A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Stereotypes Distort Our View of the Bible

How much do stereotypes and prejudices alter our perception of reality?  In “’We Have Always Fought’:  Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” Kameron Hurley illustrates the answer may be a whole bunch.  Hurley explains how stereotypes encourage us to dismiss the evidence of our eyes and our experiences as exceptions so that we only truly see what fits with our preconceived ideas.  One example Hurley uses is women in battle, writing,

I spent two years in South Africa and another decade once I returned to the states finding out about all the women who fought. Women fought in every revolutionary army, I found, and those armies were often composed of fighting forces that were 20-30% women. But when we say “revolutionary army” what do we think of? What image does it conjure? Does the force in your mind include three women and seven men? Six women and fourteen men?http://aidanmoher.com/blog/featured-article/2013/05/we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative-by-kameron-hurley/

This excellent article caused me to wonder if similar oversights happen when we read the bible.  I am not denying the bible is male dominated.  But how much does our perception of the bible as patriarchal combined with the misogynistic tendencies of our society blind us to the women who are present in scripture?  So, I looked at the gospels.  What I found is not thorough authoritative research by any means but with a quick perusal of the gospels (not too quick, I managed to burn dinner while doing this research) I found something similar to what Hurley noted about women in battle.  28% of the fourteen healing stories I looked at were about women.  50% of the ten who proclaimed Jesus as “Lord,” “the Messiah,” or proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection, were women.  57% of seven who were praised by Jesus were women. 

Again, this was not a thorough study.  I probably missed a few stories and it could be argued some could be categorized differently.  But for my quick study to come up with these numbers means the bible is not the one hundred percent male dominated book we often seem to think it is. 

Even when men are in the primary positions of power, women have a profound influence in faith and life.  Do we allow stereotypes and assumptions to erase these women’s accomplishments from our awareness?  How do we strip such stereotypes away so we can see more clearly?  What other stereotypes distort the way we see reality?  

If we don't take the time to acknowledge and wrestle with stereotypes we risk blinding ourselves to reality.  

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