Sunday, October 5, 2008

Male chauvinistic God?

We went to the chapel again and we were all alone there. The only intruder was the soft spinning creak of a grease starved ceiling fan. My wife and I sat side by side. My daughter lay sleeping on the comfort of the carpet, exhausted after a hectic playful day on a scorching sunny day.
The chapel was dimly lit by the two oil lamps on the alter, and a hidden zero watts bulb that kindled the transparent blessed sacrament. Then in the initial distraction of my contemplation, on my side I noticed my wife covering her head with her dupatta, something which she had never done before. I turned around and pulled it down but she grabbed it back from my hand and draped it over.
The preacher at the retreat had warned that God wanted women to cover their hair when they come to him and he swore it by holy words. I was confused and asked God, whether he was distracted by the pony tails and curls and twists of a woman's plait. He would not answer in his customary ambiguous silence that confused his creatures for ever and ever, Amen.
Then reason ruled over faith and I asked God why he wanted only women to cover her hair and not men. Why did he create women different and with glorious hairs? Or did he create women to distract men and at chapels? Was God male chauvinistic to create women unequal? Should I stop fighting my inner urge to dominate over my woman at home?
Then I opened the book and read "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in God" (Gal 3.28).
If you really feel you have something to say, state you point of view. It will give a great encouragement to the blogger.


  1. A God manipulated by patriarchy, culture and tradition perhaps? And so by a preacher who is confused by the above mentioned. I also watched on TV long ago an insistence on women not wearing certain kind of clothing to places of worship, again I felt the same pain. This thinking makes many harassing, eve-teasing men, and worse even women, feel that women who do not dress according to the way God wants them (??) invite trouble. So it is not such a small issue, trivial though it may seem.
    If I am told to dress in a certain way, cover my head or wear a sari I will either tell the preacher not to come between me and my God, or I'd pray at home.

    ..glad you sent me this link,
    thanks. This is my kind of post and cause :)


  3. Thanks for sending me the link! LEt me give you my perspective. None of the men of the cloth or most have either read the Bible or understood it. Most of them go through the motions of priesthood. Covering the head is a custom that was practiced during Jesus' time. It is blindly enforced now. I prefer not to equate priests and nuns as guardians of the faith or custodians of the Church. As far as I am concerned I am the Church or a part of the body called church. So let me do my best as a Christian. Just my view! :)

  4. Maybe the preacher saw too many men oggling at the women's coiffures in church:-) The poor fellow was probably jealous because he couldn't get a good look himself:-)

    But on a more serious note, many people derive a sense of comfort or feel that their chore of prayer is done better if they follow certain quirks. Just like your wife covers her head, some people don't like to wear colourful clothing at church, some people use the rosary and others feel they have to pray from a certain place, like a place of Biblical importance. They may not receive the full sense of relief because of their prayer if they do not follow their quirk. It is better not to meddle with their faith as long as it does not harm anyone else.

    But the truth of the matter is, a farmer standing in a heap of cow dung praying for a better crop and a Syrian Christian kneeling in the front row of a church praying for the latest car are both heard at the same frequency and volume by God. Standing on the Eiffel Tower won't make you louder and tying dupattas all over your body for each and every sin you've committed won't make your prayer more important. But I wish God would only listen to the farmer, and not to the damn Syrian Christian:-)

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  6. Hi! thanks for the link. Interesting post you got here. There are tons of things that have me confused about my religion and one of them revolve around the issue of gender bias.

    Hair was considered to be a woman's most valuable asset during those days- was a measure of their beauty, so i guess that's why they wore the head gear. I dont suppose the rule about women covering their heads was given by God but St. Paul. What i'm saying is that it was a bunch of rules made my men, not god.

  7. Thanks for the link George...

    I guess all these so called "cultural" restrictions and mandates were created by the believers themselves. We know the past - Where has there been any history of male female equality or absence of oppression against them? Be it in any religion, God would never mandate a code as long as he expected all his kids to do good and stay good always... It's the followers themselves who destroy the beauty and sanctity of any faith...

  8. Thank you for the link. Am glad to come here and read this.
    Yes, we have a common song in Punjabi-sung by eminent singer Gurdas Maan-you must have heard his name- it goes
    BURA MANAONDEY BIBI SIR TOH NANGI DA it rougly translates as-those who cannot take care of their own head gear complain about the women not wearing head coverings.
    I quote this song to tell you that God is conveniently 'made' into a male entity and obviously would conform to patriarchal forms present in the society. Hence the demands on women's propriety of dresses at the religious places.

  9. Nice post. Yes God created all equal...but hang on! If I am not wrong, Muslim women are supposed to cover not just their heads but everything! May be they know that guys will do little more than ogle at whatever they can see of them!

    I agree with IHM and second Rene's belief that, no matter where and how you pray, God gets you message.

  10. Hello George,

    Thanks for sending your link.

