Masculinity and the Christian Right in American Culture


Hausarbeit, 2010
20 Seiten

Leseprobe

Contents

1 U.S. American Faith and the Christian Right

2 Man, Christianity, and the Weak - Homosexuality
2.1 The Scriptures - Abomination and Mortal Sins.

3 Man, Christianity, and the Weak - Women

4 Final Thoughts - A Critical Inquiry of Religious Dogmas

References

1 U.S. American Faith and the Christian Right

Ever since the United States of America has declared its independence, religion has played a pivotal role in shaping the culture and society of this country. There might, arguably, be no other (Western) country in which people’s societal stance has been influenced as strongly by religion as in the U.S. The Judeo-Christian belief has entirely met American culture, and American culture has met the Judeo-Christian belief. However, culture is, as we know, not static, but is always in a state of flux, it is always in a state of transition and thus transformation. As to this trans-categorical concept, Alan Wolfe notes the following:

Always in a state of transition, faith in the United States, especially in the last half century [...], has been further transformed with dazzling speed1.

Most notably, radical and even fundamentalist religious authorities-that is leaders of highly influencing religious communities, religious advocates, but also people of faith who have some political power-have been actively and self-evidently transforming the U.S. American (public) faith toward a belief system that should be subject to a critical observation in terms of its moral standards and ethic values. This critical observation is necessary, for it might become dangerous to be reluctant to critically investigate certain realms of belief.

It might become dangerous with respect to a faith-based value system that is taken as a role model not only for a certain group of selected individuals (the believers), but also for the democratic and open-hearted U.S. American society.

The fundamentalists who are responsible for a shift in societal and cultural values as well as for the very successful establishment of certain totalitarian power struc- tures within religious communities and political parties are known as the Christian Right, that is people of faith in favor of conservative and Christian-based values and morals that are to be imposed upon society, for, according to their opinion, it has started to deteriorate with respect to morality and faith. What makes this group in- teresting for cultural research is not only the mere power structures they have been installed within society. It is the very way they execute their power with divine submission.

If we were to find a matching adjective for the way power structures within faithbased value systems have been installed by advocates of the Christian Right in the USA, we could come up with only one term: masculine.

Masculinity is the most appropriate term capable of defining the Christian Right and how it operates within the contemporary U.S. American society. Because this term is germane to the current value system that can be observed within communi- ties of born-again Christians and evangelical hardliner rs. Chris Hedges even goes that far to argue that there are many aspects of the Judeo-Christian faith in the U.S. that can be characterized as a form of what he calls ”hypermasculinity”, that is a form of masculinity defined by male-dominated power relations within a certain be- lief system in which there is no place for anything but male concepts8 p. 82. And it is due to these male concepts, that there is no place for the ”weaker” sex-women-or other forms of non-masculine, and thus weak, appearances-such as homosexuals. Hedges also notes that the society driven by masculinity fosters a value system that is ruled by binary oppositions-by black and white, right or wrong, male or female, straight or gay. According to him, there is and cannot be any kind of ambiguity, for ambiguity is not part of a strong and powerful masculine concept [Ibid, pp. 82- 83]. As a consequence, there are only clear-cut boundaries set by mutual agreement among the male religious authorities. There is no in-between, no alternative view of the black-and-white world. The principles of a good society-which can only be a society based on Christian values-are kept in check by its masculine author- ities; and everything that does not belong to the ”norm”, everything that appears to be weak and non-masculine is thus unnatural and hence not part of what God intended.

Even if we take into account other religions (Mormonism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.), we will find that the respective religious authority is male too. There are exception- ridden cases of course, but especially the Judeo-Christian belief and its manifesta- tion in terms of an institutionalized faith in the United States is male. This is not to say, however, that there could not be a female leader, of course. But it would be highly controversial and in fact impossible for the dominating male authority.

Interestingly, masculinity is not only a relevant phenomenon for contemporary America, it is also one of the key features that happens to have shaped Christian dogmas during the last two-thousand years.

Male Christians, as an example, are oftentimes portrayed as fearless and brave, strong and merciless warriors. In this respect, the Knights Templar are an illustrative example of a cult of masculine fighters who were willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of acting in favor of a divine will. Further, from a linguistic point of view, texts in the holy scripture, especially in the Old Testament, emphasize a masculine language-filled with instructions and metaphors about the use of excessive force and violence against God’s enemies, or denigrating ways of treating women, slaves, or children.

Hollywood, too, has already proven that a masculine way of portraying biblical stories is more appealing to the (male) senses (preoccupied by certain stereotypes) than is weakness, as can be seen in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ -a mo- tion picture that is deluged with violence and brutality. As Chris Hedgeds comments on the film:

Christ’s stoic endurance of the brutal whippings in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ reflects the brutal, masculine world of this ideology, a world that knows little of tenderness, personal freedom, ambiguity, nurturing and even pleasure8 p. 82.

