Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dynamic un-Equivalence: Nida v. Pike

This post may be the beginning of a series.  Mainly, I'm wanting to show that not all Bible translators are equal, that not even all of the Wycliffe Bible Translation / SIL translators of the bible are equal.  Hopefully, you'll be able to see that not all are nearly as reductive about the Bible, language, literature, linguistics, and translation as was Eugene Nida.

Nida passed away last week, and his simple now-famous notion of Dynamic Equivalence is getting revisited as it's getting blogged about this week.

Somebody else passed away last week also, and I want to blog about her this week.  In this post, I'd like to blog about her understandings of translating too.  What Nida wrote and propagated, so reductively, worked against her practices some.  So please stay tuned for more on this person and her translation work after we review Nida.

In the interests of trying to keep this post as brief as possible, let me just focus on "reductive" with respect to "translation."  Nida wrote,
"[T]here are fundamentally two different types of equivalence [in translation]:  one which may be called formal and another which is primarily dynamic."  
Nida is writing as if there is, fundamentally, reductively, just one choice.  Notice the "either / or" binary:
EITHER (A) translation is a "formal equivalence . . . concerned with such correspondences as poetry to poetry, sentence to sentence, concept to concept," and "[t]he type of translation which most completely typifies this structural equivalence might be called 'a gloss translation,' in which the translator attempts to reproduce as literally and meaningfully as possible the form and content of the original."

OR (B) there is, "[i]n contrast, a translation which attempts to produce a dynamic rather than a formal equivalence [which] is based upon 'the principle of equivalent effect' (Rieu and Phillips, 1954) . . . and aims at complete naturalness of expression, . . . tries to relate the receptor to modes of behavior relevant within the context of his own culture[, and] . . . does not insist that he understand the cultural patterns of the source-language context in order to comprehend the message."
This is from Nida's book, Toward a Science of Translating with Special Reference to Principles and Procedures involved in Bible Translating, in his chapter "Principles of Correspondence," where he writes a section he entitles "Two Basic Orientations in Translating," on page 159.  Earlier in the book, Nida had already begun to develop his now-famous theory as the opposite of "formal equivalence."  Here is the title and first paragraph and first "toward-a-science-of-translating" figure of this chapter (on pages 120-21):

Language consists of more than the meanings of the symbols and the combinations of symbols; it is essentially a code in operation, or, in other words, a code functioning for a specific purpose or purposes.  Thus we must analyze the transmission of a message in terms of a dynamic dimension.  This analysis is especially important for translating, since the production of equvalent messages is a process, not merely of matching the parts of utterances, but also of reproducing the total dynamic character of the communication.  Without both elements the results can scarcely be regarded, in any real sense, as equivalent."

The figure, ironically enough, is Nida's symbol or set of pure symbols by which he's explaining, again reductively, how language is "more than the meanings of the symbols and the combinations of the symbols."  Nida is reducing language to a very reductive model of "communication."  And this is his main point.  This is his main need:  to get rid of and to provide an alternative for what he calls "formal equivalence."  His main point is that the Bible can be reduced to a message and that all the rest, the symbols and their combinations and their meanings, is just fluff.  A message, dynamically, then is equivalent to "The Communique of God."  The Communique of God should come to you, whatever language you read, with "complete naturalness of expression," with "modes of behavior relevant within the context of [your] own culture," and without requiring "that [you] understand the cultural patterns of the source-language context in order to comprehend the message."  It's as if Nida is saying, Forget the context of the Jews and their source languages; in your own natural expressions in the context of your own culture, then, comprehend the message.

Now, I already mentioned that somebody else died last week.  Her name is Eunice Victoria Pike.  She was an R.N., a Registered Nurse by professional training.  She was also a linguist, a literary one, who loved the Bible and worked on its translation.  She wrote a biography of her much more famous brother, Kenneth Lee Pike, and maybe that's how you might of heard of them.  Together, they co-authored a book on translation and on language entitled, Live Issues in Descriptive Linguistics.  Here's their pictures (the two youngest on the left with their other siblings, and then the two together a few years later) from Eunice's biography of Ken:

Ken would talk about how much in debt he was to Eunice, how much he learned from her (I know, because I heard him so talk in his home, when she was there, and in the classroom, talking about his theory of language and of translation, when she was not present).  I learned from her too in the lecture halls, while doing an M.A. in Linguistics at the University of Texas at Arlington but going to the SIL campus in Dallas from time to time.  Last week, there was a sweet memorial service for her, not many attending at all, just Eunie's closest friends and her sister-in-law Evelyn.  The obituary has still not been published for her, and there won't be any mention of her on the websites of the United Bible Society or of Christianity Today.  Bloggers won't be remembering her influence on them or won't be arguing that her work is to be regarded as important.

