Responding to Chapter 5: Woman, the Other
Daphne Hampson, After Christianity (London: SCM Press, 1996)
Summary and Commentary:
This chapter is an exploration of three profiles of women and their treatment: woman as ideal, slut and complement to the male. The first section discusses the role of parents in our lives, as well as the relation between Father and Son in the Trinity and a look at the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the second section the violent nature of God in the Hebrew Bible is exposed in the words of Gracia Fay Ellwood:
Sadistic tortures are employed, as for example in Ezekiel 32:25 in which the woman’s nose and ears are to be cut off. Murder is threatened… Overwhelming jealousy and possessiveness characterises most batterers… Yahweh’s jealousy is of this irrational sort… Yahweh punishes Israel by means of rape in a series of grim passages [Isaiah 3.16-17]… Jeremiah makes a similar point, focusing on Yahweh’s jealousy: ‘It is for the greatness of your iniquity that your skirts are lifted up, and you suffer violence… I myself will lift up your skirts over your face’ (Jer 13:22, 26)… [Furthermore there is revulsion at women’s sexuality.] In Lamentations we find ‘all who honoured [Jerusalem] despise her, for they have seen her nakedness… Her uncleanness was in her skirts’ (Lam 1:8-9).
– Gracia Fay Ellwood, Batter My Heart (Pendle Hill Pamphlet 282, 1988, pp.7-17) in Hampson, p.186
And they still call the Bible a Holy Book.
She goes on to defend the countless number of women who have attended church services despite this judgement upon them. She writes that as she herself well knows, breaking with one’s religion is traumatic. So many have been brought up in the Church which
has served to interpret their world to them. That is what is so invidious. Within patriarchal society the girl too has looked up to her father, so that it has seemed the most natural thing in the world to love the father God. (p.205)
There is certainly more equality for women than there was in previous centuries. But where Christianity is concerned, it is still a very patriarchal society, despite female ordination coming in 1994.
The Church has had 2000 years to be Christ-like. If as a body it cannot change, then I pray it falls soon, and that the post-Christianity Hampson desires will bring peace and real love amongst communities of passion.