay or go as we please. Both take strength, both can be lazy. The devil, I suppose, is in the “please.”

    I could also break my own heart and leave my wife. It wouldn’t be simple or easy, but other people in my position have. I would still be in love with her, and that love would still be real. I could tear myself open and never express or act on queer love, and I would be queer every day of it. I could have chosen not to transition, and live through it, as many people have, but I would still be a woman, just a miserable one. Other people in my position have chosen not to act on what is true in every fiber of their beings, and they have lived through it. There are always choices.

    I don’t expect my religion to apply to anyone else any more than I expect everyone in the world to be in love with my wife. But I was “religious” when I wasn’t talking about it, when I wasn’t attending services, when I wasn’t in seminary. It was the truth in me. It doesn’t have to be the truth for anyone else. It’s my truth as much and as deeply as my love for my wife is, and I can choose not to act on it, I can pretend it’s not there, but it’s the universe as I breathe in it, period, and I could no more walk away from it than I could from my love. It doesn’t have to have value for anyone else, but it was liberatory and powerful for me. Why is that so unacceptable to say? None of you have to like it or agree with it or respect it, but it does not give you a license to go for my throat because some religious person somewhere did you harm. And I say this as someone who has been deeply harmed, profoundly harmed, by people who are religious and by people using religions as their weapons. People chose to harm me.

    Frankly, separating out “religion” as a distinct and discrete subset of culture is a very Western, Modernist, culturally-colonial thing to do. For most of the world, absent Roman influence and its echoes further in imperial Western Christianity, drawing lines around what’s “religion” and what’s just living is a nonsensical enterprise, and saying “religion does this” or “religion is bad” or “religion is good” is as impossibly vague as saying “culture does this” or “culture is bad.” We’ve all got culture. It’s the air we breathe. You can value different cultural expressions however you like, but you’re in a conversation of culture vs. culture, not neutral-objectivity vs. culture. And as soon as you cut religious people out of your justice movement–as soon as you say, people who do religion, people who believe in and are motivated by things we call religious, are oppressive people who all do the world harm–you’ve just lost King, Chavez, Mandela, Tutu, Bonhoeffer, Berrigan, Thurman, and Gandhi, who all were very explicit about their religious motivations for their justice work. You’ve just lost liberation theology and the power it’s given to oppressed people to fight off empire. You’ve just lost the Ploughshares peace movement. You’ve just lost Dorothy Day and her Catholic Worker movement, one of the greatest unalloyed projects of simply feeding and housing the hungry and homeless in the world. And you’ve lost me. If that’s no loss to you, fine. That’s up to you.

    Nobody here, especially the OP, is denying the harm that people have done with religions in many times and places. I’m certainly not. I am pretty sure nobody in this conversation has denied that religious groups and movements have to own those people associated with them who have done terrible, terrible things–just as, as an American, I am connected to and associated with the Americans throughout history who have done terrible, terrible things, and cannot expect anyone to separate me out from them. But saying all religions everywhere are forces for evil in the world, that all religious people are suspect, is so scattershot, so general, as to be meaningless. And in the meantime, you’re throwing out a lot of people who’ve done nothing but good with the bathwater.

  223. June 3, 2011 at 4:46 am

    Also, for everyone making arguments about the fundamental horror of Christianity and its basic doctrine of people going to Hell: I am not a Christian, but I feel compelled to note as a scholar that while yes, jillions of Christians do believe in that doctrine and act on it and it goes really vile places–it’s not a doctrine of mine–that from the very beginning of the movement to now, two thousand years later, there has been a large group of Christians who subscribe to what’s called universalism: nobody goes to any sort of Hell, not one, not ever, period. Hell as we discuss it is fairly new on the theological scene and it’s not universally embraced any more than the whole Original Sin thing is. It’s not well-supported Scripturally, to many people’s surprise, and has been rejected by many adherents right from the start. It’s no more fair to j’accuse! all over them and their tradition for sharing some ground with the Hell fans than it is to lump Islamic feminists in with the Saudi morality police. We are talking about an extraordinarily diverse group of people here, some of whom are lovely, some of whom are awful, and most of whom are a bit of both.

  224. June 3, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Kristen J.:
    Come on little light.You know that comparison is disingenuous.Its brought up everytime based on the same theory that nationalities are comparable to social groups.Citizenship is not the same as a the elks club, the church, the community center, etc.But I’ll be the first to join the mythical nation of non-oppression just as soon as its established on previously uninhabited land, preferably in a warm climate.

    It’s not disingenuous in the least! I mean it quite sincerely. Everyone is born somewhere, and everyone is born in a cultural context. If you’re born in a culture that includes, say, Christianity, yes, you can choose to leave it, just as you can renounce your citizenship and move to another country. But it’s an enormous undertaking, often involves removing connection with everyone and everything you know, and carries a heavy price. And you have to go somewhere. As you point out, there isn’t a magical non-oppressive country out there on some warm, uninhabited land. There isn’t anywhere to go that isn’t already someone’s home, with its own history, good and bad. And there isn’t any uninhabited culture to run off to either, any place where culture and its history aren’t. A church–a denomination, a given congregation–may be more like the Elks than the United States of America, I’ll give you that. But a religion? “Christianity,” the beliefset, the cultural phenomenon? That’s not like the Elks at all. It’s a cultural situation that billions of people are born citizens to, and they can choose to leave the home they were born and raised in, yes, but they have to go somewhere.

    My American citizenship was bought with genocide and slavery and war, period. It carries privilege. And this is where I’m from, where my family is from, where everyone I know lives. Why haven’t I renounced my citizenship? Because it’s home, and I haven’t got a better plan yet than staying here and trying to make it better, because there’s something worth salvaging in being from somewhere.

  225. Kristen J.
    June 3, 2011 at 5:09 am

    @LittleLight,

    Boiled down that way, then why ask anyone to give up any parts of their culture. Why is it okay to say “You should change your culture’s approach to hitting children”, but not okay to say “Don’t belong to groups where the Charter document includes hitting children”?

  226. June 3, 2011 at 5:20 am

    Cultures grow and cultures change, and it’s our duty as participants in culture to make them better and more just, absolutely, to fight for that change. But they all come from somewhere, and I don’t know of any that doesn’t have ugly, ugly history and ugly, ugly acts done by cruel and compassionless people. Everyone, no exceptions, has a cultural background and standpoint, and it all comes with baggage. Some people “emigrate” and try to make culture better by experimenting with new things. That’s great! Some people choose to “stay home” and try to make the place they’re from better. That’s also great. But they all come from somewhere. No matter whether you stay or go, wherever you end up putting down roots has history that you have to contend with. Some people choose to put down their roots in the place they’re from despite its terrible history and maybe terrible neighbors, and some people choose to find another place to do it, but eventually no matter where you are history–and your neighbors–come calling.
    I come from a small town. There’s a lot about rural culture I value and a lot I was horrified by. I left my hometown and it’s an empty place in my heart–it came at a great price–but I went somewhere else to try something new. I get that approach. It’s a workable approach that works for a lot of people. One of my old schoolmates is still there, fighting to fix that town, putting on dozen-person Pride parades, whatever it takes. I get her approach, too.

    Besides, I don’t think anyone’s saying “it’s not okay to say,” really. I think it’s more, when someone says, “My hometown, which I love, had a policy embracing child abuse, and I moved back home to try to change it and make sure people don’t do that in my town any more because I and many others know that that’s wrong,” why should the fast response be, “Fuck you, it still happened there, you should burn the whole place down and found a town somewhere else and if you don’t you’re as bad as the abusers.” Why can’t the response be, “I would never live there, I hate the place, but good luck fixing it, I’ll be elsewhere”?

  227. Kristen J.
    June 3, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Because when you’ve been abused in that town, by people in that town, while other people in that town stood by and said “but there are good things about us, too…so nevermind that stuff you experienced”, I have a hard time saying anything more constructive than “Maybe you should rebuild somewhere else.”

  228. June 3, 2011 at 5:56 am

    And I guess what I’m calling into question is the lack of distinction between people who stood by and mouthed platitudes while harm was being done and people who are actively fighting to change things. For instance, a queer woman from a small town who is entering the priesthood and fighting for women’s rights, queer rights, and economic justice from the pulpit, say, and who introduces herself by referring to the current state of much of US Christianity as a “pestilential nightmare.” You think she isn’t aware of the history, that she isn’t working every day against it, and is just saying “never mind that”? I’m pretty sure she made some explicit comments regarding the ugly abuses of Christians in many times and places and never once said they should be forgotten. I know I would never say “never mind that,” and being religious myself doesn’t mean I think any of that should be erased.

    Nobody’s saying you have to live in that town or like that town. But not everybody in that town is just standing by talking pretty while the harm is done. Some of them are intervening and fighting for something better. And I believe that just as it is vital that people come from outside–or leave and then come from outside–to point out what’s wrong in that town, it’s also vital for the people who have any love for the place at all, who see the crimes happening next door, to fight for it from the inside, and making them the same as everyone else there might make us feel better but it doesn’t forward the cause of justice.

    I don’t have a family any more, and religion played its part in that. I’ve been through awful things that religion had a part in. I’ve lost loved ones to it. I wasn’t standing by saying “never mind” what they and I experienced. I was fighting.

  229. Kristen J.
    June 3, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Fighting for what? What is so valuable and irreplaceable about Christianity that its okay to associate with people who do so much harm? And why can’t those “fighting” accept that by lending support to the organization they are, in that moment when the organization is still causing harm, contributing to the oppression of another?

  230. Kristen J.
    June 3, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Fighting for what? What is so valuable and irreplaceable about Christianity that its okay to associate with people who do so much harm? And why can’t those “fighting” accept that by lending support to the organization they are, in that moment when the organization is still causing harm, contributing to the oppression of another?

  231. June 3, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Well, in my case, I’m not Christian, and it’s not for me to say. But part of it is belonging to a lineage that means not only associating with those people who do so much harm but also with Dorothy Day and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and St. Francis and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Daniel Berrigan and Desmond Tutu. You can’t have one without the other. Some of it, if it’s anything like my own faith, is about the homeness of it. And some of it is more like the other analogy I used earlier: love. Marriage has been used to harm people over and over and over, especially queer people like me, but my loving commitment to my wife matters to me because–without proof, without justification, without evidence–I am in love with her. Because I will love her no matter what and that’s just true–that’s just a fundamental fact about how I personally interact with the world. And that comes with paperwork and history and in-laws and personal flaws and everything else, sure. For me, my religious approach to the world is just as inseparable as that. I could choose not to act on it, but then on top of everything else I’d just be a hypocrite. For me, the world has in it all this stuff I interact with as a religious person, and I am effectively in love–it’s a true thing that I can’t quantify or explain and that is so deep it’s not coming out. I don’t expect it to be universal or to be for everyone–some of the people dearest to me, some of the best and finest people I know, including my wife, aren’t theists, and some other of the people dearest to me and highest in my esteem are Christians, and I’m not one of those either. But for me, if I were to claim that I wasn’t experiencing what I was experiencing, that it wasn’t true for me, that would not be acting with integrity, it would not be honest, and it would be just as ridiculous as pretending I don’t love my partner.

    For me, personally, I try very hard not to belong to or contribute to organizations, including religious organizations, that I believe are oppressive. But I also, as an American, pay taxes that buy bombs that get dropped on innocent people, I still live on land that was unjustly stolen from the people who lived here first, and I still vote, and I still haven’t applied for citizenship elsewhere.

    I guess what I’m asking for is some nuance, here. If it’s not valuable or irreplaceable to you, great. You don’t lose anything by divorcing yourself from it. You also don’t lose anything by declaring you’re not in love with my wife. But for people to whom there is something to lose, something valuable and irreplaceable, I am not going to tell them not to go back into that burning building to save what they feel is worth saving, or to try to put the fire out.

  232. llama
    June 3, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Rare Vos: Bingo.Though its more like a rape-apologists “not all men are rapists!” cry when the topic comes up.

    A woman, on a feminist blog, can say that she is distrustful of men owing to x, y, z.No one accepts “not all men are like that” as an excuse to berate her for that choice.

    But on that same blog, an atheist is a rude bigot who hates justice if they say they are distrustful of religion because of x, y, z.And, suddenly, magically, “not all theists are like that!” is a valid response.

    Privilege in a nutshell.

    Exactly !!!

  233. Sheelzebub
    June 3, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Just a few things:

    1) The only song by Lady Gaga I really like is Poker Face.

    2) I’ve seen some commenters here conflate Catholicism and Episcopalism. Do not, do not presume to think that because there are some similarities between the Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church that they are one and the same. There are doctrinal differences, cultural differences, and up until recently, differences of privilege and power between the typical congregant of the respective Churches.

    3) I’m co-signing LaLubu’s point that Gaga’s imagery was more Italian than anything else, and being an American of Sicilian descent, raised as Catholic, that imagery was her cultural imagery to use as she saw fit.

    4) I’ll leave the debate between the “faith is good” vs. “atheism is good” to you all. I’m a former Catholic-turned-atheist who attends a UU Church (the UU’s are fine with atheism). I cast a jaundiced eye on religion in general, but if it feeds someone, that’s great. Don’t force me to do this, don’t try to pass laws that would force everyone to adhere to a religion’s beliefs (such as banning same sex marriage or chipping away at women’s right to full healthcare) and we’re good.

  234. Rare Vos
    June 3, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Again, religions aren’t inherently bad, wrong, or evil. People who use religion, and people who exploit other people’s religious beliefs in order to oppress others are bad, wrong, evil, oppressive, etc. Not religion.

    And, again, saying that a person’s religious beliefs are 100% a free choice that people consciously make in every circumstance and that they should be fine with ridicule and personal over beliefs that may largely only affect themselves is oftentimes asking people to cut a part of their culture away from themselves.

    Read the Bible. Read the Torah. Read the Koran. Read almost any religion’s holy text and all this bullshit about religion not being inherently bad evaporates. Knowledge, like sunlight, is an excellent disinfectant.

    It’s not necessarily a conscious choice theists make every day. It can be. For me, while I was struggling to retain faith in god, it was a choice I made every day. For others, its a choice they made once and then spend the rest of their lives attempting to justify.

    You chose cherry pick the bits that make you feel good. I chose to look at the whole picture.

    calling a chosen religion a piece of yourself, that therefore can’t ever be honestly examined, and def never criticized is simply your privilege. And, as it may be clear by now, some of us care more about people than your desire to perserve your privilege.

  235. Rare Vos
    June 3, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Fighting for what? What is so valuable and irreplaceable about Christianity that its okay to associate with people who do so much harm? And why can’t those “fighting” accept that by lending support to the organization they are, in that moment when the organization is still causing harm, contributing to the oppression of another?

    If we were talking about almost anything else, this would be obvious to them. But now we’re talking about their privilege – NOW it’s different.

    Its a weird blind spot. It’s good to denounce misogyny – as long as we pretend that religion, despite most being flagrantly misogynistic, gets a special dispensation because [special pleading fallacy] and [No True Scotsman fallacy].

  236. June 3, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Rare Vos: Read the Bible.Read the Torah.Read the Koran.Read almost any religion’s holy text and all this bullshit about religion not being inherently bad evaporates.Knowledge, like sunlight, is an excellent disinfectant.

    Been there. Done that. Multiple translations. Plus commentaries. Wrote the (very secular) thesis, got the degree, thanks. (Speaking of religion, all of it, being “flagrantly misogynistic,” there was an extensive chapter on Islamic feminism.)

    As it turns out, there are intelligent, educated people, in possession of the facts, who disagree with you. Who aren’t just No-True-Scotsmaning (yes, there are religious assholes, and yes, they still count as religious! and as a problem! including for religious non-assholes!), Special-Pleading (and religion is no more or less worthy of criticism and examination than any other part of culture! and if you’re not examining it, you’re probably doing it wrong!), or denigrating atheism. It is actually possible to have a different perspective.

  237. June 3, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Rare Vos: Read the Bible. Read the Torah. Read the Koran. Read almost any religion’s holy text and all this bullshit about religion not being inherently bad evaporates. Knowledge, like sunlight, is an excellent disinfectant.

    So the whole “you couldn’t possibly know your own fucking religion or you’d agree with me on MY points of interpretation” has begun. Yay, fun.

  238. AnonForThis
    June 3, 2011 at 10:01 am

    little light @ 222:

    I could also break my own heart and leave my wife. It wouldn’t be simple or easy, but other people in my position have. I would still be in love with her, and that love would still be real. I could tear myself open and never express or act on queer love, and I would be queer every day of it. I could have chosen not to transition, and live through it, as many people have, but I would still be a woman, just a miserable one. Other people in my position have chosen not to act on what is true in every fiber of their beings, and they have lived through it. There are always choices.

    I think thats a very important thing to realize. Just because something would be terribly painful doesn’t mean its a choice. I have no choice to sweat. I sweat when its hot, I sweat when its cold, I sweat when I’m awake, I sweat when I sleep, I sweat when I’m active, I sweat when I’m sedentary, its part of the human experience. Because of that, I don’t really care too much that I sweat because its completely outside of my control. Sometimes its annoying, but it isn’t really part of my identity or a vital part of my being.

    It would break my heart to leave my wife as well. I could do it, it would hurt, but I choose not to because I love her deeply. Its a choice, and the fact that I have the power and the right to make it makes what choice I make ultimately a much greater part of who I am as a person. It invests my relationship with my wife with a greater meaning, it is something we have claimed together, something we have actively and consciously chosen to forge and be. There is magic in that, a kind of deep, transcendent, sometimes ecstatic meaning which enriches my life. It also means that I’ve chosen to tollerate, accept, and even to some degree cosign her flaws just as she has mine. This is the person I have chosen to spend my life with, that choice has meaning that an unwilled action simply cannot. The consequences you’re talking about are, to me, what makes the choice so incredibly profound. I could walk away, but I never would. I would rather die on my feet because of what the relationship means to me. Thats very, very strong medicine.

    The same is true, I believe, of faith. The aspect of choice doesn’t devalue it, it doesn’t make faith something that people should reject or make the choice as insignificant as what to eat for breakfast or what socks to wear. Its a decision of gravity, a defining moment in many of our lives. It certainly was for me. It ranks up there with the day I was married and the day I chose to stand up and survive. When people talk about faith as being something one had no choice in, when faith is talked about as if it was more like sweat than marriage, well…I think that that shows a startling lack of insight and a disturbing infantilization of people who are faithful. Just because I find a certain religion shitty doesn’t mean I think faith is in the same class as excretion. Thats one of the reasons Christianity is so scary to me.

    It was the truth in me. It doesn’t have to be the truth for anyone else. It’s my truth as much and as deeply as my love for my wife is, and I can choose not to act on it, I can pretend it’s not there, but it’s the universe as I breathe in it, period, and I could no more walk away from it than I could from my love. It doesn’t have to have value for anyone else, but it was liberatory and powerful for me. Why is that so unacceptable to say?

    Its not unacceptable (at least not to me). I think we’re approaching a similar idea from different angles and I suspect you might be of the impression that I’m anti-faith. I’ll be honest, I’m virulently anti-Christian. I find Christianity (with the possible exception of the Quakers and a handful of other groups) personally repellent, historically dangerous, and intrinsically devaluing to what I personally believe is most important to the human experience. I’m a committed opponent and survivor of monotheism but I’m not an atheist and I don’t think faith is worthless. Whether its directed to outcomes I subjectively judge to be good or bad is, for me, a very separate question from whether or not faith has value. I believe that the liberation and the power of the experience comes from the choice, from having the option of walking away. Thats where the choice is in my eyes.

    but it does not give you a license to go for my throat because some religious person somewhere did you harm.

    Thats tolerance. At the same time, I do claim every license to go for the throat of those who have harmed me and of the things that have been invoked to harm me. Its rare that I’ll attack a Christian for being a Christian, but I’ll never go easy on Christianity unless its for the benefit of someone I love or deeply respect. That has to be earned, it isn’t something I can offer as a matter of course.

    Frankly, separating out “religion” as a distinct and discrete subset of culture is a very Western, Modernist, culturally-colonial thing to do.

    I haven’t been a modernist since I realized fascism was a bad idea because people could never agree on which iron fist was best back in high school. I’m not really sure where you’re getting the idea that I’ve cut religion off as a special case. Throughout this thread I’ve avoided the use of the world religion except to describe my specific observances and once as broad term in deliberately oversimplified example. I haven’t really been using it in the discussion of faith-as-choice.

    That said, while we’re all part of a culture we certainly have the power to choose which cultural narratives we cosign and which we challenge, which signs we adhere to and which we resist. My culture, the one in which I grew, is a western, modernist, American culture in which the influence of Roman colonization is pretty damned important. Christianity, which is what I’ve been talking about throughout this thread, is central to the culture I live in and how it came to be that way. Again, I can have unvarnished disgust for Christianity down to its vile roots without devaluing or separating the idea of faith.

    I never claimed to be neutral and I sure as hell don’t put much stock in the concept of objectivity.

    And as soon as you cut religious people out of your justice movement–as soon as you say, people who do religion, people who believe in and are motivated by things we call religious, are oppressive people who all do the world harm… But saying all religions everywhere are forces for evil in the world, that all religious people are suspect, is so scattershot, so general, as to be meaningless. And in the meantime, you’re throwing out a lot of people who’ve done nothing but good with the bathwater

    I don’t think you’re fighting with me here, I think you’re fighting something else and I’m the one its aimed at. I honestly cannot see how you’ve read that into what I’ve been saying. My beef isn’t with religion, it isn’t with human expressions of faith. It is with one specific religion. To be blunt, the world could see 1000 more Kings and Chavezs and Tutus and Christianity still wouldn’t have made up for the damage its done. We have lost so much because of this one faith. That doesn’t mean I want to see people of faith out of the justice movement. It means that people of a specific faith need to understand that their community has left wounds which haven’t even had the chance to scar yet. It means that Christians need to continue fighting to put their house in order. It means that there is a very good chance that some of us who have been deeply harmed by your faith might never come to respect it. We might respect and value you as individuals, we might respect and value the things that you do, we might even respect that you hold faith, but the object of that faith will likely never be redeemed in my eyes. To say otherwise would be dishonest and I believe that part of the foundation of real respect is to be honest.

  239. Sheelzebub
    June 3, 2011 at 10:09 am

    But then again, this thread will devolve into “Christians are/are not evil” in roughly 3… 2… 1…

    Natalia, you really should place bets on these things. You could at least take yourself out for a nice steak dinner on the proceeds.

  240. JP
    June 3, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Jade S: I hate when people play the devil’s advocate in arguments. But I can’t help it anymore.

    To successfully play devil’s advocate, the case you present has to be at least clever, rather than a shallow caricature of cases serious people have already presented. But the more staggering thing is that you draw the opposite conclusion from the exercise than you ought to have drawn.

    Something along the lines of the anti-scientific case you’ve written has, in fact, been defended seriously by some anti-realist philosophers of science, some feminist philosophers, and some sociologists of science – not because they failed to “listen to other people’s experiences and what has been meaningful for them,” but precisely because they did, and then analysed what they heard in a particular way. The response from scientific realists (or at least anti-constructionists), which includes some other feminist philosophers, was not to complain that these arguments were a “tyrade,” and also “inflammatory, triggering, dismissive, unproductive, uncaring, and lacking in much really great substance” and use this as a pretext not to engage with them (had they been given your version, they could have rightly called it “simplistic”). After all, if these things were true of science, that would be very important! So instead of being intellectually dishonest and lazy, they confronted the constructionist arguments head on, which spawned a spirited literature going back and forth, and considerable enlightenment about what realist and anti-realist views of science amount to all around. Ultimately, I think the anti-realists are wrong because the totally of evidence (of various sorts) does not support their case. But I think this after having read, in detail, the strongest arguments for their case that they could muster. Had I thrown Against Method across the room after the first few pages, huffing about how it disrespects me, I’d have been intellectually remiss (and note, coming back to the original topic, I’m not saying the best case against respect for religions has been given in this thread; that’s why I’ve linked to two thoughtful essays that discuss it at some length, and there are, of course, more).

  241. June 3, 2011 at 10:44 am

    AnonForThis#238, I want to clarify that I was responding to the thread in general for much of my comment, and didn’t mean to suggest that you were asserting things you weren’t. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

  242. June 3, 2011 at 10:46 am

    April: Or, in other words, “all Christians actively oppress people, or are complicit in the oppression of others.” This is the path I’m trying to avoid going down, because it’s the opposite of a dialog. It’s an obviously false accusation.

    Except that it’s not obviously false, at least for Xtians that live in countries where Xtianity is the dominant religion. That’s how privilege works, if I understand privilege correctly–as a cis man, for instance, I get privilege from being a cis man whether I want it or not. I get that privilege whether or not I am oppressed in other ways (because of my race, my socioeconomic class, etc.). Inasmuch as I don’t recognize my privilege and actively engage in understanding and whittling it down, I am actively oppressing others. It sucks, and it feels like a battle I can’t win, but (I think!) that’s how power and privilege work. So, even if you’re a Xtian who is actively trying to change your church, you’re still part of the group of oppressors who are Xtians (just as I am part of the group of oppressors who are cis men).

  243. June 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I think we’re confusing leaving the religion itself being a choice with leaving behind the beliefs.

    AnonForThis: I have no choice to sweat. I sweat when its hot, I sweat when its cold, I sweat when I’m awake, I sweat when I sleep, I sweat when I’m active, I sweat when I’m sedentary, its part of the human experience.

    But that’s how I feel it is with faith. I can’t get myself to stop believing it. Have you tried getting yourself to believe something you find absurd? Or to stop believing something you feel is a personal truth? I can’t just choose to stop believing in God, or in an afterlife, or any of the other things that constitute the fundamentals of my religion.

    Leaving the religion, I can see how that’s a choice. But I don’t think we choose to believe things. It’s not ENTIRELY not a choice, but with the nature of faith, it’s not exactly a choice either.

  244. miga
    June 3, 2011 at 10:54 am

    @Jeffliveshere:

    I was under the impression that if you recognize the ways in which you are privileged and actively ally yourself to those who are trying to fight oppression you aren’t an oppressor. You are moving against the tide of oppression. Does that make sense, or did I misunderstand something?

  245. June 3, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I’m going to take a long break from being across a computer screen now because my eyes hurt like fuck and they are super watery and such, and the speed this thread is going I probably won’t bother catching up again. I just wanted to leave this here because if anyone addresses me I don’t want them to think I’m ignoring them.

  246. June 3, 2011 at 11:20 am

    @AnonForThis: I totally understand there are reasons to be anonymous, and respect them, but I just want to say that I really wish you weren’t anon for this because you have offered up some of the most clearly written and concise comments about this stuff that I have ever read, and I would a blog every day that discussed this stuff that clearly…

    @Nahida: Though I don’t agree with everything you’re saying, I also want to express appreciation for your thoughtful comments. They’re really making me think about some stuff that I thought I had already thought about too much! :)

  247. June 3, 2011 at 11:29 am

    also: Clearly, more posts with explicitly religious themes would be at the very least food for thought for a lot of readers of Feministe…

  248. Jade S
    June 3, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Jp, it is serious. Much of what I said is actually true, and it is why I truly have problems with people presenting their perspective with some scientific evidence to support it and then claiming that to be the superior perspective that cancels out someone else’s experience of life. Its why I didn’t go to college and am critical of that as the best way to get an education. Its why I don’t find zero sum game arguments about religion and science (like we’ve seen select number of atheists not religious folks presenting on this thread) to hold up under any kind of scrutiny. Its why I value personalism and depth as ways of learning more than memorization of facts or “settling” things through debate. Its why I think we have to have a more inclusive and nuanced frame to be real feminists, and not just people defending the things that work for me. Its why I find my values and beliefs to be the most trustworthy way to make decisions.
    But I don’t actually reject scientific inquiry as a valid or useful (for some circumstances) way to understand the world, or think that I have the right to disrespect my fellow feminists because they have more class privilege than me and some degree of power within those institutions, or think that I would be served by rejecting anyone or any piece of information that comes from academia. And I feel like arguing for that is not crazier or less coherent than what people have said here about religion. Science and technology have been instrumental in oppression? WITHOUT A DOUBT. Science and technology are owned and controlled by the privileged and exclude marginalized from decision-making and participation, and “facts” have supported injustice much/most of the time? Yes. “Scientific facts” have different interpretations and are dynamic over time? Yes. Science and technology are therefore inherently oppressive and dangerous, as are those participating in them in any capacity? Um, Hell no.
    Religion has been instrumental in oppression? Uh, yes. Religious institutions have been owned and controlled by the privileged and excluded marginalized from decision-making? Often. From participation at all, even as a subject? Sometimes, but overall, to far fewer communities than education has excluded. Religious “truths” support injustice more often than justice? Arguable. Religious truths are dynamic and have different interpretations? Yes.
    If you think arguing this point-by-point is a good use of your time, knock yourself out.
    But a I think a happier ending and maybe mutually healing approach would be for us to come to some kind of agreement that we have all experienced oppression in our lives, in ways that would be hard for others to fully understand, and are entitled to both our anger or sensitivity about it, our aversion to the weapons it used against us, and we are also entitled to whatever liberates us. And we each get to define what has hurt us and what has liberated us, but we do not get to define that for other people. We should listen to other people as who they are and respect their experience which they are the expert in “I am trans and its who I am” should not be up for debate here, or “I am Lakota and my traditions are who I am” also not up for debate, or “I am Christian and its not a choice for me.” or “Education saved my life.” We can listen in solidarity and I might think “wow, college was the most amazing experience of your life, and it was my rock-bottom. I’m glad to know that empowerment is possible to find for some people in that world that was so hurtful for me.” but we never have to be silent about our own experience or about things someone says that feel ignorant, dismissive, inaccurate, counterproductive, etc. We just have to also treat them with a gentle hand if they are talking about either their experience of oppression, or that sweet and tender experience that is whatever has made life better for them, whether that is graduating or getting divorced or finding Jesus or having an abortion or having a baby or starting T or immigrating or rediscovering their language or getting brave enough to talk about who they are. All those experiences are true and valuable. And nothing that I am saying now is factual, its all just something I believe. And a lot A LOT of people in the world don’t believe what I am saying here, but I think a number of the people who post on this blog (belief in deity notwithstanding) believe something like it. These are not substantive facts supported by evidence. They are beliefs. Beliefs that I call feminist and believe, but that are no more supported by science than patriarchy and capitalism. You can call them a choice if you want to, and maybe there is an element of choosing, but I experience them as true and weighty. And you can say that you disagree, and in fact I would appreciate the kind of critique that might help me clear up parts that are not totally true or loving, because my intention is to both tell the truth and honor you, but please don’t call them fairy tales. And if you decide to be completely over-the-top in your definition of oppression by saying that me holding a certain belief is inherently violent to you because its associated with or advocated an institution that inflicted violence against you in your life..well….I might feel tempted to retreat to my snotty tirade….oppression Olympics….200 more comments on this thread…beliefs aside: the revolution might take a while with an approach like that. I really think we should try out listening with simultaneous curiosity about each other and a sense of solidarity (based in a faith that we can find unity, and that our differences will also be a strength). I don’t need anyone to see the world the way I do. Its not a public opinion poll where majority rules. Disagreement does not take away from my personal truth whatsoever, and if its about your personal experience, I am not interested in debating it. But neither I am not afraid to change my mind, particularly if I find that my ideas are not faithful to the values I have laid out here. My goal is to hear your experience of injustice and justice as you define it, and make sure that my values include a place for the validity of that experience among many.
    These conversations don’t happen really well when we are busy with tearing each other apart, using other people’s experiences of oppression and liberation to justify disrespecting them, and suggesting that, for example, the majority of the marginalized people of the world, who happen to be religious, are not credible to define their own experience, and are not deserving of your respect and civility because the way they understand their own life and liberation is “oppressing you”. A feminism based on that excludes a lot of women, and it is a racist, xenophobic, and classist belief. Its not a fact.

  249. June 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

    @miga:
    miga: I was under the impression that if you recognize the ways in which you are privileged and actively ally yourself to those who are trying to fight oppression you aren’t an oppressor. You are moving against the tide of oppression. Does that make sense, or did I misunderstand something?

    I appreciate the clarification, but I’m not sure that’s the way many folks see things. For instance: I am a feminist man. Sure, I’m doing what I think is (sometimes) good feminist work to move against the tide of oppression, but because I am still a man and because I literally *can’t* divest myself completely of the rewards I get from being a man (i.e. my privilege), I’m still oppressing, to the degree that I still get those rewards, whether I want ’em or not. But I’d love to hear what you (and others) think about that–though that may be too much of a derail, even for *this* thread! :)

  250. Jade S
    June 3, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Supposed to read “neither am I afraid to change my mind”

  251. PrettyAmiable
    June 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    A couple things. @Nahida – I definitely agree with much of what you’re saying. I don’t know what specific sect of Islam you subscribe to (if any), so I can’t comment with any authority, but my experience with religion was always going to be different because I was raised to believe in one that had a central, living authority who we all revered and was calling the shots on some really heinous things. I like hearing your thoughts specifically because I know your experiences are different. On top of that, today, Catholics aren’t really discriminated against (in the US, at least). In contrast, Islamophobia in much of the west adds another dimension to your experiences.

    Nahida: About choice, I didn’t mean so much the religion itself as the actual individual beliefs.

    See, but I still think I had a significant hand in shaping those beliefs – at least in adulthood. At one point, I actively decided belief just wasn’t for me.

    Shoshie: For me, religion and culture are totally twisted together and I think it’s pretty impossible for me (though not for some other people) to untwist.

    This is really interesting to me. I would love to hear more about this from people who subscribe to various religions. My parents come from a country that’s like 90% Catholic. If I was born and grew up there, I don’t know if I would have been able to make my choices when I did. They weren’t easy HERE. And I recently found out about an estranged Jewish grandparent, and want to learn more about her culture. Even to me, at least as far as Judaism is concerned, I do think religion and culture are intertwined. When I say “her culture,” religion is a factor.

    @littlelight, I agree with Kristen that the citizenship angle is disingenuous. I could renounce my US citizenship, but then I’d have to find a country to live in that doesn’t have a douchebag history. I can’t think of any, which means I would need to resign myself to living in an airport, giving up friends, family, a job, so on and so forth. No longer identifying with Christianity (in my case – whatever your religion is in yours) doesn’t mean I have to give up anything except financially funding a church and not rubberstamping church practices. You’d have your family (presumably – though even if this assumption is relaxed, it doesn’t change the degree issue). You’d have your job (and if you didn’t, that’s illegal, so sue). You wouldn’t have to live out of a suitcase and sacrifice your quality of life. That’s why it’s disingenuous. You live in a world (for the most part) where you can give up your religion without sacrificing your livelihood. You do not live in a world where you can give up your citizenship without sacrificing the same.

  252. honeyandlocusts
    June 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    @Momentary and La Lubu way up the thread, thank you for persisting with me and for sharing with me how the video rings for you, visually, as consistent with Sicilian or Sicilian-American aesthetics and culture. (Thank you also for being patient with me and my long gaps in between returning to the thread, as my workdays are long.) You are right – my analysis would have been enhanced by including her ethnic and religious background. And thank you for continuing to foreground the similarities between Latinate Catholicisms. However, to several people’s points, none of us can know for certain that this video was in fact a thoughtful engagement with her own tradition. My suspicion about it came from a couple places – one of them being what I outlined initially in the OP, which is that there has been so much good investigative, interrogative work done around Mary of Magdala, and to have the video rely on very tired misogynist tropes about her feels very tedious to me (and, frankly, makes my life as a young woman in the church much harder, in much the same ways that the far Christian right uses the virgin/whore thing to make my life harder). Another is that she has a she has a history of casual and politically troubling use of other people’s stuff. Particularly, in the most recent past, her tossing around of “chola” in the Born This Way lyrics. This, for me, was a major “What?!” moment, and after that, my mental state was tilted toward reading her as messing around with Latin@ culture rather than her own. In the town where I come from, that kind of language coming from a rich white lady only meant terrible things, especially in situations where the threat of deportation and incarceration were real, as part of the criminalization of poverty. I say this as a white person who grew up in that white minority/white supremacist system – this isn’t speculation about how white people were taught to wield language.

    And to me the rich white lady part is key. For all of the privilege analysis that has happened on this thread, almost none of it has been directed toward Lady Gaga. She is not our friend the waiter who does performance art in the evenings, sorting through a complicated history with her own Catholicism. She is the Forbes #1 Most Powerful Celebrity. She bumped Oprah for that spot. She has an amount of social and cultural power that is unimaginable to most of us. The amount of money she has and influence she wields is mind-boggling. And she achieved a good deal of that while trifling with other people’s things.

    In this way, I think the “Like A Prayer” comparison is apt. Yes, Madonna has Catholic background, and using that in her video is compelling. And I have a MAJOR weakness for love songs to God that are kind of meaning-blurry and sexual. And thank you to the commenter who correctly identified the person Madonna kisses as St. Martin de Porres, not Christ – though I am in alignment with Aaron’s comment above that she is not above capitalizing on the ambiguity. However, did Madonna have any real commitments to racial justice? Was she in any actual danger of having crosses burned in her yard? Or was this just another way for POC to help a white lady work through her stuff, with a gospel choir instead of a sassy black best friend? I don’t think this is an isolated example: I think there is a legacy of this kind of usage in pop, and Lady Gaga does not seem to be challenging it.

