In conservative religious circles women have had a difficult time existing. Either they are forced into compulsive passivity or they are crushed by male dominated hierarchies; reduced or kicked out.

Some religions keep women locked away, essentially if not totally, or lock them away by covering them in all manners of coverings so as to make the coverings themselves the only sign of femininity.

For the most part there seems to be one reason for this. Lust.

Men think women are pretty, and their thoughts then wander away from what they thought was their devout religious devotion. Who is at fault? The women. Religious men are engaged in spiritual pursuits, so it is the women who have been cast as the temptresses, luring men away from their heaven directed considerations. Each woman, at essence, becomes to these conservative religions the adultress at the doorway, beckoning each man towards her.

So, men, in their always creative wisdom decide that the answer to this is to lock away the women. If they are the temptation, then they must be pushed out. Men should not have to abide their seductive ways.

Women are pretty, you see, and men shouldn’t have to put up with that. So they don’t, and create religious doctrine which assures that women cannot pursue their own original sin by destroying the eternal ambitions of men.

The problem with this philosophy, of course, is that it’s utterly stupid. Women are blamed, and entire religious standards are enforced, because men are silly weak creatures, who always would rather blame others. Most religious men can abide realizing their own immaturity a lot less than than dealing with temptation.

For the most part it’s thought that Christianity is one of these religions. Indeed, much ink has been spilled on this topic, and history shows that Christianity has assumed a patriarchal attitude that represses the fullness of women as much as the next religion. However, this isn’t inherent to the theology, it is a corruption of Christian theology to blame the object for the subject’s sin.

We are responsible for ourselves, and if our minds wander it is not the destination’s fault. We’ve allowed an overlong leash, and face the judgment of our sin. In facing this judgment it is easy to compound the sin by deflected the fullness of the blame away. What someone else does or doesn’t do is their own worry. I can only concern myself with myself, and thus what I think or do is fully my responsibility.

Think I’m misconstruing Christian theology in order to make up for centuries of mistakes? An eleventh century monk echoes third and fourth century monks, who echoed 1st century apostles, when he wrote this:

If your soul is allured by comeliness of body and usurped by the passion-imbued thoughts that it seems to evoke, do not assume that such comeliness is the cause of your agitated and impassioned state. The cause lies hidden in your soul, and it is your soul’s passionate disposition and evil habits that, as a magnet attracts iron, attracts to itself such impurity from the beauty it perceives. For all things are created by God and all, as He Himself says, are ‘wholly good and beautiful’ (Gen. 1:31), providing no ground at all for impugning His creation.

Just as seasickness is due, not to the sea’s nature, but to the already existing disorder of the body’s humors, so the soul’s confusion and turmoil are due, not to the beauty of countenance in the person that it perceives, but to its pre-existing evil disposition.

The problem of much Christian history is that the confusion and turmoil of souls are blamed on outside influences. We are to flee from temptation and keep away from evil, but it is not the temptation nor the evil which cause the danger. It is our own weakness. If we were not weak nothing would overcome us, and we would see this world as God sees it.

But, again, it is always easiest, and psychologically comforting, to blame others for the weaknesses of our person or our institutions. So, we attack and defame and malign those who are not masters of our souls, pouring our energy into attacking the false foe rather than the real enemy within.

And Satan laughs.

For as long as we are turned away from the real problems, these can fester and consume, leaving us empty shells, of no worth to anyone. Fighting the wrong battles also encourages religions to emphasize the wrong points, create foolish standards, and enforce perverted doctrines.

Really, I think it’s time we stopped blaming others for our own sins. The world would be much better for it, and we might actually find the light we are searching for.

Plus, the fullness of the work of the Spirit in the lives of all people, male and female, could be allowed to blossom and encouraged to reveal the fullness of the Triune God in our communities. While we let our sin rule our theology, the Spirit is stifled and we have a wan message and an emaciated strength.

Theology does make a difference, and it’s time we look back on the ancient paths and see how the truly mature viewed temptation and gender relationships. Christianity, not to mention other religions, has taken a wrong trail on this topic, and countless millions have suffered the consequences.

I originally posted this back in 2005 on my old blog, but it came to mind today and I thought I’d repost it.

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