Jerry Falwell, an American Baptist cleric and televangelist, even went a step further by arguing that ”Christ was a man with muscles” [Ibid., p.82]. Hence Christ is strong, Christ is male, and he happens to be hostile toward forms of weakness.

2 Man, Christianity, and the Weak - Homosexuality

With respect to masculine religious authorities, or what Chris Hedges calls the cult of masculinity, homosexuality is a pivotal issue for many Christians, who, in this respect, take a highly fundamentalist stance. As we have said, homosexuality is thought of as not belonging to the norm, for its connotation to weakness or other- ness, its connotation to the in-between. For the religious authority homosexuality is a sin and regarded as unnatural. For them it simply is not what God had in mind when he created mankind in the first place (the emphasis here lies on man kind). In the introductory shots of Daniel G. Karslake’s film For the Bible tells me so, a film that elicits the relation between homosexuals and the Christian belief in the United States, several people of faith are shown demonstrating against homosexu- ality. They are shown with banners and signs reading God hates Fags! or similar atrocious propositions and assertions.

The non-masculine archetype, however, is not the only justification for these people’s hostility toward homosexuality. They also draw their justification from the only source that appears to be of timeless value for them: the Holy Bible.

To understand the Christian Right, it is important to take into account that many Americans are so-called Biblical literalists, that is, absolutists who believe the Bible to be entirely true. They are not only absolutists, but can also be considered fun- damentalists, due to the fact that Biblical literalists would never call into question what is being mentioned in the Bible-despite copious instances of counter evi- dence. Many Christians draw their inspiration from the Bible, but only Biblical literalists believe it to be the inerrant and literal word of their creator. As Hedges points out:

Polls indicate that about 40 percent of respondents believe in the Bible as the ”actual word of God” and that it is ”to be taken literally, word for word.” According to the country’s total population, this proportion would place the number of believers at about 100 million.8 p. 18

Although the fact that there is quite a number of people who believe in the literal truth of the Bible (given all the pieces of evidence against a literal truth is quite intriguing, it must be noted that it is also a very controversial statement given that the United States is the ”the greatest scientific nation in the world”10 p. 9.

But how much does the inspiration from the Bible actually hold true? Jesus, for instance, from which many people of faith draw their religious inspiration never said anything about homosexuality. Even the different versions of the ten commandments, by many people of faith considered to be the golden rules for morals, do not mention homosexuality at all.

2.1 The Scriptures - Abomination and Mortal Sins

In fact, there are only a handful of passages in the Bible that might refer to homo- sexuality. For many of the Christian Right, the third book of Moses-Leviticus-in the Old Testament provides enough evidence to corroborate their belief of the sin- fulness of homosexuality. But does the third book of Moses evidently germane to anti-homosexual viewpoints or is it a mere fatuous and erroneous statement based on no evidence whatsoever? Apparently, the Christian Right seems to live by the saying ”seek and you shall find”, for one has to thoroughly scrutinize Leviticus in order to come up with (only) two verses that might tackle homosexuality-Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13

According to the King James version of the Bible, in these verses it is state that Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomina tion. Leviticus 18:22

[...]


[1] Connell, R.W. The history of masculinity. In Adams, R and D. Savran, editors, The Masculinity Studies Reader. Blackwell, 2002.

[2] Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press, 2 edition, 1989.

[3] Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Black Swan, 2007.

[4] Dennett, Daniel C. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Penguin, 2007.

[5] Halsall, Peter. Medieval sourcebook - peter damian: Liber gomorrhianus [.c.1048-54]. Website. Available online at http://www.fordham.edu/ halsall/source/homo-damian1.html, visited on June 02, 2010, 4:00 pm.

[6] Harper, Douglas. Online etymology dictionary. Website, . Available online at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=abomination&searchmode=none, visited on June 3, 12:10am.

[7] Harper, Douglas. Online etymology dictionary. Website, . Available online at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=homosexual, visited on June 7, 9:24 pm.

[8] Hedges, Chris. American Fascists. The Christian Right and the War on America. Free Press New York, 2006.

[9] Karslake, Daniel. For the bible tells me so. Film, 2009.

[10] Miller, Kenneth R. Only A Theory. Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul. Penguin Books, 2008.

Ende der Leseprobe aus 20 Seiten

Details

Titel
Masculinity and the Christian Right in American Culture
Autor
Jahr
2010
Seiten
20
Katalognummer
V199172
ISBN (eBook)
9783656254751
ISBN (Buch)
9783656255802
Dateigröße
421 KB
Sprache
Deutsch
Schlagworte
Anglistik, Religion, Christianity, Englisch, Masculinity, Gender, Fundamentalism, Fundamentalismus, Kulturwissenschaft, Humanites
Arbeit zitieren
B.A. Marc Bohnes (Autor), 2010, Masculinity and the Christian Right in American Culture, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/199172

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