I normally don't care what people in the entertainment industry think. Being famous because you're good-looking and/or you can sing, play a sport or act doesn't mean that you can string together two coherent sentences about the sandwich you ate for lunch, let alone why you think the new detente with North Korea will fail. It's always possible for people to show they have substance and valid opinions, such as Bono with his work on AIDS and poverty. But in general, I wish entertainers would stick to entertaining and everyone else would just quit swooning over every pronouncement that an entertainer makes.
Of course, with that intro you know there's a "but" coming, and here it is: Amanda
just linked to a very well-written and thoughtful little essay from Joss Whedon
, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, in particular, is considered to be a show that was more about strong women characters than it was about vampires or witches. Buffy
did what all good science fiction and fantasy does, which is make a statement about the present world.
The essay is about Du'a Khalil
, a seventeen-year-old girl who was murdered in early April, most likely by her own relatives. The full story is not known, with some saying she was killed because she was absent from home for a night, some saying it was because she converted to Islam to marry a Sunni boy, some saying it was just because she had a relationship with the Sunni Muslim. All versions, however, contain the same thread, the same reason for her death, which is that it was an "honor killing." Du'a Khalil did something that offended her male relatives' sense of honor, and they beat her, kicked her, threw stones at her, dropped cinder blocks on her, and they recorded it all on their camera phones the same way that I will record my daughter doing the Chicken Dance for her Grandma and Grandpa.
Before we give in to the temptation to assume that the main part of the problem is that these people
are in the Middle East, let's look at what Whedon has to say:
How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence -- is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.
Whedon also talks about an upcoming movie, Captivity
, which is yet another in the line of torture-porn flicks that are being passed off as "horror" nowadays. This movie takes the "sexy girl getting what she deserves" motif to its furthest extent yet, since the movie is about nothing other than an attractive young woman being kidnapped and graphically, creatively tortured for a couple of hours of summertime fun. As Whedon points out, her first word in the movie is "sorry." Sorry for what? Maybe she had a boyfriend of another faith. Maybe she had the gall to go to a bar and order a drink. Or wear a short skirt, or a cleavage-revealing blouse. Maybe she was walking down the street alone at night.
Or maybe she was sitting at home in a billowy long-sleeved nightgown with a high neck, at home with 4 locks on her doors, electronic alarms all over her house, reading the Bible and getting ready for a day of doing the laundry, cleaning and cooking. Because no one ever
rapes and/or kills a woman because she was wearing revealing clothing, or because she got drunk or was in the wrong part of town. People rape and kill women because, as Whedon points out, women are morally inferior, they are manipulative, they are intellectually incomplete, they seduce righteous men into sin, they are expendable pieces of property that must be shown examples every once in a while that make it clear to them just what their real status is.
And this isn't a problem in Islamic culture, or this
culture or that
culture. It's a problem everywhere.
How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women’s behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death?
There was a time, when belief in a deity was more or less the default setting for everyone, that Christianity was able to produce wonderful advances in science, art and human rights. The abolitionists, the suffragettes, the American Civil Rights movement, services to the poor and sick, these were all things that happened because of people's Christian faith. And while there were horrible abominations that were done in the name of the Christian God at the same time, it seems like it was possible to recognize that the issue was a competing understanding of what God wanted us to do.
The problem now is that the human race has developed, while the Christian Church - and let's face it, other religions as well - largely has not, and in several settings has actually worded to turn the clock back. Many people have decided that they don't need to believe in a god in order to function quite well in this world, and so they either just don't care or outright reject the very idea that a god could exist.
I was taught in church that people believe this way because of the power of sin and the seductive wiles of Satan. I no longer believe that. People are atheists because religious faith in this world is increasingly irrational, superstitious, bigoted, fearful, and instead of being used as a tool to justify brutality and injustice, serves as the basis for brutality and injustice.
The existence of a few Christians or even some groups of them that reject this type of thinking is no longer enough, in my opinion, to hold nonbelievers accountable for not believing. The truth
of the matter is that religion in this world is so messed up, so far from what it could and should be, that I wonder if Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus is not himself an atheist
Because I don't think he believes in the bullshit god of the religious fanatics either.
I will still believe, and will still try to do my small part in keeping Christianity from completely falling into the abyss of hate and fear. But my theology says that those who attempt, at least, to live dedicated to love, acceptance, peace and justice, will be accepted by God, even if they intentionally reject belief in Jesus Christ - because the Christ they know is not Christ as he really is, and so they reject not him but a false belief in him, a lie. And though they reject the name, they embrace the person.
If I am going to oppose, with all that I can, things like the brutal, senseless murder of Du'a Khalil, then it is clear that while my faith in God can inspire me and strengthen me, I will find no ally in Christianity the religion. There is no institution in this world that will be such, really, not the US government, not democracy, not corporations or the UN or even humanitarian organizations as such. At this time in this world, those of us who seek justice, who seek equality, who wish to see the sick healed and the poor fed, the prisoner visited and the naked clothed must band together with anyone and everyone who shares these goals, no matter what name they give their faith or even if they have no "faith" at all.