    Her privilege is also what makes me wonder about @Momentary’s very, very good question about messy and associative religious art. I have been struggling to figure out the best language to use when describing healthy use of religious symbolism, without making it seem that only Very Serious Art About Religious Stuff Is Acceptable As Decided By Me. Thank you for the feedback that my language around that comes off sounding that way, and for asking me if that is what I meant – I appreciate that very much. My reasoning for a sense of intentionality around religious imagery/symbolism is more pragmatic than doctrinal; it is more pastoral than ideological. As we’ve seen even on this thread, religious content brings up a huge amount of stuff for people, a huge huge huge amount of stuff. Those of us whose lives are given to serving people through the medium of religious practice are implicated. Some people who have endured abuse are triggered and angry. People start to confess their religious histories, both positive and negative. For better or for worse, religious content impacts people heavily. I do not believe in censorship at all. At all. At all. What I do think is that Lady Gaga is tremendously powerful, and in no way lacking for resources. Flavia Dzodan wrote this at the Tiger Beatdown post I linked to in the OP:

    “This debacle started with Born this Way, which honestly? It was TERRIBLE from a cultural appropriation stand point. Her use of the word “Oriental”?! Her lyrical mishmash of cultures, identities, nationalities, etc in an effort to be overly inclusive was not just disingenuous but it ended up being racist in its misuse of words. And you know, if someone right off the street used the word “Oriental” to refer to an Asian person, I would do my proverbial eyebrow raising and not think much of it because I am aware that most people are not exposed to diversity and they have troubles, as it is, keeping up with their lives and the correct definitions we use. That is not to say the ordinary folk should always get a free pass, but context matters. Now, on the other hand, when an artist that has access to a billion dollars marketing machinery, where all the resources are at her disposal and she purposefully exercises her privilege by using a word that has a long history of racism behind, I see no reason to give this person a free pass.

    Now, let me tell you this: I do not ascribe evil motives to her ignorance. I think she is only partly to blame for this. But another part of the responsibility lays with mainstream media that leaves all of these issues unchallenged and use her as a tool to perpetuate the racial status quo (what’s better than a pretty, talented, blond woman to use as a symbolic “Us” to grab around any prop we need to continue the march of colonization undisputed?).

    Also, that’s the reason why I am not entirely comfortable pointing fingers exclusively at her. Sure, she has individual responsibility for her actions, but the collective force that keeps telling her she is without fault should also be held accountable, probably equally so.”

    I found that really compelling. So to the question about messy and associative religious art…I do not think at all that that kind of art is not useful, beautiful, or interesting. What I do wonder is if the Judas video is the place and the time for it, given Lady Gaga’s history and position of power, given the realities of oppression and colonization and economics. I care passionately about the “how” of the conversation, how to talk about Judas, how to talk about Gaga, how to talk about culture, how to talk about Christian traditions and practices and scholarship, how to interrogate patriarchy.

  253. JP
    June 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Jade SIts why I don’t find zero sum game arguments about religion and science (like we’ve seen select number of atheists not religious folks presenting on this thread) to hold up under any kind of scrutiny.
    […]
    If you think arguing this point-by-point is a good use of your time, knock yourself out.
    But a I think a happier ending and maybe mutually healing approach would be for us to come to some kind of agreement that we have all experienced oppression in our lives, in ways that would be hard for others to fully understand, and are entitled to both our anger or sensitivity about it, our aversion to the weapons it used against us, and we are also entitled to whatever liberates us.

    You are apparently very skilled at the sort of mental contortions necessary to always have one’s cake and eat it, too. First, you are able to assert that an idea does not hold up to scrutiny, but in the next breath you admonish us to avoid scrutiny altogether because it isn’t productive or “mutually healing,” whatever that is (I, for one, have no interest in you trying to “heal” me).

    And, of course, this is all a red herring when it comes to the discussion of whether we owe religious beliefs (practices, etc.) respect rather than mere toleration, because reasons for or against that need have nothing to do with the epistemology or sociology of science – and somehow you end up linking the two.

    What’s truly depressing about these discussions as they happen here is that people (like you) often express views that are in the neighbourhood of views that are actually defensible, but seem not to have done the intellectually responsible thing of thinking things through sufficiently or of simply reading enough of what has been written about the matters before, and end up botching it up. So why bother engaging with a knock-off Feyerabend, say, when the real thing is so much better? Of course, this is not to say that everyone ought to become an expert at everything – people can usually go through life just fine without being moral theorists or epistemologists. But the decent thing to do when you are not an expert is not to issue edicts, as you have done, about what other people’s moral duties are. (Note that expertise in the sense relevant here flows not from any societal stamp of approved status, but from the simple ability to state a position in a way that does not render it incoherent, and the simple willingness to honestly engage in persuading those people who do not yet accept your premises.)

  254. honeyandlocusts
    June 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Also, I’m also not going to be able to respond on this thread for a few days. As you could probably guess, my “work week”/”weekend” times are kind of flipped, so I’m entering the very busy part of my week, followed by a Sabbath day, which I keep pretty strictly. I will not be back on the thread to respond until Tuesday, but will be glad to welcome more elaborations, more insight, and more feedback.

    I am grateful for all the ways that people have been pushing me to clarify my thinking and who have provided excellent challenges to my arguments over the past few days – you have been helping me move and grow and expand, as well as giving this conversation nuance, grace, and depth.

  255. June 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    little light: Well, in my case, I’m not Christian, and it’s not for me to say. But part of it is belonging to a lineage that means not only associating with those people who do so much harm but also with Dorothy Day and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and St. Francis and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Daniel Berrigan and Desmond Tutu. You can’t have one without the other.

    You can’t have one without the other, but you also don’t get to block any discussion of the one by claiming that the other must be respected and not questioned.

    That’s really the issue I have with these discussions. You raised the citizenship analogy, which is very much flawed because religion, while culturally-enforced, is strictly voluntary. But I also don’t think that you’d argue that your status as an American citizen must be respected and therefore the actions of the US government shouldn’t be discussed or criticized because you don’t subscribe to everything it’s doing and you’re working to change it.

    The problem, as I see it, is that religion and religious belief all too often get a pass on the rather tautological basis of the religious nature of the belief. And that’s something that’s really, really difficult for people to get past because we have thousands of years of conditioning as a society that religious beliefs are sacrosanct — hey, it’s even in the concept of sacrosanctity! And part of religious privilege is seeing any questioning at all of religion and the basis for religious belief as rudeness, lack of deference, or hostility.

  256. June 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    JP and zuzu-

    I see what your saying regarding critique of religion itself. And I very much agree that there is a lot about all religions (including mine!) that needs critiquing, overhaul, or even being chucked out altogether. But I think that it’s possible to critique religion as both a general phenomenon and specific beliefs/practices, while still being respectful to people who are religious. And recognizing that a lot of that critiquing can come from inside and outside that religion. To be clear, I don’t think that religious people deserve respect because they’re religious and we need to treat religion as some except or whatever. I think religious people deserve respect because I think people in general deserve respect.

  257. DP
    June 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Nahida: That’s because men are douches. =-= It depends entirely on who reads it and whose influence is most prominent. Religions have only become more and more patriarchal over time… because men are douches. Men read God as male. I can’t speak for Christianity–but if I take Islam from its roots and ignore all the shit patriarchy’s pulled out of its ass I can just easily construct a pro-woman, pro-LGBT society.

    And I get that it doesn’t matter–because that’s not what happened. And what did happen–and what’s still happening–can’t be undone or erased and should NEVER be ignored. But I genuinely don’t believe that these religions are intrinsically violent, just that they’ve been corrupted and used for corruption like most things are when they touch power and patriarchy.

    We’ll probably never agree on this, which I’m fine with, because to argue that something is or isn’t intrinsically violent is irrelevant in the face of reality anyway. What is really happening is more important than the theoretical when so many lives are destroyed.

    Its roots…as a religion founded by a man, in a patriarchal society, which almost immediately became the core ideology of one side of a tribal conflict?

    I’m not about to make any particular judgments on the moral qualities or failings of Moses, Jesus or Muhammad (other than to say they are men, with all that implies) – but it seems curious to me to look at the actual history of Islamic politics, conquest, thought and theology and then decide that what it was all leading up to was a modern, feminist, LGBTQ-positive society…

    Similarly, it’s very odd that people would end up creating a Catholic (almost 2 millennia of colonization, oppression, sexism, abuse, rape, torture and genocide) or Anglican (founded by the King who killed 2 of his wives?) theology that’s all about social justice, feminism and these other concepts…

    I mean, you can do Islam or Catholicism and ALSO do feminism and social justice. But to say that Islam and Catholicism support your feminism and your social justice, you must first confront that the founders – not just practitioners or the followers – of these religions failed to live up to the standards that you now believe are integral to this faith.

  258. June 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    However, to several people’s points, none of us can know for certain that this video was in fact a thoughtful engagement with her own tradition.

    Oh, I’ll go out on a limb and say it almost certainly wasn’t—that her aesthetic choices were simply based on what was familiar to her, having been raised a Sicilian Catholic. (and for more background on Sicilian aesthetics, I highly recommend Maria Laurino’s essays in “Were You Always An Italian?”. For background on Sicilian religiosity, I recommend all of Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum’s books, and most especially “Dark Mother”). And yanno, I wouldn’t particularly blame her for not engaging her background with more depth—omerta is not just for the crime families. There’s a not-often spoken, but deeply understood tradition that these matters aren’t to be discussed amongst outsiders. Amongst those matters are the pagan roots of Sicilian religious expression (not to mention the fact that La Vecchia Religione is still practiced…) and the strong anticlericalism that has always been present. But I digress.

  259. June 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    DP: I mean, you can do Islam or Catholicism and ALSO do feminism and social justice. But to say that Islam and Catholicism support your feminism and your social justice, you must first confront that the founders – not just practitioners or the followers – of these religions failed to live up to the standards that you now believe are integral to this faith.

    DP, I don’t think you intended it this way, but this statement is really condescending. Do you really think that people who support and follow feminist Islam or feminist Catholicism haven’t thought about this? Haven’t struggled with it and dug deeply into it? I can’t speak for Nahida, but it’s something that I do almost every day within a Jewish context. It’s kind weird for you to imply that I haven’t thought of it.

  260. June 3, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    zuzu: You can’t have one without the other, but you also don’t get to block any discussion of the one by claiming that the other must be respected and not questioned.

    That’s really the issue I have with these discussions.You raised the citizenship analogy, which is very much flawed because religion, while culturally-enforced, is strictly voluntary.But I also don’t think that you’d argue that your status as an American citizen must be respected and therefore the actions of the US government shouldn’t be discussed or criticized because you don’t subscribe to everything it’s doing and you’re working to change it.

    The problem, as I see it, is that religion and religious belief all too often get a pass on the rather tautological basis of the religious nature of the belief.And that’s something that’s really, really difficult for people to get past because we have thousands of years of conditioning as a society that religious beliefs are sacrosanct — hey, it’s even in the concept of sacrosanctity!And part of religious privilege is seeing any questioning at all of religion and the basis for religious belief as rudeness, lack of deference, or hostility.

    1. I don’t think I ever suggested we shouldn’t talk about the crimes committed in the name of religion. I certainly am arguing–not demanding, arguing–that presentation of religion as a purely destructive, oppressive force in the world is simply and factually false. That’s not blocking discussion of the bad parts. That’s a simple assertion that there are other parts than the bad parts at all, a nuance I am not seeing a lot of in this thread, and that saying anyone positively discussing theism is “violent” because other theists somewhere behaved badly does nothing but shut down conversation.

    2. I have used two imperfect analogies, but I believe they stand. For many people, religion is part of the culture they are born and raised in and that is no more “strictly voluntary” than the country they are born and raised in. Both come with the option of choosing to leave, at a price, and both come with the option of joining up with one you weren’t raised in. It’s only as voluntary as any other part of culture, location, and upbringing–which is to say, some of each. And I also am asserting that for me and many people I know, it is also only as voluntary as being in love. You can choose how you act on a profound, unprovable, personal feeling like being in love, but you don’t get to choose whether or not you’re in love. For me, the “religious” portion of how I interact with the world is the same. It would be real for me whether or not I acted on it. I could no more pretend I am experiencing the world differently than I could pretend I am oriented toward men or that I don’t love my wife. My actions are voluntary; my “religion” isn’t. How I behave, what I do, what ideas I espouse, those are absolutely up for discussion and criticism and debate. What I am isn’t, and I can’t stop being a theist any more than I can stop being queer.

    3. I absolutely would not argue that my “status as an American citizen must be respected and therefore the actions of the US government shouldn’t be discussed or criticized because you don’t subscribe to everything it’s doing and you’re working to change it.” And I don’t think I have argued–once, anywhere, ever, and certainly not in this discussion–that the actions and ideas of theists shouldn’t be discussed or criticized. That would be patently ridiculous. As a religious person who does think there’s something worth salvaging, there is nobody more invested in learning from others’ mistakes, repairing and reforming institutions, and building and enacting accountability for for religious people. Of course it should be criticized and examined and discussed. That’s something I do every day. That’s something I see honeyandlocusts doing. I am saying that in the process of that discussion that you can’t just say that actual theists have nothing useful to say about theism, and that in criticizing the structures in question, it isn’t particularly helpful to treat the people who share many of your goals like shit. When a theist says, “I want to talk about problems with religion and work on fixing them,” I simply don’t see why the response most likely to actually change those problems is answering FUCK YOU YOU’RE ONE OF THEM NONE OF YOU DO ANYTHING GOOD. I have conversations and debates daily with atheist friends and loved ones where we go hammer and tongs on these issues and we manage to do it without going for each other’s throats.

    I have been through too many discussions about queerness and relationships that get completed sidelined by PROVE IT PROVE IT and end up going nowhere productive, and too many discussions of anything to do with being trans that get blown to pieces by a sea of CAN YOU PROVE IT THEN I DON’T HAVE TO TREAT YOU WITH ANYTHING BUT CONTEMPT where respect is miles away. I also think, to shift the dynamics some, that you might not be comfortable arguing that because you have white privilege I don’t, that I get to just go open season not just on the structures of white supremacy, not just on your actions, but on you, personally. Some people do feel that way about anti-oppression work. I don’t believe it really helps end oppression, even if it makes us feel better sometimes.

    I don’t think we need to respect each other’s ideologies to treat each other respectfully as people and I don’t think we even need to respect each other as people to recognize that a conversation consisting of everyone shouting insults doesn’t make anything better. And no, not all questioning of religious anything, or lack of deference, is rudeness and hostility. Absolutely. But if you aren’t seeing rudeness and hostility in this thread I don’t know what thread you’re reading. And further, I haven’t seen anyone in this conversation condemning anyone to Hell, I haven’t seen anyone saying it’s invalid to be an atheist, and I haven’t seen anyone openly and unproductive mocking atheists, here. Please, if I’ve missed some of that, point it out so I can round on them, too.

  261. June 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    You know, actually, I’m really tired, and I’m sorry for all the walloftexting I’ve been doing, everyone. I’ve had a bit of a rough time of it lately and I’m less patient than I prefer to be, and I’m coming off as saying things I don’t mean to and repeating myself. I’m going to do my best to take a break, with my apologies.

  262. DP
    June 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Shoshie: DP, I don’t think you intended it this way, but this statement is really condescending.Do you really think that people who support and follow feminist Islam or feminist Catholicism haven’t thought about this?Haven’t struggled with it and dug deeply into it?I can’t speak for Nahida, but it’s something that I do almost every day within a Jewish context.It’s kind weird for you to imply that I haven’t thought of it.

    You’re right – it is condescending. That’s because discussing religion is inherently condescending.

    If you’re an atheist – simply by stating “I don’t believe in any god,” you are saying to the theist: You are either completely misguided or totally self-deluding, who believes in imaginary beings and constructs in order to give meaning to life, and you need to believe these fairy tales in order to cope.

    If you’re a theist, simply by stating “I believe in a god,” you are saying to the atheist: You are ignorant of the most fundamental truth of the universe, your entire life is based on willful denial of the nature of existence, and you may even be tortured for eternity thanks to this ignorance.

    We can sugarcoat it all we like, but any debate between atheist and theist comes down to – You’re delusional and/or brainwashed/You’re damned and/or in denial.

    Also, you said it was insulting and condescending that I asked the question (maybe so!) but you didn’t answer it. And if you’re Jewish, and right, then Nahida has made some fundamentally incorrect assumptions about the universe. And if she’s right, the same goes for you!

    If I’m right, and there is no god, then I guess it all comes out in the wash anyways…

  263. JP
    June 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Shoshie: I think religious people deserve respect because I think people in general deserve respect.

    If I had not repeatedly said that I was not disputing this, you addressing this complaint to me would make sense. But since I have, I must conclude that you are deliberately misrepresenting me at this point (or are, at the very least, a dreadfully careless reader).

    Once again, then: thinking or asserting that a person’s religious belief (or practice, etc.) is misguided, or unreasonable, or stupid, or morally deficient, or even depraved, etc., does not violate any duty of respect we have for people qua people, regardless of how important that belief (or practice, etc.) may be to the person holding it (performing it, etc.). Furthermore, if there were such a duty (which there is not), it could not serve as the foundation of religious liberty in a pluralistic society.

    For arguments for these theses, I have referenced a couple of relevant essays in my very first comment on this thread, and re-referenced them again later (mostly because I think they defend the theses more informatively and persuasively than the blog-comment format allows). Now, you may think the arguments referenced do not establish their conclusion. There are, indeed, a number of ways to assail them (some of which have been attempted in discussion here; e.g. a popular retort has been that the duty of respect for people extends to their religious beliefs, because those beliefs are constitutive of who they are – I do not find this tack persuasive, but haven’t argued against it directly here, again because I think the essays I referenced do a good enough job of that already). There are also a number of independent arguments to be made for the negations of the theses. So why not do that, instead of erecting a straw-person, and bashing its strawy brains out again and again?

  264. June 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    JP: Once again, then: thinking or asserting that a person’s religious belief (or practice, etc.) is misguided, or unreasonable, or stupid, or morally deficient, or even depraved, etc., does not violate any duty of respect we have for people qua people, regardless of how important that belief (or practice, etc.) may be to the person holding it (performing it, etc.). Furthermore, if there were such a duty (which there is not), it could not serve as the foundation of religious liberty in a pluralistic society.

    To use an example from the gluten-free thread above: you may encounter someone who is a health-care provider who asserts that raw food, or giving up gluten, or what have you, will enable someone to discontinue chemotherapy. It’s quite possible to think that person is wrong or deluded or even dangerous without also failing to give them respect as a person.

  265. June 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    JP, almost every comment that you’ve posted accuses people of strawmen, logical fallacies, misrepresentation of your arguments, pretty much every rhetorical trick in the book for tearing down an argument. You’ve been anything but respectful, even while people try to interact with you in good faith.

    I wasn’t trying to misrepresent your argument. I was trying to clarify mine. I’m not trying to tell you why your beliefs or lack thereof are wrong and I’m right. I’m not trying to tear you down. I’m just arguing for respect of people. If you’re in favor of respect for people as a general rule, then we have no disagreement.

  266. Sheelzebub
    June 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    If you’re an atheist – simply by stating “I don’t believe in any god,” you are saying to the theist: You are either completely misguided or totally self-deluding, who believes in imaginary beings and constructs in order to give meaning to life, and you need to believe these fairy tales in order to cope.

    Whoa. When I say I don’t believe in God, I’m saying just that. I’m not saying that the other person is deluded or needing something to cope. I’m saying that I don’t believe God exists, that I have no faith. Really, that’s all.

    Likewise, when my friends profess a belief in God, that’s all they’re saying. Not that I’m in denial or damned for all eternity (that’s more a fundamentalist thing).

    They think I’m wrong (factually), I think they’re wrong (factually), but denial, delusion, and damnation don’t come into it.

    And yes, according to the Bible or other holy texts unbelievers will roast in hell, etc. But we already know that many believers are skeptical of many rules and assertions in these texts. I’m fairly confident that if someone thinks I’m in denial or going to hell, they’ll tell me. And vice versa.

  267. June 3, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    zuzu: To use an example from the gluten-free thread above: you may encounter someone who is a health-care provider who asserts that raw food, or giving up gluten, or what have you, will enable someone to discontinue chemotherapy. It’s quite possible to think that person is wrong or deluded or even dangerous without also failing to give them respect as a person.

    I agree. In fact, I have a friend who is a homeopath. I think homeopathy is stupid, unscientific, and frequently dangerous. But I’m not going to tell him to his face that he is practicing quackery, because that would be disrespectful to him and he’s my friend. Similarly, I’m not going to denigrate Jesus in front of my Christian friends. We may debate our respective viewpoints, but I’m not going to call Jesus names or anything like that, because it’s just mean for me to that.

    On a lighter note, I got in serious trouble when I was 5 or so for getting into a fight with a friend and making her upset by telling her that Santa Claus didn’t exist. I don’t really understand Santa Claus. I have no cultural context for him outside of the commercialization of Christmas, a lot of which holds a lot of painful memories for me. But, as much as it may bewilder me, I’m not going to insult my Christian friends who tell stories about Santa to their children.

    I don’t know. I don’t have fancy legal arguments or reasons why this is the way to do things. But it’s the way I do things and, at the very least, it works for me and it’s how I tend to interact with people who hold beliefs that I disagree with.

  268. Kristen J.
    June 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Respect can mean, among other things:

    1) Not stopping people from believing what they believe;
    2) Not criticizing people for believing things;
    3) Not criticizing the constituent parts of the idea that people believe in; or
    4) Not criticizing the institution that organizes those who believe.

    I’m in favor of 1 and mostly I don’t personally care about 2. But 3 and 4 are not respect, they’re deference.

  269. June 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    DP: You’re right – it is condescending. That’s because discussing religion is inherently condescending.

    Do you honestly not see the difference between professing belief or disbelief in something and asking someone if they’ve done basic analysis of texts that are central to their lives?

    And, for the record, the answer is yes. I spend at least an hour every day grappling with those texts and those questions. Frequently more time than that. And I’ve been asking those questions and grappling with those texts for about 15 years now, since I was 10 or so and decided that I was a feminist. That’s why I found the question so condescending.

  270. nathan
    June 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I doubt anyone will be terribly excited to post anything remotely related to being informed by a religious perspective on Feministe again for awhile after this. Has there ever been a poster here who framed her viewpoints in part, or completely, from a religious perspective (any religious perspective, not just Christianity) and who wasn’t run through the gauntlet by some of the decidedly anti-religion commentariat here?

    I don’t agree with a lot of honeyandlocust’s post, but you know, it’s refreshing to see someone grappling with the complexities of being a religious person and a person devoted to social justice.

  271. shfree
    June 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    True fact: I spent two years working at an abortion clinic, and if one of the first things I learn about a person is that they are tight with Jesus, or I see them wearing a cross prominently, I approach them with caution, and will until I figure out whether or not I can trust them and are someone I feel safe around. I never told members of my extended family where I worked, I glossed it over as a gynecological clinic. If that is going to be seen as disrespect for that individual, well, there it is, because frankly I want to work at a clinic again, and I don’t think that opinion of a Christian that I happen to run across on the street is ever going to change, even if the vast, vast majority of them aren’t the harassing, I’m a baby-killing, shooting sort.

  272. PrettyAmiable
    June 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Sheelzebub: Whoa. When I say I don’t believe in God, I’m saying just that. I’m not saying that the other person is deluded or needing something to cope. I’m saying that I don’t believe God exists, that I have no faith. Really, that’s all.

    I just wanted to reiterate this.

    • June 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      Whoa. When I say I don’t believe in God, I’m saying just that. I’m not saying that the other person is deluded or needing something to cope. I’m saying that I don’t believe God exists, that I have no faith. Really, that’s all.

      And when I say it, I am trying to say that everyone who does believe in God is an idiot and I hate them. Which is the same way I feel about donuts. You like them? You are an idiot, I hate you.

      …what? You guys don’t all think that?

  273. DP
    June 3, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Shoshie: Do you honestly not see the difference between professing belief or disbelief in something and asking someone if they’ve done basic analysis of texts that are central to their lives?

    And, for the record, the answer is yes.I spend at least an hour every day grappling with those texts and those questions.Frequently more time than that.And I’ve been asking those questions and grappling with those texts for about 15 years now, since I was 10 or so and decided that I was a feminist.That’s why I found the question so condescending.

    I’m not asking IF you’ve done the basic analysis. I’m wondering if you’ve come up with an answer.

    If you struggle with it every day for an hour, then it sounds like…maybe not.

    And if it takes an hour of daily struggle to reconcile feminism and Judaism or feminism and Islam then…maybe they aren’t compatible.

  274. Rare Vos
    June 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    So the whole “you couldn’t possibly know your own fucking religion or you’d agree with me on MY points of interpretation” has begun. Yay, fun.

    You know what’s even more fun? The cherry picking game! Yay fun! Let’s just ignore all the bits that are unsavory and strawman those who don’t wish to play the cherry picking game. Yay fun!

    I’ll wait while you and Little point to where I said all theists are terrible people, or that all people have to agree with me, or those that don’t agree are terrible people, or that theists deserve no respect. Its got to be there somewhere, right?

    As for respecting individual theists: my three closest friends are: A Jehovah’s Witness, a Baptist, and a reform Jew. The Jehovah’s Witness is 100% devout – she’s the door-knocking level of into it. The Baptist is a constant churchgoer. The last is lapsed.
    Read what I am saying: I have no problem respecting theists. I will never respect religion. Individual people deserve respect. Religion doesn’t. Religion is a thing. Human beings matter infinitely more than a “thing”.

    To be completely honest, for me, religion is no different than astrology, palm reading, tarot cards – all that. I have friends, loved ones, etc. who believe in these things, swear by them, etc. Obviously, I don’t. Yet, we can share positive relationships, with respect, love, and all the good stuff. I can respect the person, regardless of my opinion of what they chose to believe in. TO quote a Wiccan boyfriend from long ago: Inasmuch as it isn’t hurting anyone, do what you will. With my own addition: but when it is hurting someone, it has no right to be free from criticism.

    The aspect of choice doesn’t devalue it, it doesn’t make faith something that people should reject or make the choice as insignificant as what to eat for breakfast or what socks to wear.

    Thank you! It being a choice doesn’t lessen its power. It doesn’t make faith inconsequential or frivolous. It’s a choice, so freaking what. That doesn’t mean that, for those that have it, its not intensely personal or important.

    I can’t get myself to stop believing it.

    I felt that way too at one point. I did stop believing. You believe strongly enough that you can’t see not believing. Want a link to a forum of ex-believers who once felt exactly the same way?

    To stop the attack march in its tracks: I’m not saying you shouldn’t believe, or that you’ll grow out of it, or any such insulting nonsense. I’m saying that, you could change it, if you so desired. That you don’t desire to change it doesn’t make it not a choice.

  275. Sheelzebub
    June 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Which is the same way I feel about donuts. You like them? You are an idiot, I hate you.

    I will have nothing to do with people who eschew bear claws. You people are just deluded.

  276. JP
    June 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Shoshie: JP, almost every comment that you’ve posted accuses people of strawmen, logical fallacies, misrepresentation of your arguments, pretty much every rhetorical trick in the book for tearing down an argument.

    That is because they – you included – have been erecting straw-people and misrepresenting what I (and some others) have clearly written. When I say this, I’m not just using a rhetorical flourish. I am very literally accusing you of having done these things.

    Shoshie: I wasn’t trying to misrepresent your argument.

    And yet you’ve succeeded admirably! Which is why, given that there have been several previous rounds of clarification, your profession of good faith sounds rather hollow.

    Shoshie: I was trying to clarify mine.

    And yet you directed your comment at me (and zuzu).

    Shoshie: I’m not trying to tell you why your beliefs or lack thereof are wrong and I’m right. I’m not trying to tear you down. I’m just arguing for respect of people.

    Interpreted charitably, you have been saying that respect for people extends to respecting their religious beliefs (or practices, etc.), by e.g. not declaring them misguided, or ignorant, or depraved. This is precisely what I deny. So you have, in fact, been telling me (and anyone else who was reading the thread) that I was wrong. Of course, unlike some people here, I don’t take being told I am wrong, even very seriously wrong, as an attempt to “tear me down.” And had you provided me with actual reasons to think I was, I might have changed my mind.

    Finally, given the context, the hilarity of this cannot be understated:

    Shoshie: You’ve been anything but respectful

    Well, you sure got me there.

  277. June 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    DP: And if it takes an hour of daily struggle to reconcile feminism and Judaism or feminism and Islam then…maybe they aren’t compatible.

    I’ve come up with some answers. So have other people. There are large, vibrant movements surrounding the answers to those questions. If you’re actually interested, I can recommend some books.

    But if anyone’s going to decide whether Judaism and feminism are incompatible it’s going to be Jews, not outsiders.

  278. Rare Vos
    June 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    But I’m not going to tell him to his face that he is practicing quackery, because that would be disrespectful to him and he’s my friend.

    It’s disrespectful to try to stop a friend of yours from doing something that could potentially hurt or kill him?

    I don’t see how that’s comparable to not denigrating a deity in front of its devotees. Having faith is not going to potentially hurt or kill someone. Homeopathy sure as shit can.

  279. PrettyAmiable
    June 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    This is really important:

    Do you really dislike donuts? It’s like a hoop of perfection.

  280. Rare Vos
    June 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    don’t take being told I am wrong, even very seriously wrong, as an attempt to “tear me down.”

    Where’s that link to Shakesville’s Words Are Not Fists post when you need it!

  281. CateofTexas
    June 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I picked up a book “Taking Back God” by Loeora Tanenbaum. I haven’t read it yet, but it is about this very topic of feminism in religion.

  282. Rare Vos
    June 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Do you really dislike donuts? It’s like a hoop of perfection.

    I actually do hate donuts. Not because they aren’t hoops of perfection – they certainly are – but because I physically can’t tolerate them.

    Therefore, I envy and loathe all those that can enjoy them. Don’t mind me while I stare pitifully and drool.

  283. Sheelzebub
    June 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Other things that do not jibe with certain teachings of the Abrahamic faiths:

    1) Aggressive proselytizing. Really. “Shake the dust off your feet and move on” isn’t just an off the cuff comment.

    2) Refusal to pay taxes. Jesus was fine with his followers paying taxes, he just thought it was fucked up they should profess Ceasar to be a god.

    3)Capitalism. Camels and eyes of needles, anyone? You cannot worship both Mammon and God?

    Yet people are able to reconcile these to their faith. Since I have no skepticism about the enthusiasm for capitalism from say, Mike Huckabee, the aversion to taxation from George W. Bush, or the very aggressive proselytizing from certain sects, I’m confident that Shoshie can be both a faithful Jewish woman and a feminist.

    Yes, there are inconsistencies. I’m happy to be a little shit and bring them up to someone who uses their faith/the Bible (or other holy text) as justification for forcing everyone to live according to their mores (by changing the laws, through things like Stupak-Pitts and attempts to block civil and human rights for LBGT people, etc.). Last time I checked, though, people like Shoshie and Nahida aren’t the folks doing that.

  284. Rare Vos
    June 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Last time I checked, though, people like Shoshie and Nahida aren’t the folks doing that.

    There is a school of though that posits that the “liberal” sorts of theists are guilty by association. That is, in demanding that faith get special protections, that no one criticize from the outside, by making a statement about religion into a personal attack, they are perpetuating that which gives cover and support to the bigots within the same faith. WHile denouncing them, they’re also engaging in apologetics that benefit them.

    Rather like how, even though we’re feminists, a good percentage of us still engage in beauty rituals, and other patriarchy contrived inequities, thereby continuing its power.

    I’m not sure I agree that. But, there are people that do. And I def agree that no one here is of the unhinged bigot type. Which is why they, the people, do deserve respect as they give it. REligion still doesn’t.

  285. June 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Shoshie: I agree. In fact, I have a friend who is a homeopath. I think homeopathy is stupid, unscientific, and frequently dangerous. But I’m not going to tell him to his face that he is practicing quackery, because that would be disrespectful to him and he’s my friend. Similarly, I’m not going to denigrate Jesus in front of my Christian friends. We may debate our respective viewpoints, but I’m not going to call Jesus names or anything like that, because it’s just mean for me to that.

    Can you see, though, that asking someone who had been hurt by such quackery might not be so willing to accord the same amount of respect? Or that characterizing disagreement and debunking of a viewpoint, or even a forthright declaration of quackery — particularly when leveled by someone who has actively been harmed by actions justified by that viewpoint — as rude, off-limits, or disrespectful is, well, disrespectful to the person who has been harmed? Particularly when the only reason for not calling quackery what it is is to keep some kind of veneer of civility?

  286. June 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Eyes are feeling better!

    Rare Vos:

    You know what’s even more fun? The cherry picking game! Yay fun! Let’s just ignore all the bits that are unsavory and strawman those who don’t wish to play the cherry picking game. Yay fun!

    I’m not going to ignore something you’ve incorporated into your argument. If you said it, I sure as hell don’t owe it to you to roll over and ignore it. And it’s a hell of a lot better than pulling something out of thin air:

    Rare Vos: I’ll wait while you and Little point to where I said all theists are terrible people, or that all people have to agree with me, or those that don’t agree are terrible people, or that theists deserve no respect. Its got to be there somewhere, right?

    which I never fucking said you did. Point me to where I accused you of being disrespectful. It’s got to be there somewhere, right?

    What I “cherrypicked” was you telling me that I’m a part of this religion because I haven’t read my own religious texts and can’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. And that runs right along side telling me that my beliefs aren’t what I believe they are, and ultimately–what someone else has come right out and said–that they aren’t compatible with or supportive of feminism.

    Shoshie: But if anyone’s going to decide whether Judaism and feminism are incompatible it’s going to be Jews, not outsiders.

    And that’s not for you to decide–it’s for me. To tell someone that (1) they don’t know their own beliefs because the actions of some male privileged jackasses say otherwise (2) that if they did see that what their beliefs truly are is exactly what those privileged jackasses stole from them instead of what they actually believe, they would leave the religion and (3) that saying that their beliefs are not compatible with other beliefs and suggesting that they must change something–is all highly invasive. I’ll decide what is or isn’t compatible with my beliefs.

    And I don’t see how anyone can’t identify the contradiction–I supposedly don’t know about my own religion because I don’t find it intrinsically violent, but those douchebags with white and male privilege who have stolen the rights and power derived from the religion itself from me for centuries to twist it into corrupt political weapons are not only right to say IS intrinsically violent but also to ACT upon the violence they interpret because they’ve got their religion down? My interpretation is incorrect, and What The Religion Really Is is violent because men have made it violent, but What The Religion Isn’t is my non-violent interpretation of it, because that interpretation is wrong–it must be wrong because it doesn’t have the necessary privileges to back it up in masses and allow it to explode into validity.

    Rare Vos: That is, in demanding that faith get special protections, that no one criticize from the outside, by making a statement about religion into a personal attack, they are perpetuating that which gives cover and support to the bigots within the same faith.

    I have in fact not demanded in this thread that faith gets special protection. As for the other two–I don’t care if people criticize from the outside. I only started having a serious issue when people not only criticized from the outside but assumed that my interpretations were not intrinsic to the religion and that when I respond to their criticism I don’t know what I’m talking about and that if I’ve got answers they’re not real answers because a privileged majority disagrees with them and the only reason I’m still Muslim is because I don’t know What Islam Really Is–disregarding all the time I’ve spent actually practicing and studying it. And when it gets to that point–yeah, it’s a personal attack.

  287. June 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Nahida: not only right to say IS intrinsically violent but also to ACT upon the violence they interpret because they’ve got their religion down?

    right as in without it being supposedly a case of cognitive dissonance I mean.

  288. Kristen J.
    June 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Since people are struggling to see the connection, let me break it down with a story that’s probably a little too outing, but *shrug*.

    When I was younger, I gave up on Christianity and organized religion altogether. And in what was a fit of adolescent rebellion, general assholery and genuine pain I turned in for a school project: a 3ish foot doll with clothing made from the scriptures from the Bible I found hateful (yes, there are that many). In a box/coffin with other non-offensive scriptures cut out as cushioning. With the scriptures about love and kindness used as “strapping” to keep the box closed. There were a few other “icons” of my religious experience attached to or in the box.

    As you might imagine…this was not well received.

    What I’m hearing from the OP and other comments requesting “respect” is that only certain types of expressions about Christianity are acceptable, ones that “get the story right”. And the “art” I made is pretty clearly more apocryphal than what Lady Gaga produced. It didn’t incorporate any “nuance” or the gnostic gospels (shockly not part of a Pentacostal upbrining). And at the time I heard ad nauseam that “I don’t understand,” “Its not that way,” “You’re hurting me by saying unkind things about what I believe,” blah, blah, blah. But no, I do understand. It is/was that way. And so what?

