Are you allowed not to like things in the Bible? I don’t like this chapter about unclean things much, I think it is sexist. I will now proceed to rationalise it a bit, but I still think its sexist and don’t like it much. It doesn’t lessen my faith in God, but it does lessen or justify lessening the faith of many people. Its one of those awkward passages that people raise to say that christianity is stupid. Which I don’t know what to make of.
So to the lame rationalisation. I don’t think “unclean” is meant to have the connotation “shameful” for one thing, which is natural for it to have. But if you think about it, if I’ve worked hard in the garden all day and then go out without having a shower, I’m sort of unclean. Its not sociable to my friends and fellow diners who have to smell me, or who’s clothes get dirty if I pat them on the back, and I feel grotty and sweaty. But the fact that I got that way is not shameful. It would have been more shameful if I never did the gardening. I just worked up honest sweat, and I needed a shower. Likewise I think this is an issue of context rather than shame.
So if a man has an emission or a woman is menstruating, I don’t think its saying those are bad things, its just saying, don’t go to the temple then. Put it this way, if you didn’t show up and someone said “oh, its your period, how are you” and you said “its not my period”, that would be more of a problem. So its as much like a “you’re excused”.
Colds are similar, I mean we know that staying away decreases the risk of infection, but even if we didn’t know that, its sometimes just a politeness to spare people your company if you are coughing and snivelling. When I am at work with a cold and my boss says “go home, we don’t want you here” he is not condemning me for having a cold, he’s giving me and everyone else a break.
Similarly I don’t think the bible doesn’t wan’t us to think that the rules for “purification” after childbirth mean that childbirth is shameful or makes you an undesirable outcast. Its a good reason not to be at church.
I read a passionate commentary from a woman who said she thought it was actually much more enlightened than similar surrounding cultures would have been in respecting women’s excuses for needing a break – thinking of them as real people with needs.
I was less convinced reading her justification than I was when I’ve written this one. I’m starting to talk myself into it, a bit. But not much.
Sexist views of menstruation include regarding it as a reason for treating women as too emotionally unstable for serious responsibilities, or treating it like it doesn’t exist, or if forced to acknowledge it, finding it disgusting. This chapter is not directly guilty of the first two, but arguably the last, unless you buy the line that its actually a thoughtful treatment for women, which I really don’t.
In the rest of Leviticus we have a male only priesthood, which is consistent with the first kind of sexism. Arguably since they were in a world where religions with priestesses seemed to be built around a lot of bonking and exploitation of women, it could mean the male only thing was a statement about that. But it would have been more of a statement to build a religion where women simply had a role that wasn’t built around sex.
Anyway, it makes the point that God deserves your sunday best, scrubbed up and groomed.
I’m going to make a new tag for this chapter #leave-it-to-heaven. For questions that I simply don’t understand – that don’t destroy my faith, but just seem wrong to me, like this.
Regrettably this marks the point at which my bible blog departs from being a perfect insight into the mind of god and all knowledge. I had hoped when it was complete to be omniscient. Sigh.