Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Kristof, "Religion and Women," NYTimes

I'm officially not blogging, so we'll just call this an "observation:"

I have a letter to the editor in today's NYTimes, commenting on Nicholas Kristof's recent column, "Religion and Women."  Check it out.

Kristof closed his piece by playing off "human rights" against backward religions that focus on "earthy ... genitals" (in the first draft, I'm sure he wrote "naughty bits").  This elicited a deep sigh from your intrepid blogger.

The idea that what Islam (or Catholicism) needs is a Martin Luther has been floated before, notably by Salmon Rushdie after 9/11.  This ignores that, with all its good and genuinely theological contributions, liberal Christianity, as instantiated in the modern West, often seems to reduce "human beings" to "human rights" -- which works pretty well in court but not in church, temple or mosque.  (I'm also guessing that most Muslims don't secretly want to be Methodists.  I could be wrong about this.)

It goes without saying that women of the world need and deserve the justice for which Kristof works, and I'm sure he would prefer less commendation and more participation, fewer awards and more hands.  What he's missing, however, is that, for many religions of the world, the argument isn't about whether or not bodies have meaning, the argument is about what that meaning is -- what does it mean to be made, bodily, in the image of God.

In other words, in missing the point about being human, Kristof's cerebral and spiritualized approach misses the point what it means to be religious.