    And now we’ve added that I must be respectful of and not critique the institutions of Christianity. Institutions are more deserving of “respect” than the people who are expressing their reaction to that belief system.

  289. June 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Kristin J. (I know you weren’t direction that at me but) I don’t find criticizing a religion disrespectful, and I don’t find criticizing an individual’s beliefs disrespectful, what I’ve found disrespectful here is the assertion that because I would suggest that my beliefs are compatible with and supportive of feminism must mean that I don’t know my own beliefs–and to confirm this the question of why don’t you just leave your religion has been brought up in this thread, which further denies that these believes belong to me and how important it is for me to reclaim them from a system that I view has stolen them to use for patriarchal purposes. I don’t mind this when people do it comparatively–PrettyAmiable, for example, was describing her experience and perspective without telling me that mine are invalid… but along the rest of the thread, what I read is “if you knew anything about your religion, like I do or the bigots do, you wouldn’t think it was compatible with such&such.”

    And to me that just reinforces

    Kristen J.: that only certain types of expressions about Christianity are acceptable, ones that “get the story right”.

    This, except with Islam, and except it’s “the ones that get the story wrong.”

  290. PrettyAmiable
    June 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I know you’re not looking for approval, but I can’t really imagine a more deeply moving project. Was that for art?

  291. Kristen J.
    June 3, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Yeah, at a Christian summer school. I was promptly expelled. But no one asked me to go back to church after!

  292. Mary the Methodist
    June 3, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I’ve read some of these comments, as well as this very thought-provoking and well-written piece on Lady Gaga. I was reading an article by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said those of us who have a religious tradition often came to our particular faith based on the accident of where we were born. For this reason, he said it is really important to not pretend all religions are the same, but to really respect the specific differences among faiths. Otherwise we make God very small when in fact God is bigger than any one faith. I like Lady Gaga’s music, but I have low expectations because she rhymes Judas with Gaga.

  293. June 3, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Wow. Fascinating thread.
    In fact, I may use some of this with my discussion in my Unitarian Universalist classes–I teach high schoolers there, and they all love Lady Gaga. And whether or not it makes me A Bad Feminist, I actually don’t have a problem with her. For one thing, I’m not convinced it’s her job to be the perfect role model or anything of the sort. Yes, she is VERY privileged. A lot of that is her own doing. I respect her for that, and for all her failings, I respect what she’s done for youth–something I have seen directly. Kind of the same way I feel about Glee, actually…
    Anyway, I’d love it if folks could respect both folks that believe and folks that don’t. That was remarkably folksy! Truly, though, I recognize that religion has done a great deal of harm. I also recognize that religion has done a great deal of good. We would do well to remember both.

  294. GinnyC
    June 3, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    @littlelight: If you glance at the tread again, I wanted to say that I really appreciate your insights about the process of being religious! Your description of your experiences of being religious resonated with me. Oddly enough, it mirrors my own experiences with not being able to be religious even if I wanted to be.

    I can no more make myself believe in religion than I can make myself stop being queer. I can go through the motions. I can find the iconography beautiful and find the ritual meditative and comforting. But it does not produce any personal resonance, it doesn’t connect with anything at all inside of me to generate belief or faith or anything like that. For me there wasn’t a choice not to believe; it was just a question of whether I would go through the motions or would be true to myself and admit that religion did nothing for me at all.

    I respect religious people, but I cannot imagine myself one of them. It really made me think to see the same process from the other side.

  295. tinfoil hattie
    June 3, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    zuzu:
    You may find that insulting.I find it insulting to be told to shut up and stop questioning religious beliefs because they have to be respected Because God Said So, That’s Why.Especially when those beliefs are being used to support and promote policies harmful to me and mine and hold a legally and socially privileged position in many places in the world.

    Quoted for Goldang TRUTH.

  296. len
    June 3, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    you don’t have to be conservative to be religious, though i am.

    as for gaga–it’s pop music, she’s about as deep as a puddle of cat piss.

  297. tinfoil hattie
    June 3, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    But if anyone’s going to decide whether Judaism and feminism are incompatible it’s going to be Jews, not outsiders.

    Right. Just as men are the only ones who are going to decide if patriarchy is sexist. Outsiders (women) have no right to observe and comment!

  298. June 3, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    @tinfoil hattie The sentiment has been if your religion is compatible with feminism you are doing it Wrong because the Objective Fact is that it’s Intrinsically Violent, ’cause cis men with penises act like it is and cis men with penises are the only True Representatives of your religion and what they say goes. So why don’t you just choose to leave your religion, because as long as you’re a part of it you can never be a feminist?

  299. June 3, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Just FYI, I’m disappearing for the next day so I won’t be able to respond until tomorrow night, possibly Sunday.

  300. June 3, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    shfree: Evangelical, you are all going to hell if you don’t believe the way they do, or happy lovey liberal love thy neighbor Christian, both have privilege in US society. And the oppressed get to decide how they feel about their oppressors, no matter how nice they might be.

    Who said Christians weren’t privileged in the US? Because it sure as hell wasn’t me. You’re conflating the fact that Christianity is privileged, and the fact that not even close to the majority of Christians engage in any kind of religious oppression.

    But seriously, whatever. This thread is now officially too long and too full of knee-jerk, uncritical hate for me to bother anymore.

  301. shfree
    June 3, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    April: Who said Christians weren’t privileged in the US?Because it sure as hell wasn’t me.You’re conflating the fact that Christianity is privileged, and the fact that not even close to the majority of Christians engage in any kind of religious oppression.

    But seriously, whatever.This thread is now officially too long and too full of knee-jerk, uncritical hate for me to bother anymore.

    Oh for crying out loud. I get to decide who I trust and don’t trust, and who I think is oppressing me, and who I think isn’t, and I for damn sure get really skeeved out when someone invades my personal space to tell me Jesus loves me no matter what, NO MATTER HOW NICE THEY ARE BEING. That shit happens, and it isn’t just the people that say I’m going to hell, or that I’m doomed to burn for not believing the exact way they do, but people that are the lovey liberal happy come-to-Jesus and he will accept you no matter what sort. I get that people are trying to be nice when they say that they are going to pray for me, but frankly, it still, down in my core, fucking bugs. But I still smile and nod, as that is just what’s done. THAT SHIT IS OPPRESSIVE TO ME. And most of the time I can’t do a damn thing about it, because to have the gall to bring it up in mixed company would make me some sort of monster, because how DARE I question someone’s faith??? So I have resigned myself to sitting back and sucking it up, because this is the country I was born in. But the fact stands that just as I am not ACTIVELY going out and burning crosses on African-Americans’ lawns or denying them the right to vote, because I have privilege in this country due to the color of my skin, I am STILL oppressing them.

  302. shfree
    June 3, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Argh, and add Christians, no matter their flavor, due the same thing here as white folk due with people of color to the end of that bit.

  303. June 3, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Oh for crying out loud. I get to decide who I trust and don’t trust, and who I think is oppressing me, and who I think isn’t, and I for damn sure get really skeeved out when someone invades my personal space to tell me Jesus loves me no matter what, NO MATTER HOW NICE THEY ARE BEING.

    Yes, and I agree with all of that, and didn’t contradict that anywhere, in anything I said. I didn’t even imply that people can’t decide for themselves whom to trust, or tolerate the evangelicals lining the street, hollering about Jesus. Your ignoring that is one example of why I made sure to add “uncritical” before “hate” in that last comment.

  304. June 4, 2011 at 2:27 am

    Rare Vos: Read the Bible. Read the Torah. Read the Koran. Read almost any religion’s holy text and all this bullshit about religion not being inherently bad evaporates. Knowledge, like sunlight, is an excellent disinfectant.

    It’s not necessarily a conscious choice theists make every day. It can be. For me, while I was struggling to retain faith in god, it was a choice I made every day. For others, its a choice they made once and then spend the rest of their lives attempting to justify.

    You chose cherry pick the bits that make you feel good. I chose to look at the whole picture.

    Yeah, I get it, but you’re responding to the idea of whether or not religious texts are valid, or whether or not their theories are good. I was not talking about any of that. I was talking about how most people who are religious don’t take their own religious texts anywhere near as literally as nonbelievers take them, and that the blanket hatred of all religion in all contexts is always bad.

  305. June 4, 2011 at 4:52 am

    I guess this is the time for me to yammer on about “respect vs. validation” again? I think these two things get conflated all the time and that is, in part, what I’m seeing here.

    I don’t need anyone to validate my religious beliefs. I don’t really care what someone thinks of them – especially if it’s a person I don’t know all that well. However, it does piss me off when, say, a regular reader of my blog shows up in the comments section and goes, “Oh, you’re religious?! Harrumph. I mean, how DISAPPOINTING! Well, I never…” I don’t like it – because I don’t like it when people treat me like their dancing monkey, I don’t think anyone who is put in that situation, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof, would appreciate that. Why disrespect me by assuming I require approval?

    If someone says something like, “Wow, Christianity really fucked up my life,” – then it’s not something I will question. Christianity has been an evil force in my life as well – Christianity has a lot of power, I think, and not just in the social and economic sense either, it’s a very powerful institution/entity, and that power can manifest itself in terrible ways.

    Sure enough, being Christian, especially in an American context, is a mark of privilege. Then again, “privilege” is always a dirty word on this blog and elsewhere, and that bugs me. Recognizing your own power is important for people, I think – and you can’t always place that in a negative context, because then you will never learn how to use your power for good. Then you’re at a dead end: “I’m privileged, I can’t hack a slice off that privilege and gift it to someone else, the best I can do is beat my breast about it on blogs.” It’s not a good place to be coming from. “I’m privileged and I want to do something positive with that, how can I do that?” is much better, imho. I know people will disagree, especially those of us who believe that we can dismantle all overlapping hierarchies we live within, of course (I don’t, for the record, believe that all hierarchies can be dismantled, precisely because they overlap).

    The “if you knew how terrible your religion is, then you’d do A B or C” stuff just doesn’t apply, in my case. The Old Testament God is scary. Hell, even Jesus can be “a scary guy”, as a Duke Divinity prof used to say – because what is he really asking people to do? Drop everything and follow him, and that’s VERY scary, when you think about it.

    Religion in general, to me, is irrational and paradoxical, and when you get down to it, that’s its appeal to many people. Not all – it makes a lot of logical sense to, I think, the majority. But that’s not all there is to it.

    Is religion scary and violent? Sure. People are pretty scary and violent (how else did we get to the top of the foodchain? Letting go of these “habits” has not been particularly easy so far) – so how can they avoid establishing institutions that do not incorporate said legacy? Though I haven’t resigned myself to the fact that this is all there is to it – for the human race, and for the world in general.

    And Gaga is still pretty hot. Just saying.

  306. PrettyAmiable
    June 4, 2011 at 5:32 am

    Mary the Methodist: I like Lady Gaga’s music, but I have low expectations because she rhymes Judas with Gaga.

    Hahahahahahaha. Man, if you come back, this made me laugh out loud. Thanks for starting my Saturday awesome.

  307. June 4, 2011 at 10:39 am

    tinfoil hattie: Right. Just as men are the only ones who are going to decide if patriarchy is sexist. Outsiders (women) have no right to observe and comment!

    You know, I think the differences here arise from our different understanding of religion. Half of us seem to view it as something feminism is to be strictly opposed to, like patriarchy. The other half view it as something to be reclaimed, like stilettos or lipstick. In reality religion is complex enough to have more in common with patriarchy than with stilettos or lipstick, but essentially the goal is to reclaim an identity by reclaiming the actual application of beliefs and identities are rarely simple. What’s happened here for me (and I think for Shoshie) is that I after I pointed out the aspects of my religion that have been twisted for patriarchal use (ex. falsely accusing gay people of sinning, pulling legal practices out of their ass that CLEARLY contradict the Qur’an, etc.) people persisted in telling me that as long as I’m Muslim I can never be a feminist, and I should leave. And that comes from the first division–that feminism is as opposed to religion (no matter what religion it is or what it dictates) as it is to patriarchy, and takes it a step further to the equivalent of “As long as you wear lipstick and stilettos you can never be a feminist. Your lipstick and stilettos are not compatible with feminism.”

    And that is ridiculous.

    I don’t find it disrespectful when people tell me my religion has hurt them, I don’t find it disrespectful when people criticize my own individual beliefs, but when you push something on me like that–give up your religion or you’ll never be a feminist–and overlook how important it is for me to reclaim this from the snarls of patriarchy: that is fucked up.

  308. shfree
    June 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    April: Yes, and I agree with all of that, and didn’t contradict that anywhere, in anything I said.I didn’t even imply that people can’t decide for themselves whom to trust, or tolerate the evangelicals lining the street, hollering about Jesus.Your ignoring that is one example of why I made sure to add “uncritical” before “hate” in that last comment.

    I am not ignoring the evangelicals. It isn’t just the evangelicals who tell me that they are praying for me, or just my dealings at the clinic. It’s just life in general. If I meant to say evangelical, I would have said evangelical. But I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear in my omission in that word. But a Christian doesn’t have to be trying to convert me, or preach to me, to oppress me.

    Look, I was raised in a liberal Christian church, and my parents, in their liberal Christian way, are extremely religious. They to church every Sunday, have been regularly involved in their church structure, and taught Sunday school. I also had to go to Sunday school if I was home without a sleepover friend on Sundays until I was seventeen, and I was required to be a part of the church organizational structure after I was confirmed as a full member of the congregation. My dad has been toying with the idea of writing a liberal analysis on the idea of the sermon on the mount for years. I got extremely lucky with the dice roll of the extremely religious Christian household to be raised up in, because they didn’t believe in hell or conversions, and that Jesus was about love and not about punishing those that didn’t believe like we believed.

    This whole thing is a huge deal to me. If I wanted to go to my grandparents’ house for the big family gathering Christmas eve when I was living in Chicago away from my family, I had to go to Christmas eve service. My parents are not evangelical. They do not believe I’m going to go to hell. But for years and years, if I wanted to spend time with my extended family, all in one place which never, ever happens, I had to go to church. So don’t tell me it’s all about god damned hate.

  309. Lily
    June 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Wow. Okay. Beyond the massive headache inducing debate over religion (which I did read, and for the record my personal opinion as an atheist is that if religious people want to reclaim peace and progressiveness in their religion I laud that, and that reclaiming should and usually does involve acknowledging past abuses and pain inflicted by the institution of the faith), I think the perspective that Magdalene is being depicted as “corrupt” in this video is a remarkable reading in that seems to come out of…expecting Gaga to depict her as “corrupt”? Not so much the video itself.

    It seems to me that Gaga Magdalene spends the video being Jesus’ bodyguard and companion, who is more active than the male disciples in JC’s overall work. There’s plenty of things to call out as problematic as using weaponry (morning star, gun) as empowerment of this figure, and with Gaga’s general mistakes made with dealing with race issues, and the issues of how feminist she is or isn’t, but it just seems like this reading of Gaga painting Mary of Magdalene as a whore doesn’t come out of anything concrete.

  310. Sojourner
    June 5, 2011 at 10:22 am

    “but if I take Islam from its roots and ignore all the shit patriarchy’s pulled out of its ass I can just easily construct a pro-woman, pro-LGBT society.”

    Nahida,
    The Koran says very clearly that you (men) may beat your wives if they refuse to submit. It stays that men are superior to women because “we made some superior to others [and that’s just the way it is]”. It states clearly that women should cover themselves up. It is also entirely addressed to men. Whenever addressing issues related to women, it says “tell your women”. Men are allowed up to four wives and as many as they please concubines. They are allowed to take women as booty after victory. It says to men (I’m paraphrasing I don’t have a copy handy) “your women are your soil, spread your seeds in them”. Etc etc etc there are many examples. Please do not bring up faulty translations, I know enough classical Arabic to read the Koran. The description of various victories and conquests do celebrate violence (though not nearly as much as the Old Testament does), including the killing of the women and children of the jewish tribe who made a pact with Mohammed and later betrayed him. Mohammed had many wives (while women were not allowed many husbands), including the 9 year-old Aisha …. I don’t how far back and which roots you go to, to construct your “pro-woman, pro-LGBT society”.
    Also, abortion is legal in your religion? According to whom? I am asking this out of curiosity, because in my religion (Shiite Islam), up until the end of the first trimester you will pay a penalty (dieh) because supposedly the fetus does not possess a soul up until that point, past that point it is equivalent to murder.

  311. June 5, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I’m not going to go through everything in detail in the comments section here (because that would be too close to spamming) but if you click on my name the interpretation of each one of those things is listed under the “Quranic verses” tab.

    And I don’t subscribe to any sect of Islam. There’s no penalty for abortion in the first trimester as far as I’m concerned (and any douche saying otherwise is out of his mind) and if the mother’s life in danger after that the abortion is still legal (confirmed by the imam at my local mosque who’s studied the religion for 20 years; he’s Sunni.)

  312. June 5, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Sojourner: Please do not bring up faulty translations, I know enough classical Arabic to read the Koran.

    I’m sorry, but even people who know classical Arabic disagree on the translations of different words. It takes more than being familiar so I don’t tolerate that “I know the language” crap from anyone–including myself. Anyone’s interpretation is worth consideration. There are still words in there for which the Arabic meaning makes no sense(for example talking about Miriam mother of Jesus/Isa: وجعلنا تحتها سريا, nobody really knows what سريا means here, because all the normal meanings make no sense.)

  313. Sojourner
    June 5, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Yes, some verses are hard to translate etc. It IS a very old text. But that definitely is not the case for all of the misogynist/sexist verses. I took a look at your Koranic Verses Tab (haven’t read all of it, I plan to). Nope, you do not address each and everyone of the issues I raised. Even with your “real translation” of Darabtum, the verse is still sexist. There is cultural and historical context yes. The context has expired (as you say about polygamy) and so has the text. In it’s own historic context it might have even been progressive. Attempts to reinterpret it for today’s context seam to me like reaching very very hard. But you are right this is a derail.

  314. Sojourner
    June 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I also want to add, please do not interpret my comments as an attack on you or on Islamic feminism. I am actually very thankful for the existence of Muslim feminists and for the more progressive interpretations of Koranic verses.

  315. June 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Sojourner: Nope, you do not address each and everyone of the issues I raised.

    Well of course not–to expect that would be odd, since the tab existed before your questions and are obviously not centered around them–also, like I said, that would be too close to spam. If you WANT to go through each point you’re free contact me personally and we can discuss interpretation. I don’t want make everyone else have to drag through comments that don’t relate to them.

  316. June 5, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    317 comments and Jill hasn’t shut down this thread! I THINK THIS MEANS WE’RE IMPROVING!

  317. Emburii
    June 6, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Being a feminist and a religionist is cognitively dissonant, which is why some people are saying you can’t be both. For instance, there are people who assert that girls and women can’t do math. They claim that biologically men are more built for. They say women can’t think rationally and thus can’t wrap their heads around numbers, and they even have some statistics on their side. They can even claim a strategy of focusing on boys doing more math does good, because it doesn’t waste resources and provides more chances to those who can best take advantage of them. Those boys who got plenty of support in math over the girls in the class might agree with this.
    Most feminists would, I think, disagree very strongly. They’d point out that there have been many capable women who could in fact do math beautifully, disproving both the biology and lack of rationality argument. Said feminists might then point out that that this ‘positive’ strategy cuts people out and still treats them differently, ending up to be nothing of the sort. This ‘theory’, they could point out, doesn’t have any evidence. It’s just a mess of unproven assertion, underlined by socialization and upbringing. It’s not a good thing, even if some parts of the population have derived a benefit; they could get that benefit in other ways without excluding others.
    Then there’s religion. Any specific claim for any religious faction and in fact most spiritual thinking can be disproven; claims for the age of the universe, the benefit of prayer, any kind of divine retribution; all those have easy and consistent counterpoints, much like the assertion that women biologically can’t do math. The claim that moderate or vague religion helps more than it hurts? The same kind of societal and ethical structure could be achieved with secular humanism, without the downside of having to ‘save’ anyone (and thus assume they’re lost in the first place purely because the evidence doesn’t match up to Bronze Age fairy tales).
    If you want people to accept the second claim without or even despite evidence, why not believe the first bit? Why not believe people who assert that women are naturally jealous, or need a strong male hand to guide them? There’s no more proof for your position than there is for theirs, and vice versa.
    If someone from a deeply racist part of the South claims that black people can’t be trusted like white men, aren’t as smart and are more suited to manual labor, most of us here would disagree with this person and point out the parts where they’re wrong. We wouldn’t take that position on faith, no matter how strongly said individual believes in it. We’d conclude that repeated exposure to racism has ingrained these thoughts, not that black people are actually inferior. After all, he has no evidence and can even be disproven.
    How, then, could you question and that person and then turn around and defend your own unproven assertions, despite their harm? And, if you’re willing to do that, why are you surprised when people worry about what other cognitive blocks you might have? You’re obviously willing to draw lines in the sand that you won’t think past or fully analyze, so why shouldn’t I assume that parts of your activism might be selfish and inconsistent as well?

  318. June 6, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Shoshie: But if anyone’s going to decide whether Judaism and feminism are incompatible it’s going to be Jews, not outsiders.

    I’ve been thinking about this all weekend, and I know this thread is winding down, but I want to ask: As feminists, don’t we also get a say in whether or not feminism and Judaism are compatible? There are two groups involved here–why don’t each of them get a say in such judgements?

  319. debbie
    June 6, 2011 at 11:56 am

    @jeffliveshere – The two groups overlap. I think the answer to that question lies with Jewish feminists.

  320. Attackfish
    June 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    @debbie: Thank you.

  321. Kristen J.
    June 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    What surprising is how much this conversation is very similar to the convos we have about feminism as a movement. There is no fixed feminism. Feminist icons have, in the name of feminism, engaged in seriously oppressive behaviors. Many of the “ideals” of feminism are deeply held beliefs.

    And yet we can have a productive conversation about whether feminism is oppressive in a way that we can’t have about Christianity. People (often) acknowledge their complicity in the oppression of others when they carry the label “Feminist.” We (often) recognize that feminism has an institutional component as well as an ideological one and we don’t (usually) try to shield the one by invoking the other.

    Imagine if someone had said to a person oppressed by mainstream feminism (and we can all identify a number of people in that category) that she was engaging with feminism wrong because she was not exploring all or the “correct” feminist narrative(s) or that she was “stereotyping” feminists and coopting their experiences?

  322. Emburii
    June 6, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    To boil down and focus my wall of text into something a little more succinct; what if someone said that black people were naturally less intelligent and no one confronted them about this unproven assertion, but rather said we had to respect their culture? It’s cognitive dissonance and privilege to try and separate the ‘truth’ of that claim versus a religious one, because they are both exactly the same in terms of evidence.
    I really wish at least one of the religionists on the thread would actually talk to me and address my points, rather than speaking past this simple question; given that the weight of proof is exactly the same between religious claims and racism, why do you support one and not the other?

  323. June 6, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    debbie: @jeffliveshere – The two groups overlap. I think the answer to that question lies with Jewish feminists.

    Yes. This. It’s not like Jewish feminism is this New! Concept! that’s is untread ground. It’s been around for a while. And it’s condescending and oppressive for people, especially people who aren’t particularly familiar with Judaism, to tell us that we can’t exist. Note, I’m not making any judgements on folks here…I don’t know what your familiarity with Judaism is.

    But it seems odd for people who come from a gentile, usually Christian, background (even if they don’t affiliate with Christianity anymore) to essentially argue for feminists to choose between their Judaism (or Islam) and their feminism. It makes me wonder what you’re trying to accomplish, because it certainly isn’t making me feel less marginalized as a woman.

    Kristin J.-

    I think there are two things going on here. I think there are people (possibly including the OP) who are trying to treat religion as something that can’t be criticized. I, personally, am having a hard to figuring out where that’s happening. That may be partially due to my privilege as a religious person and partially due to the fact that I have a terrible memory, and a particularly terrible memory for things that I’ve read. But I very much agree that religion should not be free from criticism, both as a general phenomenon and relating to specific practices. If that’s the discussion, then I’m totally, 100% with you.

    The second issue, that I think Nahida and I find quite troubling, is women being told that they can’t be feminists and religious. That feminism and religion are incompatible. That our feminist interpretations of our religious texts are less valid than the “traditional” patriarchal interpretations. I don’t think you’re allying with the right people when you argue this. Not you, specifically, Kristen J. But the people who have been making this argument. By denying the validity of feminist religions, you are allying yourselves with the oppressive, conservative, right-wing religious folks that most hate practitioners of feminist religion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I’m contributing to the downfall of the Jewish people because I wear pants, because I don’t fully cover my hair, because I insist on being a public leader in my community, because I insist on finishing my education before having children. And, you are allying with those people when you deny the validity of feminist religion.

  324. June 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Arg, I submitted before I wrote this disclaimer. Nahida- if I’m misrepresenting your views AT ALL, let me know. But I feel like we’re coming from similar perspectives here in a lot of ways, so that’s why I threw in a head-nod.

  325. Momentary
    June 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Emburii:
    To boil down and focus my wall of text into something a little more succinct; what if someone said that black people were naturally less intelligent and no one confronted them about this unproven assertion, but rather said we had to respect their culture?It’s cognitive dissonance and privilege to try and separate the ‘truth’ of that claim versus a religious one, because they are both exactly the same in terms of evidence.
    I really wish at least one of the religionists on the thread would actually talk to me and address my points, rather than speaking past this simple question; given that the weight of proof is exactly the same between religious claims and racism, why do you support one and not the other?

    I don’t know what “religious claims” means here. I think assertions that dogma is objective truth should be subject to the weight of proof, whether that dogma is religious, cultural, scientific, or whatever. I don’t think people’s intimate subjective truths should be subject to the weight of proof.

    So what do you mean by “religious claims”?

  326. Emburii
    June 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Momentary: I don’t know what “religious claims” means here.I think assertions that dogma is objective truth should be subject to the weight of proof, whether that dogma is religious, cultural, scientific, or whatever.I don’t think people’s intimate subjective truths should be subject to the weight of proof.

    So what do you mean by “religious claims”?

    What if someone’s intimate subject truth is that their offspring will be be miserable unless said offspring’s genitals are mutilated in some culturally mandated fashion? Do they have that right just because they believe it so completely and they have faith that it will be better for their daughter in the long run to have her labia chopped off?

    As for religious claims, I mean ideas like holy writings describing in part or totally the natural world in consistent detail. Also, claims that prayer will fix anything other than immediate psychological concerns, or that there is life after death. I would also like to see addressed religious positions that assert superiority over some hereditarily established groups, like the caste system for Hinduism and its treatment of so-called untouchables. Another one would be the existence of particular saviors when they would contradict each other, and how people are supposed to decide in anything other than vague and cognitively dissonant fashion; yes, one can try saying that it’s just personal preference and they’re all likely, but then it gets into proof again and how you separate the Christian Identity people from, say, a peaceful group of Buddhists without having to go outside of religion in the first place.

  327. Kristen J.
    June 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Shoshie,

    I think the issue is the lumping together of the institution of religion and “spirituality” or religious feeling. Christianity is an oppressive institution (like feminism can be). Christianity may provide a type of power and liberation (ditto feminism). Participation in organized Christianity makes a person complicit in the oppressive acts caused by that institution (ditto feminism).

    Whether you can be complicit in the oppression of women and still call yourself a feminist is a matter between a person and their conscience. But its certainly not an easy answer.

  328. June 6, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Kristen J, maybe I’m just a bit distracted today (got a big exam to take next week), but I don’t really understand your analysis. Lots of systems/institutions have and do oppress women. Christianity is one. Feminism is one. I’m a scientist, and Science (the institution) is another. But I don’t really see anyone calling for me to give up being a scientist. In fact, I consider my science part and parcel of my activism. I’m working to make renewable energy a possibility. I’m involved in diversity and education work, focusing on overlooked populations. I think science literacy is incredibly important for anti-oppression work, since it allows people to question what sensationalist media sources are telling them and realize when people are using bad science to promote harmful policy.

    That doesn’t change the fact that science has been and continues to be an oppressive force. Just like religion. Just like feminism.

  329. Kristen J.
    June 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Shoshie,

    If you see the foundation of science as oppressive then I would agree with you. I see the purpose of science as “developing cool things” and its fundamental philosophy is “what works”. Perhaps you have a different view.

    If you were on a study where the study’s founders were trying to demonstrate that women are stupid, morally corrupt people deserving of enormous pain and suffering (thanks, Eve), then whether you should be involved that study while simulatenously calling yourself a feminist would be a difficult question.

  330. Momentary
    June 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Emburii: What if someone’s intimate subject truth is that their offspring will be be miserable unless said offspring’s genitals are mutilated in some culturally mandated fashion?Do they have that right just because they believe it so completely and they have faith that it will be better for their daughter in the long run to have her labia chopped off?

    Well, I don’t think that’s an intimate subjective truth. Maybe a clearer way to put it is to say that I don’t think anything gets a free pass because it’s religion. I think things which are intimate and subjective, like being in love, like aesthetic pleasure, like experience of divinity, like fundamental moral principles, are ultimately outside the space where proof is applicable. And so the aspects of religion that are like that are also not subject to proof.

    As for religious claims, I mean ideas like holy writings describing in part or totally the natural world in consistent detail.Also, claims that prayer will fix anything other than immediate psychological concerns, or that there is life after death.

    Sure, if those things are presented as objective truth, then certainly they should be subject to proof. I doubt there’s anyone on this thread who would argue otherwise. Although I think it matters whether those things are being pushed on someone unwilling — it’s one thing to demand that the Intelligent Design proponents be held to real scientific standards, but quite another to burst in on a bunch of religious folks who are minding their own business and demand that they justify their particular creation myth.

    I would also like to see addressed religious positions that assert superiority over some hereditarily established groups, like the caste system for Hinduism and its treatment of so-called untouchables.Another one would be the existence of particular saviors when they would contradict each other, and how people are supposed to decide in anything other than vague and cognitively dissonant fashion; yes, one can try saying that it’s just personal preference and they’re all likely, but then it gets into proof again and how you separate the Christian Identity people from, say, a peaceful group of Buddhists without having to go outside of religion in the first place.

    Personally, I don’t see those kinds of religious positions as fundamentally different from other kinds of theoretical positions that justify oppressive systems. I don’t think religion gets a free pass on those questions.

  331. Momentary
    June 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Kristen J.:
    If you were on a study where the study’s founders were trying to demonstrate that women are stupid, morally corrupt people deserving of enormous pain and suffering (thanks, Eve), then whether you should be involved that study while simulatenously calling yourself a feminist would be a difficult question.

    Arguably a more accurate analogy is to a field of study rather than to a single study. Historically, the founders of what became anthropology were pretty horrible. But modern anthropologists have developed very different ethical frameworks of practice and aspire to very different agendas, while still acknowledging the origins of their field. I expect feminist Christian theologians see themselves similarly?

  332. June 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Kristen J.: If you were on a study where the study’s founders were trying to demonstrate that women are stupid, morally corrupt people deserving of enormous pain and suffering (thanks, Eve), then whether you should be involved that study while simulatenously calling yourself a feminist would be a difficult question.

    True. And if I belonged to a sect of Judaism that was heavily invested in the oppression of women, then I would also struggle with that question (not that it’s impossible to be, say, an Orthodox Jewish feminist…it’s just harder). Fortunately, my sect of Judaism is heavily invested in feminism and the overall movement tends to see egalitarianism within Judaism as an incredibly important goal.

  333. Kristen J.
    June 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Have modern Christians “developed different ethical frameworks” because if the Christian right has stopped its opposition to abortion, gay marriage, non-married cohabitation, gay adoptions, trans rights of all sorts, sex worker rights of all sorts and the belief that people deserve hell for failing to believe in their God – I didn’t get the memo. I have no doubt that Christian feminists THEMSELVES have a different ethical framework, but their voice is not the voice of institutional Christianity in the US. If they think they can turn the tide…okay…lots of feminists think they can turn the tide of racism in this movement; meanwhile you should at least swallow hard and acknowledge the complex harms involved.

  334. June 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    O.O So. Many. Comments.

    Haven’t read through them all classes started again today for the summer term. Will brb in a couple of hours! But until then–

    Shoshie: It’s not like Jewish feminism is this New! Concept! that’s is untread ground. It’s been around for a while. And it’s condescending and oppressive for people, especially people who aren’t particularly familiar with Judaism, to tell us that we can’t exist. Note, I’m not making any judgements on folks here…I don’t know what your familiarity with Judaism is.

    But it seems odd for people who come from a gentile, usually Christian, background (even if they don’t affiliate with Christianity anymore) to essentially argue for feminists to choose between their Judaism (or Islam) and their feminism.

    YES. This. I find it so frustrating when Western feminists (that sounds like I’m not one of them–I am USian) tell me about feminism and What Is Feminist and What Is Not Feminist because they think my religion makes me incapable of understanding and fighting or something. Excuse me, but while Islamic Feminism may not have been called Islamic Feminism, feminism in Islam is much older–and took off much quicker with much more fiery passion (before patriarchy shat all over it)–than feminism in the West.

    But white women own everything, so they define feminism.

  335. Emburii
    June 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Shoshie:
    That doesn’t change the fact that science has been and continues to be an oppressive force.Just like religion.Just like feminism.

    Except that science, in particular, can change. If someone says, ‘women are not happy unless they’ve had babies’, science demands proof. Scientists who do not have that proof do not get quoted in mainstream publications, except by serious breakdown of the peer review process. People pushing erroneous claims are not generally defended by their fellow scientists unless there is some other bias at work. Science does not allow the claim of both atmosphere/vaccuum and ether at the same time, for instance. Religion and faith, on the other hand, are built on immunity from proof, which is why there is Buddha and Jesus and Mohammed and Krishna and Moses and so forth and we’re apparently rude to point out that these are all stories, no different from Cinderella except in age and social cachet.

    Momentary: Well, I don’t think that’s an intimate subjective truth.Maybe a clearer way to put it is to say that I don’t think anything gets a free pass because it’s religion.I think things which are intimate and subjective, like being in love, like aesthetic pleasure, like experience of divinity, like fundamental moral principles, are ultimately outside the space where proof is applicable.And so the aspects of religion that are like that are also not subject to proof.

    Sure, if those things are presented as objective truth, then certainly they should be subject to proof.I doubt there’s anyone on this thread who would argue otherwise.Although I think it matters whether those things are being pushed on someone unwilling — it’s one thing to demand that the Intelligent Design proponents be held to real scientific standards, but quite another to burst in on a bunch of religious folks who are minding their own business and demand that they justify their particular creation myth.

    Personally, I don’t see those kinds of religious positions as fundamentally different from other kinds of theoretical positions that justify oppressive systems.I don’t think religion gets a free pass on those questions.

    The experience of divinity is one of the prime examples, actually. There’s a pretty clear link between certain parts of the brain and blood flow to transcendent experiences; brain tumors pressing certain neural pathways can make people religious, biofeedback and electric stimulation through application of electrodes can trigger the same endorphins and feelings as meditation, and no one has ever had a detailed vision or near-death experience that differs from either the conditions they were exposed to growing up or the religion/spirituality they’ve since chosen. As for fundamental moral principles, again if you put them outside of proof then you let people excuse horrific acts in the name of their beliefs. If it is a fundamental principle to someone that women should not drive because it might expose her to men and would thus corrupt her soul, then, would you take the keys away from her? Or stand by as that someone beat her to take them? It’s his fundamental moral principle, after all. Are you really unwilling to question it?

    As for the difference between demanding intellectual rigorousness between ID proponents and liberal-relative religionists, there is none. This is an open comment thread where the OP displayed a heaping ton of cognitive dissonance and called someone out because their fiction didn’t match what she thinks is true, why is it wrong to ask for a clarification of position? The distinction between ‘there is a God and he loves you’ and ‘women are naturally jealous and petty and cannot control themselves’ may seem perfectly obvious to people who’ve built up the conditioning and justification, but from the outside that creation myth taken as a ‘subjective truth’, just by existing, is oppression as surely as the idea of, say, genetic purity.

  336. Momentary
    June 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Kristen J.:
    Have modern Christians “developed different ethical frameworks” because if the Christian right has stopped its opposition to abortion, gay marriage, non-married cohabitation, gay adoptions, trans rights of all sorts, sex worker rights of all sorts and the belief that people deserve hell for failing to believe in their God – I didn’t get the memo.I have no doubt that Christian feminists THEMSELVES have a different ethical framework, but their voice is not the voice of institutional Christianity in the US.If they think they can turn the tide…okay…lots of feminists think they can turn the tide of racism in this movement; meanwhile you should at least swallow hard and acknowledge the complex harms involved.

    Yeah, I sort of agree with regard to the acknowledgement you ask for, although from where I sit* I’m less comfortable asserting institutional Christianity in the US as one thing. Someone actively identifying and participating as a Roman Catholic seems to me to have different stuff to acknowledge than a Quaker, for example.

