Todd Akin and Paul Ryan are sexist pigs who show a complete lack of fairness and compassion towards women. They represent well the sexist conservative Christians who are now driving the Republican party. The sexist views that they have tried to turn into federal laws have a long history, a history that can be traced back to the Old Testament, and to Jehovah, the god who supposedly inspired the Old Testament.
If you are interested in the question ‘Is Jehovah a sexist?’, then I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of the book God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says by Michael Coogan (hereafter, I will refer to this book as GAS). I just stumbled upon the book last week, and have skimmed through most of it in a few days. The hardback was published in 2010, and a paperback edition came out in November of 2011.
From ‘About The Author’ in the back of the book:
Michael Coogan is Professor of Religious Studies at Stonehill College, Lecturer on Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Harvard Divinity School, and Director of Publications for the Harvard Semetic Museum. He is editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, and has edited and written several books on the Bible and its interpretation, including The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction.
Coogan was also co-editor, along with Bruce Metzger, of The Oxford Companion to the Bible, a fine reference book that I use on a regular basis.
Coogan knows the Bible well, and his specialty is in the Old Testament. Unlike millions of Evangelical bible-thumping Christians, Coogan sees clearly the sexism and patriarchy of the Old Testament, and rejects this sexism as morally repugnant. His general attitude can be seen in an anecdote that he relates at the end of Chapter 2:
After six decades as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, former President Jimmy Carter announced in 2009 that he was leaving it. He did so because of the church’s insistence that women are inferior to men and should be subservient to them–after all, the Bible says so. …Carter…is appealing to a higher principle underlying the specific texts of scripture that clearly reinforce men’s domination of women. Those texts, he correctly recognizes, “owe more to time and place–and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence–than eternal truths.” (GAS, paperback ed., p.60)
Sexism is a matter of unfairness and injustice, and it is also a matter of a lack of compassion. I have no doubt that the Old Testament scriptures sometimes advocate fairness and justice and the virtue of compassion as basic components of morality. However, I also have no doubt that the Old Testament advocates and promotes sexism, contrary to the “higher principle” of fairness and justice, and contrary to the virtue of compassion. The Old Testament contains contradictions, and this contradiction is huge, pervasive, and unacceptable to morally upright and clear thinking human beings. Jehovah is a sexist, so Jehovah is a false god, and if Jehovah is a false god, then Jesus was a false prophet and Christianity is a false religion. The reason Jimmy Carter left the Southern Baptist Convention is one of the reasons that I left Christianity.
There are so many excellent examples of sexism and analysis of sexist Old Testament passages in God and Sex that if I quoted all of the good stuff here, I would probably violate copyright laws, so I will have to select just a few passages to quote, and hope that this wets your appetite enough to get you to buy the book or find a library with a copy.
I already knew that women were considered and treated as property in ancient Israel and that the “inspired” Old Testament approves of and promotes beliefs and practices in which women are treated as property of men. But Coogan lays out a strong case for this understanding of the Old Testament, and comes up with some points that I had not previously noticed. For example, you probably believe, as I did, that the Old Testament prohibits incest. But Coogan shows that this is not the case, at least not in terms of the many and various sexual activities prohibited in the book of Leviticus.
Of the dozens of sexual relationships and activities prohibited in Leviticus, there is one very important category of incest that is missing: a father having sex with his daughter. So, although Leviticus prohibits some sorts of incestuous relations, there is no prohibition against a father having sex with his own daughter! This is because the OT was written by sexist patriarchal men, who documented and proclaimed their disgusting sexist beliefs and practices as if those beliefs and practices were of divine origin, when the origin was actually their own teeny-tiny unjust, selfish and ignorant minds. If one insists that Jehovah inspired and guided the writing of the OT, then one must conclude that Jehovah was a sexist.
Coogan provides several examples supporting the view that most of the sexual prohibitions in the OT are based on the view that women were property of men. A girl is the property of her father, and her father may either choose to sell his daughter as a slave (Exodus 21:7-11, see GAS, p.25) or else choose to sell her into a marriage (see Exodus 22:16-17):
…essentially the woman is entirely subject to the men in her life, who have the legal right to dispose of her as they wish.
For a woman, marriage was not all that different from being sold as a slave wife. A daughter was given to a prospective husband in return for a bride-price paid to her father. …Until she was married, the daughter was her father’s property… (GAS, p.25-26)
So, when a girl was raped, the girl was not considered to be the victim, the victim was the father whose property had been damaged by the rapist. And if a man paid the ‘bride price’ to obtain another man’s daughter as a future wife, and if that engaged girl was raped, the victim was, again, not the girl, but the man who had purchased the girl as a virgin; his property was damaged by the rapist.
However, there is no prohibition in Leviticus against a father having sex with his own daughter. Why not? Because she was already his property, so she was his to use as he wished:
Not all of these prohibitions concern what we would call incest, sex between close relatives. As with the seventh commandment, they have to do with property: one man in an extended family expropriating the property of another man in the same family, a woman under the latter’s control. That is why the list is incomplete according to our definition of incest: sex between a father and his daughter is not mentioned, because the daughter was the father’s property, as the law permitting a man to sell his daughter as a slave shows. If a man had sex with his daughter, there was no one he could prosecute for her loss of value. (GAS, p.109)
If a father had sex with his daughter, then she would be damaged goods, and he would not be able to sell her as a virgin for marriage and collect the higher bride-price for virgins, so there was an economic incentive for a father not to have sex with his daughter:
Virginity before marriage was prized–a man had a right to expect his wife to be a virgin, and a father had a compelling interest in making sure that she was, for the bride-price for daughters who were virgins was much higher than that for those who were not. (GAS, p.28)
However, if a father had enough wealth from other sources, the money or goods obtainable by selling his daughter into marriage might not be that important to his economic survival or well-being, in which case having sex with his daughter might be worth the economic impact. There would be no punishment based on the laws in the book of Leviticus for such an act of incest.
Based on this knowledge of the Old Testament, I would like to interview Paul Ryan and ask him the following question:
According to Jehovah, the god of the Old Testament, your daughter is your property. So, given the following options, which would you choose?
(A) sell your daughter into slavery
(B) sell your daughter into a marriage with a stranger for the high bride-price
(for a virgin)
(C) have sex with your daughter and then sell her into a marriage with a stranger
for the low bride-price (for a non-virgin)
After that question, he would probably long to be asked this much easier question:
Is ‘forcible rape’ the only kind of rape that is ‘legitimate’?