You can find online how Valentina Pavlovna Wassona and R. Gordon Wasson published one of Eunice Pike's helpful letters to them in their book Mushrooms, Russia, and History: Volume II.   If you read it for yourself, you'll read how much they learned from Pike about mushrooms, about how she herself learned from others by listening and by interacting.  This reminded me of what she wrote for a larger audience in her book, An Uttermost Part, in the chapter, "Jehovah," in which she tells the story of letting the new testament, as a boy was reading it (right at I John 4:1), explain "that visions received through the hallucinatory mushroom were not messages from Christ" even though "[m]ost Mazatecs assumed [through syncretistic lore] that they were" (page 105).

Now that I've started you listening to some of the stories, why not listen to a few more "lived issues" in the descriptive linguistics and translation work of Pike?  She writes, in her book Words Wanted, of actually working with Nida to check her translation from Greek into Mazatec. 
"Dr. Nida sat with the Greek and the Spanish New Testament in front of him, and I with the Mazatec.  My job was to look at the Mazatec and give him a quick literal translation into English.  He compared what I said with the Greek, asked questions, and agreed or disagreed.

Among other things he pointed out that we had translated a number of Greek metaphors rather than the specific words.  One example was found in Acts 14:8.  'Being a cripple from his mother's womb' was the Greek expression, but no Mazatec ever says that.  'Ever since he was born,' Dr. Nida suggested.  He emphasized the fact that it was the message we were supposed to get across, not just words" (page 96).
It may sound as if Nida's corrective of Pike was one that she followed absolutely and without questioning.  However, if you keep reading, then you do hear in her story some of her reluctance on the very next page:
"We could even apply the suggestions Dr. Nida had made for the Book of Acts.  Well -- (sigh) -- O.K.  We would change [to make some revisions]" (page 96) 
Her view of language, of translation, is far more robust than his reductive notion is.  She saw the Greek in the book of Acts as meaningful, as important to learn from, even for an English reader.  Could the Greek letters and words and phrases be reduced to a message?  Did it have to merely and so baldly mean simply and only this message:  "Ever since he was born"?  Doesn't this translating rob the mother of her biology, of her womb, of her body?  And should the Mazatec then literally now equal the English, which only dynamically equaled then the Greek?  Do you see the problems that Nida's reductive either/ or approach causes?

As evidence of how much more astute Pike was about language than Nida, let's look at other things she observed.  She learned from her Mazatec-speaking friends that men, not women, will "whistle-talk."  This whistle-talk was not with speech, not with words, but was with the "symbols" of pitch.  The whistle-talk, moreover, was not a whistled song.  "A whistled song was smooth, almost continuous, whereas whistle-talk was punctuated with pauses [with pitches that] were limited [and was] slower and more stately than music."  She bemoaned the fact that she herself had never learned to whistle, not even a song.  But she laughed that being a woman gave her a pass:
"The only thing that saved me from being completely outclassed was the fact that in Mazatec culture women were not supposed to whistle.  They understood the men's whistle-talk, but unless they were tomboys they responded verbally [i.e., with spoken words, phrases, clauses, and sentences]" (page 30).
And Pike, a woman, learned whistle-talk, from a woman, no less:
"Ida was a tomboy, and she was not the least bit ashamed of whistling.  With her help we learned to recognize and approximate, 'Come here,' 'What do you want?', and a few other frequently used expressions.  Much of her teaching was done while we were walking, and I did pretty well on the level part of the trail, but after we had climbed a little while, I quit trying.  Ever-impatient Ida wanted to know why.  I told her that I had not any breath.  She chuckled and turned to her friend, 'Poor thing.  She left her breath down the path.  God down and get it for her" (page 30).
Notice several things from this story about Pike and her robust, non-reductive view of language and of translation:
  1. She acknowledged sociolinguistic differences between men and women in speech acts.
  2. She did not require women to obey the men's rules for whether woman could whistle-talk or not.
  3. As a woman, she learned from another women to do only what men were to do.
  4. The whistle-talk was full of discernible emic (insider) symbols and form and forms.
  5. A merely dynamic equivalence of whistle-talk as only a message to be communicated would lose much meaning and much social interaction.
  6. Communication, a message, was important in whistle-talk, but it wasn't the only important thing to be learned, performed, or translated.
  7. She was humble, a learner, and relied on friendly people to teach her the significances of language.
  8. She laughed and enjoyed word play and engaged in humor through puns and indirect and robust messages that were infinitely dimensioned.
  9. She appreciated language as translatable, as messageS, as multi-modal, as varied within any given mode, as social, as gendered, as feminist-resistances, and on and on.
The above is not an exhaustive list.  I'm just making a few observations off the top of my head.  You should have more to make.

