My Sunday ritual with the New York Times is edifying, and often gives me insight into weighty and troubling issues of our times. Good thing: if it were only the grim and terrible news, I couldn’t bear to read it. So this Sunday, these two seemingly unrelated articles entwined in a way that helped me see my own strong views more clearly:
1. Is there a ‘Bad’ Religion?
An ongoing debate launched by provocateur Bill Maher, whose guest Sam Harris, a widely published neuroscientist and atheist, challenged Liberals to uphold their principals of free speech and religion and equality for women and gays. He claims that by defending Islam as just another faith in the multi-cultural rainbow, Liberals are tolerating a hateful religion.
“We have to be able to criticize bad ideas,” said Harris “and Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas.”
2. One Woman’s Simple Plea
Three Short Films About Peace begins with a 15 video interview with 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. (I have yet to enjoy the other two films). Gbowee’s story is so riveting, so personal and so global in its relevance I was stunned. She has walked in the path of Ghandi and Dr. King before her and spoken a woman’s simple truth to power.
“I wish for a better life. I wish for food for my children. I wish that sexual abuse and exploitation in schools would stop. This is the dream of the African girl.”
Isn’t It Obvious?
It is incomprehensible to me that a leader could ever lose sight of their responsibility to protect people from violence and mayhem. The overwhelming reaction I felt watching Leymah’s story was “Duh!”
Why isn’t it obvious that we need to feed and shelter our people and protect them from violence? Why does the ancient territorial violence override nurturing and creativity?
One simple answer is that women’s voices are not strong enough in public life.
The biggest critique I can level against Muslim culture and religion is the deletion of women’s voices from public life. Not that they are the only ones to blame for this. Orthodox Judaism and large swaths of Christianity limit women’s full participation.
In the ‘civilized’ West, we are still new to the idea of women as fully functioning members of society, being only one hundred years out from jailing and force-feeding Alice Paul for speaking up outside the White House. But we do have women in the public sphere, prime ministers, presidential candidates, and increasingly heads of business.
When all you hear are the views and desires of one half of your citizens, you are missing dimension of humanity necessary to survive. Compare it to monocular vision, or hearing from one ear: the amount of perspective and data missing is exponential.
We need the voices of our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, aunts, daughters and girls to be valued and heard in our culture. And that is my measure for a ‘Good’ religion. Or company, culture, neighborhood, committee, discussion group, governing body and more.
I don’t agree with Sam Harris – it does no good to brand an entire culture as ‘bad,’ but I do know that it’s Leymah who has the answer to creating the world that I want to live in.