Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sky, son of Leonard

I have been slugging through Ruth and Samuel 1 & 2 in the Bible, and this section is a lot like what I was expecting before starting my reading.  They are stories of an ancient people and their struggles with their enemies and their God.  One thing that has been coming to mind here though is how powerfully the Bible is focused around males, inheritance and ancestry.  People are introduced as Jim, son of John, showing just how much the father of the person in question matters.  Abraham, who was the original person to be granted the immense tract of land God set aside for his people, was promised that his descendants would become a great nation and be granted special treatment under God.  Over and over it is made clear that God decides who is part of his people and who is not by looking at who their family is and where they trace their ancestry.

I do find it frustrating that the Bible is so obviously biased in favour of men.  The important figures are male, it is clearly stated that the most important thing about a woman is her virginity and her ability to produce sons and women are barely considered human in many cases.  I do not know how modern women, or men who claim to believe in equality, can claim that the Bible contains good advice for morality and happy living after taking a good look at the way women are portrayed in the Bible.

I thought about how we treat this issue today and some interesting ideas popped out.  We place far less emphasis on inheritance than the Bible does, but it still exists.  For example, when I am addressed formally I am addressed as Mr. Roy.  Not Sky, not Red, but Mr. Roy.  The emphasis is on my family rather than on my individual name suggesting that when things get tough and formal the importance of my ancestry increases.  I am not sure what the intent of this originally was, whether it was a gesture of respect for those backing a person, a warning of those who might be disappointed if the person in question screws up, or some other reason.

It is easy to see why the importance of family was so high before, and so much less now.  These days if you get sick or injured society will take care of you.  (In Canada, at least)  In the days of the Bible you absolutely needed your family as should anything go wrong as they would be the only ones you could rely on.  An arrangement where everyone in a family took care of one another was necessary for old age, infirmity, child rearing and more.  Being shut out of your family would be a disaster almost unimaginable, whereas today that obviously isn't true.  People can support themselves comfortably without any external network and as such the importance of family as well as the power structure based around the family patriarch diminishes.

I love my family and am very proud to be a part of it.  That said, I don't want to be judged or judge anyone else primarily based on who shares genetic material, but rather on what is said and done.  I am glad I live in an age and place where being free of that particular bias is possible.

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