Monday, February 21, 2011

Women in Religion

The positive role of mothering was discussed in the first chapter of Women in Religion. Mary Pat Fisher explains that this role is important and positive for the child as well as the mother. The mother teaches her child to learn to love and the child learns spiritual lessons through the mother and grandmother. The mother grows spiritually through having a child with the deep, unselfish love involved in mothering a child. The role of protecting an infant from hostile environments, nurturing, and comforting the baby, are part of the mothering role. I enjoyed reading the statement from page 18, “The insights that occur naturally in the course of mothering are the need to give oneself completely to the physical and spiritual care of the infant, the need to know by empathetic understanding, the need to endure self-discipline, the need to accept the child’s development through trial and error, the necessity of letting go.” This statement really touched me as a mother. There is something profoundly beautiful about the mothering role. There is something special about the way a mother has an empathetic understanding towards her children. Self-discipline is essential to mothering, in disciplining one’s self to sleep on a different schedule, put the children’s needs first, and the patience that mothering takes. On page 15, Mary Pat Fisher writes that women play an important role in rituals that giving meaning to major life events or changes. This is a positive role in helping the family through difficult times such as deaths and illnesses, and to celebrate births, marriages, and coming into adulthood (Fisher, 15-18).

Mary Pat Fisher also discussed some of the minor, yet equally important roles that women play in religion such as cleaning the holy places, lighting candles, preparing the food, teaching the children, and visiting shrines to pray for their families. Although these tasks seem mundane, they are also important and must be done. A woman is naturally given the instinct, in most cases, to care for others and with these tasks; a woman is doing simply what she knows and excels at. Of course, this may not be true for all women, but many are content to take on this role.

Mary also speaks of women as Mystics, “or women who have followed an inner calling to communicate directly with the unseen” (Fisher, 20). She speaks of an enlightenment or deep spiritual awakening coming from an illness or difficulty. These women were most times viewed as evil, witches, and were misunderstood and feared by men. This seems to shed a darkness on something that is meant to be positive. A woman performing spiritual services, in my opinion should be viewed as positive and encouraged. In some cases, women were honored as shamans, oracles or gurus for their spiritual services.

From what I read in the book, women’s religious experiences have not been proven to be different from men. Society has put labels on women, and demanded women to be submissive and nurturing, which allows for the assumption that women are not capable of equal religious experience as men. Religious institutions mirror existing social patters of control of women by men. This leaves women to be expected to be submissive and dependent. The subject of a women’s body also hinders a women’s ability to fully experience religion in a man’s view. A woman’s menstruation being seen as shameful and polluted, along with the view of a born-nurturer can not live the life of a religious being. In some instances or certain religions women were made to cover their bodies and sometimes even their faces to keep from distracting men from their religious path. A question that entered my mind during this reading was: Why is it that because men desire women’s body, it seems we are punished and excluded from men’s roles and territory in the church when it is their thinking that turns to something sinful at the sight of a women?

The book states that women relate to objects and people in a direct and subjective manner, while men relate to things and people less easily and in an objective manner and abstract in approach to the world. It also states that under stress men are more likely to react with a flight or fight response where as women have a more chemical reaction where estrogen and oxytocin is released and they tend to be more caring and befriending. I don’t understand how this relates to how religious experiences differ from men and women. It was interesting to learn about these differences in men and women although; I did not see a connection to ability of religious experience. I believe that Mary Fisher is accurate in her assessments and descriptions of women’s religious experiences. I do not know much about the current women’s religious experience but it sounds correct to me after reading the chapter. I believe that it does not hinder a person from experiencing a full religious experience by gender or limited roles in the religious community.