    * Full disclosure: although half my family is Italian Catholic, my Italian parent now identifies as Quaker, and I myself, having been raised by mildly neglectful, bookish, and highly appropriative hippies, wound up as a sort of feral animistic pantheist.

  337. June 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Emburii, that’s not what religion is for.
    The point of religion is not to do science poorly. If you want to engage in an orderly process to establish and prove facts, you’re doing science–I don’t care what your hypotheses are, that’s science, and you’re either doing it well or poorly. I think when religion attempts to get into the science business–investigating, establishing, and verifying facts–it falls flat. And if you evaluate religion by the standard of whether or not it’s good science, of course it fails–it’s not good science any more than art is good science.

    Religion is for establishing not facts, but meanings. It’s about saying, okay, here’s a world, what does it mean in relation to us. Who are we as a community. What do we hope to be. Questions like “what is light” or “what makes things fall toward the Earth” or “where do the tides come from” are about facts and causal relationships, and humanity has been steadily building its store of facts from the very beginning, using the best information they had, and that’s science. Religion is what happens when they then say, okay, as a community, why? What does it mean for us? What does it say about us as people? What lessons are there? How do we feel about the fact that we die? And just as I think it’s a terrible idea to ask religion rather than science questions like “what makes the sun run,” I also think it’s a terrible idea to ask the scientific method to provide answers to queries like “how do you feel about this sunset?” or “who do we as a community aspire to be?” or “what is justice?” Science isn’t a failure for not having good answers to cultural abstracts and existential anxieties. It’s not a competition.

    That is why there are plenty of good scientists in the world who also have religious beliefs. And that is also why many religious people are happy to take the latest scientific findings of fact–like, say, the world being round–over the historical attempts at science recorded in some of their cherished books. They’re not cherrypicking the bits that feel good; they’re allowing “religion” to mean that the parts worth caring about are the big cultural questions, and happy to accept that some ancient book’s additional attempts at science are badly outdated. (I am happy to enjoy and derive meaning from Shakespeare without thinking that his then-advanced ideas about the medicine and the Antipodes and so on are worth considering in my own life. Ancient Greek poetry is still emotionally affecting and philosophically engaging without accepting that alchemy is a good idea. People still embrace the ethics of the Hippocratic Oath while acknowledging that Hippocrates’ forbidding of surgery was based on the best science available to him at the time and can be gently discarded.) The idea that a given scripture is literal and inerrant and divine and doesn’t also include old history books and poor facts in the mix is a very rare theological position and it’s only actually about a hundred, hundred-fifty years old, even in strongly scripturally-based religions like Christianity and Islam. (Judaism seems not to bother much with inerrancy and literalism, even post-Modernity. Buddhist scriptures are often full of metaphorical mind games that are impossible to take literally. And so on. For all of the jillion religions in the world, in all their variety.)

    Humanism is great for many of these questions simply because it is not a scientific body of understanding, though it bases its premises on findings brought by scientific inquiry–it is still about questions of ethics and meaning and morals and ideals. It’s proof that yes, a lot of what religion is good for doesn’t require theism to function. Morals, ethics, community building, those don’t require theism. But they also aren’t science. When I want to know what the moon’s made of, the scientific method is my best friend. When I want to talk about people’s duty to make the world better for each other, there are no claims to “prove” other than claims like “people have inherent dignity and worth” or “more happy people in the world is better” or “it is good to treat each other with kindness.” These aren’t facts–they’re truths. You can’t prove or disprove them. You can believe in them or not, but it’s a very different kind of “belief” than believing in electrons.

    The notion that feminism and religion are a matter of cognitive dissonance simply betrays a profound ignorance of the breadth and variety of “religion”–just as upthread claims that all religions are concerned with questions of salvation or are misogynistic or claim they are uniquely correct to the point of unbelievers being condemned or even have a concept of damnation are provably, factually false. Ask an anthropologist. Ask an theist anthropologist. Claiming that all religions are basically Jerry Falwell, and then saying that Jerry Falwell is terrible, and therefore all religion is terrible–now that, that’s not a question of truths and meanings. It’s a strawman and it’s also, yes, a No True Scotsman fallacy, too. (Religion does this and it’s bad! What about this? That’s not religion, religion is this thing that does this thing that’s bad!) That’s a matter of established, researchable, provable facts. Too many people in this thread aren’t just displaying an incredible ability not to get what religion is as a cultural expression, but are betraying basic scientific principles in saying so.

  338. June 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Typo, of course–I meant “ask an atheist anthropologist.”

  339. Emburii
    June 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Nahida:
    O.O So. Many. Comments.

    Haven’t read through them all(…)

    I can tell.

    I question your conclusions, especially when you call me rude, because you demonstrate a huge blind spot in your argument. It has nothing to do with what is feminist or not, but rather what worldviews you are giving validity to by holding up your own unproven assertions as fact. If you want personal feelings to be the only standard, then you leave the door open for lots and lots of horrific treatment because, well, if you’re using the exact same standards, why should I question them if you don’t think I should be allowed to question you?

  340. June 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Emburii: why should I question them if you don’t think I should be allowed to question you?

    I am still waiting for anyone to produce a comment in this conversation by a theist saying that they should not be questioned. Saying that we disagree with your conclusions, or that we think you are wrong, is not saying we should not be questioned. It’s participating in the questioning process.

  341. Momentary
    June 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Emburii:
    The experience of divinity is one of the prime examples, actually.There’s a pretty clear link between certain parts of the brain and blood flow to transcendent experiences; brain tumors pressing certain neural pathways can make people religious, biofeedback and electric stimulation through application of electrodes can trigger the same endorphins and feelings as meditation, and no one has ever had a detailed vision or near-death experience that differs from either the conditions they were exposed to growing up or the religion/spirituality they’ve since chosen.

    But all of that is undoubtedly also true of being in love. Do you also want to argue to everyone who claims to be in love that they are only experiencing a chemical delusion? Also, I think you are conflating experience of divinity with supernatural claims presented as objective truth, which it need not involve.

    As for fundamental moral principles, again if you put them outside of proof then you let people excuse horrific acts in the name of their beliefs.

    “It is wrong to needlessly cause suffering” is an example of a fundamental moral principle, I think. How would you prove it? I think it has to be taken on faith.

    If it is a fundamental principle to someone that women should not drive because it might expose her to men and would thus corrupt her soul, then, would you take the keys away from her?Or stand by as that someone beat her to take them?It’s his fundamental moral principle, after all.Are you really unwilling to question it?

    I disagree with that principle and would try to help her to the best of my wisdom and ability. I doubt that demanding her oppressor prove the truth of his principle would be a particularly productive way forward. I’d be more inclined to look for ways to empower her and others like her so that her oppressor could no longer impose his principle on them.

    Saying some things are not subject to proof is not the same as saying that those things must be accepted or respected. It just means that “prove it” only applies to provable things.

    As for the difference between demanding intellectual rigorousness between ID proponents and liberal-relativereligionists, there is none.This is an open comment thread where the OP displayed a heaping ton of cognitive dissonance and called someone out because their fiction didn’t match what she thinks is true, why is it wrong to ask for a clarification of position?The distinction between ‘there is a God and he loves you’ and ‘women are naturally jealous and petty and cannot control themselves’ may seem perfectly obvious to people who’ve built up the conditioning and justification, but from the outside that creation myth taken as a ‘subjective truth’, just by existing, is oppression as surely as the idea of, say, genetic purity.

    I think it’s fine to ask for a clarification of position. I’ve tried to respond and give you mine, since you expressed frustration that you hadn’t gotten a response.

  342. June 6, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    @Emburii

    ….called you rude? I did not address you at all, specifically because I haven’t read your comments.

  343. June 6, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    jeffliveshere: As feminists, don’t we also get a say in whether or not feminism and Judaism are compatible?

    As it’s already been said, those groups overlap.

    What’s happened here is “Your religion is not compatible with feminism because you believe this this and this (abortions not allowed! gay people should be murdered! etc) !” and after I was like “Actually, I believe this (abortions are totally allowed, and my interpretation is LGBT-friendly, etc)” the response was, “Nope. Still not compatible.”

    Why? Because this:

    Kristen J.: I have no doubt that Christian feminists THEMSELVES have a different ethical framework, but their voice is not the voice of institutional Christianity in the US. If they think they can turn the tide…okay…lots of feminists think they can turn the tide of racism in this movement; meanwhile you should at least swallow hard and acknowledge the complex harms involved.

    Because we’re not large enough of a group–or, more of a factor, privileged enough–to represent the religion. I agree with Kristin J. , (although I don’t see your need to point this out because no one is refusing to swallow hard and acknowledge the complex harms involved) but as far as I’m concerned, telling me I can’t be a feminist and Muslim because it is men who define what Islam is, is like, “Sorry hon, you can’t be a doctor because only men know medicine.”

    That is attempting to steal from me BOTH identities. I can’t be a feminist because I’m Muslim, and yet–I’m not a “proper cis man with penis-defined Muslim” either because I think they’re all dumbasses who don’t know how to properly interpret their own shit, or are actively sinning according to their own shit because they’re twisting it for political weaponry. You are telling me that my Islam is invalid by suggesting that it is not compatible with feminism: it’s not Real Islam if a feminist practices it, and if a woman practices any interpretation of Islam at all she can’t be a feminist because according to The Real Feminists only cis men get to define Islam.

    That doesn’t sound very feminist to me, claiming that only men can define a religion–but what do I know, right?

    little light: Claiming that all religions are basically Jerry Falwell, and then saying that Jerry Falwell is terrible, and therefore all religion is terrible–now that, that’s not a question of truths and meanings. It’s a strawman and it’s also, yes, a No True Scotsman fallacy, too. (Religion does this and it’s bad! What about this? That’s not religion, religion is this thing that does this thing that’s bad!) That’s a matter of established, researchable, provable facts. Too many people in this thread aren’t just displaying an incredible ability not to get what religion is as a cultural expression, but are betraying basic scientific principles in saying so.

    Quoted because THIS!

  344. Kristen J.
    June 6, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Nahida: although I don’t see your need to point this out because no one is refusing to swallow hard and acknowledge the complex harms involved

    Because the statement that Christianity is consistent with feminism is not entirely accurate. It may or may not be accurate if you say “My personal interpretation is consistent with feminism.” But Christianity is not just one person’s interpretation, there is an institutional component that is NOT consistent with feminism. So when people say that…it pisses me off because it feels like they are completely erasing the institutional component and the harm that is caused.

  345. June 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Kristen J.: Because the statement that Christianity is consistent with feminism is not entirely accurate. It may or may not be accurate if you say “My personal interpretation is consistent with feminism.” But Christianity is not just one person’s interpretation, there is an institutional component that is NOT consistent with feminism. So when people say that…it pisses me off because it feels like they are completely erasing the institutional component and the harm that is caused.

    I agree with this. I was just frustrated because people were telling me the two weren’t compatible specifically as they referred to mine.

  346. June 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Nahida: I agree with this. I was just frustrated because people were telling me the two weren’t compatible specifically as they referred to mine.

    Same here.

  347. annalouise
    June 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    wait, what’s not modern about right-wing evangelicalism? And what is “institutional Christianity”? I’m not okay with giving a uniquely 20th century movement, which is a huge theological break with the previous 2000 years of Christianity, the power to describe themselves as “traditional” or “institutional” just because they are loud.

  348. June 7, 2011 at 3:44 am

    On one hand, you’ll have fellow believers getting in your face about what you “can” and “cannot” believe and do – and then of course there are the fellow feminists who find your beliefs tacky and embarrassing at best. I used to care about the position that put me in when I was younger. The one time it seriously got to me was when I started getting threats of bodily harm from a group of fanatics hoping to rejuvenate the Black Hundreds (a pogrom-happy ultra-nationalist group in czarist Russia). But no one ever said that believing would be a walk in the park.

    I’m also not one of those people who “swallow hard”, to draw on something you said, Kristen. To me, that would be a useless, and insincere exhibition of guilt. It’s like being a white lady and beating your breast about it – ooh, wow, a white lady beating her breast about being white. Awesome. Who cares? I think people can easily slide into disrespect for themselves and others when they adopt this stance. It’s the opposite of humility, in my opinion.

    It would be like beating my breast about the fact that I’m pregnant while the world is already overpopulated (not Russia, of course, but in the general sense). You can identify and acknowledge the particular consequences of your actions without exhibiting this weird attitude of “oh, and I’m so sorry that I am who I am” – which is a bit like asking for cookies and oddly reminiscent of certain sects that preach self-hatred at the expense of genuinely going out into the world and doing something. Yes, we all make choices. Those choices affect people – sometimes in horrifying ways, sometimes without us meaning to. Recognizing that is part of being an adult, it goes much further than any particular social justice movement, no matter how important said social justice movement is.

    …so why shouldn’t I assume that parts of your activism might be selfish and inconsistent as well?

    People are selfish? Who knew?

    I also take issue with your assertion that religion is not dynamic – it’s very dynamic, which is why it survives, and why certain sects and denominations outright prosper. Most religious texts are so complex that any one interpretation is reductive to the point of being laughable. The Bible in particular makes me want to bang my head against the wall sometimes.

  349. Kristen J.
    June 7, 2011 at 6:45 am

    @Natalia,

    I don’t think “swallowing hard” has anything to do with a public exhibition or guilt. What I mean is that its not cut and dry, its not an easy obvious thing, it shouldn’t be an unexamined decision because it results in harm to others. There’s no reason to make a public exhibition of it (on the other hand making statements about how there’s no conflict at all is problematic for the reason I described above).

    I think this is easier to understand in the feminism/anti-racism context because I do believe anti-racist feminists have had to struggle with or confront the question of whether feminism – with all its attendant baggage – is worth it. Good, thoughtful, well-meaning people have come down on both sides of that debate. But to act as if its not a hard question, not a problematic decision is to ignore more than a hundred years of institutionalized racism in this movement that continues to this present day.

  350. June 7, 2011 at 7:57 am

    But to act as if its not a hard question, not a problematic decision…

    Of course. Owning a computer is also a problematic decision. Using energy is problematic. When you and your hubby discuss the delicious dinners ya’ll cook at home on this site – I can call that “problematic”, because I’m 8 months pregnant and still eating cheap processed crap most of the time, since I can afford it. Not that I would do that – that’s just not how I roll. We’re all privileged in special ways, but that’s not a “problem” per se. What you do with said privilege, on the other hand, could be catastrophic.

    And I think that there is often the assumption that someone hasn’t confronted some troubling aspects of their actions, and isn’t an adult about it, and must be reminded and otherwise chided – but anyone who identifies as a feminist in fact has a very hard time being part of most religions, however nominally. You are forced to confront trouble on a regular basis, even if you’d rather not. And the feminist movement doesn’t police its own in the way many religious communities do. Getting involved in some high profile spat within, say, the US feminist community isn’t likely to result in multiple threats. You don’t have a feminist Al Qaeda bombing a wedding reception in Amman and then issuing statements that basically say, “Yeah, we killed a bunch of our own. But hey, they shouldn’t have been in those Western infidel hotels to begin with! See? It totally works out!”

    I agree that religion is a complicated business. And I wouldn’t be religious, if it was simple. Like I said up above, a lot of people get drawn to what they see as its simplicity, there’s right and wrong and ancient rules to navigate between the two, so what could be easier? Except that’s not all there is to it.

  351. Kristen J.
    June 7, 2011 at 8:39 am

    @Natalia

    I think you’re being extraordinarily dismissive of the real harms caused in the US by participation in organized Christianity (which is all I’ve spoken to in this thread). But fine, Christians have privilege and reminding Christian feminists of it when they say things that erase oppression is chiding. Next time I deny or erase income inequality feel free to chide me all you like.

  352. June 7, 2011 at 8:52 am

    I sort of feel a conflict here because many took the position that you choose your religion, and yet it’s also understood that you don’t choose or not choose positions of privilege. Isn’t it a bit of contradiction?

    I know no one owes me an explanation here, but is there a religious people privilege checklist like the straight privilege checklist or the male privilege checklist I could refer to? Being privileged enough to not know your privilege would be #1 there, I can see, but a couple of more would make things clearer.

    Again, apologies for having to ask. But when I live my daily life, I honestly feel being Muslim is a marginalized experience. The point of course is that people have it suckier than I do. It’d just be helpful to know how.

  353. June 7, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I think that the experience of religiosity or non-religiosity really depends on where you live; Islam is marginalized in the United States in a way that it wouldn’t be in, say, Saudi Arabia (to use a more extreme version of an Islamic society). As an atheist – and a militant one, at that – I can’t speak to whether or not the treatment of atheists in the United States is worse, largely because atheists are invisible, where Islam is assumed, sometimes erroneously, to be the religion of people of particular ethnicities, and there are mosques and other places to target for Muslims that do not exist in the same capacity for atheists. I can say that I think that an atheist and a Muslim would be equally likely to be elected to office, depending on the region, and you find very few of them in public office. Muslims (and those perceived to be Muslims) are treated pretty awfully in the US, and are targeted more than atheists in terms of public harassment because they are (supposedly) identifiable. You can’t identify an atheist until you ask them, so I’d argue that Muslims have it worse, depending on the situation. There’s also the problem that everyone is assumed to be Christian unless they have physical features that supposedly identify them with another religious group, and that gets frustrating, too, but it’s not the threat to me that it is to people who are assumed to belong to marginalized religions.

    My biggest problem with this thread is some of the complaints that are brought against religion. You cannot argue that all religion is anti-feminist because it’s not (there are some religions that were created to be explicitly feminist, such as Dianic Wicca, and even the Big Three has points to be ferreted out), and I agree with the commenters who are saying that to argue against compatibility between feminism and the Big Three or any other religion is to cede that the patriarchs are objectively correct about it. I don’t want to cede that territory, and part of my reason why is because most of religion is sufficiently subjective as to make that critique meaningless. My complaint against religion isn’t that it’s insufficiently feminist. My complaints against religion lie in the lack of empirical evidence and in the ways that warped reasoning do harm to society as a whole, but I feel like that is something for another thread.

    My quarrel with feminist theists is not in the consistency of their theology and philosophy. There is just as much problem reconciling Christianity and capitalism as there is Christianity and feminism, as another poster pointed out, and I’m not going to question my stepmother-in-law, a feminist pastor (UCC), any more than I am going to question Mike Huckabee on the consistency of his theology. It’s all justifiable depending on how you frame it.

    This has all been very interesting, and thank you all.

  354. AnonForThis
    June 7, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I sort of feel a conflict here because many took the position that you choose your religion, and yet it’s also understood that you don’t choose or not choose positions of privilege. Isn’t it a bit of contradiction?

    I’m one of those people who thinks you choose (granted, my conceptualization of the word “choice” is pretty broad, but still…) religion but don’t choose privilege and I don’t feel like its a contradiction.

    To my view, privilege is a product of social interaction and power imbalances, its an external factor. A straight, white, rich, cisgendered fundamentalist has exactly no privilege if he spends his life alone on a deserted island. Privilege doesn’t happen until enough people are involved that social power is able to be marshaled.

    Faith is an internal, subjective experience. Religion, on the other hand, is language. When you identify with this religion rather than that, when you walk through the doors of a mosque, when you display a signifier, you begin to engage in the social realm and you become part of the systems of power that inform and construct privilege. You begin to signal “I am of this tribe” which, whether you intend to or not, has the twin underlying messages “I am one of you” and “I am one of them.” Depending on where you are that might mean increasing your privilege or your oppression (or both), but you cannot choose to engage in the social system without playing the game of privilege. All you can do is choose which signs you’ll display, which words you’ll associate with. When you do that you are choosing the contours of privilege, you’re choosing religion, but you are not choosing whether to have privilege or not. Its there merely by sitting at the table. More than that, words have associations. If someone stands behind Islam they’re accepting certain realities about the history of Islam, if they identify as Catholic they are taking the Church’s crimes into themselves, if they take the label of Jew they are invoking the history of a certain people. The public component, the engagement with a society which cannot be avoided, is where privilege sinks it’s roots.

  355. loveequalsjustice
    June 7, 2011 at 10:10 am

    As a African-American young woman attempting to build a career for myself I have to say that what bothers me most about the Gaga video and books/films such as The Davinci Code and The Last Temptation of Christ is the line of thinking that positions Mary Magdalene as Christ lover is liberating for women, when in actuality it plays on the very old stereotype that any woman in a position of power slept her way there. This way of thinking is so imbedded that even sex positive feminist will believe it (internalized oppression). As a graduate of seminary the Bible NEVER said Mary M. was a sex worker (though nothing is wrong with sex workers) and the Gospel of Mary M. shows she was a Disciple not Christ lover, in early Church history (before Roman Christianity and the crusades, etc.) she is actually seen as the FIRST Disciple because she told everyone Christ had risen from the dead while the male disciples were hiding in fear from the Romans.Jesus didn’t keep her around to get laid. I am a Womanist and I have to say that many White women such as Lady Gaga further oppress women of Color sexually when they impose their “sexual liberation” on us, please stop buying into this Mary M./Jesus lover myth not because sex is evil but because by doing so you diminish what Mary M. contributed. Yes I know a woman can be sexual and successful in her career, but as a religious leader if Christ and Mary M. had a relationship it would have actually been an oppressive dynamic for her which is why religious leaders are not supposed to have sex with congregants (yes I know this happens and its wrong every time).Let’s think critically and not through the lens of internalized oppression. The myth of Mary M. sleeping with Jesus was created by sexist men who wanted to hide the influence she had in the ministry of Christ, these same men made sure her Gospel (which addresses sexism head on) was kept out of the Bible.

  356. Emburii
    June 7, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Wheeee…

    little light:
    Emburii, that’s not what religion is for.
    The point of religion is not to do science poorly.If you want to engage in an orderly process to establish and prove facts, you’re doing science–I don’t care what your hypotheses are, that’s science, and you’re either doing it well or poorly.I think when religion attempts to get into the science business–investigating, establishing, and verifying facts–it falls flat.And if you evaluate religion by the standard of whether or not it’s good science, of course it fails–it’s not good science any more than art is good science.

    Religion is for establishing not facts, but meanings.It’s about saying, okay, here’s a world, what does it mean in relation to us.Who are we as a community.What do we hope to be.Questions like “what is light” or “what makes things fall toward the Earth” or “where do the tides come from” are about facts and causal relationships, and humanity has been steadily building its store of facts from the very beginning, using the best information they had, and that’s science.(…)

    That may be what religion is to you, and that may be what it’s become as people turn their deities into the god(s) of the gaps, but you’re erasing entire swathes of people and all early history when you say as a blanket statement that religion didn’t start out that way and isn’t being used as such. There are thousands, maybe millions of people, who /do/ use it as naturalistic truth. That is how religion started, too, there’s a reason that all really ancient systems have creation myths (Buddhism is an exception, yes), because before people had the resources for good science they DID use religion to answer ‘why is there light in the sky’ and ‘why are we here’ both. Religion is also, yes, very much agreed that’s it’s about community building, which is why by necessity in includes an ‘us vs. them’. It is about excluding people based on unprovable principles, like gay people or lineages or other countries, and by placing them outside the boundaries of proof and saying that I cannot question the basis of why they have this, I cannot consistently question their conclusion that, say, gay people are immoral. If there’s no proof either way and you want them to have it on faith, then it is logically inconsistent of you to be a gay rights activist. It’s understandable, since you’ve rationalized it into your mental framework, but it’s no more valid objectively than someone rejecting the idea of integrated schools because they feel that the schools are just fine the way they are or busing ‘isn’t what school is FOR’.

    little light: They’re not cherrypicking the bits that feel good; they’re allowing “religion” to mean that the parts worth caring about are the big cultural questions, and happy to accept that some ancient book’s additional attempts at science are badly outdated.(I am happy to enjoy and derive meaning from Shakespeare without thinking that his then-advanced ideas about the medicine and the Antipodes and so on are worth considering in my own life.Ancient Greek poetry is still emotionally affecting and philosophically engaging without accepting that alchemy is a good idea.People still embrace the ethics of the Hippocratic Oath while acknowledging that Hippocrates’ forbidding of surgery was based on the best science available to him at the time and can be gently discarded.)The idea that a given scripture is literal and inerrant and divine and doesn’t also include old history books and poor facts in the mix is a very rare theological position and it’s only actually about a hundred, hundred-fifty years old, even in strongly scripturally-based religions like Christianity and Islam.(Judaism seems not to bother much with inerrancy and literalism, even post-Modernity.Buddhist scriptures are often full of metaphorical mind games that are impossible to take literally.And so on.For all of the jillion religions in the world, in all their variety.)

    Except that they are cherrypicking what parts apply or don’t, by ignoring all the bad bits about how the world shall pass away before one jot or tittle of the old laws ceases to apply, or about how women can’t approach alters or say specific prayers, because those parts don’t ‘feel right’. To claim one without the other is pretty much the prime example of cherrypicking and, by making it religion and taking it beyond proof, you are enabling the bad bits; if you use Mary Magdalene’s close relationship with Jesus as proof that women can/should be priests, then someone else can use the way the Jews were complicit in the Crucifixion as to why Jews are evil. You say that’s hateful, someone else says it’s just as true as Mary Magdalen, and in order to handle these claims we have to go outside your religion and use other ethical frameworks anyway. Using these holy texts as literature, appreciating them for their historic sociological value? I do that, actually; when I compare something like the Bible to faerie tales, it’s not meant as dislike. I love faerie tales, and what one can do with the fall of Lucifer and the angels and why is a lot of fun and VERY meaningful to human emotion. The Garden of Eden is very moving and tragic as a representation of loss and confusion as to the world’s harsh conditions if there’s supposed to be a deity watching out for us. Even when I mention the Virgin Mary as a rape victim, I’m not being flip; she wasn’t asked, she was just told she was going to have the child of a god and all that would go with it. There’s a lot to contemplate and story-tell from that, and indeed from the Buddhist riddles and the Greek myths and the neo-pagan interpretations of all Goddesses as the mother and what kind of parent she actually is. But they’re…not…real. I’m not going to accept someone quoting their faith and expecting it to be the end of the matter, just like I’m not going to advise people to leave an expensive shoe out in public places to try and attract princes.

    little light: The notion that feminism and religion are a matter of cognitive dissonance simply betrays a profound ignorance of the breadth and variety of “religion”–just as upthread claims that all religions are concerned with questions of salvation or are misogynistic or claim they are uniquely correct to the point of unbelievers being condemned or even have a concept of damnation are provably, factually false.Ask an anthropologist.Ask an theist anthropologist.Claiming that all religions are basically Jerry Falwell, and then saying that Jerry Falwell is terrible, and therefore all religion is terrible–now that, that’s not a question of truths and meanings.It’s a strawman and it’s also, yes, a No True Scotsman fallacy, too.(Religion does this and it’s bad! What about this?That’s not religion, religion is this thing that does this thing that’s bad!)That’s a matter of established, researchable, provable facts.Too many people in this thread aren’t just displaying an incredible ability not to get what religion is as a cultural expression, but are betraying basic scientific principles in saying so.

    True, ethics as a descriptive system aren’t a great fit applied scientifically. But proscriptively I’m damn sure going to ask for proof that women are, in fact, more emotional and spiteful if someone’s system of ethics claims that as to why a women’s testimony isn’t worth as much. I’m not going to demand to test for specific chemical cocktails to prove that you can really be in love with someone, but I’m damn sure going to confront you if you claim black people are less intelligent and supposed to be subservient to white people because God cursed their descendent.

    But to tackle more specifically the paragraph I quoted, you’re completely misrepresenting my position. I am not saying, ‘all religions are Jerry Falwell and thus are bad’. I am saying that all religions, from the most liberal statement of ‘God loves you’ to ‘God hates fags’, have the exact same standard of objective proof or logic, which is none. If you want me to believe that God loves people and thus your claims about what we should do for God or each other based on that without proof, then there is no reason to reject Jerry Falwell because he is, after all, going on faith and has the same evidence to back himself up. If you want to claim some of the Jewish scriptures as fact, then you cannot logically reject those people in Israel who told women that, by praying next to the Wailing Wall, they are destroying Judaism as much as the Nazis did. Your position is different because you’re using humanism and picking and choosing what communities matter and you’ve had a different socialization most likely, but by going outside of its bounds you’ve already logically established that it can’t be a solid ethical guide. If religion does not need proof to do that and just is because you say it is important as faith and community alone, then I can no more question Jerry Falwell or the Buddhists who think that women have delayed paradise than I can question you. When I tell him, ‘there is no proof your god exists, much less hates in consistent fashion’, he can say ‘it’s faith! would you question little light’s faith over there because little light doesn’t have evidence? then how can you tell me I’m wrong?’ Only by applying consistent claims of all supernatural or deific activity across the board can I argue with him, and that if I exempt you from that appraisal than I enable him to slither through the logical cracks. That isn’t a No True Scotman Argument, that’s a logical conclusion; ‘if faith, then cannot question claims or demand proof; if little light has faith, cannot argue with conclusions; if Jerry Falwell has faith, cannot argue with his conclusions’. In order to argue with him I have to go outside religion in the first place and break up the text and traditions with humanist principles, which is cherrypicking and not logically consistent with all of the text itself.
    As activists and attempted allies we try to argue with cultural assumptions and community-building beliefs all the time. The idea that women just aren’t as smart has been around a long time, but as feminists we try to combat it because for one thing it’s not true and for another its application is incredibly harmful. And there are even some people who are using it in a kinder, gentler fashion of ‘women are better at ’emotional’ smarts (they just can’t do calculus)’. Or there arep eople from deeply racist families who think that black people are more comfortable or more suited to menial tasks. They have their own kind of certainty, built up over time and socialization and privilege, the way things are supposed to be, that resembles faith. And remember, ‘if faith, then cannot ask for proof’? When someone exiles a child from house and home in Africa because they think this child is a witch and that their community would be better off without them, well, they’re using religion as intended as that community-building bit. You’ve rationalized all the ways your religion is different and better, but that specific regional belief was probably not included. And yet, it’s only religious bias to try and separate the two claims; you’re right, they’re wrong, but why?
    That’s where the cognitive dissonance comes in; by being an activist, we reject claims that would harm people and expect folks to change their minds when their prejudices and socialization can just aren’t accurate. But then for religion you don’t expect people to change, or you ignore all the parts where armoring your claim gives them immunity as well because ‘it’s different’.

    Well, isn’t it always when it’s someone else?

  357. June 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Emburii, I just posted pretty much exactly that on my blog. Thank you.

  358. AnonForThis
    June 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

    But they’re…not…real.

    Thats the big problem you have though, “real” is a moving target. “Real” is a space of privilege, an ability to assert that something is not open to being questioned. In science, when you get down to the bottom, very little is “real.” Things are observable, they are predictable under current circumstances and given current assumptions and dominant theories, but laws are frighteningly hard to come by in science. As we learn more, we seem to be moving further and further from the modernist search for what is True into a game of probability and context. Even the empiricist’s beloved causal connections break down once you go far enough.

    And thats before you even begin to consider that we’re working from an utterly fictional base 10 number system…

    “Real,” whether claimed by a wild eyed inquisitor or a calmly rational eugenicist, is an expression of power and privilege. Setting this discussion up as the battle between science and religion is a dodge. Taking shots at a dying system of oppression in the name of another system rife with oppression doesn’t do much about the fundamental question of oppression.

    Only by applying consistent claims of all supernatural or deific activity across the board can I argue with him, and that if I exempt you from that appraisal than I enable him to slither through the logical cracks.

    Only if the goal of your discourse is to eventually find your way to objective truth. See, when your fight is based around needing to be right, needing to prove the other guy wrong, needing to win you’ve found yourself playing the same game as the religious folk you imagine you’re at war with. Its like a a baseball fan who absolutely loathes the Other Team but loves the Home Team. That he screams with all his might that the Other Team is a bunch of mooks and fervently hopes that the Home Team destroys those evil Other Guys doesn’t mean he hates baseball. He is deeply invested in baseball, he just has a side he’d like to see win in the context of baseball. You’re looking for dominance, for victory, imagining that somehow if you can shut out the Other Team then everything will be OK. A lot of people here, though, are struggling with what it means to not play baseball.

    Well, isn’t it always when it’s someone else?

    Yes. And as long as you’re looking for whats True and whats Real you’re just trading one system of oppression for another.

  359. June 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    I think you’re being extraordinarily dismissive of the real harms caused in the US by participation in organized Christianity (which is all I’ve spoken to in this thread). But fine, Christians have privilege and reminding Christian feminists of it when they say things that erase oppression is chiding. Next time I deny or erase income inequality feel free to chide me all you like.

    I keep talking about how scary religion is in general (regardless of its national or historic context, since the world is so much bigger than the US, and yet the US is not really that special – and I wish more people would realize this), so I’m not quite sure where it is that I am being extraordinarily dismissive. The position that Christian feminists are in also comes with its own baggage attached – and not just because someone will throw some snark your way on a blog every once in a while. The harm that’s visited upon people by the sort of things we have discussed here – the abuse, the terror, etc. – it does not exclusively affect people who have left the faith, or never have been part of the faith to begin with. Abused by people in the name of Jesus? Hey, me too.

    I think it’s pretty sweet, for the most part, to be a certain kind of Christian in the US. But this “certain kind” thing really makes all of the difference. Not that I’m whining or complaining or anything – I’m personally quite grateful to be where I am.

  360. June 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    PrettyAmiable: Daisy

    I’d agree, except that the original post is by a Christian. If it were by an atheist and Christians attacked, I’d say the same.

  361. June 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Sorry, I don’t seem to know how to quote properly!

    You take a blog post about one Christian criticizing another’s very validity and turn it into how hateful ‘all’ atheists are

    The atheists in THIS discussion, I have not met all atheists in the world and would never make blanket statements about them all.

    I see this as an intended-discussion among Christians. (Wasn’t it intended to be?) I don’t even see why atheists are participating, except to insult (and silence?) the participants.

    If it was atheists discussing the differences between Dawkins and Hitchens and/or who/whatever, I would think the same if Christians barged in and started quoting scripture. It’s simply intolerant and uncalled for.

    Can’t we all get along?

  362. PrettyAmiable
    June 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Again, if you don’t see the difference between the two situations, I’ll say that’s not conceding your Christian privilege; it’s acting on it.

  363. June 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Little Light, your comments here have been awesome, and describe my experience so well. Thank you a million times.

    In my experience, people either get it or they don’t, period.

  364. PrettyAmiable
    June 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Aww, I posted my comment about examining your Christian privilege before reading your second comment (@362), Daisy. I’m glad that you managed to reinforce my statement in a particularly hateful way. Way to go.

  365. shfree
    June 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Damn, Daisy, that was some ugly business right there. Thanks for that.

  366. Shaun
    June 7, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Nahida, not all privileges function in the same way. Some of them (like race) are fixed and unchanging, at least unless society changes to accommodate race differently. Others, like class, *can* be changed, but for the vast majority of people in lower classes they will never see a higher socio-economic strata. Belief isn’t a faucet, so you can’t choose that, but you can choose not to identify with a privileged group by rejecting passing privilege.

    As far as being Muslim, despite Islamophobia, you can give court testimony in all 50 states (pretty sure you’re American). In many states witnesses are requires to profess a belief in (any) God. Some of these states also bar non-believers from public office. Jews can experience anti-Semitism, but Judaism is comfortably culturally accepted in a way more marginalized religions are not–there’s an abundance of Jews and Christians in public office, to use the previous example.

    It’s not just about being religious vs. non-religious. Atheism is more acceptable in many circles than smaller/marginalized religious groups–look at the way Christians often respond to pagan groups to prevent them from worshipping and living in peace, in a way they don’t often prevent atheists from doing the non-religious equivalent.

    We can discuss Christian privilege, as it’s really only the Christians who have institutionalized privilege ALL THE TIME in our society, but it’s harder to distinguish when, say, a Muslim and a non-theistic agnostic hold privilege over each other, and I think that requires more nuance than any single checklist can give.

  367. Momentary
    June 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Shaun:
    In many states witnesses are requires to profess a belief in (any) God. Some of these states also bar non-believers from public office.

    Care to provide some links to back those claims up?

  368. Shaun
    June 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Oh shit, I forgot I had to “back up claims” when speaking out against a privileged majority.

    Here you go, second result on google: http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/StateConstitutions.htm

  369. Momentary
    June 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Shaun:
    Oh shit, I forgot I had to “back up claims” when speaking out against a privileged majority.

    Well, a factual claim like that does seem like it warrants a reference. http://www.surprisinger.com/2009/02/q-is-it-really-illegal-for-atheists-to.html seems to provide a more full and accurate picture of the situation.

    Here you go, second result on google: http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/StateConstitutions.htm

  370. Momentary
    June 7, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Wow, the above comment got mangled. This part was mine:

    Well, a factual claim like that does seem like it warrants a reference. http://www.surprisinger.com/2009/02/q-is-it-really-illegal-for-atheists-to.html seems to provide a more full and accurate picture of the situation.

  371. Kristen J.
    June 7, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Momentary: Care to provide some links to back those claims up?

