Current biblical and religious justifications for domestic violence, white nationalism, heteronormativity, and control of reproductive rights require a full examination of the destructive ways that biblical stories have been interpreted over time. The gender and ethnic ideologies that have been passed down through religious teachings have created deep-seated sensibilities in all of us about women, motherhood, ethnicity, and righteousness. These lend moral authority to regressive attacks on gender, racialized, ethnic, and religious “others.”
Please read critically, historically and independently wherever you access cultural ideas.
Why does establishing peoplehood and righteousness have to set brother against brother, sister against sister, Israelites against others, Christians against “the world,” and maternal power against spiritual obedience? Why does women’s power to create life, and the pleasure of doing so, have to be regulated in order to assert a male God’s superior life-giving power over wombs, conception, and the creation of “God’s” people? Why do these antitheses seem natural, even inevitable to so many?
In the biblical texts, conception, gestation, childbirth, and mothering were used to establish the separate and holy identities of Israelites and Christians. The splintering of family ties and the origins of ethnic and national differences in the Bible are central in the mothers’ stories.
The visceral reality of separation at birth feeds not only the stories of the biblical mothers’ children becoming enemy nations, but thence (through them and other stories like them) our own ethnic and racial hatreds today. Yet another product of this logic of differentiation is the deeply ambivalent attitudes towards sexuality, especially women’s desire, that pervade Western culture, as well as the desexualizing, sanitizing, and idealizing of motherhood. Stereotypes of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mothers are incredibly resilient, familiar, and fixed in our collective social psyche.