Lest we get so formulaic with these enumerations, let me give just one more story from Pike (and there are, oh, so many in the books I've already mentioned by her).  Here's the one in which she pays attention to learning and to teaching and to collaborative learning in Mazatec and its translation.  Listen, enjoy:
"[T]he subject [among us women] changed to the apron I was wearing.  It was a plastic apron, and one of the women asked me what it was called.  I was always startled when they asked me the name for something in Mazatec.  I was the one who was trying to learn their language, and it had not occurred to me that I could teach them any of it.  I answered with a word I thought appropriate, [the Mazatec phrase for] apron.

'Is that cloth?' asked one of the women and felt it.  Then I remembered that the parts that made up the [the Mazatec] word apron meant, 'cloth-put-against.'  No, it was not cloth -- so what should it be called?  The women discussed the problem.  First they wanted to know what it was actually made of.  They did not have a word for plastic, so the best I could dos was to tell them that it was something like rubber -- the word they used when describing any waterproof material.  The women tried out the combination 'rubber-put-against' but they rejected it.  Finally, a bit hesitatingly, they agreed on 'cloth-put-against-which-is-rubber,' that is, a 'rubber apron.'  That little incident helped me to see that the original meaning of word parts (like cloth) can be lost when the broader meaning of the compound has become well established.  Little hint like that helped me to be patient with visitors -- I was constantly learning from them -- and encouraged me to go calling" (page 33).
So what did she learn?  How did she theorize language and practice translation?  And what do you learn from Pike that Nida's reductive model would not allow?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Confessions of a Post-Colonial Ex-Patriate Third-Culture-Kid

Just finished "The Help" - yeah I know it's a chick book, whatever...it made me think about cooks, maids, and jaga's who worked for my family over the years overseas. I was older when we were in Jakarta [Indonesia], but in Thailand, we had a maid named S--- who was my best friend and basically raised me, wish I could go back and thank her for all she did for me....
One of my high school friends, in a private facebook group, just posted what you're reading above.  We went to school together in one of the nations where our parents worked, a former colony of one of the empires of the West.  Our parents were called Ex-Pats and we, without our own choosing, were Third-Culture-Kids.