    He can’t. Torcaso v Watkins settled that 50 years ago. The laws may be on the books, but they aren’t enforceable. Also, you may affirm rather than swear.

  372. Shaun
    June 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    In a country where pharmacists routinely illegally deny people contraceptives because of their religious beliefs, and even state-employed ministers of the peace feel they can justify refusing to marry interracial couples, do you really think professing non-belief in Jesus Christ wouldn’t result in illegal discrimination in some places? I know a woman who was denied a LIBRARY CARD in Mississippi for not being Christian (I’m not sure by context if she’s Jewish like her husband or just non-theistic). The fact that’s illegal and ridiculous doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

    Also, regardless of de jure status, the fact there’s one (1) openly non-theistic member of Congress in the entire history of the United States kind of illustrates my point.

  373. Shaun
    June 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Oh look Momentary, right in the link you provided there’s a comment about how South Carolina refused to allow Herb Silverman to become a notary public in 1993. Googling confirms the existence of this event. It took four years of fighting it for him to be awarded this status–something most people aren’t in a privileged enough position to do–despite the fact THIS WAS ILLEGAL THE ENTIRE TIME IT WAS OCCURING.

  374. Kristen J.
    June 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Natalia: I keep talking about how scary religion is in general (regardless of its national or historic context, since the world is so much bigger than the US, and yet the US is not really that special – and I wish more people would realize this), so I’m not quite sure where it is that I am being extraordinarily dismissive. The position that Christian feminists are in also comes with its own baggage attached – and not just because someone will throw some snark your way on a blog every once in a while. The harm that’s visited upon people by the sort of things we have discussed here – the abuse, the terror, etc. – it does not exclusively affect people who have left the faith, or never have been part of the faith to begin with. Abused by people in the name of Jesus? Hey, me too.

    I think it’s pretty sweet, for the most part, to be a certain kind of Christian in the US. But this “certain kind” thing really makes all of the difference. Not that I’m whining or complaining or anything – I’m personally quite grateful to be where I am.

    Comparing joining an organized religion to owning a computer is pretty dismissive in my view. I can only speak to USian Christianity because its what I know and its what is dominant in this context not because it super special. You know dudes who don’t perform gender “correctly” get shat on by society, but they still benefit from male privilege. Same deal. Being Mormon will likely result in some significant discrimination, that doesn’t help the person in Idaho that has been denied access to abortion, sex education, equal rights because of the Christian Right…who may also be Mormon. Fits into that category of “Institutional Christian bigotry hurts Christians too!”

  375. Momentary
    June 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I agree with your overall points, including pretty much everything you just said. I think it’s a legacy of suck that those state constitutions still contain those clauses, and that it should be fixed. But I did not think your claim on that specific point, as originally stated, was accurate. The facts are bad enough, I prefer not to see them diluted by hyperbole.

  376. Momentary
    June 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Shaun:
    Oh look Momentary, right in the link you provided there’s a comment about how South Carolina refused to allow Herb Silverman to become a notary public in 1993. Googling confirms the existence of this event. It took four years of fighting it for him to be awarded this status–something most people aren’t in a privileged enough position to do–despite the fact THIS WAS ILLEGAL THE ENTIRE TIME IT WAS OCCURING.

    Yes, I consider the comment also part of the full and complete picture. But your original statement implied this discrimination was legal, which is what I was challenging.

  377. Shaun
    June 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Sadly legality and reality dine at entirely separate tables.

  378. honeyandlocusts
    June 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Back! So much to respond to!

    @La Lubu, way upthread, thank you for those references. I just got Maria Laurino’s book at the library and am looking forward to reading it this week. Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum is underrepresented in my library system – they only have “Oral Tradition of Italian-Americans” in microform. But I will keep an eye out for that name at bookstores.

    @Kristen J. way upthread, the art you made sounds awesome, and amazing. Thank you for sharing your story.

    @little light and Nahida and Shoshie, much appreciation.

    I would also like to add some clarity to the commenters that interpret me saying that one can only interact with a religious tradition if one does it “correctly.” I am glad that so many are aware that multiple interpretations of texts, characters, and traditions exist, and that this is part of what can make religious practice vibrant, diverse, rich, and deep, and that we should not silence the blossoming of meaning that happens with multiple interpretations. (I feel puzzled, too, at some intimations that somehow I am against religious critique. The OP is, itself, a religious and theological critique, and it contains within it both strong opinions about the current state of the power structure in USian Christianity as well as explicit acknowledgement of the devastation that happens in the marriage of Christianity and empire. I am intensely critical of abuses of religious power, as I am critical of all kinds of abuses of power. Other people with religious practices who have commented in this thread have also acknowledged the horrors committed in the name of religion.)

    I did not state this clearly in the OP, assuming that it might be clear since I was writing for a feminist blog and using a feminist theological lens, that I do have priorities when it comes to interpretations. I do believe that a feminist analysis is better than a misogynist stereotype. I believe that using a feminist lens is better than using an anti-feminist lens. And I struggle with the institutional racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism of the famous feminist power structure, just like I do with those things in Christianity, which is why I believe an intersectional analysis that prioritizes is best of all. I believe that claiming and reclaiming of the history of marginalized people is important work, including within religious narratives. I believe that Lady Gaga is uncritically using a misogynist trope of a prominent character in the Christian story. I believe that this kind of uncritical use collaborates with Christian misogyny and actually makes real people’s lives more difficult. To make it personal: having to cope with the virgin/whore thing as a young queer woman priest (and “young, woman, and queer” are all marks against me in my system) makes my day-to-day much, much harder. It’s hard enough to go to work every day as a young queer woman, with all the stereotypes about how I’m too pretty or I’m not pretty enough or I’m too scandalous and how many people have I had sex with and did I ever sleep with men and what makes me think I should be a priest anyway and why couldn’t I just stay closeted and it’s nice to have a woman as an assistant priest but “we wouldn’t want one in charge…you’re not offended by that, are you?” and why does my queer and trans* partner dress like that and and and…all of that is difficult enough without Lady Gaga stepping in on a global stage to affirm an ancient misogynist/patriarchal interpretation of Mary of Magdala, a character who is critical in advocacy for gender equity in church leadership.

    Of course Christian narratives about women have been and continue to be major contributors to the deeply ensconced misogyny of western culture. (This is why I think that it is desperately important to tell stories in anti-misogynist ways, to “get the story right.”) However, misogyny is not limited to religious environments. And the type of interrogation that I receive at work is, sadly, not limited to religious environments. This kind of stereotyping is not confined to religious dialogue. And this is why I could not disagree with Daisy Deadhead at 362 more strongly. This was absolutely not intended to be a Christians-only discussion. I am glad and grateful, always, to be in conversation with atheists.

  379. Kristen J.
    June 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Re: misogynistic trope

    Why? That sliver of the video appeared to me to be challenging Mary’s purported repentance rather than

  380. Kristen J.
    June 7, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Re: misogynistic trope

    Why? That sliver of the video appeared to me to be challenging Mary’s purported repentance. Which sort of falls in with the “moral” of the annointing of Jesus (as commonly told) – Mary was so overwhelmed at being forgiven that she cried and washed Christ’s feet with her tears. Moral: Through repentance (including penance) you are forgiven and walk away a new person. Gaga acting as Mary the conflicted woman greatful for the forgiveness but not fully repentant seems to me to be a perfectly thoughtful critique of the story of Mary (as commonly told).

    Whether that is what Gaga (or more likely the video producer) were trying to accomplish is iffy in either event, but given the stated theme of the song and the particular story chosen as the “highlight,” I’m less inclinded to believe that it was complete coincidence.

  381. June 7, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    DaisyDeadhead: I see this as an intended-discussion among Christians. (Wasn’t it intended to be?) I don’t even see why atheists are participating, except to insult (and silence?) the participants.

    I’m sorry, where does it say that comment threads are open to Christians only here?

  382. June 7, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Shaun: Also, regardless of de jure status, the fact there’s one (1) openly non-theistic member of Congress in the entire history of the United States kind of illustrates my point.

    Actually, there used to be a lot of non-theistic politicians. Several of them wrote the Constitution and other founding documents. It’s more accurate that there’s only been one openly non-theistic member of Congress in modern times, probably since the Great Awakening.

  383. PrettyAmiable
    June 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    It’s implied, you hateful occupier.

    (PS, I especially liked the part where she ignored the existence of non-Christian theists on this thread, like Nahida and Shoshie haven’t been an integral part of this discussion).

  384. Shaun
    June 7, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Conceded, Zuzu. I was definitely thinking of modern times when I wrote that.

  385. Kristen J.
    June 8, 2011 at 12:40 am

    To be clear my prior post is why I’m confused about the “getting the story right” idea. Because I see multiple ways to critique the “popular” conception of Mary. And I read you as saying its colluding with the patriarchy unless you show a particular (not generally accepted) interpretation of Mary.

    That is in my view ignores her multi-faceted symbolic role in Christianity. She is (generally) portrayed (rightly or wrongly) as a repentent prostitute and used to demonstrate the breath and depth of Christ’s capacity to forgive (because sex workers require absolution of course). There is a crap load of things to unpack in that single facet alone. From slut shaming, to forgiveness and penance, to supplication. None of which strikes me as particularly patriarchy reinforcing.

  386. June 8, 2011 at 4:00 am

    Comparing joining an organized religion to owning a computer is pretty dismissive in my view.

    Kristen, I’m sure you recall how computers and their parts are manufactured – and the people who regularly suffer harm in this process. I don’t mean this as a “gotcha” – but I do think that what is or isn’t regularly deemed “problematic” can result from a very selective process. A lot of the people posting here have been harmed by institutional bigotry within religion – some people, if they were part of this religion, then leave. Others don’t. In your daily life, being part of a religion is both a privilege and a burden – just as not being part of it also results in this duality. Religious communities are a fascinating mindfuck, after all – and sometimes much worse than that.

  387. Matt
    June 8, 2011 at 4:45 am

    IrishUp:
    I often read and hear one’s religion described as “a choice”; almost always by those who are not self-identifying as religious. The fact that a religious/spiritual identity is deemed a choice seems to me to be the basis for a lot of the “calling out” that goes on. And calling out a person for their choices is, as we all understand it, fair game. It’s criticizing someone’s actions, not who they are inherently born.

    It’s pretty privileged to view a person’s religion as a choice at all. Reallistically, in the US and elsewhere, how much choice does an individual actually get to exercise w/r/t religion? Doesn’t that vary with where you’re born, and in what class/ caste? Don’t the privileges of wealth, education, and gender play into it? How free are most people to explore further into their religious/spiritual identities, much less openly move into othe areas? For those of us who have no personal experience with the familial and societal costs of bucking religious traditions and expectations, can you at least imagine what daunting barriers are in the way? How much these costs might make the term “choice” a functional illusion for a given individual?

    The thing is, that for those of us who DO self-identify along a religious or spiritual axis, that identity is seldom experienced as “a choice”. It’s part of the metaframe of our existence. It is as central to who we are as our sexual identification, ethnic identification, gender identification. Thus, what might seem like a critique of someone’s choice, is in fact experienced as an attack on who thy are.

    On a structural level, how I, the individual, experience and practice MY religous/spiritual life is a far far different thing from the institutions of organized religion. Valid critiques of the organized institutions & the systems they put in place are necessary and important. Criticizing a person for being a part of such an organization gets right into the same territory as blaming someone for shopping at WalMart, and starts to get into victim blaming.

    im glad you are willing to admit that humans have no personal agency, which is quite ironic from a religion based on free will. being racist isnt a choice either. and i bet if i made a racist comment you would be all over me. hypocrite.

    to quote you:
    “The thing is, that for those of us who DO self-identify along a racist or classist axis, that identity is seldom experienced as “a choice”. It’s part of the metaframe of our existence. It is as central to who we are as our sexual identification, ethnic identification, gender identification. Thus, what might seem like a critique of someone’s choice, is in fact experienced as an attack on who thy are.”

    honestly ive never seen someone walk into this argument(logic trap/producer of intense irony for my amusement) so perfectly. my attitudes towards women are just as much of a part of my essential makeup as your religion is of yours. btw, those views while based on an evolutionary human privilege foundation, conflate in nearly all cases to feminism. except the part where i acknowledge that just as your religion and my beliefs on women are not a choice, so too are the beliefs of rapists and misogynists and racists not a choice either. you see we were all raised in the patriarchy, just as you were raised in your religion, with it coloring and influencing your whole life and its attitudes towards all things being more or less your attitudes. i dont rape people because of the patriarchy but some people do. i dont remove female agency in a conscious fashion because of the patriarchy. the patriarchy is not responsible for a rapists actions. remember as a feminist you must believe that only the rapist is responsible. just like you dont oppress non cis-gendered people and the structure of your religion isnt responsible for the bad things people do with it.

    tl;dr
    either your religion is a choice, or racism/sexism isnt a choice. chew on that homeskillet.

  388. Momentary
    June 8, 2011 at 5:20 am

    honeyandlocusts:
    I believe that Lady Gaga is uncritically using a misogynist trope of a prominent character in the Christian story.I believe that this kind of uncritical use collaborates with Christian misogyny and actually makes real people’s lives more difficult.To make it personal: having to cope with the virgin/whore thing as a young queer woman priest (and “young, woman, and queer” are all marks against me in my system) makes my day-to-day much, much harder.It’s hard enough to go to work every day as a young queer woman, with all the stereotypes about how I’m too pretty or I’m not pretty enough or I’m too scandalous and how many people have I had sex with and did I ever sleep with men and what makes me think I should be a priest anyway and why couldn’t I just stay closeted and it’s nice to have a woman as an assistant priest but “we wouldn’t want one in charge…you’re not offended by that, are you?” and why does my queer and trans* partner dress like that and and and…all of that is difficult enough without Lady Gaga stepping in on a global stage to affirm an ancient misogynist/patriarchal interpretation of Mary of Magdala, a character who is critical in advocacy for gender equity in church leadership.

    Welcome back, honeyandlocusts.

    Thank you for speaking so directly to how this affects you personally in your work. I had suspected much of this from reading between the lines of your original post, but did not want to presume. I respect the work you are trying to do and believe and acknowledge that ongoing representations of Mary Magdalene which center her sexuality and depict her primarily as struggling and troubled do resonate with the patriarchal justifications for marginalizing her and subordinating women within the church, and thus make your work within the church harder.

    However. I’m very uncomfortable accepting that as the whole story. I don’t think Gaga’s depiction in Judas is uncritical per se, I think it’s her engagement with the themes Mary Magdalene was presented to her as symbolizing while she was growing up in her particular Catholic tradition, and expressive of the ways in which she has had to fight and compromise and subvert within the also very patriarchal system where she works. Yes, she’s very powerful now, but she had to take off her pants to get there, and she clearly has a lot of feelings about that, and I see a lot of (messy, associative) engagement with that in her lyrics and in the video.

    Returning to your original post to pull out this quote:

    It matters because Lady Gaga is actually siding with the patriarchs on this one, portraying Mary as a pretty corrupt person caught between two loves, one “good” and one “bad.”

    I was actually shocked when I read that the first time. I mean to ask this gently, but isn’t it at least equally siding with the patriarchs to buy in to the idea that a woman caught between two loves, one “good” and one “bad” is a pretty corrupt person? As opposed to just a human person grappling with human feelings?

    I think we all do wind up having to make our own accomodations to the systems we work within, where we accept some things at least for a time while working to affect others. It sounds like for where you are, right now, it makes more sense to stand up for Mary Magdalene as not the sexual sinner she was previously portrayed as being, than to fight the idea that those were sins at all, or relevant in any way to women’s role within the church. But I believe that other people who are in different places, who also have her, especially the sexual sinner version of her, as a strong, culturally installed part of their symbolic landscape, are not being irresponsible by engaging with that symbolism on their own terms, even though the results make it harder for you.

  389. June 8, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Kristen J.:

    Whether that is what Gaga (or more likely the video producer) were trying to accomplish is iffy in either event, but given the stated theme of the song and the particular story chosen as the “highlight,” I’m less inclinded to believe that it was complete coincidence.

    Just an FYI, the Judas vid was co-directed by GaGa and Laurieann Gibson

    —-

    Also I don’t see much being said about GaGa’s history working in the sex industry (stripper/burlesque depending where you read), and how that might inform her interpretations of all this stuffs. I guess I’m just sort of surprised I didn’t see it mentioned (least not as far as recall, I just spent hours reading this entire thread so if it was mentioned I guess I missed it).

  390. AnonForThis
    June 8, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I do have priorities when it comes to interpretations. I do believe that a feminist analysis is better than a misogynist stereotype. I believe that using a feminist lens is better than using an anti-feminist lens.

    I think this is where a lot of my gut reaction to your post came from. Its clear that you have priorities, and it is clear that you are a feminist, but it really did feel like your post was written by someone who felt that someone who did not share their priorities and particular feminist outlook in a very specific area was necessarily a misogynist. I read your original post as saying “Lady Gaga doesn’t have the same priorities as me, I am a feminist, therefore Lady Gaga’s engagement with this material is clearly and objectively misogynistic.” Coming from a priest (which, frankly, feels like a pretty key area of privilege/difference in this discussion) that kind of statement, with that level of judgement and finality, felt assaultive.

    I believe that Lady Gaga is uncritically using a misogynist trope of a prominent character in the Christian story. I believe that this kind of uncritical use collaborates with Christian misogyny and actually makes real people’s lives more difficult. To make it personal: having to cope with the virgin/whore thing as a young queer woman priest (and “young, woman, and queer” are all marks against me in my system) makes my day-to-day much, much harder. It’s hard enough to go to work every day as a young queer woman, with all the stereotypes about how I’m too pretty or I’m not pretty enough or I’m too scandalous and how many people have I had sex with and did I ever sleep with men and what makes me think I should be a priest anyway and why couldn’t I just stay closeted and it’s nice to have a woman as an assistant priest but “we wouldn’t want one in charge…you’re not offended by that, are you?” and why does my queer and trans* partner dress like that and and and…all of that is difficult enough without Lady Gaga stepping in on a global stage to affirm an ancient misogynist/patriarchal interpretation of Mary of Magdala, a character who is critical in advocacy for gender equity in church leadership.

    I’m not sure the latter (Lady Gaga’s engagement with this material does not help your internal, institutional advocacy) means the former (Lady Gaga is uncritically repeating a misogynistic trope). Her priorities and concerns are not your priorities and concerns because she isn’t you. She isn’t working towards (or through) the same things. Looking at the video I saw something I’ve seen a lot of, both in my life and in the lives of others: I saw someone struggling with the images that had infected them and trying to play with them and reclaim their power rather than alter them to a different purpose.

    This is one of the things I’ve found most difficult about your posts here. There is a very real sense that you believe there is a right way and a wrong way to engage with certain kinds of material. Yes, its entirely possible that Lady Gaga is using the image of Mary in a form that has been very damaging to the work you do. Its possible that she is drawing a Mary that has been used in your church by misogynists to hurt women in general and you in specific. The rub, though, is that Lady Gaga isn’t in your church, was exposed to the same permutations of the image, and isn’t a priest. Context matters. You want to reclaim the image of Mary to enrich the lives of women in your church. The problem is that a lot of people have been affected by this image and many (most?) aren’t a part of your church and have no responsibility to advance your work. Thats where I see the privilege in your posts, you seem to be assuming that other people have a responsibility to engage in discourses which help you. There is a sense of entitlement, a (dare I say it?) uncritical sense that everyone ought to be behind what you’re doing and that your experience, motives, and priorities are primary. That people who do not make your life and work easier are either ignorant, venal, misogynistic, just plain wrong, or some especially terrible combination.

    Meanwhile, Lady Gaga is a real human being with a real human experience (and a real human claim on the images she’s playing with). She’s been playing with drag for a long time, it seems to be her preferred method. Up until now it seems shes focused primarily on taking the piss out of femininity, on stepping into images which are devalued and reviled and claiming them, on engaging with aspects of herself as a woman that she was told were wrong and instead of changing them or hiding them choosing to perform them to the nth degree in the hopes of transcending them. I think thats where a lot of the trans rumors came from, people picked up on the satirically exaggerated femininity and identified her as doing drag. Now she’s making religion into drag. She’s taking this thing that has had a decidedly mixed effect on her (just like femininity did) and performing it. Its not uncritical, its personal and not necessarily aimed at helping your institution.

  391. Momentary
    June 8, 2011 at 11:33 am

    FeministWhore: Just an FYI, the Judas vid was co-directed by GaGa and Laurieann Gibson

    —-

    Also I don’t see much being said about GaGa’s history working in the sex industry (stripper/burlesque depending where you read), and how that might inform her interpretations of all this stuffs. I guess I’m just sort of surprised I didn’t see it mentioned (least not as far as recall, I just spent hours reading this entire thread so if it was mentioned I guess I missed it).

    Thanks for adding these. I didn’t know that part of Gaga’s history, and I didn’t know about Laurieann Gibson, who seems amazing. Interview with her here with some very relevant quotes:

    THR: You’ll be co-directing the video for “Judas,” is it safe to assume that the clip will have a religious theme?

    Gibson: It went through several changes and late-night debates because at one point, there were two completely different views and I was like, ‘Listen, I don’t want lightning to strike me! I believe in the gospel and I’m not going there.’ And it was amazing because to have that conversation about salvation, peace and the search for the truth in a room of non-believers and believers, to me, that was saying God is active in a big way. And the place that it came to is surreal. We don’t touch on things that we have no right touching upon, but the inspiration and the soul and idea that out of your oppression, your darkness, your Judas, you can come into the marvelous light. So it’s about the inspiration and to never give up… We’ve created a new Jerusalem.

    THR: If the final treatment didn’t sit well with you, would you have walked away from the video?

    Gibson: Absolutely. I do believe God inspired and worked on everyone’s heart, but yes. I would have been like, “Good bye, I ain’t doing it. No way.” But the place it came to is really magical. And she’s dancing her face off.

  392. June 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I honestly think that it takes a special kind of privilege to impose one’s view of God on other people, and that includes the statements that God is working even on the hearts of the nonbelievers in the room. Because that is not at all condescending.

  393. June 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Shaun: It’s not just about being religious vs. non-religious. Atheism is more acceptable in many circles than smaller/marginalized religious groups–look at the way Christians often respond to pagan groups to prevent them from worshipping and living in peace, in a way they don’t often prevent atheists from doing the non-religious equivalent.

    Hence why, I think it would be great if non-religious commenters
    could question and challenge Christian privilege without be dismissive, prejudice and down right oppressive to religious minorities.
    Some people are saying All religions are this and that when they are really only talking about patriarchal religions or in some cases what they are saying only relates some forms of Christianity.

    When people lump all religions together this * is* a form of oppression towards religious minorities. It is not a about hurt feeling it is about the complete erasure of our existence. It is about the assumption Christianity is Default for all religions. And since religious minorities have to deal with that from the dominant culture is not OK that some non-religious people jump on that bandwagon.

    Furthermore, the comments that implied that this is about the oppression of non-religious from religious are oppression Olympics. Because religious minorities are just as much of a marginalized group as non-religious. We lose our housing, we have children taking away from us, we are deny the right to practice faith. We are oppressive too. So is it annoying as hell, that we got to take hatred and disrespect from some people in the majority religions and than turn around and get the some crap from atheists.

    So once again, if you want to have a debate about Christianity do so and leave the rest of us out of it. And stop with the religious generalizations!

    Emburii: Being a feminist and a religionist is cognitively dissonant, which is why some people are saying you can’t be both.

    Nope, but being a person who has multiple oppressed identities and understand the complexity of identities at times does.
    Some feminists seem to always be asking us to choice as if we can dissect ourselves to make them comfortable.

    Others have say or implied this but I want to second the notion that the ability to separate spiritual identity from ethnicity/culture is a privilege.
    For example, my rejection of Christianity ( for myself) means that I will forever be remove from a strong part of my culture and history : The Black church. Hence, why I would never suggest that someone from a oppressive group leave a religion. That is saying GIVE UP YOUR community, your support system, give up what helps you cope with discrimination cause White western feminists says it oppresses you.

  394. Bagelsan
    June 8, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    It’s implied, you hateful occupier.

    But PrettyAmiable, some of my best friends are Christians! ;D

    More seriously, I like hearing what religious people think about their religion; “god” knows it’s better than assuming they never think about it at all. But it’s patently ridiculous to presume that no one else will have any input about a discussion of Christianity, especially in an audience with many Western/North American commenters.

    I can’t repeat often enough (apparently) that many atheists are perfectly saturated in religious (mostly Christian, at least in the ‘States) education. I went to Sunday school as a kid, I read an adorable comic-book version of all the bible stories back-to-back repeatedly, I sang in the choir, and when I decided that I didn’t believe a word of it my devoutly Episcopal mother was not thrilled but she respected it (after I proved that I refused to attend church on moral grounds, rather than in an attempt to sleep in on Sundays.)

    She and I love and respect each other immensely, and manage to have lots of religious discussions, so please don’t pretend that only currently practicing Christians know anything about the religion. Or that atheists can’t possibly have religious people who are precious to them. Or that any non-Christian minority could escape knowing about Christianity, in fact — how many times have “Christ figures” been referenced in American popular culture? It’s practically a requirement for “deep” cinema, isn’t it? :p

    If anything can be discussed and criticized and hated and loved and dismissed and used and abused and referenced universally, it must be Christianity, the religion that we all have been immersed in (or, at least, which has sought to immerse us all on some occasion.) And with billions of people both “pro” and “con” good luck restricting the use and abuse to only your chosen true-believer Scotsman few. And, more kindly, I think that Jesus would have been down with everyone being invited to this discussion, yeah? Even us prostitutes atheists? He was big on stray lambs and I’m sure that entirely disdainful lambs who don’t believe in him count too. :p

  395. honeyandlocusts
    June 8, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    @Kristen J., oh there is SO much to unpack here, you are totally right. And I may beg people’s pardon and go all biblical scholar about Mary of Magdala and the anointing woman for several paragraphs in a future response (I thought that would be a bit much for the OP, but believe me I can write about this shit for days). I would like to ask you a clarifying question, though – I am reading your last sentence as saying that you’re not sure why slut shaming, and the idea that sex workers need absolution/forgiveness, are ideas in collusion with patriarchy. Am I correct in that? I’m asking because I see slut shaming and the idea that sex workers of course need absolution as two things definitely in line with patriarchy/kyriarchy. I very much do not want to misrepresent you or your question before attempting a more comprehensive response. (Bringing some of the biblical scholarship and early Christian contextualization might also help illuminate some of what Momentary was shocked by when I made the statement about Mary’s portrayal as someone corrupt, torn between Jesus and Judas, and about why portraying her as so conflicted is problematic and in collusion with patriarchal (mis)understandings of her and of women in general, (mis)understandings that go back to the Eve mess.)

    @Momentary – OMG this conversation has gotten SO GOOD, and thank you for that really thoughtful and deep commentary (particularly that last paragraph at 389!!!) and thank you for the quoted article.

    In response to both you and some of AnonForThis’s lines of thinking around Lady Gaga working her religious stuff out, and her rightful claim to doing so, I’m going to attempt an analogy, stating up front that all analogies are imperfect. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was an intensely personal working out of one man’s faith. It was about him grappling with his understanding of his own symbol set, his history, his pain. I am certain that we could find equivalent quotes from the crew and the actors who worked on that movie, about the faith of Mel Gibson, and the conversations that happened with the actors in The Passion of the Christ, about the ways that they self-report experiencing deep connection and faith during the making of the film. The movie is a work of art that is profoundly connected to Mel Gibson’s personal history, faith, and struggle, as a real human being with a real human experience. Given all that, are we not allowed to critique it? Are we not permitted to be horrified at the anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism of the film, knowing especially how those theological tropes have been used to justify the murder and genocide of Jewish people? Are we not allowed to say that the obsession with Jesus’s mangled body contributes to a really fucked up Christian understanding of suffering, and permits some Christians to think that all suffering is redemptive, thus relieving them from actually doing anything to alleviate the suffering of people right in front of them? (I wish I were making up that interpretation of the cross; alas, I am not.) Am I not allowed to point out that the scholarship and research Mel Gibson were using to make that movie were sub-par? Is it different just because we kind of like Lady Gaga and hate Mel Gibson? (Well, at least I think it is a feminist obligation to despise Mel Gibson. I can’t even type his name this many times without hissing out loud.)

    I believe we are permitted to make those critiques. I believe that those critiques are demanded, actually, since the implications of those particular stories/theologies are far-reaching. Making theological statements on a global stage means that there are global implications and that that art is up for critique, most especially by those who are most hurt by it. As I understand it,it is precisely because of Christian dominance, because of the ways that Christian narratives about women unfortunately bleed into common life, that the dialogue about figures in Christian narratives has implications for many people. This means my critique of this video is not internal to Christians. (Although if it were internal to Christians, it would still impact over 2 billion people, around 93-95% of whom are not in the U.S.) I am not the only person who is affected by the virgin/whore ideology. I purposefully did not use personal examples in the OP because I did not want the post to be All About My Oppression In One Very Particular Situation, and I did not bring them up to imply that she only makes Christian ladies’ lives harder. I am not working at the reclamation of Mary of Magdala simply because it will benefit Christian women, although I do believe Christian women are worth benefiting. I believe a feminist telling of her story will temper Christian misogyny in general, with a significantly wider impact than The Episcopal Church. This issue is not reducible to me, my church, my devotional practices, my community – Bagelsan at 395 outlined the issues at play here very, very well, I think.

    Finally, well said, Sisou.

  396. honeyandlocusts
    June 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    (AnonForThis – this is a side note, but since we’re talking, I am wondering if in comment 18, you were implying that I am TAB? [You wrote: “But you identify as a priest. Being white or cis or TAB brings it’s won baggage too. It comes with certain kinds of privilege.”] I would write to you individually because I don’t like it to appear like I’m doing some kind of triumphalist call-out or anything – I definitely am not, I find that tactic not building of community – but I don’t have a website or e-mail for you, so I will ask forgiveness for doing it in a public comment. I would like to clarify part of my own position and identity, because I am not TAB, and my illness is a pretty important part of me, and it feels scary to have it erased. I’ve been going back and forth about this over the course of the past week, about whether it was worth it to attempt a correction, and finally discerned that I would actually appreciate some clarity about what you meant. I stated in my bio that one of the things my work centers around is life with mental illness. I live with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, some lifelong and some as a result of a recent massive trauma. I wrote about this here, if you are interested: http://specialcommunion.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/mental-health-and-the-priesthood-in-honor-of-blogging-against-disablism-day/. The most recent major trauma happened after I wrote this post, so is not included in it.)

  397. June 8, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Bagelsan: But PrettyAmiable, some of my best friends are Christians! ;D

    Rare Vos: As for respecting individual theists: my three closest friends are: A Jehovah’s Witness, a Baptist, and a reform Jew.
    friends are Christians! ;D

    Daisy was totally out of line, but she wasn’t the one who brought up her friends.

  398. June 8, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    ^weirdly messed up comment.

  399. June 8, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Sylphstorm: I honestly think that it takes a special kind of privilege to impose one’s view of God on other people, and that includes the statements that God is working even on the hearts of the nonbelievers in the room. Because that is not at all condescending.

    This is important. Someone mentioned upthread that when a religious person defensively says something like, “I wouldn’t tell someone they were going to Hell because only God can judge that!” they feel that it is imposing and oppressive, because they don’t believe in God and it’s erasure to push a fate on them that they don’t accept and believe.

    It’s a little more subtle I think–at least, it’s never occurred to me before, but this one that Sylphstorm used as an example has. Mostly because I’ve seen it used the most–“You’re not REALLY an atheist.”

    I know how that feels. Not with atheism (obviously) but with a lot of other things. It’s infuriating.

  400. June 8, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    honeyandlocusts: Finally, well said, Sisou.

    Seconded.

  401. Bagelsan
    June 9, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Daisy was totally out of line, but she wasn’t the one who brought up her friends.

    Fair enough. I worship at the alter of snark, and sometimes impose my religion on others inappropriately. :p (I mean it a bit honestly, too, in that some of my best friends really are Christians …but I’m not playing that card by participating in the discussion.)

    It’s a little more subtle I think–at least, it’s never occurred to me before, but this one that Sylphstorm used as an example has. Mostly because I’ve seen it used the most–”You’re not REALLY an atheist.”

    This is a good point. I guess it’s a bit like a condescending adult to a small child, after helping them with a project: “oh, yes darling, you definitely did it all by yourself, you big girl!” and they wink at the other adults around them above the child’s head. “Oh, you atheists think that the universe can exist without a creator, that you can be moral and good and functional and inspired without a god, but the rest of us know that you’re just fooling yourselves!” Whatever the truth is, assuming that humans cannot achieve the things they’ve fought for on their own can be very insulting.

    But I would say that even the unsubtle part can be disturbing; I had a very close friend in high school who was a devout Christian, of the gays-go-to-hell kind. She and I discussed it once, and she was clearly sad about it, but firmly stated that she truly believed that gay people would go to hell unless they stopped being gay and found Jesus (which apparently were irreconcilable actions.) And she was a very kind and loving person — I mean, we stayed friends after this even — so I think she was really genuinely upset about this and would love for it not to be true.

    It was like discussing the effects of gravity or something. She knew that the immutable laws of her faith would apply to everyone, even if they didn’t believe it, and was so sad to see people throwing themselves off a cliff of queerness. I haven’t talked to her in ages, so maybe she’s mellowed or changed her opinion, but if not I think that’s a pretty tragic state of mind to be in — for her and the people around her who she thinks are hellbound. I literally cannot imagine a worldview like that, or imposing such a view on a warmhearted little girl who would grow up feeling so helpless and scared about the fate of her friends. She’s judging others, subtly and unsubtly, and it does nothing but cause misery.

  402. Kristen J.
    June 9, 2011 at 12:11 am

    honeyandlocusts: Am I correct in that?

    The last three sentences were meant to be read together. I don’t see why unpacking one of them (as opposed to another) is particularly patriarchy reinforcing. I see Gaga as simply unpacking a different one than the one that you are highlighting.

    Sure unpacking repentance/absolution requires examining Mary (and yeah, it wasn’t actually THAT Mary, but that isn’t the common understanding of the story) from a perspective of a “sinful” woman. You can’t deal with repentance without sin.

    In any event, Momentary expressed what I was attempting to say with a great deal more clarity.

    Re: the Gibson Analogy

    See…the difference is power and how that power is exercised to quash any criticism of the dominant cultural narrative.

  403. Kristen J.
    June 9, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Bagelsan: I haven’t talked to her in ages, so maybe she’s mellowed or changed her opinion, but if not I think that’s a pretty tragic state of mind to be in — for her and the people around her who she thinks are hellbound.

    Possibly not. People in the small town where I lived when the “art” project went down (and where my mom now lives) literally cross the street to avoid me because they honestly believe one of these days god will “strike me down for my (various) blasphemies.”

  404. AnonForThis
    June 9, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Given all that, are we not allowed to critique it?

    Sure, but not all critiques will be equal. A jew critiquing the antisemitism in Gibson’s film would be on pretty firm ground. Another Christian appropriating the experience of jews in order to protect their Church’s market share from the perceived bad PR would be somewhat more shaky.

    I also think that its worth noting that the stated intentions and actual observed effects of Gaga’s performance are very different. Gibson didn’t seem to be grappling with oppression and Gaga isn’t drawing upon a history of brutal oppression that she personally benefitted from and is both openly and actively seeking to perpetuate. That doesn’t make Gaga perfect and it doesn’t make her immune to criticism, but it places some critiques in a category that I’m going to be more suspicious of.

    Are we not permitted to be horrified at the anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism of the film, knowing especially how those theological tropes have been used to justify the murder and genocide of Jewish people?

    I’m reminded of a friend of mine when I was in college. The two of us were driving through an area well known for being hostile to brown folk, he was behind the wheel, neither of us were surprised when we were pulled over. The Barney Fife that sauntered up to the car asked my friend if he was “legal.” My friend’s response was to affect an exaggerated accent and say “yo, esse, I’m a spic, homes, don’t you know no better?” I think thats what Gaga is doing here, I think its worth critiquing, I think its worth discussing, I think its a valuable thing to explore. I don’t, however, think thats what happened here.

    Am I not allowed to point out that the scholarship and research Mel Gibson were using to make that movie were sub-par?

    Thats beyond imperfect analogy and straying into strawman territory. Gibson presented his work as accurate, he took pains to give it the appearance of Truth. Gaga is, and always has been, clearly surreal. She isn’t presenting Judas as biblical scholarship or visual education. Her Mary is to Christianity what a Long Island Ice Tea is to a cup of aged pu-erh.

    I believe that those critiques are demanded, actually, since the implications of those particular stories/theologies are far-reaching.

