I woke up this morning to find a video of the recent public execution of an Afghani woman on my Facebook feed. (Trigger alert: The video depicts the actual execution.) My eyes teared as I watched this brutal attack against a defenseless and scape-goated woman. She looks back toward her taunters just before her world is silenced. I wish her last view of the world was not one so filled with hate. I hope she was able to remember, in that split second, one gentle moment in her life, one that enabled her to block from her vision the men who claimed to be doing Allah’s will.
(Side note: The video reminded me of the excellent book, by Freidoune Sahebjam, turned movie, The Stoning of Soraya M., based on true events which took place in a small Iranian village in 1986. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, I highly recommend both. The movie consolidates some of the religious and political narrative, but captures the heart of the book and the horror Soraya faced fighting a system so utterly stacked against her. Both texts reflect the horrors of fundamentalist religion and belief, capturing the use of religion as justification for evil and immoral acts.)
I am thankful beyond measure that I was lucky enough to be born in the U.S., that my own daughters will be raised in a society within which they can reasonably expect they won’t be executed–publically or privately–because they are women. But I am concerned about this country. I am concerned because the “This is Allah’s will; he told us to do this” line of thinking is becoming more and more prevalent in our political landscape.
We have politicians, Rick Perry, Herbert Cain, and G.W. Bush among them, who sincerely believe that God has told them to run for office. G.W. Bush cites God’s authority in starting the war in Iraq. The Tea Party is essentially using Congress to enact God told me so morality laws, by hook or by crook. (And lest we think our politicians are the only ones say “God told me”, we have a Washington football player who starts a fire in his apartment with a marijuana blunt because God told him to and one Texas woman claiming that God told her to send threatening letters to an OB who performs abortions.)
If anyone came up to you can said, “Santa Claus told me I should give you a piece of candy/hit you upside the head,” you’d likely be looking for the phone number of the nearest psych ward. But for too many people, if I replaced “Santa Claus” with “God”, the reaction would be different. In the candy scenario, some people will praise God and give him/her credit for all the good things in their lives. In the hitting scenario, the same people will say one of two things: 1. that God doesn’t give people more than they can carry (if the bad thing happens to them personally) or 2. God punishes bad deeds (if the bad thing happens to someone else). And these two types of scenarios are exactly where the “God told me to” thinking begins in children–small, innocuous, with a piece of candy or a slight physical hardship. By adulthood, these small, innocuous thoughts become, for too many people, guiding principles whose origins go unexamined and unquestioned. The gap between “God told me to run for political office” and “God told me to publically execute this woman” is not so wide as we find it comfortable to believe.
So, I worry for my daughters. I worry because the move towards fundamentalist thought in our country, started in the 60s (see: Turning Right in the Sixties by M. Brennan), is coming to a terrible fruition just as they begin their lives. I wish I could see into the future. I wish I could know that the great political pendulum will reverse course before the damage is too great.
And I also wish that people would stop, seriously stop, and think critically about their religious beliefs and just what those beliefs entail and who is using those beliefs and how those beliefs are being used. As Anne Lamott, a writer and theist I admire, says, “And you can tell you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Perhaps that’s the crux of fundamentalist religious belief—that they can’t tell they have created God in their own image, that they use religion as a means to an end. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. Either way, I’d appreciate if more theists would speak out against fundamentalist religious belief rather than giving it a free pass to wreak havoc in the world. Too many times I’ve been told, “Oh, those types of beliefs come from parts of the Bible that don’t apply anymore.” Maybe these fundamentalist religious believers didn’t get that memo. Still, that’s not some kind of free pass to avoid dealing with the ways in which the keystone text of your religion is being used to justify all kinds of horror.
(Side note: Yes, I realize that not all religious people subscribe to the fundamentalist thought which is so detrimental to progress and critical thought and scientific inquiry. But I think that too many “moderate” religious people have their heads in the sand about fundamentalist religious belief—they reject it, out of hand, as not being representative of their religion and, therefore, not anything to be taken seriously. Think of the “that’s not really what Muslims believe” response to A. Ali’s Infidel or the “that’s only some extreme Christians” response to E. McElvaine’s Grand Theft Jesus.)
This post morphed into a rant, didn’t it? Yes, a mother’s rant about her fears and hopes for her daughters growing up in a world wherein a woman—any woman—can be murdered because, “God told me to.”