When I was back in the USA, preparing to write a dissertation on Aristotle's influence on the West (and consequently on the East as well), then I made similar confessions in an early draft of a preface to my prospectus.  Here's what I wrote, (as) an artifact of histories and historiographies:
My narrative that follows shows how much I owe to several feminist rhetor(ician)s.  (Their insights are just beginning to enrich my understandings in academic dimensions).  Some of my very earliest memories are of Nancy, sharing her African American stories in ebonics with my brothers and me as she cared for us in our home while my parents were away in seminary classes and in church work in Texas just before the Jim Crow laws were overturned and long before “African American” and “ebonics” were labels for people and language.  (From bell hooks now I some understand that Nancy, after her long workdays for my parents, probably told her stories to her own children in her own homeplace, a site of resistance.)  Then, when my parents were in missionary language school in Viet Nam, Chị Năm [Fifth Elder Sister] became our surrogate parent and taught us another mother tongue as she took us with her to the open-air markets and inside the museums, on the playgrounds and through the zoo, all filled with stares and with pinches on our little boy white cheeks and with public questions about our father and the race of our mother, before taking us back “home.”  (Now elsewhere, out of a Rhetoric of Women Writer’s seminar, I really get this explicit insight in English from Trinh T. Minh-ha: 
Every voyage can be said to involve a re-siting of boundaries.  The traveling self is here both the self that moves physically from one place to another, following “public routes and beaten tracks” within a mapped movement, and the self that embarks on an undetermined journeying practice, having constantly to negotiate between home and abroad, native culture and adopted culture, or more creatively speaking, between a here, a there, and an elsewhere. [9])
My biological mother, Margaret, in addition to her own studies, read all kinds of books to us, and taught me to read and to write.  (She had learned cowgirl rhetoric, the kind that Charlotte Hogg and Ron Pitcock theorize, from her biological mother, Gladys, who taught her how to call the cows, of course, and how to fish, to hunt, to quilt, to pick blackberries, to bake a cobbler to go with the elaborate entrees and home grown vegetables and breads she cooked daily for her family and occasionally for special crowds, to play 42, to negotiate necessarily with a strong husband in a world of men, to tell her stories, and to read and to write).  Because I could read and write, I learned to theorize language learning from Ibu [Mother] Noto, who taught me Bahasa Indonesia in high school (birthing in me the desire to study Japanese and Greek, as an undergraduate student; and linguistics, language-learning theory, then literature, composition, and rhetoric, as a graduate student, and to learn / to teach as a friend, a child, a parent, an academic).  “Monstrous,” Nancy Mairs might call this kind of rhetoric (of hers).

sez Aristotle (and Genesis and others) that's who

Again, the same holds good between man and the other animals: tame animals are superior in their nature to wild animals, yet for all the former it is advantageous to be ruled by man, since this gives them security. Again, as between the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject. And the same must also necessarily apply in the case of mankind as a whole; therefore all men that differ as widely as the soul does from the body and the human being from the lower animal (and this is the condition of those whose function is the use of the body and from whom this is the best that is forthcoming) these are by nature slaves, for whom to be governed by this kind of authority is advantageous, inasmuch as it is advantageous to the subject things already mentioned. For he is by nature a slave who is capable of belonging to another (and that is why he does so belong), and who participates in reason so far as to apprehend it but not to possess it; for the animals other than man are subservient not to reason, by apprehending it, but to feelings. And also the usefulness of slaves diverges little from that of animals; bodily service for the necessities of life is forthcoming from both, from slaves and from domestic animals alike. The intention of nature therefore is to make the bodies also of freemen and of slaves different—the latter strong for necessary service, the former erect and unserviceable for such occupations, but serviceable for a life of citizenship (and that again divides into the employments of war and those of peace)
-- Aristotle, Politics,  1254b

Females are born botched males, and through their lifetime females are physically colder and mentally less rational than males.  In humans as well as in animals, the female species has fewer teeth than males.  -- all of this according to Aristotle's biology

"The biological profiles of males and females . . . reveal [a] myriad [of] basic biological differences, many of which shape behavior." -- Gregg Johnson, quoted by Gary Steward and Sally Michael.

"Biological difference between men and women are [sic] more than just the obvious differences.  Men and women are wired differently." -- Gary Steward and Sally Michael

"You don't need to be a kindergarten teacher or an educational psychologist to observe that boys are different than girls.  Do a little experiment of your own.  Observe your church nursery or at [sic] any other gathering of little children.  See what behavior each gender exhibits, what toys they prefer, and how they play with each other.  Write your observations below.
-- Gary Steward and Sally Michael

"If all gender differences were culturally determined, you would expect to find some societies where females are the risk takers and males play with dolls.  There would be some societies in which females, on the average, would do better in math and young males would be more verbally adept than females.  But where are they?" -- Christina Hoff Sommers, a female calculating averages and attempting herself to be as verbally adept as the average female, as quoted by Gary Steward and Sally Michael.