    Maybe for you. Others, myself included, get a bit of a boost from having some of the power of Christian imagery dragged down into the deeply secular and a sense of empowerment from someone challenging whether being a whore is really such a bad thing after all. Some of us aren’t working from a position of theology. I’d wager that most of the people exposed to Gaga’s video aren’t going to be theologians. Increasingly they aren’t even going to be Christians in the way that you are. They will be the people who take what works because it enriches their lives, the people who find a way to cull meaning from the centuries of oppressive bullshit. To demand a critique of that because their way of engaging with the subject runs contrary to your way is privilege. There needs to be room for both. Given that you stand on the side of the line which has traditionally been responsible for oppression I’m uncomfortable with you demanding in general.

    When you start using phrases like “boring mess,” “generally unhelpful,” and “manipulating serious and beautiful religious imagery to serve her own need for attention,” rather than whatever it is you think she ought to be doing you’re invoking your position of authority. It felt like you were talking down. It felt oppressive because, frankly, there aren’t a whole lot of people in popular music saying its ok to be who you were born and that being a freak or a whore or a slut or strong isn’t all that bad of a thing. There aren’t a whole lot of people in popular culture who will walk out onto a stage night after night and tell people that its ok to stand up and be angry. Historically when they have shown up people in your social position have attacked them by calling them ignorant (theres your mess), antisocial (your unhelpful), misguided (your bitter fucking shoulds), and evil. They’ve been dismissed as insignificant and vilified when dismissal fails.

    Making theological statements on a global stage means that there are global implications and that that art is up for critique, most especially by those who are most hurt by it. As I understand it,it is precisely because of Christian dominance, because of the ways that Christian narratives about women unfortunately bleed into common life, that the dialogue about figures in Christian narratives has implications for many people.

    Thats sounding dangerously close to suggesting that people who have moved on from Christianity need to be careful about how they use their own history for the sake of people who are still there. Which, in turn, sounds a lot like Christians having a valid claim on the discourse of non-Christians.

    AnonForThis – this is a side note, but since we’re talking, I am wondering if in comment 18, you were implying that I am TAB?

    Not really. I was talking about privilege, at least consciously. Though looking back theres probably something more there. And don’t worry about it in public. I’ve been rough on you here because I think its fair, it would be shitty of me to complain about something a lot less rough when you’re reacting from a place of genuine hurt.

    I would like to clarify part of my own position and identity, because I am not TAB, and my illness is a pretty important part of me, and it feels scary to have it erased.

    I absolutely get that. I’m quite familiar with having that axis of my own identity erased. It wasn’t my intention but I certainly understand how it could have felt that way and the bad phrasing is on me. To be honest that might have been brewing somewhere outside of my awareness given your otherwise exhaustive identity claiming. Looking back I suspect that the absence of that axis might have felt like an erasure for me. The inclusion of TAB could well have been me screaming that we’re here, too. Not that thats an excuse.

    I’ve been going back and forth about this over the course of the past week, about whether it was worth it to attempt a correction, and finally discerned that I would actually appreciate some clarity about what you meant.

    Fair enough. I hope I’ve helped clarify where I was coming from.

    I stated in my bio that one of the things my work centers around is life with mental illness. I live with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, some lifelong and some as a result of a recent massive trauma.

    We’re getting off topic here but mental illness and physical disability, while both valid, real, and sources of deep oppression, are not quite the same thing. I live with both, both are a part of me, and they’re different vectors.

  405. June 9, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Bagelsan: so I think she was really genuinely upset about this and would love for it not to be true.

    I believe gay people can go to Heaven, and that simply being attracted to the same sex isn’t even a sin, so this isn’t an issue for me–but say it were, I don’t see why she believes it’s true that God would send gay people to Hell if she HERSELF is upset about it, because the fact that she’s upset about it shows that it’s something she’d be much kinder about and while she’s part of a different religion than I am I’m pretty sure both our religions preach that God is more Merciful than any human being. It would then logically follow that if she had enough mercy and forgiveness and acceptance in her heart to be upset about someone going to Hell for being gay, God would have even more forgiveness and acceptance and not actually send them to Hell.

    Logic?

  406. June 9, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Nahida, that is perfect logic, but I can speak to the fact that, if you are oriented in a particularly compassionate way and you are indoctrinated in a particularly cruel form of theology, then you are not going to stop to think of that kind of logic without being seriously pushed to do so. All you learn to register is, “God is sending people to Hell. I need to help and stop people from going to Hell.” I was in a similar place when I was the age of the friend mentioned by Bagelsan, and the terror for the wellbeing of other people completely overwhelms logic. (This argument, incidentally, was one of the emotional ones that pulled me out of Christianity altogether, although it was years before I identified as atheist. I was Wiccan for five years inbetween.) It’s part of the reason that I’m grateful that I got out – I think that it’s bad for the mental health of children to be raised to be bigoted, not only because bigotry is bad for those against whom it is directed, but because it can cause anxiety issues and depression in people who got the “love the sinner” part of the message and disregarded the rest. It’s a poison for everyone.

  407. Momentary
    June 9, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Hey honeyandlocusts, I’m glad you are finding this conversation valuable, I am too. AnonForThis has already covered a lot of what I would have said in response, so let me see what else I can offer…

    Maybe we should separate out some different kinds of critique in very simple language, for examination. I’m a little uncomfortable talking theology because I don’t really know what exactly theologians consider to be theology or not, so I’m going to talk in terms of archetypes which is more familiar ground to me.

    First off, there’s the critique that says “hey, stop using me as your archetype!” It seems like that’s some of where you started out critiquing Judas, both on behalf of Christianity/Magdalene and on behalf of Latin@ style both secular and religious. And we had that discussion, about whether that critique really fit what was happening on either front, and the conversation has moved on from there.

    Second, there’s the critique that says “hey, stop using that archetype, it belongs to me, and only I have the right to define it!” which can be closely related to and even overlap with the first critique, but treads a lot closer to assertions of institutional power and authority which can be very problematic. I think people have at various points been suspicious that you were making this critique, perhaps in ways you yourself had not fully examined. It doesn’t seem to me like that’s your intent, though.

    Third, there’s the critique, also potentially related to the first, that says “hey, stop misrepresenting me by projecting your archetype onto me which doesn’t actually fit!” For example, I have some fervent critiques of the film Elizabeth on these grounds.

    Fourth, there’s the critique which says “hey, that archetype is a Bad Thought, you should stop using it because it harms us all!” I think we might be moving toward grappling with this one, which is, I think, a very big thing to tackle. A minor form of this critique is to say “hey, my version of this archetype is the one that will be most Good for everyone, so you should stop using any other version that competes with mine!”

    Thoughts? I’m sure I’ve left some out, but those were the ones that were immediately apparent to me. It seems useful to me to separate them because I think they have very different justifications.

  408. Momentary
    June 9, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Sylphstorm:
    Nahida, that is perfect logic, but I can speak to the fact that, if you are oriented in a particularly compassionate way and you are indoctrinated in a particularly cruel form of theology, then you are not going to stop to think of that kind of logic without being seriously pushed to do so.All you learn to register is, “God is sending people to Hell.I need to help and stop people from going to Hell.”I was in a similar place when I was the age of the friend mentioned by Bagelsan, and the terror for the wellbeing of other people completely overwhelms logic.(This argument, incidentally, was one of the emotional ones that pulled me out of Christianity altogether, although it was years before I identified as atheist.I was Wiccan for five years inbetween.)It’s part of the reason that I’m grateful that I got out – I think that it’s bad for the mental health of children to be raised to be bigoted, not only because bigotry is bad for those against whom it is directed, but because it can cause anxiety issues and depression in people who got the “love the sinner” part of the message and disregarded the rest.It’s a poison for everyone.

    I had this experience from the other side at that age, most memorably with an Orthodox Christian friend, and it was a strange position to be in, responding to my friend’s very real and extreme distress and trying to find ways to comfort and reassure him about his belief that I was going to Hell. So I agree with you.

  409. kim
    June 9, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Excellent analysis! Whether you agree with her work or not, Lady Gaga is someone who seems to understand what is required to push discourse on certain topics, and for that, I appreciate her work.

  410. Rare Vos
    June 9, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Are you going to acknowledge why I was forced to bring up my friends?

    LOL (That rhetorical, of course. I already know the answer.)

    ++

    I literally cannot imagine a worldview like that, or imposing such a view on a warmhearted little girl who would grow up feeling so helpless and scared about the fate of her friends. She’s judging others, subtly and unsubtly, and it does nothing but cause misery.

    Something far scarier to me is how can anyone want to brainwash their kids in this manner? Believing in a deity is one thing. Actively and deliberately brainwashing your children with hatred is quite another.

    It’s beyond chilling.

  411. June 9, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Because you thought I was accusing you of being disrespectful when I never was? Sure.

  412. Aaron
    June 9, 2011 at 11:22 am

    @AnonForThis: “A jew critiquing the antisemitism in Gibson’s film would be on pretty firm ground. Another Christian appropriating the experience of jews in order to protect their Church’s market share from the perceived bad PR would be somewhat more shaky.”

    Sort of a detail, but I didn’t interpret the Gibson analogy as one that sought to appropriate the experience of jews in order to protect the PR of the Episcopal church. I am very familiar with the Episcopal church, and I am pretty sure the majority of honeyandlocust’s OP and comments would be considered real bad PR in their own right, by the Episcopal church’s power brokers. Her job could be in serious jeopardy if she were outed here. And if they ever stumble across this thread, there will be hostile Episcopalians/Anglicans trying dig up her identity as a means of discrediting her ministry and pushing her out. The thrust of her argument(s) and engagement here, even where we disagree with them, need to be recognized as deeply and risk-takingly critical of her own tradition– not a publicity stunt on behalf of it. She doesn’t get priest points added to her account as a result of her participation on Feministe. They dock your church cred for this kind of thing, at least within the institution.

  413. Momentary
    June 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Hello Aaron,

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t interpret AnonForThis as intending to accuse honeyandlocusts of that specifically. I read it more as sketching out the messy analogy space. But I’m also very ready to acknowledge that honeyandlocusts, despite speaking here from the historically privileged role of priest, is in fact herself in a position of truly extreme vulnerability within that role. The fact that she is willing to do that, to occupy both those positions at once, and is clearly striving to do so with non-defensiveness, listening, and grace, I think is very powerful, and respect for that is what has motivated me to spend so much time responding on this thread.

  414. Rare Vos
    June 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Because you thought I was accusing you of being disrespectful when I never was? Sure.

    This: “As for respecting individual theists:” was intended to differentiate between the former and following paragraphs. Apologies for not being clear enough that I was talking en masse at that point.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on whether or not you implied disrespect on my part vis a vis theists, as opposed to religion itself. Forums being a crap way to communicate, means everything we post is, potentially, unclear.

  415. June 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Fair enough.

  416. Aaron
    June 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    @Momentary: That makes sense. Thanks!

  417. AnonForThis
    June 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Sort of a detail, but I didn’t interpret the Gibson analogy as one that sought to appropriate the experience of jews in order to protect the PR of the Episcopal church.

    Yeah, that was sloppy writing on my part. One of the things that bothered me about honeyandlocust’s original post was that I felt she was co-opting the experiences of others in order to defend her specific interpretation and advocacy within the Episcopal church. I still think thats there and it still bothers me. She used the Gibson analogy and I was trying to express why I felt her original post was on shaky ground through the context of that analogy. Looking back, that wasn’t clear.

  418. June 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I know I’m super-late coming into this conversation, and I haven’t managed to read all of it — I’m particularly interested in the basic disagreement between the OP and the Anon whose claim was first offered in #4… i.e. what happens at the intersection between the rights of producers to appropriate and represent identities, and the rights of those so-identified to have their integrity respected?

    First, I think it goes without saying that individuals have a right to be respected, especially in terms of their identities, lifestyle choices, etc. Nobody has a right to shut down anyone else’s self-construction; that’s a matter of human dignity, especially in our pluralist world.

    However, it seems to me that symbols, once they’ve entered the cultural reservoir, are up for grabs. That’s not to say that certain representations aren’t totally unfair… just look at any of a thousand expressions of prejudice that still exist in our media: magical negro, woman-in-the-attic, gay best friend, gay Disney villain, etc. In these cases, it’s the association of the identity with a certain negative or normative requirement that’s oppressive. Blacks serve whites, women are emotional, gay men are like women and/or evil, etc. There’s an identifiable structure of control + oppression in each of these, so critique away.

    However, I don’t think Gaga is very subject to this kind of critique. These symbols — the Messiah and Judas figures, chol@ and biker fashion, lipstick-pistol, etc — are pretty much part of the collective vocabulary now, and the act of putting them together in this way is like any other act of poetry — a juxtaposition of signifiers as a way of creating new meaning. Being “playful” — even “frivolous” — isn’t an offense, and there’s very little normative or prescriptive content in any of Gaga’s mobilizations. There’s nothing wrong with play, and I don’t think Gaga has any less right to use them than any other artist or writer who’s working from their own experiences (of Catholicism, urban culture, fashion, self-denial, etc).

  419. Bagelsan
    June 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks Nahida and Sylphstorm! Yeah, talking to my religious friend during her teenage years was hopefully not representative of her future beliefs; no matter how kind or smart you are that’s a pretty fraught (and often not terribly logical) age. I haven’t spoken with her in ages but she went to college in a pretty liberal city and it can’t help but have given her more options, religion/belief-wise. :p

    Also, I’m hopeful for tormented young people in that position because I see the example of people like my mom, who never has held such …horrifying… beliefs as “gay people go to hell” but who has managed to gracefully combine a lot of kindness with often-unkind Episcopal/Biblical teaching. Somehow. :p I think she definitely holds to the “God is merciful and loving” side of things, and gives that belief precedence over lists of who-to-hate and who-goes-to-hell and the like. It’s a nice null hypothesis, that her God loves everybody and that hell is very hard to get to; she assumes it’s true of almost everyone as far as I can tell.

    And I personally don’t really mind my mom’s version of Christianity at all, because she is — as much as possible — thoughtful and compassionate about it. (She might be the only person in the world from whom “I’ll be praying for you!” doesn’t kneejerk offend me! :p) So I’m atheist a bit for political reasons (I’m not keen on the concept of “The Church” or anything so ancient and stodgy and judgmental) and also because I see no compelling reason to believe in any religion, but certainly not because I see no hope of decency in a religious life. I just think many people have to be decent despite their religion, and suspect they would be lovely people without it too. Or often lovelier.

  420. honeyandlocusts
    June 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, AnonForThis. I didn’t claim mental illness in the list of identifiers because I included it in the list of things about my work. The list of identifiers is practically mandatory at Feministe, but is of course never comprehensive. I agree that mental illness and physical disability are not the same vectors, but I didn’t know how much you knew about the disability conversation – all I knew is that you were familiar with TAB language. (Which I have issues with, but off topic.)

    Excited to dig into Momentary’s really interesting breakdown of types of critique, and so grateful to you, Momentary, for your thoughtfulness, generosity, and the commitment of your time to this thread – I am humbled by it.

    I do want to preface this by saying that I think archetypes and theologies are not exactly the same thing, and don’t function in quite the same ways, though there definitely are archetypes in theology and in religious stories.

    First off, there’s the critique that says “hey, stop using me as your archetype!” It seems like that’s some of where you started out critiquing Judas, both on behalf of Christianity/Magdalene and on behalf of Latin@ style both secular and religious. And we had that discussion, about whether that critique really fit what was happening on either front, and the conversation has moved on from there.

    I do have a visceral reaction to the use of Mary of Magdala that is like, “Lady Gaga is at a point of power where she doesn’t have to deal (anymore?) with the fallout of this theology every day. Lady Gaga is at a point of adoration where she apparently feels entitled to use racist language (in Born This Way), and (what I interpret, though my understanding has very much deepened as a result of this conversation) as an appropriative aesthetic in Judas, without suffering any real consequences (and in fact benefiting from that usage, or at a minimum from the ambiguity, like other white lady pop stars before her). Meanwhile, most of the interactions that I have during my day at work – and honestly, outside of work – are colored by gendered interpretations that are absolutely traceable to early patriarchs’ and Jesus followers’ interpretations of women in leadership, interpretations that Lady Gaga is reinforcing without having to deal with the consequences, at least anymore. I am not the only person to have to cope with the ramifications of a virgin/whore dichotomy that has roots in a particular telling of Christian stories.” That is power, and privilege, for her to be able to mess around with this, even if it is intensely personal for her, while the rest of us have to continue to deal. (Note: I am using my personal experiences as illustrations, but by no means intend them to be total pictures of the extent of what I understand to be the damage of her usage of Mary Magdalane. I feel like if I talk about other Christians, I am accused of co-opting, but if I talk about my personal experiences, I am accused of imposing/inscribing my individual situation on a larger conversation. So I feel somewhat conflicted about how to proceed with examples? Because I’ve walked with so many Christian women and queer folks and trans* folks and people who are trans* and queer and women who are not Christian, alongside them in their paths struggling with issues of gender, heroes, stories, traditions, faith, and loneliness, and their stories resonate inside me when I see this video and the ways that this figure is being put out there *again* as a conflicted temptress woman, who repeatedly expresses her love for her vice.)

    p.s. I’m going to break these up because I have a terrible history trying to use the blockquote and quote this comment function and I’m trying an experiment to see if i can effectively pull it off this time.

  421. honeyandlocusts
    June 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Second, there’s the critique that says “hey, stop using that archetype, it belongs to me, and only I have the right to define it!” which can be closely related to and even overlap with the first critique, but treads a lot closer to assertions of institutional power and authority which can be very problematic. I think people have at various points been suspicious that you were making this critique, perhaps in ways you yourself had not fully examined. It doesn’t seem to me like that’s your intent, though.

    I am suspicious of this line of critique, just as you are, precisely because of what you and others have outlined. I think, though, too, that a power analysis in this case is absolutely key. Because sometimes people in a marginalized position are allowed to say, I think, “Hey, please don’t steal that thing to make yourself look cool or pretty.”

    I wonder to about this, too, in relationship to intimacy with particular communities. And this is where you are perceiving, I think, the ambiguity about whether or not I am making this critique. And I find this question very, very tricky, particularly along the axis of religious critique within my argument. What I wonder is if I am allowed to claim specialized knowledge in this area without claiming a monopoly on all meanings. Because that is what I am attempting to do. I am in a position where I hear misogynist theological/religious stories day in and day out. I am a witness 24/7 to the very real psychological and emotional effects of them, which then work in tandem with people’s political and social behavior (particularly the political and social behavior of extremely privileged USian Christians), and by being in that position, I have a perspective that I believe is particularly useful here. I have a front row seat and season tickets to the production, perpetuation, and fallout of particular theological constructions. I really do not think that racial privilege and religious privilege function in the same ways, but I will use them for a moment for the sole purpose of a privilege illustration. This may be parallel to my statement above how, as a white person in a white minority/white supremacist system in my small rural town growing up, I learned a *lot* about what it meant to wield language, particularly to be a white lady and use the word “chola”. As someone in Christian systems, who at least gets to sit in on larger, powerful, dude-run Christian meetings (while being shamed, belittled, patronized, scorned and silenced in them), I have some inside information about how these stories work and play out by people with extreme power and privilege. I also have written and taught extensively about Mary of Magdala in particular (the anointing woman is another of my areas of research, though Lady Gaga conflates these characters as well), and have watched people – mostly women – come ALIVE (and get mad that they’ve been robbed of the power at the root of her story and their own stories!) when learning about her as someone strong, brave, and a leader. These things don’t make me the person who has The Final Word on anything, but I do think it is OK for me to claim some knowledge and expertise in relationship to the story of Mary of Magdala in particular. Does this make sense, without interpreting me as saying, “I have all the insider information and thus anyone who disagrees with me is wrong” or “Bring out the waaahmbulance for the Christian lady”?

  422. honeyandlocusts
    June 10, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Third, there’s the critique, also potentially related to the first, that says “hey, stop misrepresenting me by projecting your archetype onto me which doesn’t actually fit!” For example, I have some fervent critiques of the film Elizabeth on these grounds.

    Is this like my argument about ethical, liberation-focused biblical scholarship about Mary of Magdala (what I consider “good” scholarship) rather than biblical scholarship based on “I secretly am very afraid of women and queer people and I really want to maintain my position of power in my faith”? Because I am in support of such critique.

    P.S. If you ever want to offer such fervent critiques of the film Elizabeth, I would *love* to hear them. As an Anglican, I have stuff around Elizabeth and love love love when people talk about her and portrayals of her.

  423. honeyandlocusts
    June 10, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Fourth, there’s the critique which says “hey, that archetype is a Bad Thought, you should stop using it because it harms us all!” I think we might be moving toward grappling with this one, which is, I think, a very big thing to tackle. A minor form of this critique is to say “hey, my version of this archetype is the one that will be most Good for everyone, so you should stop using any other version that competes with mine!”

    This is difficult and a big thing to tackle. Because I do feel like we are allowed – and sometimes mandated – to say, “You know what? Disney’s Pocahontas is f-u-c-k-e-d.” I think it is important to prioritize some interpretations over others, recognizing that some stories are told in particular ways in order to further conservative agendas. I doubt that if there were a post on Feministe about the fucked-ness of Disney’s Pocahontas, there would be a huge outcry like “But she’s a part of the cultural collective consciousness! There’s no ONE right way to tell her story! Stop telling people how they can or cannot use her! Pocahontas belongs to everybody!” But people feel very comfortable doing that around Mary of Magdala, by which I feel somewhat puzzled, but only somewhat.

    Finally, Momentary, thank you for your response to Aaron about how you experience my responses on this thread. It made me a little emotional, and I’m not an emotional kind of person. Because I did make a specific intentional (and, yes, prayerful) commitment to responding in the comment thread grounded in my religious values of accountability, generosity, empathy, honesty, and humility, and it matters to me very much that those come through. (This is not to say that I do not value fury, or anger – because I do. Some weeks it feels like my entire vocational spiritual task is helping lifelong Christian women get angry, stay angry and express their anger!) Whatever I believe is useless if I am not embodying it, if I am not *being* it, in a meaningful way – and actually this is why I find the conversations about theologies/stories so tricky. Because they are both “belief” and thinking things but they are also embodied values, lived statements. Reducing religion to belief is to buy into a very recent, very patriarchal, very controlling, very fascistic understanding of religion promoted by USian Christian men in the past couple hundred years. Theologies, in reality, run through and are expressed by people’s bodies and lives and actions.

    So much of what I do is strategic, including this analysis of Lady Gaga’s use of Mary of Magdala. I am at my very core a pragmatist, and sort of disinterested in the finer points of belief. Like, fine, you don’t believe in the Virgin Birth. Great! Me neither! And I’m a Christian minister! (Don’t tell my boss! Although I think he suspects!) I think it’s based on terrible biblical scholarship and a whole lot of ladysexbodyfearing. In the meantime, millions upon millions upon millions of people do. And it affects how they go about their lives. It affects how they think about women. How I interact with that is based on how it affects people – my assessment of the quality of the theology is often predicated first on the data of what I see happening when people believe certain things, which is my primary starting place when thinking about Mary of Magdala and popular portrayals of her. (Though sometimes even things like the Virgin Birth can be used in profound and liberating ways. I’m thinking here of Sojourner Truth making a case for women’s equality by saying, “Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”)

  424. honeyandlocusts
    June 10, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Also, @Kristen J., I didn’t come back to you specifically, because you stated that Momentary said what you wanted to say, so I assumed that responding to Momentary would also be a response to you. If you’d appreciate more specific engagement, I’m happy to give it.

    Also, I just kind of start screaming in my office reading things like your story about people crossing the street to avoid you where you grew up.

  425. AnonForThis
    June 10, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    honeyandlocusts: I feel like you’ve reached out to me in a way that meant something and I’ve thought a lot about how I’ve reacted in this thread. I stand by virtually everything I’ve said though I also recognize that my rhetoric has been aggressive. There are reasons for that and, if I’m being honest with myself, I cannot say that I really regret it or that I would have reacted or written differently knowing what I do after reflection. Still, I think there is something worth examining here because we have to live in the same world.

    That is power, and privilege, for her to be able to mess around with this, even if it is intensely personal for her, while the rest of us have to continue to deal.

    I’m trying to find a way to put this thats a little less rough but…thats not really her problem. Just as a woman on a slutwalk wearing a miniskirt isn’t really responsible for how someone else seeing her might be reinforced by her playing with the virgin/whore garbage thats been rammed down her throat and that she’s now reclaiming, I don’t think Lady Gaga is responsible for avoiding means of liberation that might make life more difficult for people who continue to hitch their wagons to an organized Church. I feel like there is an entitlement in your argument that is still unengaged here.

    I see this video and the ways that this figure is being put out there *again* as a conflicted temptress woman, who repeatedly expresses her love for her vice.

    But what of people who want to vamp that image specifically in order to challenge the ideas of temptation and vice that have been so oppressive to so many people for so long? What of people who are genuinely conflicted? What of people trying to reclaim vice and temptation and conflict? I feel like a lot of your critiques revolve around the idea that what Gaga is doing hurts women in the Church by setting off misogynists in the Church and thus is bad. Thats a rough yardstick to judge liberation by.

    I also feel like, and please correct me if I’m misreading your theology, you’re not quite able to understand the relationship with sins that some of us who have walked away have. I think you’re reading non-Christian uses of symbols through a Christian lens and missing when someone is questioning whether something like vice is really such a bad thing. I read both the lyrics in Judas (given what they are, this is probably a purely projective exercise) and the images in the video as not dissimilar what I went through as I found myself moving away from Christianity. Its ambiguous. You’re not sure if Jesus or Judas is the betrayer. You’re not sure whose side you’re on. You’re not sure if whose being betrayed. It is a mess, but one of a very different kind than what I think you’ve implied.

    I had that moment when I was reading Milton. My fixation was on Lucifer, not Mary (what can I say, we had Marilyn Manson and church burning Scandinavians to look up to back then), but I found myself wondering what it meant to suspect that maybe the villain in the story wasn’t who I was told it was all along. Later I began to have to grapple with the question of the conflict between the two interpretations, the straddling of the line, the fact that neither really felt right to mean and that the symbols and interpretations I had weren’t adequate. At the same time I began wondering about my values, about my judgements, about what good and evil meant without this massive framework that was suddenly feeling very dangerous.

    Not all of us embrace and try to fix.

    I have some inside information about how these stories work and play out by people with extreme power and privilege.

    I think its worth noting though that, while clearly damaging to a lot of people, that inside information is highly specialized. The internal processess of American Episcopal theology are probably as foreign and irrelevant in my life (or Lady Gaga’s, for that matter) as they are critical in yours. I live in a part of the country where the Anglicans have never held much sway, after my formal apostasy I’m not even nominally a Christian anymore. I feel as though we’ve been talking past one another (admittedly a lot of that is on me because when I see priests I see enemies after what I’ve lived and its taken some time to contain that) but I feel like there has to be some significance in what happens in the gulf between our two lived experiences. The images of Mary that Gaga is playing with are simultaneously liberating for some and oppressive for others, what do we do with that distance? I’m honestly interested in your answer.

    But people feel very comfortable doing that around Mary of Magdala, by which I feel somewhat puzzled, but only somewhat.

    For me, personally, the difference comes down to history and motivation. First I feel entitled to use Christian stories in any way I see fit because we use images to make meaning of the world and Christianity either stole or exterminated all of the ones I ought to have. Organized Christianity has done a very good job of making sure that the only historical and cultural well I have to drawn on is theirs. Sometimes I have to do a lot of bending, sometimes I have to twist things out of recognizability, but this is what I had forced on me. Christian images, for me, are the symbols of an occupying power that has dominated my people so completely for so long that we have little left other than Christian images and echoes of what we lost centuries ago that were co-opted into public traditions.

    That brings me to the second reason I feel entitled to use Christian images in a way I wouldn’t feel I had the right to use Pocahontas: its an act of rebellion. I know that Christianity means a lot to a lot of people, but my own path of liberation demands that break down the systems which have oppressed me. Sometimes that process cannot be purely internal. To use and misuse an image, to profane, to blaspheme, these are all part of how I have managed to distance myself from something that has been intensely abusive towards me. I’m not burning churches like my counterparts in Scandanavia and I worked out that LaVey was running a con when I was still a kid, but I know that I cannot find liberation in fixing Christianity to my liking. I feel that it oppresses me in basic, intrinsic, fundamental ways. Co-opting Christian imagery, especially when it runs counter to good Christian scholarship, helps me defang something which has actively oppressed me.

  426. JDP
    June 10, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    So I just read through this entire discussion and I feel like maybe no one is tackling the elephant in the room here.

    As complex and powerful as the Judas imagery is within Christian theology (according to the OP, I am not qualified to judge here), it’s still a story written to justify and encourage hate, a story that has a long history of being used to encourage and justify campaigns of violence across Europe for centuries and centuries, and a story that is still the basis for racial slurs and ethnic hatred today.

    Religion is important to people, but it cannot and should not be immutable. Religion, like all aspects of culture, should be routinely investigated, challenged, and reformed. Religious imagery and traditions that have a dark and hateful past should be challenged aggressively. When religious imagery and traditions cannot be separated from that dark and hateful past, there should be room to discuss additional steps of cultural protest against these.

    Is Gaga doing that? Hell if I know. But I feel like the OP’s claim that the Judas story is one that is too important to lose is flat-out wrong. IMO, the question shouldn’t be “is Gaga being respectful concerning a story that is important to billions of Christians?” but rather “can anyone reasonably claim that this specific story which is, and has been the basis for, inflammatory hate literature, still relevant in today’s society without some serious revision and some serious humble soul-searching throughout the range of Christian denominations?” Is a Christianity without the betrayal of Judas (either real or “rigged”) imaginable? If so, what would it look like? I’m not a Christian (and never was one) so I’m not really the right person to answer these questions.

  427. honeyandlocusts
    June 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    AnonForThis, thank you for the reflectiveness expressed in this last post. I am hoping that I can give you a piece of feedback that will be helpful as I engage with your last comment. We have been speaking past each other some on this thread in part because I have not been engaging directly with your comments. To be completely honest, I felt triggered and frightened when I read several of them. My assumption was that you were working from very real and valid anger, and bitterness, which I welcome and find challenging in a completely necessary way. However, I would like to tell you that as a young queer woman in the church, who has considerable experience surviving hostile Internet campaigns against me and my ministry, as well as being someone who has been stalked and cyberstalked, by scary men, that there were qualities of of your comments to me actually set off major fear buttons inside me. This was compounded by you saying, at one point, that you realized you were being rough on me but that you thought that that was fair. You don’t have any way to know about all these other triggers in me, but for me, that just rang in my head like, “Heh heh yeah bitch I’m being rough on you cuz I can”. THIS OBVIOUSLY IS MY STUFF AND PROJECTION OUT OF MY OWN HISTORY AND IS NOT A DESCRIPTION OF WHAT YOU WERE ACTUALLY SAYING. I don’t know your social location, how you identify racially, genderwise, or the rest (outside of the mental illness conversation) but I experienced the personal hostility that you were coming at me with as very, very triggering (and ironically, very similar to the ways that angry Republican Christians have tried to tear me up and tear me down and eat me alive online), which is why I was self-protecting and not engaging you head-on. You are a thoughtful and very intelligent person, and I hope offering this piece of feedback to you, about the ways that I experienced your comments, is useful to help explain why I wasn’t coming back right to the points you were making.

    But because in this last comment I felt some relief from that, and something intuitive and more relaxed, I feel safer addressing some of the points you raised. I will qualify this by saying simply that I’m not guaranteeing further contact if I continue to experience serious triggering in further conversation. I am also answering pretty quickly, for me – I’ve really tried to give myself time on this thread to draft, think, walk away, work, sleep, re-draft to be sure that I am responding out of my best self, with the religious values I stated above, but I am writing relatively quickly here, and it will come out a little more raw.

    I’m trying to find a way to put this thats a little less rough but…thats not really her problem. Just as a woman on a slutwalk wearing a miniskirt isn’t really responsible for how someone else seeing her might be reinforced by her playing with the virgin/whore garbage thats been rammed down her throat and that she’s now reclaiming, I don’t think Lady Gaga is responsible for avoiding means of liberation that might make life more difficult for people who continue to hitch their wagons to an organized Church. I feel like there is an entitlement in your argument that is still unengaged here.

    So part of my point is that because of Christian dominance in common life and discourse (Christian dominance that I find poisonous), I think the implications of Christian theologies play out on people who are not Christian, thereby making lots of peoples’ lives worse, not just those of us who are practicing Christians. I feel like what you are refusing to engage is the power differential between Lady Gaga and, well, almost everyone else on earth. She isn’t just some person: she is the most powerful celebrity on earth. What she does matters in a huge, huge way, yes for the billions of people who are Christians but also for all the people whose lives have Christian stuff thrown all over them, nonconsensually.

    And I do think reclaiming the virgin/whore stuff and playing with it and subverting it is really, really, really liberating and fucking beautiful. I just think Mary of Magdala is really, really the wrong character with which to do that work.

    I also feel like, and please correct me if I’m misreading your theology, you’re not quite able to understand the relationship with sins that some of us who have walked away have. I think you’re reading non-Christian uses of symbols through a Christian lens and missing when someone is questioning whether something like vice is really such a bad thing. I read both the lyrics in Judas (given what they are, this is probably a purely projective exercise) and the images in the video as not dissimilar what I went through as I found myself moving away from Christianity. Its ambiguous. You’re not sure if Jesus or Judas is the betrayer. You’re not sure whose side you’re on. You’re not sure if whose being betrayed. It is a mess, but one of a very different kind than what I think you’ve implied.

    This is really amazing feedback and thank you for it so much. I will add that I spent most of my life as an atheist (one of the most beloved hobbies my very atheist dad and I share is “Who Can Be The Rudest About Nightmarish Christian Bigots?” – and we shared that when I was an atheist and we share it now that I’m a Christian) and have some personal experience with thinking about the blurry lines between virtue and vice.

    And not being sure whose side I’m on is something that I experience even within the tradition; it is pretty much how I live my entire life. I have this intense crush on Jesus, this physical and transcendent devotional relationship with Mary, and this serious love for the very fierce women characters in the Bible who survived like every dude ever trying to erase them. And yet I get a paycheck from, and sit at the bedside of, and preach to, a community that in many ways is opposed to my very existence, to my health and my vocation and my life and my breath and my right to do whatever the fuck I want with my own body. To have the very people who are trying to destroy me use the language of the very system that is saving me is blurriness and ambiguity incarnate .

    And this is exactly how Mary of Magdala was treated when she claimed leadership in the Jesus movement, and to have Lady Gaga use the very sorts of things that were thrown against Mary, and are thrown against me, reinforcing all those things in the collective unconscious (I don’t know my own mind, I’m all about sex, I’m eventually going to side with everything evil because women just are that way, I can’t be trusted because I’m so conflicted and obviously should not be in leadership, etc.) just feels punishing. Like I’m Sisyphus pushing that damn boulder up the hill, and I have expectations that the Tea Party Christians will kick it down the hill again, but then to have Lady Gaga stand at the top of the hill and kick it down again? Agg-ra-va-ting.

    At the same time I began wondering about my values, about my judgements, about what good and evil meant without this massive framework that was suddenly feeling very dangerous.
    Not all of us embrace and try to fix.

    God, yes, THIS. Some things I cannot embrace and try to fix. I just can’t. I’ve been too hurt and too damaged and I’m furious in a way that renders me ineffective. But…I do try to support those who are still in the arenas that I can’t be in. I do try to encourage them, to check in from the sidelines, and cheer them on, if I can do that and feel safe.

    I think its worth noting though that, while clearly damaging to a lot of people, that inside information is highly specialized. The internal processess of American Episcopal theology are probably as foreign and irrelevant in my life (or Lady Gaga’s, for that matter) as they are critical in yours.

    Yeah, except here I think you are minimizing my place by isolating me to American Episcopal theology. (I mean, I find this pretty funny, because Anglicans are notoriously terrible theologians (we tend to produce excellent teachers and poets) because we kind of don’t have a centralized theology? This is why I am glad that I was educated by Jesuits, who taught me to think very very critically, and who were more invested in me being able to think, yell, ask questions, debate, and get frustrated, than they were with me staying inside the fold.) I am a Christian, and being Christian means that in some simultaneously tenuous and very strong ways, I am connected to about a third of the world’s population and their critical framework; being Anglican connects me to the third-largest loose organization of Christians on the planet. This, to me, is not incredibly isolated knowledge. The specialized knowledge that I have connects to all the other axes of privilege in which I move, particularly around being around USian straight cis men with money.

    The images of Mary that Gaga is playing with are simultaneously liberating for some and oppressive for others, what do we do with that distance? I’m honestly interested in your answer.

    I don’t know? I do know that the first step is to listen to one another and to take each other’s experience seriously. What I know is that in my experience working with Mary of Magdala, marginalized people in my communities have lit up, come alive, gotten mad, gotten interested, when they learned that she wasn’t this submissive, demon-riddled, sex-obsessed sidekick of Jesus, who Jesus was “nice enough” to forgive and heal (because how fucking patronizing is that?). Telling her story in liberating ways has given life to more people than almost anything else I’ve taught, particularly to women. That matters to me, hugely. It also matters to me to hear you talk about your own liberation with respect to this video. So far, you are the first person who has expressed liberation to me as part of your experience of your video, though lots of people on this thread have experienced interest, surprise, controversy and other things. Because we are at a point of honest and vulnerability with one another, though, can I ask if it is possible that you are doing what you seem so worried about me doing – which is projecting your own experience as a much larger prescription about how this video should be read in relationship to people’s liberation?