    Covering one's head at a place of worship is a widely accepted norm across religions.

    It seems the most natural thing to do like shutting your eyes, holding your palms together in prayer and bowing your head.

    As times pass it is inevitable that our beliefs are questioned. The funny part is how one can conjure up all sorts of punishment that would befall on the deviant.

    I would believe God as the All Merciful more intent on our devotion than anything else.

  11. George,
    Thanks for sending the link. Nice thought you've jotted down here. I'm unsure of how to answer you though.

    Its the classic paradox of religion vs belief vs spirituality vs tradition. I don't think God is male chauvinistic, or ever was. The people who interpreted God happened to be so at some point in time, which became a belief. The belief soon becomes a tradition. The tradition with time, becomes part of spirituality.

    And I'll tell you what I think of spirituality. Spirituality, and God, for me is how I see it. I chose to pray when I really feel like praying. There is indeed a time of the day when I pray, and certain religious festivals, during which I also pray, but this is again because I feel like praying. I don't follow everything thats said in my religion (Hinduism), but I dont think ANYONE for that matter follows everything. I follow things which I feel coincides with my concept of God.

    I dont know how 'right' this is, but I feel that God is part of me, rather than something outside or artificial.

  12. Thanks for sending me the link:)
    God has created everbody equally.

    Covering of head is required by men also in my house, this way we honour the god of death. Whenevr we do pooja,in my family men cover their head by their hankies, even while somebody is putting a Tilak (bindi of red color) on any man's forhead, he is supposed to put his right hand on his head.
    BTW we are Hindus and I am telling their tradition.

  13. well, as long as it applies to all equally, I find it Ok. A certain amount of dignity is expected in all social gatherings. But, there is no justification for what the preacher expected. I encounter this in Temples in Kerala too.
    My German friend who had come with me to kerala was quite disappointed that she was not allowed to go to temples just becasue she was not Hindu.
    So, what the chapel expected of the women was harmless as as compared to the temples in Kerala.
    If they want to isolate themselves and stop "growing" with changing times, then they will rot. Change is a law of nature, anything happening against it is unhealthy.

    I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive of going got your link, especially I made sure I didn't open it in front of my 3 year old son. Who knows what and who is behind all this! :D

  14. It doesn't matter what religion we are from, the so called leaders and priests are the ones who most commonly abuse and misinterpret the ideas and ideals.

    Religion should just form guidelines; not rules. Without doubt, most of the prominent religions advocate a lot of good. But they also advocate evil in some form or the other. It is up to the educated individual to interpret the guidelines and follow his/ her own moral compass instead of blindly following a stream.

    For example, several passages of the bible, particularly the old testament, condones animal and even human sacrifice, incest, slavery, and filicide. I don't find these acts condonable at any time and age. Society chooses to ignore these passages, so why not exercise the same discretion on other aspects as well. Your moral conscience has to be built along your years, preferably by a doting parent. It is up to you to live by it.

    That being said, this particular practice of women covering their heads... seem to be some sort of misinterpretation that has somehow survived the ages... with no sound fundamental basis...

  15. Are we sure that these kind of rules were made by GOD?? Maybe men only made it for their own purpose. So i think we should leave it upon the individual only how they want to follow their religion...
    God is omnipresent..If our faith is true we can pray from our homes also..
    I don't visit famous big places of worship for the sake of praying..its so crowded in such places that u hardly find the peace and tranquility that your looking for...

  16. Religion is great in many ways. I think most of us agree with it. But religion is being used by many people to institutionalise many of the evils that are prevalent in the society. In fact, people who propagate it often don’t realise that they are doing something wrong. Moreover, such practices are given a divine colour, so that an overwhelming feeling of fear is attached to them.

    In fact, they bottle up God and define him in their small heads and hearts and distribute to the faithful as the real God. So we have hundreds versions of Gods today, even in the same religion, and the poor faithful lap it up very religiously.

    I thank each one individually for all your valuable comments. Do come and comment again.

  17. Finally managed to look at your blogs - great stuff - very interesting and fabulous writing style :)

    Got a bit lost on how to leave a comment so decided to send you a message instead.

    Interesting one on 'male chauvinistic God?' My view is that everything is 'man made' - so its not what 'God' is but most often our own (or the priests) interpretation that causes God to take on different facets. Isn't spirituality supposed to be personal, a deeper search for meaning, faith, life, belief and ultimately what you make of yourself through it?

    i am quite often stumped by how easy it is to lay 'rules' through interpretation!


  18. Thanks for sending me the link, George. I am wondering if I know you, or how you came across my email ID.

    I think it is not God who has made all these rules, but men/women who made these rules and claimed they came from God to facilitate acceptance. The fear of unknown makes people accept these rules without questioning.

  19. It's so obvious that 95% of these rules are created by men/women and I don't find any cause to challenge the authority who made women to cover their head in church.I believe these rules are created based on the fundamental differences between men and women both physically and mentally.

