I’m a Dad. I have a seventeen-year-old daughter and she’s the love of my life. She’s at the age where I know I’ll be sending her off into the world soon, all by herself. I get pretty misty-eyed when I think about that. I wonder if she’ll be happy, if she’ll make a wonderful life, if she’ll find a wonderful guy (and give me grandkids!). I wonder if she’ll do a better job at marriage than I did, be more successful with her work, if she’ll do everything better than I did. I hope so. I think she will.
I’m also a writer. And I write mostly about religion and spiritual things, so when I think about my daughter being off in the world I also wonder a lot about the things that religion says about women, and how this will affect her life. What to make of all those awful things the Bible says?! What is she to think of the insinuations (let alone the outright assertions) that women are the cause of all evil, that they are secondary creatures in God’s scheme? I’m glad she lives in an age where such notions are generally discredited. But does that mean that all spiritual things have to be discredited? I hope not. That, I suspect, would leave her life (and yours and mine) rather empty of much that makes life worth living.
Fortunately, I don’t think the Bible really says all that stuff anyway, and that’s what I tell my daughter. It’s all a question of taking things in a small-minded, literalistic way, or looking for real meaning in the symbols and metaphors and parables. In Eden, for instance, one can see that ‘Adam’ (like all male characters in myth and scripture) represents the human Mind (of both sexes), ‘Eve’ (like all the female characters) represents our Heart, and the ‘Serpent’ (like all the animals in the stories) represents our Body. The ‘sin’ in the Garden of Eden is something we all commit – Male and Female – right now! The Mind, and thus our better judgment and higher wisdom, becomes passive, like Adam; the Body, with all its cravings for comfort and short-term, often-questionable, pleasures, takes over the soul and starts making all the decisions for us; and our Heart, which should be guided by our intelligence but has been mesmerized by all the gluttony and vulgarity that surround us, fawns over the cravings of the Body. This ‘upside-down’ state of our souls is what I think the Bible is warning us about. Looking around, it takes very little imagination to see that this biblical allegory provides a complete, accurate, and frighteningly pertinent description of our contemporary life. ‘Eve’ didn’t do anything wrong. It’s us. All of us. Taken the right way, the whole rest of the Bible can be read as an ‘instruction manual’ showing us how to fix this.
So I hope my daughter remembers that God isn’t sexist, that religion isn’t sexist. Stupid people are sexist. God’s Creation is as loving and respectful toward her as it is toward men. Soon, that world will be ‘her oyster’. I’ll miss her, but I know she’ll have a fantastic life.
(PS. If you want to hear some more about the symbolic meaning of the stories about all the women in the Bible, I have a series of three-to-four minute videos where I talk about each character. The production quality isn’t great, but the stories are wonderful! You can watch them here.)