    I know that I cannot find liberation in fixing Christianity to my liking. I feel that it oppresses me in basic, intrinsic, fundamental ways. Co-opting Christian imagery, especially when it runs counter to good Christian scholarship, helps me defang something which has actively oppressed me.

    I’m not sure how you’re using “good Christian scholarship” here, because I think it should be clear by now that I’m not, um, terribly orthodox nor invested in upholding orthodoxy nor proper behavior for clerical leadership nor using the scriptures to support creedal hot air. What “good Christian scholarship” IS to me is “whatever helps me defang that which is actively oppressing me.”

    I would like to end by saying I am sorry, that I really heard you when you stated that priest=enemy in your life, from your past experiences, from hurts you didn’t ask for and didn’t deserve. I know I cannot undo nor actually apologize for all the hurts and wrongs that were done to you in religious contexts. But know that I am fucking rage-filled on your behalf, that I wish passionately that all of that hurt had not happened to you, and that I so support you in whatever will help you to heal, to be well and happy and safe in your own skin and in your own life.

  428. honeyandlocusts
    June 10, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    @JDP, this is quick, because I’m headed out, but at no point have I argued for a reclamation of Judas. I’m arguing for a liberation-based reclamation of Mary of Magdala.

  429. June 10, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    honeyandlocusts: If I’m reading you right, you’re saying that Gaga no longer has to deal with misogyny and the whole Madonna/whore business because she’s a powerful pop star.

    But she got powerful in part by not wearing pants. Isn’t this kind of a sign that she hasn’t actually escaped all of the cultural baggage and specifically Christian misogyny whatsoever despite her power? And since someone brought up Elizabeth, that not even an incredibly powerful queen regnant could escape Christian ideas about gender?

    Like it or not, these ideas are baked into Western culture. No matter how high you rise, they’re lurking in the background. You don’t even have to be Christian to be subject to them.

  430. JDP
    June 11, 2011 at 12:46 am

    @honeyandlocusts

    @JDP, this is quick, because I’m headed out, but at no point have I argued for a reclamation of Judas. I’m arguing for a liberation-based reclamation of Mary of Magdala.

    Sure. Hence why I said “elephant in the room.” I’m psyched that Christians are beginning to revisit and revise some of their texts and interpretations and I think that’s pretty cool and, frankly, long overdue. I’m psyched to see feminist, LGBT, and generally pro-minority-rights eisegesis in Christianity.

    But the character of Judas wasn’t non-existent in the media product that is at the center of this discussion, and didn’t go unmentioned in the OP, and you specifically talking about the “tremendous well of shock and life that is already present in the Jesus, Mary and Judas traditions.” I think what you’re trying to do with the Mary Magdalene symbolism is pretty cool. But I find it kind of abominable that you’d call the Judas literature a “tremendous well of shock and life.” It’s hate lit. And even if you contrive a world in which it wasn’t initially intended as hate lit, you still have to answer for hundreds and hundreds of years of hatred, discrimination, and church-run mob violence that are tied to that piece of religious imagery.

    I think this is the crux of much of the argument in this thread. Religious texts contain horrific and hateful passages from time to time. This does not necessarily mean that those religions are hateful and horrific across the board. It means that people are imperfect and even well-intentioned individuals who are trying to share their versions of wisdom and the good life with others will sometimes say some pretty horrific things. It shouldn’t be “anti-religious” to call these things what they are, and holy books and/or religious narratives should not be a package deal where you have to accept or reject everything written in them as “good,” and there are some things that you just can’t and shouldn’t try to revise. There are things in the histories of all our religions and cultures that we ought to be ashamed of. We should be able to hold this in our minds while also reclaiming and re-envisioning less harmful aspects of our religious traditions.

  431. Momentary
    June 11, 2011 at 7:18 am

    honeyandlocusts:
    I do have a visceral reaction to the use of Mary of Magdala that is like, “Lady Gaga is at a point of power where she doesn’t have to deal (anymore?) with the fallout of this theology every day.Lady Gaga is at a point of adoration where she apparently feels entitled to use racist language (in Born This Way), and (what I interpret, though my understanding has very much deepened as a result of this conversation) as an appropriative aesthetic in Judas, without suffering any real consequences (and in fact benefiting from that usage, or at a minimum from the ambiguity, like other white lady pop stars before her).

    Even though she’s powerful, I don’t believe that she doesn’t have to deal with this every day. But to move this away from Gaga specifically a little bit, it seems to me that your argument leads to saying that artists who achieve a global audience thereby lose their rights to work with the themes they were steeped in growing up, just because they are now more powerful than lots of other people who are affected by those themes. That seems really problematic to me. I do believe that “with great power comes great responsibility” (Gospel of Spiderman!) but I don’t like Tall Poppy Syndrome and I do think that this kind of critique gets applied disproportionately to powerful women and intersects in icky ways with gendered expectations that women bear more responsibility to take care of and please everyone.

    As a side note, I do also want to acknowledge that I think she fucked up in Born This Way and has continued to fuck up by not acknowledging the issues with “chola” and “Orient”. I’ve been disputing that the imagery in Judas was appropriative, from a New York Italian-American cultural perspective, but Born This Way is a different story.

  432. Momentary
    June 11, 2011 at 7:51 am

    honeyandlocusts:
    What I wonder is if I am allowed to claim specialized knowledge in this area without claiming a monopoly on all meanings.Because that is what I am attempting to do.I am in a position where I hear misogynist theological/religious stories day in and day out.

    I think you are allowed, but that you seem to be universalizing your specialized knowledge beyond what you have justified, and without explicitly acknowledging or examining how harmful Christian pushes to universalize have historically been, both within and beyond Christianity.

    I am a witness 24/7 to the very real psychological and emotional effects of them, which then work in tandem with people’s political and social behavior (particularly the political and social behavior of extremely privileged USian Christians), and by being in that position, I have a perspective that I believe is particularly useful here.I have a front row seat and season tickets to the production, perpetuation, and fallout of particular theological constructions.I really do not think that racial privilege and religious privilege function in the same ways, but I will use them for a moment for the sole purpose of a privilege illustration.This may be parallel to my statement above how, as a white person in a white minority/white supremacist system in my small rural town growing up, I learned a *lot* about what it meant to wield language, particularly to be a white lady and use the word “chola”.As someone in Christian systems, who at least gets to sit in on larger, powerful, dude-run Christian meetings (while being shamed, belittled, patronized, scorned and silenced in them), I have some inside information about how these stories work and play out by people with extreme power and privilege.

    Yes, you do. And your witnessing to that inside information, in every sense of the word “witness”, I think is completely legitimate and valuable. But again, I think your inside information is strongest where it is specific, to the small rural town where you grew up, to the particular Christian systems you work within, to the actual people you minister to. When you’re arguing that it is right for you to witness to all of this, to tell it as powerfully as you can, and to tell your version of Mary of Magdala as powerfully as you can, I’m with you all the way. When you start out by attacking someone else’s right to tell their different version, outside of the systems where you work, then I think that needs much much more justification than you have provided. I believe that Judas affects you in your work the way you describe, and the people that you work with the way you describe. But honestly, on a global scale? I think your version and Lady Gaga’s version both hurt some people and help some people, and if I had to bet, I’d bet that on balance her version does more good than yours does. If you want to change my mind about that, I will listen, but I don’t think you can do so simply on the basis of either your specialized scholarly knowledge or your specialized witnessing from within your ministry.

    I also have written and taught extensively about Mary of Magdala in particular (the anointing woman is another of my areas of research, though Lady Gaga conflates these characters as well), and have watched people – mostly women – come ALIVE (and get mad that they’ve been robbed of the power at the root of her story and their own stories!) when learning about her as someone strong, brave, and a leader.These things don’t make me the person who has The Final Word on anything, but I do think it is OK for me to claim some knowledge and expertise in relationship to the story of Mary of Magdala in particular.Does this make sense, without interpreting me as saying, “I have all the insider information and thus anyone who disagrees with me is wrong” or “Bring out the waaahmbulance for the Christian lady”?

    I respect your knowledge and expertise. I think your right to do this work is not in question (not by me, anyway). What’s in question, I think, is whether it’s justified for your real but system specific insider knowledge to apply universally, and to constrain other people’s work outside of your systems. I don’t think that’s impossible to justify, but I think you have to tackle the full difficulty of the “this is a Bad Thought” critique in order to do so, since I don’t think any of the other kinds of critique will get you there.

  433. Momentary
    June 11, 2011 at 8:17 am

    honeyandlocusts: This is difficult and a big thing to tackle.Because I do feel like we are allowed – and sometimes mandated – to say, “You know what?Disney’s Pocahontas is f-u-c-k-e-d.”I think it is important to prioritize some interpretations over others, recognizing that some stories are told in particular ways in order to further conservative agendas.I doubt that if there were a post on Feministe about the fucked-ness of Disney’s Pocahontas, there would be a huge outcry like “But she’s a part of the cultural collective consciousness!There’s no ONE right way to tell her story!Stop telling people how they can or cannot use her!Pocahontas belongs to everybody!”But people feel very comfortable doing that around Mary of Magdala, by which I feel somewhat puzzled, but only somewhat.

    Seems like this is a good place to tease out another point, while perhaps also speaking a bit more to Elizabeth. One thing I believe is that actual people have a right to be depicted accurately. When we depict Pocahontas, or Elizabeth, I think we’re depicting actual people, and that there is enough historical record available to support at least real arguments about accuracy. When we depict Mary Magdalene, or, to bring in a balancing fourth example, King Arthur, I don’t believe we’re depicting actual people. I do presume that there were originally one or more actual people whose lives were the seed for what became the story of King Arthur, or the story of Mary Magdalene, but I don’t think there’s enough historical information preserved to identify or flesh out a specific actual person. I have the impression you do consider Mary Magdalene to have been an actual person, perhaps because you have historical knowledge that I don’t (quite possible since it’s your expertise and not mine), or alternatively simply because she is treated as such in your tradition.

    In the case of Elizabeth, my understanding is that the director was very taken with the story of Joan of Arc, and the archetype of virginity as a source of power or legitimacy that made it (somewhat) acceptable for a woman to play a powerful male role. So he made a film that was essentially his exploration of projecting that archetype, as he understood it, onto Elizabeth. And because he had a lot of his own assumptions about what was packed into that archetype, this led him to depict Elizabeth as much more innocent, weak, sacrificial, and manipulated and controlled by her male advisors than she actually was. This makes me angry both because I think, as an actual person, she has a right to be depicted accurately rather than as raw material for a man’s philosophizing about sacrificial virginity and power, and also because I think she’s an important historical example of a very powerful woman and that misrepresenting that, especially in a way that presents itself as if it were historically accurate, is wrong. I think that last is where I’m coming closest to your reaction to Judas, but I’d bring the analogy back to Mel Gibson’s film, in that it matters whether something is presented as if it were historical or definitive truth. I don’t have any issues with the depiction of Elizabeth in Blackadder, for example, which I think is more analogous to Gaga’s Judas.

  434. JDP
    June 11, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Momentary: One thing I believe is that actual people have a right to be depicted accurately.

    Not entirely certain about that. In fact, I’m not certain about this at all. There are plenty of people in history who have become symbolic of something bigger than themselves, and addressing that symbolism sometimes requires deviating from historical truth in small or large ways, so long as we recognize that we’re creating or viewing historical fiction or historiography, and not pure history. With respect to the example of Elizabeth, perhaps your criticism isn’t particularly that the film involved a heavy dose of fiction, but rather that the fictionalized aspects of the film are a direct sexist attack on her as a feminist figure. Which is a totally legitimate perspective, but there are plenty of historical figures I expect you wouldn’t be as concerned about protecting in this manner.

  435. Momentary
    June 11, 2011 at 10:25 am

    JDP: Not entirely certain about that.In fact, I’m not certain about this at all.There are plenty of people in history who have become symbolic of something bigger than themselves, and addressing that symbolism sometimes requires deviating from historical truth in small or large ways, so long as we recognize that we’re creating or viewing historical fiction or historiography, and not pure history.With respect to the example of Elizabeth, perhaps your criticism isn’t particularly that the film involved a heavy dose of fiction, but rather that the fictionalized aspects of the filmare a direct sexist attack on her as a feminist figure.Which is a totally legitimate perspective, but there are plenty of historical figures I expect you wouldn’t be as concerned about protecting in this manner.

    I agree it’s not an absolute, but I do stand by both aspects of my criticism. If you think you have a compelling counterexample I’ll be intrigued to consider it, though. I think a lot of the wiggle room is in the “historical fiction or historiography, and not pure history” part. I think Elizabeth was presented in such a way that most viewers would assume, consciously or unconsciously, that it was historically accurate, even though it didn’t come with an explicit assertion that that was the intent. I’m having trouble myself coming up with a counterexample that I don’t think was clearly a fictional riff on a historical character.

  436. honeyandlocusts
    June 11, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Momentary! First thing! I had several drafts of comment responses where I specifically wrote, “At least according to the Gospel of Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.” (And then I thought, you know what, if I write that, people are going to jump all over me for Christian colonizing Spiderman, so I refrained. But great minds!!!)

    A few notes, but I will say that I am back into weekend/busy mode, prepping for Sunday and then Monday Sabbath, and can only jot down a few things before my day really gets chugging, and then I will be back Tuesday.

    . And because he had a lot of his own assumptions about what was packed into that archetype, this led him to depict Elizabeth as much more innocent, weak, sacrificial, and manipulated and controlled by her male advisors than she actually was. This makes me angry both because I think, as an actual person, she has a right to be depicted accurately rather than as raw material for a man’s philosophizing about sacrificial virginity and power, and also because I think she’s an important historical example of a very powerful woman and that misrepresenting that, especially in a way that presents itself as if it were historically accurate, is wrong. I think that last is where I’m coming closest to your reaction to Judas, but I’d bring the analogy back to Mel Gibson’s film, in that it matters whether something is presented as if it were historical or definitive truth. I don’t have any issues with the depiction of Elizabeth in Blackadder, for example, which I think is more analogous to Gaga’s Judas.

    THIS THIS THIS. Except where I differ from you here is that my understanding of making this critique is not restricted to historical accuracy and depictions that claim historical accuracy, especially since I’m dealing with ancient texts, which didn’t care about “facts” or “historical accuracy.” “History” has not always been about “facts” – that is a pretty modern concern. These texts were dealing with truths, symbols, archetypes, metaphor, pedagogy, community. So when I desire accuracy in the telling, I mean accuracy in the less factual sense as well, accuracy to the liberative streak in the story, accuracy to the particular ways that someone’s story is liberating, accuracy to the story. I would find it bizarre to depict Elizabeth, even non-historically, as someone who was just a sweetheart, and you know, proof that women can do work in the world but not lose their “feminine” side, the side that just loves to smell the roses and make a nice tart and relax at the end of the day with a nice glass of wine. You catch more flies with honey! You know? That would just be…not right, in historical ways but also in a more general way. I feel this sense of disconnect as Lady Gaga mimics misogynist readings of Mary of Magdala. Like, that’s just wrong. It’s wrong historically, it’s wrong in relationship to the text, it’s wrong in relationship to how her character was The Embodiment of women’s leadership in the early church, just as the character of Peter was The Embodiment of resistance to women’s leadership (and guess what?! The Petrine community turned into Rome and the Vatican – the Marian communities got obliterated).

    Now I’m just going to bounce around with your comments. You are completely right about how Tall Poppy Syndrome is unfairly used against successful women, and I’ve been uncomfortable with how closely I’ve been veering toward that here too. I should have been more careful to forefront Flavia Dzodan’s critique where she says, “Now, let me tell you this: I do not ascribe evil motives to her ignorance. I think she is only partly to blame for this. But another part of the responsibility lays with mainstream media that leaves all of these issues unchallenged and use her as a tool to perpetuate the racial status quo (what’s better than a pretty, talented, blond woman to use as a symbolic “Us” to grab around any prop we need to continue the march of colonization undisputed?). Also, that’s the reason why I am not entirely comfortable pointing fingers exclusively at her. Sure, she has individual responsibility for her actions, but the collective force that keeps telling her she is without fault should also be held accountable, probably equally so.” (http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/05/09/i-think-im-ready-to-stop-kidding-myself-about-lady-gagas-judas/) I have felt really curious about the people on the thread who have a very, very swift reaction to *any* critique of Lady Gaga. I think this is connected to her extreme social and economic power, and to our complacency about pretty, talented, blond woman as our rallying place. And I think this is probably where we get into some mess, because I don’t view my own position as one that could ever make an actual dent what Lady Gaga does. I don’t have the actual power to constrain her, even if I wanted to. And I don’t think I want to constrain her. I wouldn’t mind being her Religious Imagery Consultant and getting some other people hired as Anti-Colonialism Consultants, though. :) I think I’ve been clear that I don’t have a kneejerk reaction to controversial use of religious imagery, or otherwise I would have written some whiny blog post about how she can’t suck the cross in Alejandro or wear those nun outfits, which I totally support her doing, and I think in that video she is actually doing what people have been claiming she is doing here: subverting the tradition she grew up in, playing with it, in messy, associative, provocative, upsetting, reclaiming ways. But to play Mary of Magdala using the Petrine/dominant/patriarchal version of Mary’s story? All that does is uphold the system. It’s like she made a video about the Equal Rights Amendment, only she let Phyllis Schlafly write the script.

    I think we are probably not going to get to a place where we agree about whether or not my version of Mary of Magdala or Lady Gaga’s version is more liberating for people? And of course that’s fine. I will reiterate here my gratitude for your perceptiveness and engagement with me – I have been moved and changed by it.

    And I completely agree with you that universalizing from *any* position is very, very dangerous, but most especially from a position that has been historically privileged and violent, particularly Christianity (also, I hate Paul, the instigator of this universalizing mess). You are correct that I have not explicitly acknowledged the dangers of universalizing, particularly in this way, and I should have, because it is something I care about very much and actively work to prevent at church. However, I do not agree that a liberating reading of Mary of Magdala has *ever* happened from the top down in Christianity, nor has such a reading every been violently enforced. It has come from the bottom up, struggling for air.

  437. honeyandlocusts
    June 11, 2011 at 11:41 am

    @JDP, I never attempted to claim the ways that Judas has been misrepresented as liberating, the same way I never attempted to claim the ways that Mary of Magdala has been misrepresented as liberating. (Did you notice the link I included in the OP that specifically outlines the ways that the Judas tradition has been used in hateful and genocidal ways?)

    Reclaiming Judas means reclaiming Judas as a disciple, a member of the community, not as Jesus’s suicide weapon. This directs attention in two places: to the beloved community of Jesus – all of them – and to the fact the the empire killed JC, not God as part of some horrible abusive abusive father murder plan. Yes, I find this reclamation life-giving.

  438. honeyandlocusts
    June 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    So this is happening over on the thread about the nightmare of the Roman Catholic “pro-life” agenda that is attempting to keep women and girls from being able to self-determine around their own sexual health:

    Jim 6.8.2011 at 5:29 pm

    tinfoil hattie: The church’s one foundation is rampant misogyny.

    When your model of womanhood is an eternally virgin madonna figure, that’s about all you are left with.

    And this is why I keep insisting that models of womanhood in Christianity matter, even outside Christianity. If their model was a good reading of Mary of Magdala instead of a corrupt reading of Mary the Mother of God, isn’t it likely their sexual politics would be greatly impacted?

  439. honeyandlocusts
    June 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I know I am supposed to be away doing churchly things and I really will be but I realized I forgot to respond to zuzu and didn’t want to wait until Tuesday…

    honeyandlocusts: If I’m reading you right, you’re saying that Gaga no longer has to deal with misogyny and the whole Madonna/whore business because she’s a powerful pop star.

    But she got powerful in part by not wearing pants. Isn’t this kind of a sign that she hasn’t actually escaped all of the cultural baggage and specifically Christian misogyny whatsoever despite her power? And since someone brought up Elizabeth, that not even an incredibly powerful queen regnant could escape Christian ideas about gender?

    You’re totally right. And I think many of us on this thread, including me, have not been clear when we’ve been talking about Lady Gaga The Cultural Production Machine or Lady Gaga The Person, which has not been helpful. This distinction hadn’t occurred to me until just now, though it would have been useful about 400 comments ago. This might be in part because Lady Gaga tries to not make that distinction, tries to make that blurry? Which I find interesting, but back to topic. (For the record, mostly I have been talking about Lady Gaga The Machine.) I believe that Lady Gaga as a person still experiences and will continue to experience misogyny, unfortunately. I do think that social and economic privilege and power can do a highly effective job in cushioning some of misogyny’s blows, however. I think that Lady Gaga The Cultural Production Machine actually benefits from perpetuating some misogynist tropes, because a misogynist culture feeds on itself. And I think that at this point Lady Gaga The Machine is protected from the kinds of economic and social losses that occur when other women and other marginalized people attempt to resist misogyny in our communities.

    Like it or not, these ideas are baked into Western culture. No matter how high you rise, they’re lurking in the background. You don’t even have to be Christian to be subject to them.

    Agreed x1000.

  440. JDP
    June 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    honeyandlocusts:
    @JDP, I never attempted to claim the ways that Judas has been misrepresented as liberating, the same way I never attempted to claim the ways that Mary of Magdala has been misrepresented as liberating.(Did you notice the link I included in the OP that specifically outlines the ways that the Judas tradition has been used in hateful and genocidal ways?)

    See, here’s where we differ. I don’t accept that the representation of Judas is a “misrepresentation.” I think the hate lit is a fundamental part of the original narrative. To say “well, I feel like Christianity was misrepresented by certain Christians in order to sow hatred” is in my mind disingenuous because it pawns off responsibility on “a few evil people” rather than recognizing that there are some deeply problematic elements of the Christian narrative.

    Reclaiming Judas means reclaiming Judas as a disciple, a member of the community, not as Jesus’s suicide weapon.This directs attention in two places: to the beloved community of Jesus – all of them – and to the fact the the empire killed JC, not God as part of some horrible abusive abusive father murder plan.Yes, I find this reclamation life-giving.

    And I still think that’s disingenuous, because this is still about erasure of guilt and an attempt to claim infallibility of one’s doctrine or religious narratives even against the testimony of history.

    I could care less whether your religion involves a loving community of Jesus or an abusive filicide or whatever. That’s your place to decide within your religious community and certainly your goals should concern how your religious rhetoric affects those who you minister to.

    What I do care about is that you seem unwilling to confront the fact that some aspects of your religion’s core narrative are hateful and that some of the really horrific shit that has been perpetrated in the name of your religion is not entirely out of line with the belief and values of the original practitioners, and is in some cases not entirely at odds with the original teachings associated with Jesus himself (regardless of whether or not he ever existed). In my heart, I feel like this is something that must be confronted head-on. Hate speech must be confronted, even when it comes from people who we look up to as supporters of love and peace.

    Maybe my perspective here isn’t really analogous, because I come from a religious background that is a lot more civic and cultural and a lot less doctrinal, and this perhaps makes it easier for significant movements within that religious background to say things like “well, the core teachings of our religion are good, but they’re not perfect, and it is the common responsibility of people in every generation to work towards perfecting them.” I feel that the changes you’re proposing for Christian religious rhetoric are positive, but I don’t think they really create a framework for ongoing liberal critique of Christian ideology and ethics.

  441. JDP
    June 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    honeyandlocusts: Mary of Magdala

    Ok, so I’m just going to go ahead and say that this does bug me, especially with the above discussion of cultural appropriation. Sure, Mary Magdalene is a Greek corruption of something Aramaic, but there is at least some scholarly debate on whether the title “Magdalene” refers to a city or a title. Personally, I find attempts to “re-Aramaicize” or “re-Hebraicize” Christian biblical names to be kind of discomforting. Appropriating Aramaic or Hebrew in order to present the appearance of historical authenticity of Christian religious narratives is a political statement, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a political statement you want to be making.

  442. Bagelsan
    June 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    And this is why I keep insisting that models of womanhood in Christianity matter, even outside Christianity. If their model was a good reading of Mary of Magdala instead of a corrupt reading of Mary the Mother of God, isn’t it likely their sexual politics would be greatly impacted?

    I don’t know. Maybe this kind of fundamental restructuring of the Church would improve their sexual politics, but I’m not entirely clear what (after removing the misogyny and patriarchy and colonization) would still be recognizable as the Church. I suppose there is the basic idea of do-you-think-Jesus-is-God’s-kid?-awesome-you’re-a-Christian, but then you lose pretty much all the differences between various sects of Christianity and I can’t see that happening. And you’d have to add a “don’t be an asshole to gays and women and non-Christians” clause and that’s creating pretty much a brand new sect right there.

    It seems to be like investing a ton of time and energy trying to turn a wolverine into a pet: file its claws down, blunt its teeth, give it some Valium, leash-train it, teach it to eat kibble, give it adorb little hair bows… And then you can say “see! Look at this totally lovable wolverine! All I had to do was change pretty much every aspect of wolverineness it has but hey, now I can let it near children without feeling guilty when it rips their tiny faces off!”

    Less hyperbolic-ally, why try to reclaim something that is such a fixer-up? When you have to go back thousands of years to find a sort-of-maybe-not-hateful interpretation of stuff, and then convince 99% of the followers to change their deeply held beliefs, some of which define their version of god and reality… that seems like a hint to GTFO of the wolverine business and just buy a poodle like you really wanted all along.

  443. Aaron
    June 11, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    @JDP: At this point whole lot of the OP and comments have acknowledged the problematic and hateful content and usage of the tradition(s). I don’t see anyone saying, “Scripture is unproblematic. The tradition has never facilitated violence.” I also think it is inaccurate to say something is fundamental to a text—especially ancient text. I think text IS how we interpret it, how we translate it, what we use it to justify, etc. On its own, it doesn’t do anything. It can’t. Where text becomes alive (and whether that aliveness is murderous or liberating) is in our historical and contemporary interpretation of it. To say a text itself is responsible for anything erases the accountability, agency, and complexity of the reader(s). A piece of text may say, “Kill the queers.” And an asshole wrote this, but wrote it a zillion years ago, and is long dead, and is no longer around to be held accountable. Our job then, with this text, is to hold ONE ANOTHER accountable for what we do with it from now on, and be honest with each other about what has been done with it up to this point. I don’t think this thread is ignoring the elephant in the room. I think we have moved on to debating whether or not we can ride the elephant off into the glorious sunset of liberation (and how often should we stop to give the elephant some water, and is it safe to trust this elephant won’t steal all our stuff and trample us, and how can we best stay accountable to the folks who have had traumatic experiences with elephants and never want to look at one again, and are all elephants the same, etc).

    Also: how is “Mary of Magdala” an appropriative title? Translation is definitely political, but I don’t know many language scholars who would contest “Mary of Magdala” as a highly possible translation, regardless of their own religious ID. Keeping any holy text in hard-to-access format (i.e. the King James Version of the bible) is often a means of keeping people AWAY from the familiarity with material that breeds probing questions about faith. Saying “of Magdala” is not a move toward the universal truth claim THAT SHE WAS REAL AND AWESOME AND THE BEST AND YOU ARE DAMNED IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IT as much as it is a move toward making the text more accessible for readers. When I see “Magdalene” I’m like, “What the hell is a Magdalene? I lack understanding, I am not smart enough to engage this fancy book. I’m going to go have a sandwich.” When I see “of Magdala” I’m like, “Oh, this lady is from some place called Magdala. Maybe I will read her story and see if there is anything interesting about it. Or maybe I will have a sandwich instead.” I do think translation choices can be (and have been) made with the intent of encouraging appropriation and violence. But I don’t see it in this example.

    @honeyandlocusts: “However, I do not agree that a liberating reading of Mary of Magdala has *ever* happened from the top down in Christianity, nor has such a reading every been violently enforced. It has come from the bottom up, struggling for air.”

    Yes. This feels really central to my own reaction to the “Judas” video, but I was having a hard time putting it clearly. Myself, I also put Gaga the Cultural Production Machine at the top of the food chain (not w/in the official structures of Christianity, but at the top of the structures of global political/economic power—and these structures do feed off one another’s power/media/storms of controversy, and are able to make killer profits by selling tickets to their bickering matches, and thus keep everyone else too distracted to push back against the history of hurt collectively and effectively). Meanwhile, there are so many other people doing beautiful, challenging, live-saving, liberation-birthing art and scholarship that plays with religious imagery much more interestingly than what Gaga (or anyone else at the top) is doing. Example: Kristen J’s adolescent rebellion art project!!!! Utterly fabulous at any age. Example: I know folks doing ministry in women’s prisons who teach about the image of Mary Magdalene, and how powerful and sustaining it is for their constituents to re-read her as a biblical heroine *powerful and central to the faith in her own right* when everyone else, for centuries, has been talking shit about her as a fallen sinner and/or charity case for Jesus. Because they know what it’s like to have the world read you as a fallen sinner and/or charity case without knowing or caring about the rich, complex details of your own story and your own power. When it comes to deciding what is morally authoritative for me (be it analysis of scripture or the nightly news), I go for bottom-up readings. I think top-down readings, from any perspective/tradition, are inclined to detachment from what is at stake for everyone, but especially for the folks at the bottom.

  444. JDP
    June 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Aaron:
    @JDP:At this point whole lot of the OP and comments have acknowledged the problematic and hateful content and usage of the tradition(s).I don’t see anyone saying, “Scripture is unproblematic.The tradition has never facilitated violence.”I also think it is inaccurate to say something is fundamental to a text—especially ancient text.I think text IS how we interpret it, how we translate it, what we use it to justify, etc.On its own, it doesn’t do anything.It can’t.Where text becomes alive (and whether that aliveness is murderous or liberating) is in our historical and contemporary interpretation of it.To say a text itself is responsible for anything erases the accountability, agency, and complexity of the reader(s).A piece of text may say, “Kill the queers.”And an asshole wrote this, but wrote it a zillion years ago, and is long dead, and is no longer around to be held accountable.Our job then, with this text, is to hold ONE ANOTHER accountable for what we do with it from now on, and be honest with each other about what has been done with it up to this point.I don’t think this thread is ignoring the elephant in the room.I think we have moved on to debating whether or not we can ride the elephant off into the glorious sunset of liberation (and how often should we stop to give the elephant some water, and is it safe to trust this elephant won’t steal all our stuff and trample us, and how can we best stay accountable to the folks who have had traumatic experiences with elephants and never want to look at one again, and are all elephants the same, etc).

    So you mean to say that you don’t believe there is such thing as hate speech or hate literature? Because that sounds like bullshit to me.

    As far as the Mary Magdalene vs. Judas thing, these are very, very different situations. The Magdalene narrative was largely used to victimize or marginalize a specific set of Christians within Christian society. So, really, I don’t have a problem with Christians reclaiming that character and that narrative. The Judas narrative, however, was not directed at Christians. It was mostly directed outside of the Christian community. The idea that an oppressor class can “reclaim” language or imagery that served a central role in creating and reinforcing systemic oppression is completely screwed up. Saying “well, the Judas narrative was the basis for some nasty stuff, but let’s move on now” is pretty dismissive and doesn’t really convince me that this is about addressing some of the central problems of Christianity and instead is about more effective Christian ministry.

    Also: how is “Mary of Magdala” an appropriative title?Translation is definitely political, but I don’t know many language scholars who would contest “Mary of Magdala” as a highly possible translation, regardless of their own religious ID.Keeping any holy text in hard-to-access format (i.e. the King James Version of the bible) is often a means of keeping people AWAY from the familiarity with material that breeds probing questions about faith.Saying “of Magdala” is not a move toward the universal truth claim THAT SHE WAS REAL AND AWESOME AND THE BEST AND YOU ARE DAMNED IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IT as much as it is a move toward making the text more accessible for readers.When I see “Magdalene” I’m like, “What the hell is a Magdalene?I lack understanding, I am not smart enough to engage this fancy book.I’m going to go have a sandwich.”When I see “of Magdala” I’m like, “Oh, this lady is from some place called Magdala.Maybe I will read her story and see if there is anything interestingabout it.Or maybe I will have a sandwich instead.”I do think translation choices can be (and have been) made with the intent of encouraging appropriation and violence.But I don’t see it in this example.

    No offense, but that’s a crock of shit.

  445. Aaron
    June 11, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    @Bagelsan, I don’t think you have to go back thousands of years to find the stuff worth salvaging. I think Sojourner Truth is worth holding onto. Ditto on Sylvia Rivera, Cesar Chavez, Fannie Lou Hamer, Romero, and MLK. And that’s just for me on a personal level. On a more strategic level, being able to speak the faith language of a couple billion people worldwide is pretty useful. I am queer, trans, and Christian– and the Christian slice of that ID gets me access to conversations, hearts, and minds that would otherwise immediately shut me (and many, many, MANY others) out. This is a major privilege issue, and I know it. I also know that many churchfolks are only willing to fully listen to someone speaking from within their community and tradition. I have watched people deeply set in their ways change, as a result of being in relationship with me that is based on common faith language and prayer. Access to facilitating this kind of transformation is worth the fight, to me. I mean, somebody’s got to put in that work– those 2 billion-ish people aren’t just going to go away. Sidenote: my own personal Mary M. is def more wolverine than poodle (I think you were making a church metaphor, not a Mary metaphor, but my liberation Mary is way fierce, and I like comparing her to something fuzzy and tough).

  446. June 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Momentary: Seems like this is a good place to tease out another point, while perhaps also speaking a bit more to Elizabeth.One thing I believe is that actual people have a right to be depicted accurately.When we depict Pocahontas, or Elizabeth, I think we’re depicting actual people, and that there is enough historical record available to support at least real arguments about accuracy.When we depict Mary Magdalene, or, to bring in a balancing fourth example, King Arthur, I don’t believe we’re depicting actual people.I do presume that there were originally one or more actual people whose lives were the seed for what became the story of King Arthur, or the story of Mary Magdalene, but I don’t think there’s enough historical information preserved to identify or flesh out a specific actual person.I have the impression you do consider Mary Magdalene to have been an actual person, perhaps because you have historical knowledge that I don’t (quite possible since it’s your expertise and not mine), or alternatively simply because she is treated as such in your tradition.

    In the case of Elizabeth, my understanding is that the director was very taken with the story of Joan of Arc, and the archetype of virginity as a source of power or legitimacy that made it (somewhat) acceptable for a woman to play a powerful male role.So he made a film that was essentially his exploration of projecting that archetype, as he understood it, onto Elizabeth.And because he had a lot of his own assumptions about what was packed into that archetype, this led him to depict Elizabeth as much more innocent, weak, sacrificial, and manipulated and controlled by her male advisors than she actually was.This makes me angry both because I think, as an actual person, she has a right to be depicted accurately rather than as raw material for a man’s philosophizing about sacrificial virginity and power, and also because I think she’s an important historical example of a very powerful woman and that misrepresenting that, especially in a way that presents itself as if it were historically accurate, is wrong.I think that last is where I’m coming closest to your reaction to Judas, but I’d bring the analogy back to Mel Gibson’s film, in that it matters whether something is presented as if it were historical or definitive truth.I don’t have any issues with the depiction of Elizabeth in Blackadder, for example, which I think is more analogous to Gaga’s Judas.

    Huh. That’s interesting. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, and I don’t know all that much about the very young Elizabeth at the beginning of her reign, but I got the impression that the film showed her taking on virginity not as a sacrifice or a weakness, but because remaining unmarried was the only way she would be able to remain in power. If she had married the ruler of Spain, he would have been considered King of England and she would have been essentially busted down to consort.

    Also: I think it was The New Yorker that compared Elizabeth, the film, to a horror movie: as Elizabeth becomes more powerful and overcomes her opposition, she winds up getting more and more imprisoned in her clothing and her role.

  447. June 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    honeyandlocusts: I have felt really curious about the people on the thread who have a very, very swift reaction to *any* critique of Lady Gaga.

    I’m curious, too: who are these people?

  448. Momentary
    June 12, 2011 at 3:00 am

    zuzu: Huh.That’s interesting.It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, and I don’t know all that much about the very young Elizabeth at the beginning of her reign, but I got the impression that the film showed her taking on virginity not as a sacrifice or a weakness, but because remaining unmarried was the only way she would be able to remain in power.If she had married the ruler of Spain, he would have been considered King of England and she would have been essentially busted down to consort.

    Also: I think it was The New Yorker that compared Elizabeth, the film, to a horror movie: as Elizabeth becomes more powerful and overcomes her opposition, she winds up getting more and more imprisoned in her clothing and her role.