    In real life men always wanted to be respected by their women. Men as the head of family always try to put principles on their family not to overrule women but believed to create a better life. Most of the time men doesn't realize that it's the obedience and tolerance by the women that make things without conflicts and more better.

    When women cover their head in church you don't have to consider it as a heritage, ceremonial vestment or a command from church(women are more willing to do that even if there is no such rule) .I conceive it as the outcome of a general respect or more likely the attraction of women towards a male God (Jesus Christ). I don't think he is a male Chauvinistic. Why worshiping of Krishna by women is so surplus in Hinduism? It's the natural phenomenon of human nature that attracts opposite sex. What's wrong in covering her head to show her divine love towards the male God? Not god men are the Chauvinistic. :-)

    I don't think this as a subject that needs to be discussed against church as it doesn't seems to hurt women freedom. There are other topics that should dispute against the church.

    George, yet this is an excellent post.

  20. Sacred scripture presents several reasons for wearing the veil by women in the church.This is a custom prevalent in the primitive churches of god.Christian women around the world have other reasons to wear a hat,scarf,shawl or veil.some wear it out of respect to god.A few obey pope's orders and another section continue family tradition.
    I do not think this has anything to do with women treated differently or God being a male chauvinist.
    In most of the religion,women do cover their heads..this is mostly done to to show respect.

    Its all in our mind set and the way we look at it..
    To be frank,I am very comfortable in a church if my head is covered especially when I join the holy communion.As st.Paul puts it'it is the sacred tradition commanded by our LORD.It is our heritage.And I consider this is an honour for all christian women..
    Remeber,Blessed Mother Mary appeared before men properly veiled..

  21. hi, thanks for sending this link. i really enjoyed reading the post...and it's a topic which is sensitive to me because i have always questioned religion and all it's paraphernalia. and this is a situation that all religion will identify with at some point or the other. this is prejudice. exposure of the hair is not directly protional to disrespecting god. I think this is more a rule of the preacher and his words. nothing holy about it certainly.

  22. I also agree with Sheela, she has put forard it very nicely and rightly.

  23. Answering to "Anonymous said..."

    This is a very reasonable, sound and well studied explanation of why a woman should cover her head. In that respect this is very much acceptable. I believe, more than the respect for the Male God, it is a custom of the Judeo-christian traditon.

    St. Paul would say, "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head - it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head" (I Corinthians 11:3-10).

    the syllogism is

    Praying with an uncovered head is a disgrace.

    It is not very sure that Christ would vouch for Paul.

    However, as part of a tradition, ceremony, ritual or culture this practice may be justified. Definitely, religion is part of culture.

    But I wonder, as part of personal prayer, if priests should insist on women to cover their head and create fear in them, making it a Divine Commandment. This is exactly what I am referring to. I am sure God would listen to woman's prayer even if her head is not covered.

    In many cultures women have a submissive role in families, but that does not mean they have the real humility. Humility is expected from both men and women to sustain a family life. Submissiveness can only bring an artificial existence without real meaning and relationship, but just an adjustment.

    I would say that submissiveness from women is encouraged by some cultures and religions. Submissiveness is often misunderstood as humility. The former is derived from external fear and the latter is a conviction and an action from the heart. The absence of external conflict, due to submissiveness can definitely surface in many other ways. Scientific studies have proved this.

  24. I had a similar experience at a temple in India, when the priest asked me not to wear jeans to the temple.. And there I turned around and I saw a man in a jeans... And I didn't visit that particular temple again.
    And then most recently when i saw a similar sign on another temple i was annoyed till i read the last line on a signboard.
    It said that women should dress in saress/ salwaar-kameez & men in Kurta pyjama, dhoti...
    Please do come in shorts.

    Of course they didnt refuse anyone who didnt adhere to it, it was just what was the preferred attire when visiting the temple.
    But what was nice here was that it was a rule applicable to all...
    Why are only women expected to be the sole carriers of tradition at some places

  25. thankyou for sending the link for your blog to my mail box..

    the verse that you noted down from galatians talks about that GOD is there for everyone irrespective of caste and creed and we cannot generalise that statement on this topic.

    some rules mentioned in the bible are very hard for us to comprehend and sometimes we come to the conclusion and ask questions like, " are we puppets in god's hands?".. this is where we have to understand the difference between blind faith and "seeing is believing faith...

    blind faith is the faith that abraham had and " seeing is believing faith is the faith that "Noah and Thomas" had...

    coming back to the subject matter, i would like to quote one verse from the old testament..

    deuteronomy:29 :29
    29The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law

    this verse was given through Moses to the Tribes of Israel. Jesus rebolutionised the laws through his sacrifice.. But still there are some secrets that we need not explore...

    its just the difference between 1)whether we are going to follow rather than debating what is right or wrong


    2) whether we are gonna spend our time contemplating on issues like this and forget about salvation faith and redemption..

    cheers and God bless