    Hey zuzu, that’s what I meant by sacrifice: having to sacrifice marriage, freedom, etc in order to play her powerful role. The sacrifice of remaining a virgin, and a virgin increasingly imprisoned in ceremony and symbolism. But I think all of that was crap. From all I’ve read about Elizabeth, it was probably a win-win deal to her. She had no reason to see marriage as something to look forward to (look at her father!) and she got to have favorites and play at courtly love her whole life long. I don’t think the historical record supports her “getting more and more imprisoned in her clothing and her role”, I think that’s just another version of “childless career women are all secretly miserable.”

  449. June 12, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Wow, I remember the character at the beginning a lot differently. I didn’t think it was really a matter of her *remaining* a virgin but *becoming* one, sort of as a matter of PR.

    I think it’s also important to remember that virginity was not the sole model for a queen regnant back then — Elizabeth’s sister Mary was married, and was desperately trying to produce a child at the beginning of the film (she thought she was pregnant, but it turned out to be a tumor). Any child of hers would have cut off Elizabeth’s path to the crown, and Mary — a Catholic and the product of Henry VIII’s first marriage — saw herself as the only legitimate heir, and Elizabeth the product of adultery.

    But Mary’s rule had left England in turmoil and Elizabeth stepped in at a time when there was a lot of palace intrigue and a lot of powerful Catholics who were more than willing to take her down. Of course she had male advisors, and of course she was dependent on them for advice — she was not privy, as she had been kept away from this stuff by her sister, to the inner workings of the court and the state of the nation. And she was young, inexperienced and untested.

    As I recall, the male advisors wanted her to marry, and she rejected their advice when she began to realize that marrying a foreign ruler would have forced her to give up a lot of her power and made England subservient. Unlike Mary, she didn’t have anyone who could easily have asserted a right to the throne, so she had less pressure to produce an heir.

    But because she was a woman, she had to create the fiction of virginity to ensure that she would not be producing any illegitimate heirs — which is all fine and good for a king to do, but not a queen, and especially not an unmarried queen.

  450. June 12, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Also: I don’t see her having to give up personal freedom as a consequence of being a woman taking power; that’s the kind of thing that anyone who takes power has to trade off.

    But you’ve inspired me to watch the film again, and to look at it with a fresh perspective.

  451. AnonForThis
    June 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    that there were qualities of of your comments to me actually set off major fear buttons inside me. This was compounded by you saying, at one point, that you realized you were being rough on me but that you thought that that was fair. You don’t have any way to know about all these other triggers in me, but for me, that just rang in my head

    You know…you make it very difficult to hate you, being all human and not being the standard issue priest ready made for my projections and sparring. Thats probably been the most important thing I’ll end up taking away from this tread. Even though I still see the word “priest” and read the word “enemy,” you’ve managed to force me to engage with more nuance and less blind rage.

    Truth be told, I probably should have known about those triggers (and I’d argue that I likely must have on some level, given that the rhetoric in my posts wasn’t exactly accidental) but in the moment I was angry and I wanted to create fear. I wanted to bristle and take up my hammer and just fight back against what I saw immediately as another fucking Christian criticizing someone for not showing them enough deference as the dominant religious majority. I think there probably is some of that buried in your original post and I still stand by most of my aggression but I’m also deeply sorry for triggering the parts of you that I triggered. Does that make sense? I’m trying to think this out and be as direct and honest as I can be because I think thats valuable here but I feel like words are difficult in this. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t feel bad about being rough with a priest who seems to have made criticism from a place of privilege of something I’ve found liberating, but at the same time I do regret that having bled through (also struck?) into triggering the person you are outside of/within/beyond your official and public position. Maybe thats an artificial separation.

    I’ll do my best to restrain the parts of me that have trouble humanizing the aspects of you that have harmed me. I would like to respond to you because I think its a valuable dialogue and it likely isn’t one that I’ll have access to in the future. That said, I totally get if you feel like it isn’t safe to continue engaging. Theres context and history here that I’m responsible for and I don’t want you to feel like you need to sacrifice your own safety.

    I feel like what you are refusing to engage is the power differential between Lady Gaga and, well, almost everyone else on earth. She isn’t just some person: she is the most powerful celebrity on earth. What she does matters in a huge, huge way, yes for the billions of people who are Christians but also for all the people whose lives have Christian stuff thrown all over them, nonconsensually.

    Thats part of why I find what she’s doing to be so valuable. She isn’t just someone privately playing with blasphemy, she’s a huge celebrity with huge reach. I feel like that power differential allows her to make really significant dents in the collective unconscious in ways that might not be readily obvious.

    I went to see her during her last tour. It was a bizarre experience. An arena with 8,000 or so people, people who mostly look like they lead very ordinary, mainstream lives, playing with their identities with little sense of self consciousness. People who looked ridiculous, who you know would have been laughed at anywhere else, being congratulated on their costumes or just being part of the background. There weren’t snickers, there weren’t catcalls at the girls playing with extreme expressions of sexuality. There weren’t the common social signals being directed at people who weren’t living up to beauty standards. 8000 common folks, at least some of whom probably shit on one another with startling regularity, not being assholes because of the message that had been brought to bear by the show. I was reminded of the first time I went to see Marilyn Manson as a kid when somehow during the walk between where I’d parked and the shitty little venue they were playing at, somewhere between the protesters and the door, I transformed from being a faggot on their way to hell that people could laugh at or spit at or throw a brick at into someone who could be proud of who I was. His schtick was less about acceptance than about rage, but the feeling of transformation was similar.

    Manson was far from perfect, too. Still, I feel as though being able to have a platform like Gaga does gives her the ability to create some significant shifts. I think that her efforts to push acceptance to to challenge certain assumptions seriously outweigh any temporary bump certain ways of interacting with certain images may get. The fact that she reaches so many people, that so many people have come to accept a video which I don’t think could have been made fifteen years ago, says something positive about how she’s using her influence, I think.

    And I do think reclaiming the virgin/whore stuff and playing with it and subverting it is really, really, really liberating and fucking beautiful. I just think Mary of Magdala is really, really the wrong character with which to do that work.

    At the risk of sounding absurd, I think she’s as good or bad a character for it as Minnie Mouse or Mr. Ed. I think part of what I objected to so strongly in your original post was the idea of right and wrong being both central and objective. Perhaps it is true that your Mary of Magdala isn’t the right character to use to play with the virgin/whore trope, but I’m not certain that thats going to generalize.

    You’ve got a unique outlook. You work from within the church, you’ve clearly got a lot of theology and history under your belt, you work towards an empowerment within the boundaries of Christianity, your Mary is going to be different from mine or from Gaga’s or from whatever other Priests you were working with over the weekend. It might certainly be true that Mary of Magdala is the wrong image to use for challenging the virgin/whore trope as you want to challenge it while maintaining the narrative of Mary that you find most empowering, useful, pragmatic, liberating, transcendent, whatever. Still, thats you; others are going to have different priorities and needs.

    From what I’ve seen of Gaga I suspect, and I’m not at all sure she’s entirely conscious of this (though I wouldn’t be surprised if she was), that a big part of why she works with the images she works with has to do with the almost deceptively subtle use of her position. If she is the world’s biggest pop star, if what she does is almost certain to be accepted, if she is seen by huge numbers of people as generally positive and desirable, then what she does gets a bit of her glow. If Gaga plays the whore then, with the power she wields, suddenly being a whore isn’t quite so devalued. If she takes the image of Mary of Magdala and uses it to occupy the blurry space between virgin and whore, not only does she challenge that trope by her mere presence (its hard to devalue someone who wears scorn like a badge of honor) but she gives millions of people a permission and a space and a template to express and think about something they might well have felt very alone in. For those of us steeped in feminism Gaga can seem like old hat. On the other hand, imagine what it would feel like to watch Judas for the first time and think to yourself “holy shit…other people have this ambiguity too…I’m not alone? I’m not damned and weird?”

    Maybe thats not the image you would have picked. Maybe there are better images out there. For whatever reason, though, its the one that did resonate. I think discussion of what would be better or why one would choose an alternative would be great. I think framing the discussion as “X is the wrong image” feels oppressively modern.

    And this is exactly how Mary of Magdala was treated when she claimed leadership in the Jesus movement, and to have Lady Gaga use the very sorts of things that were thrown against Mary, and are thrown against me, reinforcing all those things in the collective unconscious (I don’t know my own mind, I’m all about sex, I’m eventually going to side with everything evil because women just are that way, I can’t be trusted because I’m so conflicted and obviously should not be in leadership, etc.)

    I’m not Lady Gaga so I’m going to take a step outside and just talk about my own relationship to those things that you feel are being reinforced because I think we’re speaking from fundamentally different places. When it comes to not know your own mind, who hasn’t been there? Who hasn’t felt absolutely adrift on a see of urges and and reactions thats buffeted them around for so long that they’re not even sure what they want or where they started? We live in a culture that tells us that this is a bad thing, but its pretty damned near a universal human experience. Its one that is devalued, one we’re told not to have, but its part of who we are. Yet we don’t often admit it and even when we do we almost always admit being lost and not knowing one’s own mind in the context of how we came to be the way we ought to be: “I once was lost but now am found.” I think thats where a lot of the devaluation comes from when people present Mary as lost. We see being lost as being bad, so we say she was lost to say she was bad. I’m not sure the answer is saying she wasn’t lost at all. I’d rather say “whats so fucking bad about not knowing yourself all the time?” I’d make a similar argument about the idea of Mary being all about sex. The vast majority of human beings enjoy getting off, its central to our lives. 2000 years of Christianity has made us feel bad about that. Well, fuck that noise, you know?

    I’m guessing that you probably agree at least in some way with those sentiments, where I really think we’re going to be different though is: “I’m eventually going to side with everything evil because women just are that way.” Siding with Judas is only evil if you consider siding with Judas to be evil. The idea of siding with Judas would make Mary a hero in a Gnostic context. For someone who feels deeply damaged by Christianity siding with Judas might have a lot of symbolic power for good. For someone who has associated Jesus with one side of themselves and Judas with another (virtue and vice for Gaga, it would seem) siding with one becomes not an act of evil but a matter of choice. Thats doubly true if you’re looking to reclaim vice.

    My spiritual journey demanded that I pursue the things which scared the hell out of me because that would take away it’s power, that I played with what I thought was evil in order to separate taboo from morality and find my line. If one pursues that which one thinks they shouldn’t then they can make an honest choice about what they’re going to call wrong and whats just cultural baggage that chains their souls. I think this might be where we’re having some trouble not talking past one another. You see Judas as the person who betrayed the central figure of your religion and the primary symbol of love and acceptance and good that you have to work with. That makes Judas a pretty big villain. I don’t see Judas that way, so I don’t see Gaga’s portrayal of Mary leaning towards Judas as particularly symbolic of evil.

    As for women being uncertain and thus bad leadership material…well…certainty is really only valuable to fanatics as far as I’m concerned. Again, whether Gaga’s Mary is evil or good has a lot to do with your values around the different actions her Mary seems to take. Rubbing up against a cute biker, turning your back on Jesus, and accepting that maybe you don’t know everything? That sounds like a pretty good weekend to me.

    I am connected to about a third of the world’s population and their critical framework; being Anglican connects me to the third-largest loose organization of Christians on the planet. This, to me, is not incredibly isolated knowledge.

    You’re right, I am minimizing that because those kinds of numbers honestly frighten me. I would like nothing more than for the slow death religion has been unsuccessfully fighting against for the last few centuries in the west to spread. I honestly feel that without it a lot of people are going to be unable to escape the toxic influence of organized religion and I do believe (though I accept that this is a deeply personal orientation) that real spiritual growth isn’t going to be possible until some of the garbage is burnt away. I know thats a privileged view, and I know that its deeply idiosyncratic, but when I hear that something like a third of the world’s population is at least nominally tied to something that I see as one of the most dangerous and destructive ideas in human history I get scared. I mean, hell, just look at what the Vatican is using it’s perceived influence to do to women in the UN right now. Its where I am, its problematic, but its honest.

    she wasn’t this submissive, demon-riddled, sex-obsessed sidekick of Jesus, who Jesus was “nice enough” to forgive and heal (because how fucking patronizing is that?).

    I have to say that this description really provoked the part of me that I’m trying to reign in because it was both very triggering and because I suspect that you didn’t know how triggering it was likely to be. When you say “how fucking patronizing is that?” as if this was a special part of how Mary has been treated…hair stood up on the back of my neck. Your description of how Mary Magdala is often portrayed struck me as the fundamental way in which I feel humanity is portrayed in Christianity and thats one of the big reasons Christianity is so triggering for me.

    What you said misogynists have to say about Mary of Magdala is what I feel Christianity intrinsically says about humanity in general. The need for a Christ, the fact that we’d go to hell without it, the use of words like “grace” and “salvation,” the rhetoric about Jesus paying for our sins, feels to me like I’m being told that I’m so damned worthless and should be so thankful that God loves me enough to send his only begotten son to redeem me. Its not just patronizing, its threatening, because if I’m seen as so damned evil as to be worthy of Hell then what could be justified against me? Its terrifying because I don’t have to look back too far to see what has already been justified.

    I think that fear is why I came at you so aggressively up thread. Fight or flight kicks in and I decided a long time ago that I was tired of running. I’m trying hard to listen and to contain because I think its worthwhile, but there is still something inside of me that sees Priest and thinks “are you fucking serious? We’re going to play nice here? Its just a matter of time before she tells you that Jesus loves us so much and you know thats what they say just before the ‘or else’…” I know thats not true, but feelings are harder to shake.

    which is projecting your own experience as a much larger prescription about how this video should be read in relationship to people’s liberation?

    I probably am. Its a constant struggle for me to remember that the things which liberate me would be chains for others. At the same time, its very difficult for me to see others attacking my means of liberation and not think “if someone had convinced me not to pursue this…” and then I have to stop because I know the answer and I try not to dwell on it.

    I think we need to be able to talk about why what Gaga (or Christianity) is doing isn’t liberating for you (or me) without then implying that it is somehow oppressive for all. I think thats the kind of objectivist thinking that leads to the poison that you and I have both identified but reacted to in different ways.

    I’m not sure how you’re using “good Christian scholarship” here, because I think it should be clear by now that I’m not, um, terribly orthodox nor invested in upholding orthodoxy nor proper behavior for clerical leadership nor using the scriptures to support creedal hot air.

    I’m using “good Christian scholarship” as meaning traditionally, historically, theologically, or biblically consistent. For instance: I find using the image of Paul as a conman to be helpful not so much because I’m heavily invested in the Jesus Myth theory but because implying that Christianity was a con all along resonates with a lot of the ways it’s been used as a con historically. The same goes with how I use the image of the Devil. “Better to rule in hell than serve in Heaven” is Milton’s creation, but I like that devil more and choosing to read other things in relation to that image and the things implied in it makes it more mine and less a symbol of occupation.

    Put another way, I can find great meaning in William Blake’s work at least in part because his Christian scholarship isn’t great. Even though he uses Christian images they can be meaningful and transformative for me because they have been divorced in some way from their source. Does that make sense?

  452. Kristen J.
    June 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Re: sex kitten Christ was kind enough to forgive.

    Mary Magdalene probably wasn’t, but the Mary (or not Mary depending on your interpretation) of the foot washing story WAS a sinful woman that Christ was generous enough to forgive. The whole point of that story, i.e., the guy who is forgiven the greater debt is more thankful to lender, reinforces the notion that (1) the woman sinned, (2) her sin was great, (3) she required forgiveness, (4) the forgiveness was externally provided by Christ, and (5) she should express her gratitude for that forgiveness.

    Given that Mary M and that sinful woman are often taught as the same person, isn’t it odd to be trying to distance Mary M from that lesson? The lesson is still there. Gaga’s criticism of the lesson is still valid. Is your only concern that she identified the wrong Mary (if that was her real name…)?

  453. honeyandlocusts
    June 15, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    So much to respond to, and I will, I will, this week got heavy, big funeral in the parish where I serve, promise to be back with lots of thoughts either tomorrow or Friday.

  454. honeyandlocusts
    June 19, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    This is now a million years late, tons of apologies.

    I’m going to try to do this quickly, because I think I may be the only one watching this thread anymore.

    First, the conversation between Momentary and zuzu about Elizabeth is so, so cool. I am now thinking more and more than I just have just gone full on bible scholar on Mary of Magdala and talked about the research and the empire-critical commentaries. Because I wish we could have a conversation about her as a figure in the same complex ways you are talking about Elizabeth, taking into account all the complexities of the artistic creator’s biases, the ways that women are portrayed in general, the history as we have it, the ways that women have particular pressure on them to behave, etc.

    @zuzu in particular, about all the people who resist criticism of Lady Gaga at all. Imprecise and not well-thought-out writing on my part, and I apologize. This is why usually write many drafts and then wait and edit. I was trying to get at my curiosity at the fact that some people were intensely interested in a very particular privilege breakdown of me, but not interested in doing so for Lady Gaga (in part because she’s An Artist, at least as I have been interpreting what they have written.)

    So I’ve been thinking about the artist piece and this privilege piece and I wonder if we haven’t been clear about what kind of “rights” we’re talking about when we’re talking about artistic use. I would like to be more precise in my language about that. So here’s how it breaks down for me, I think:
    1. All artists have the right to use whatever they want, in the sense that I don’t believe in censorship at all. Free speech is absolutely essential in society, as is freedom of religion and I hope and work alongside many of you for the day when we actually have a real separation of church and state.
    2. It is not appropriate/best practices/justice-making/liberative for everyone to use everything all the time. We see this in a case like Kreayshawn right now (http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/on-kreayshawn-and-the-utility-of-black-women/). It is OK, I think, to say, “Hey! That’s my stuff you’re using! You shouldn’t do that!” or to be a supportive ally to that outrage without implying that you think that free speech should end or that your viewpoint should be the state-mandated one. It also becomes important here to be able to do analyses of privilege and power and appropriation. It also becomes appropriate here to talk about how certain readings actually work in the world, in relationship to injustice and oppression (for example, Mel Gibson’s Passion – he has the right as an artist to make that movie, but it collaborates with his position of power and privilege, the power and privilege of a particular kind of Christian discourse, a history of anti-semitism and anti-Judaism, etc. And we can be critical of it in that context without saying it should be illegal for him to make it).

    Because of the history of Christian tyranny, combined with a flawed analysis of how authority works in my position as Christian and priest, there has been a tendency to read me as saying the first one of these. This is inaccurate.

    AnonforThis, thank you for the that heartening and humanizing response. I appreciate it very much. Here’s just a few thoughts, on the off change you’re still checking in here. But I think since this thread is winding down, this will be my last long response.

    She isn’t just someone privately playing with blasphemy, she’s a huge celebrity with huge reach. I feel like that power differential allows her to make really significant dents in the collective unconscious in ways that might not be readily obvious.

    Here’s where I’m becoming more and more convinced that I should have gone the bible nerd route. Because a fundamental part of my argument is that she’s not blaspheming, and I wish she were. Her portrayal of Mary of Magdala is the orthodox one about women, how women behave, what women think, what sex workers are like, what women’s relationship to sex is, etc. And that portrayal matters. (Right now we have Christian conservatives who think it’s OK to have sex workers experience violence and death because of how the tradition uses women like Mary of Magdala. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1010048–risk-to-sex-workers-may-be-justified-court-told) I listen to these people talk, and their whole framework is virgin/whore, and all Lady Gaga is doing is feeding that myth.

    I’ve thought about this “but women are whole people and conflicted too!” thing as well, but we both know that the eternally wavering trembling indecisive archetype thing is not always great for women. I mean, that’s the argument used to defend Carrie Bradshaw and Ally McBeal as feminist heroines, and I’m not buying it.

    The way you describe the Lady Gaga concert reminds me of nothing so much as church, when church is good. Honestly. That’s not like an argument or anything but that was my first and most vivid response to it. Thank you for sharing it, for your experience of liberation in that space.

    You see Judas as the person who betrayed the central figure of your religion and the primary symbol of love and acceptance and good that you have to work with. That makes Judas a pretty big villain.

    I don’t see Judas that way. But Rick Santorum etc. and their minions do, and that means it matters to me how we talk about Judas.

    Siding with Judas is only evil if you consider siding with Judas to be evil. The idea of siding with Judas would make Mary a hero in a Gnostic context.
    I don’t believe in Gnosticism. I’m serious. (Karen King’s work in her book on the Gospel of Mary is a fabulous source for the Gnosticism conversation). I think the strongest scholarship right now supports the claim that “Gnostic” was a label used by men clawing their way to the top of the new power elite in early Christianity, a label used to discredit any flavor of Christian community or practice that didn’t vibe with their orthodoxy as they were attempting to establish it. That label was flung on a big group of incredibly diverse Christian communities, some with women in leadership. What we don’t have is evidence of any individuals or communities self-identifying as Gnostic in the early years of Christianity. And all the things that are “hallmarks of Gnosticism” are also present in the canonical gospels, to varying degrees, so slicing up Christianity into Gnosticism and “orthodoxy” is to give those terrifying dudes the power to create the terms of the debate and to silence any conversation about how flexible, fluid, varied, and chaotic Christianities were in the first few centuries. I refuse to do that.

    What you said misogynists have to say about Mary of Magdala is what I feel Christianity intrinsically says about humanity in general. The need for a Christ, the fact that we’d go to hell without it, the use of words like “grace” and “salvation,” the rhetoric about Jesus paying for our sins, feels to me like I’m being told that I’m so damned worthless and should be so thankful that God loves me enough to send his only begotten son to redeem me. Its not just patronizing, its threatening, because if I’m seen as so damned evil as to be worthy of Hell then what could be justified against me? Its terrifying because I don’t have to look back too far to see what has already been justified.

    Exactly. I agree with you 100% here. This is why it is important to me to do this reclamation work, to come back screaming and fighting at this incredibly destructive theology of the human person in relationship to God.

    Put another way, I can find great meaning in William Blake’s work at least in part because his Christian scholarship isn’t great. Even though he uses Christian images they can be meaningful and transformative for me because they have been divorced in some way from their source. Does that make sense?

    It does, but I don’t think that Blake usage is divorced from its source. It’s not scholarly, but it’s not divorced from the source.

    Again, I just want to say thanks for bearing with me, for this conversation, for listening. And for hearing, especially, the piece how how it is discombobulating it is for me to be in a position where I’m online and some “orthodox American Anglican” is like: “You are everything that is wrong with the world! How DARE you presume to do and say what you do and say!” and feminist atheists are like “You are everything that is wrong with the world! How DARE you presume to do and say what you do and say!” and the people in front of me are like, “Thank you. I wouldn’t have survived this without you.”

  455. honeyandlocusts
    June 19, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Arrrrr, obviously screwed up my blockquoting above…hopefully you can tell what’s mine and what’s yours, sorry, end of 13 hour Sunday fail.

  456. honeyandlocusts
    June 19, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Kristen J. – such a good but complicated question!

    I’m going to try and give the not-30-pages long version.

    First, Mary of Magdala and the anointing woman are separate characters. They got confused/elided because the woman who anoints Jesus in the Gospel of John is named Mary, and because early Christian dudes couldn’t conceptualize MULTIPLE WOMEN in major roles in relationship to Jesus, they decided she was Mary of Magdala. The text doesn’t support this.

    Second, the anointing woman as sinner is a Lukan twist on an older story. I think the juicy and critical analysis of that story is not what Lady Gaga is doing (because, as I said, I think she’s parroting the party line) but in the digging around in that story itself.

    The anointing woman story changes over time and we can watch its evolution in the Gospels themselves (for those outside the Christian tradition, the Gospels are the four books in the “New Testament” that tell the story of the life and death of Jesus…there are lots more gospels than those four, but those four are what comprise the canon, and the names of those gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. “Gospel” just means “good news”, so it means “The Good News According to Matthew” or whatever, but “gospel” has also just become the shorthand word for “book from early Christianity that tells Jesus stories). It’s actually this totally fascinating like flipbook of what is happening in the conversation about women’s authority in early Jesus communities. (Note, when I’m using “Mark” writes, or whatever, that’s shorthand for the Markan community. I don’t believe these are eyewitnesses or anything.)

    Mark (written c. 70 CE, all dates are rough) – the anointing woman is unnamed, approaches Jesus as part of the Passion narrative, uses expensive oil to anoint his head, the disciples get mad and Jesus defends her. Jesus says that wherever the good news is shared in the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. DEEP IRONY ALERT: by the time the Markan community is writing this story down, they have already forgotten her name. *headdesk* This story is important for a couple reasons. One, the title “Messiah” means, literally, “Anointed.” Jesus isn’t the Anointed until he’s, you know, anointed, so in one sense, she makes him the messiah. Also, the tradition in the Hebrew Scriptures is that you know a king by their anointing at the hands of a prophet. This woman is a prophet who anoints him, completely consistent with the tradition. This freaks the disciples the fuck out. They flip. Women can’t do that! AAAAH! (This is where we get the totally problematic “the poor you shall always have with you” thing, which is probably the single most misunderstood verse in the Christian Scriptures, I think. But derail!). This is really, really powerful story, with a really, really powerful woman, and already within it there is documentation of men’s challenge to women’s power and intimacy with Jesus.

    Matthew (written c. 80-85) – The Matthew community has a copy of the Gospel of Mark and basically copies it verbatim. Well and good.

    Luke (written c. 80-90, likely after Matthew, disputed) – This is where shit gets nasty. Luke has this bitter relationship with women figures in his gospel. Interestingly, there are more women in Luke than in any other gospel. However! He goes to special pains to silence them (they’re not allowed to speak in his story) and/or to make sure they are very sinful and repentant. So he takes this major, major story about the anointing woman, removes it from the Passion narrative, makes the woman “a sinner”, has her anoint Jesus’s feet instead of his head (completely robbing the story of its prophetic connections), has her crying and crying, makes a tidy little point about sin and forgiveness, and makes it all about how nicey nicey Jesus is sooooo nice to let this horrible sinful woman who needs forgiveness touch his feet. *barf*

    John (written c. 90-120, really disputed) – says that the woman is Mary, of Mary and Martha fame, sister of Lazarus, has her anoint his feet and the objector is named as Judas. Sigh. John is a really weird and interesting gospel, but not because of this.

    Shockingly, a super patriarchal church liked to tell the story of the anointing woman in the way that made her the least powerful. So there was and is a tendency to only use Luke’s version, with a few hints of John thrown in. But this is a shitty and misogynist way to use this story, and for Lady Gaga to just be like, great, that’s how the story is, I’m a sinner, I’m washing his feet with my hair, I love Judas who is the stand-in for sin right now, etc etc just supports and perpetuates the misogynist read of this story. I think the telling of history from below is really important, and for me, part of the work of liberation is to tell stories, to read history and myth critically, to do an analysis of how certain stories function and what ideologies they support. This is why Lady Gaga’s telling of the story in a way that is friendly to the Christian Right matters to me so much. Does that make sense?

  457. Kristen J.
    June 21, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    I’m quite familiar with story actually. Let me try to explain this again. With a sports metaphor couresty of M.

    Imagine that I write an extensive post about the harms caused by steriod use: how it creates unrealistic expectations of masculinity and permanently damages younger players.

    Now imagine in the course of this post, I refer to a player “Bonds.” And being an expert on steriods rather than an expert on baseball, I say “Bobby” rather than “Barry”.

    (To make this analogy really work, Bobby and Barry would have to have been confused in baseball lore, but that aside.)

    Now imagine someone responds with This Is Racist. Bobby did not use steriods. He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was never really recognized for his awesome because the league is so damn racist.

    Really, really? The entire message is invalid because the name is wrong? Because at the end of the day. Steriods are being used in baseball and Mary, the sinful woman requiring forgiveness, is a Christian tradition.

    Your analysis still seems to be trying to walk back from this idea. Through some very creative reading of the Bible. That story has been told, misogyny intact, to generations of women. Probably to both Lady Gaga and her producer.

    When engaging THEIR experience of Christianity, they don’t have an obligation to learn YOUR understanding of Christianity to do so.

    That’s the bottom line.

  458. Raja
    June 22, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    What Kristen J. said.

  459. honeyandlocusts
    June 23, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Kristen J., at no time did I say the lone issue was a mistake about her name. I made the argument that purposefully eliding Mary of Magdala with the character of the anointing woman as told only by Luke and John is *itself* an intentional misreading of her person in order to discredit her and to snuff out any glimmer of a hope that women might be equipped for leadership within the Christian matrix.

    We’re still clear that all analogies are imperfect, right? Say the Concerned Women of America wrote a piece about Queen Elizabeth portraying her as a frustrated housewife, who yearned to be take care of by a man, who desired a baby more than anything else on earth, and a little cottage to call her own. Should their “experience” of Queen Elizabeth be taken as seriously as the facts of her life as we have them combined with a healthy dose of skepticism about who’s telling the story? Is it a “very creative reading” to point out the contributions of women throughout history, simply because traditionally in the US school system, only the stories of men are told? Should we not challenge the Concerned Women of America because THEY are under no obligation to use OUR story about women?

    Origin stories matter, particularly when we’re dealing with one of the hugest justifications for the oppression of women known on the planet. We are permitted to question them, and sometimes, I think, mandated to question them, particularly if their effects are incredibly harmful.

  460. Raja
    June 23, 2011 at 4:49 am

    No, it wouldn’t be taken seriously because Queen Elizabeth is a historical figure whose reign has been far more accurately documented than the actual founder of Christianity itself. Anyone who knew anything about Queen Elizabeth would immediately dismiss it and if they didn’t they could easily do a Google search which would have revealed her actions throughout her life have been contrary to the fact that she wanted to settle down and have a husband and stated through her own words that she had no desire to do (I apologize for the long quotation in advance), “I matter most unpleasing, most pleasing to me is the apparent Good will of you and my People, as proceeding from a very good mind towards me and the Commonwealth. Concerning Marriage, which ye so earnestly move me to, I have been long since persuaded, that I was sent into this world by God to think and doe those things chiefly which may tend to his Glory. Hereupon have I chosen that kind of life which is most free from the troublesome cares of this world, that I might attend the Service of God alone. From which if either the tendred Marriages of most Potent Princes, or the danger of Death intended against me, could have removed me, I had long agone enjoyed the honor of an Husband. And these things have I thought upon when I was a private person. But now that the public Care of governing the Kingdom is laid upon me, to draw upon me also the Cares of Marriage may seem a point of inconsiderate Folly. Yea, to satisfy you, I have already joined m self in Marriage to an Husband, namely, the Kingdom of England. And behold (said she which I marvel ye have forgotten,) the Pledge of this my Wedlock and Marriage with my Kingdom. (And therewith she drew the Ring from her Finger, and showed it, wherewith at her Coronation she had in a set form of words solemnly given herself in Marriage to her Kingdom.) Here having made a pause, And do not (saith she) upbraid me with miserable lack of Children: for every one of you, and as many as are Englishmen, are Children and Kinsmen to me; of whom if God deprive me not, (which God forbid) I cannot without injury be accounted Barren. But I commend you that ye have not appointed me an Husband, for that were most unworthy the Majesty of an absolute Princess, and unbeseeming you’re Wisdom, which are Subjects born. Nevertheless if it please God that I enter into another course of life, I promise you I will doe nothing which may be prejudicial to the Commonwealth, but will take such a Husband, as near as may be, as will have as great a Care of the Commonwealth as my self. But if I continue in this kind of life I have begun, I doubt not but God will so direct mine own and your Counsels, that ye shall not need to doubt of a Successor which may be more beneficial to the Commonwealth than he which may be born of me, considering that the Issue of the best Princes many times degenerateth. And to me it shall be a full satisfaction, both for the memorial of my Name, and for my Glory also, if when I shall let my last breath, it be ingraven upon my Marble Tomb, Here lieth Elizabeth, which Reigned a Virgin, and died a Virgin.”
    Religion cannot be evaluated in the same way, it’s not history in the sense that it can be documented or proven rather it is a set of beliefs about the supernatural (for a lack of a better word) held by a group of people. That is why there are so many different sects within Christianity because the interpretations of the biblical texts are virtually limitless and it all depends on which ones you read and what you take and what you leave. You therefore cannot “get it right” in the same sense you can about history. Europe tried this approach and as you well know killed thousands of people in the name of eliminating “blasphemy” because it did not fit their version of events. The Bible itself was written years after Jesus’s death, heck we don’t even have historical records that proved the man actually physically existed or was even cruficed as no Roman records that document it which is awfully strange considering it is from my understanding they were pretty good record keepers and executing someone as big as Jesus would have definitely gotten recorded. Not to mention, a lot of it was taken from the Old Testament. In addition, most of the gospels we have today were selected because the church favored them while others were regarded as false (including that one Gospel that advocated for women’s equal participation in the church if I remember correctly). And let’s not forget a lot of Christianity has done appropriating of other religions (paganism mainly). As for Lady Gaga, as it has been said before was raised Catholic thus that tradition belongs to her as much as anyone else who had that upbringing. Gaga’s own explanation for the song is here; (http://www.christianpost.com/news/lady-gagas-judas-anything-but-a-religious-statement-50133/) which pretty much makes it clear that song itself isn’t really meant to be a biblical lesson or a religious statement at all rather than a metaphor. Furthermore, Lady Gaga is a pop star not a social activist, she may have some progressive views but that does not put her in the same category so with almost any art it’s a take or leave it sort of thing. But while we are on the discussion of female figures in Christianity/Judaism (Jesus after all was supposedly a Jew and one could argue that he wasn’t try to create a new religion but rather reform parts of Judaism but again this is all purely speculation) I would like to point out another character who isn’t as known as Mary but whose story I think could have an equally powerful feminist message (now that I am doing more research about her I think it’s actually really unfortunate that she is barely mentioned at all when it comes to religious feminism as far as I can tell) which is Lilith, Adam’s supposed first wife before Eve. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1513/whats-the-story-on-lilith-adams-first-wife Not the most academic source on the subject I know but this is just an overview of what she is about. I wish Gaga had done a video on her instead, she’s less known character and I think in some ways could have been a more powerful statement than using the known lore.

  461. June 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    i was really happy about this video, ever since telephone it was the first one i kind of liked again …. is interesting enough

    she keeps up with this sex-education, which is nice …. the song describes a very common emotional dilemma (between boyfriend and some bad boy) …. somehow gaga is conquering space for description and acknowledgement of female sexuality

    THIS CHRISTIAN thing is just fashion (from a sort of emo-“gucci”-goth tradition) .. [gucci stands for commercialized mile-class]….. is very good fashion i think is both fetish and very emotional …. fetish would tend toward depersonification (consensual), here it expresses erotic emotion in structure and roles in society/relationship.

    i m trying to develop a notion of “porn-hacking” on my brand new, not yet launch-able blog …. and i think this would be felicitous porn-hacking.
    http://aliceinshadowland.blogspot.com/2011/05/porn-hacking-ii.html

  462. Kristen J.
    June 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Sure origin stories matter. Bobby Bonds as one of the early, great african american players is a story that also matters. His reputation doesn’t deserve to be tarnished by his son’s steroid use. If my hypothetical post was ABOUT Bobby Bonds then…sure criticize away. If my hypothetical post was ABOUT steroid use then a discussion of Bobby vs Barry serves only to shift the focus away from and obscure the original point…steroids are bad.

    Mary may or may not have been a real person, but she has been used by Christians to illustrate that female sexuality is bad. She is a Christian symbol of female repentance. Critiquing the notion of repentence using the symbol Christianity chose is not the same as or remotely similar to saying that Mary, the woman, was a slut. If you want to change her symbolic use, take it up with the establishment, not its critics.

  463. honeyandlocusts
    June 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Kristen J., I’m not familiar enough with Barry and Bobby Bonds for that analogy to make sense to me. I’m sorry about that, my sports knowledge is close to nothing.

    In which ways do you think the video/song challenges the establishment’s understanding of Mary of Magdala?

  464. Kristen J.
    June 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Female sexual desire is sinful, requires repentence (wiping away the desire), and the prize is external forgiveness (rather than self-acceptance).

  465. honeyandlocusts
    June 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I’m not sure how, though, the video critiques those things. I think the video duplicates those things. But I can’t tell where the critique comes in.

  466. Kristen J.
    June 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Huh? How do get female sexuality is wrong from a video that embraces female sexuality? If she doesn’t repent from her desire, she explicitly rejects the notion. She uses the story most symbolic of Christ’s forgiveness and then fucks with it by saying – I am not repentant. And Gaga herself has stated that this song is about accepting your desires and forgiving yourself.

    If this story were “duplicating” those ideas Gaga would be dressed differently, her mannerisms would suggest she no longer has desires, the title would be “No longer in love with Judas”, and she’d reinact word for word that revolting scene from Luke.

  467. honeyandlocusts
    June 26, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    So, she’s female, and she’s behaving in all the socially proscribed ways that we’re told women are supposed to behave when they’re “sexy”. Does that automatically mean that she’s “embracing” female sexuality? I’m not convinced that a very thin very rich very famous white lady who believes people in her elite category “shouldn’t eat” is someone whose understanding of the tremendous diversity and richness and hotness of female sexuality I trust terribly much.

    I think she mashes together two (or possibly three) distinct stories and tell the exact same story about women that The Church does – women are full of sex, women are confused, women are “in love with Judas”, women are helplessly this way and even proud of it (