Plutarch wrote that “the men of Sparta always obeyed their wives.”   Aristotle was even more critical of the influence women [in the Spartan society] had in politics arguing that it was contributing to the downfall of the country.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What Turns Genesis Sexist and When

"This is God's good design.
A design for male headship -- leading, protecting, and providing for the woman.
A design for female submission -- submitting to and helping the man; a companion-helper 'fit for him.'
Some will be doubtful ... even upset by this teaching of God's good design for men and women."
This is an except, the above lines are, from a new curriculum for young people, entitled "Rejoicing in God's Good Design: A Study for Youth on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood."  It's co-authored "By Gary Steward and Sally Michael."  Is it any coincidence that he is named first and, then, she after him?  Is that part of the editor's design?  The "this" referred to in the first line here are several written out verses in Genesis, namely bits of "Genesis 1:28, 2:15, 18" and "Genesis 1:31."  (A similar study, by the same two co-writers, this man and woman pair, is called "The Design of the Creator: Man Created Male and Female" and starts in with "Genesis 1:24-28, 31a.")

Thanks to Suzanne for mentioning this as she blogs on "Women's orientation to work: part 1."  In connection with the curriculum for youth (which she notes is linked to by the Council on "Biblical" Manhood and Womanhood), Suzanne has readers look at "Gen. 2:15, 18 and Gen. 3:16-19."  Bob makes the helpful comment that in Genesis 3:16 the Greek translation ἀποστροφή for the Hebrew (תשוקה) turns the preferred CBMW meaning around.

I'm interested in what turns Genesis sexist.  And just when things turned sexist.  Who is confused?  The CBMW has one interpretation.  The man-first, woman-second team authors of this curriculum focus on the ostensible confusion caused when you don't focus rightly on these few verses.  The four-men-and-men-first "Team" helping these two authors and the same "Team" with eight more following women helping these two authors are all working against this confusion.  (Go ahead; click the link again and read their plea to focus on these verses and to avoid confusion about it's one CBMW interpretation.)

Suzanne, however, gets us reconsidering.  So consider what she writes:
So I want to look at alternate interpretation for Gen. 3:16. The consequences of the fall for the woman relate to childbearing and her relationship to her husband. The consequence of the fall for the man relates to the soil. The most obvious interpretation is that just as woman was taken out of man, so the fall returns her to man. And in the same way, as man was taken out of the soil, so he is returned to the soil. We need to consider that the story of Adam and Eve has internal plot coherency that is not necessarily related to universal truths about men and women.
And that's it.  Those trying to train youths to see God's design in nature as having women and females submit to men and males really make the most of one interpretation of just a few verses.  They want Adam after the fall into sin and Eve after the fall into sin to be the normative good design.

The only other thing I really want to add here is something Jane Williams has written.  In her online essay "The Book of Genesis, part 6: Patriarchs and others," Jane asks "What is to be made, theologically, of the unabashedly male-dominated, hierarchical world of Genesis?"  And she begins to answer by suggesting what Suzanne has suggested.  She's not just looking at a few verses to dogmatically train youths about "God's good [sexist] design" for all times.  She's looking at all of Genesis, at how it flows downhill quickly into confusion from the hint of something good.

Jane rather astutely says this:
Genesis is a patriarchal narrative, through and through. Its world is one where women exist entirely as adjuncts to men, and where safety and success for women lie in marriage and reproduction. Monogamy and sexual fidelity are not expected of men. It is also a world where slavery and servitude is taken for granted. So the person with the least control over her own destiny is the female servant.

If there is a hint at the beginning of Genesis that this state of affairs is not part of the original ideal, it is accepted as inevitable for the rest of the narrative. The creation stories seem to imply that there is equality and partnership between the man and the woman before "the fall", and that the division of people into different "tribes" comes from violence and betrayal, rather than being inbuilt. Later on in the Pentateuch, when Moses is given the law by God, to regulate the life of God's people and demonstrate God's values, some basic rights for women and "aliens" are enshrined. But these silver threads do not predominate in the male-dominated, hierarchical world of Genesis.

There are strong women in the patriarchal narratives, but their lives and their influence revolve around their husbands and children.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bad Words like "Good News"

My wife and our daughters had an encounter with a street preacher downtown Fort Worth, Texas USA the other night.  As they approach him, she said to our eldest, the most outspoken, "Now, just don't engage."  And yet the guy was good at his craft.  He rattled a mother by accusing her children.  "You probably think you're Christians, that you're going to heaven, that you follow Jesus.  But you little girls just follow Jesus around like puppy dogs.  You're all going to hell."  At that, my wife laid into him, telling him he had no idea who her daughters were let alone who Jesus is.  They got into an argument about whether he was judging and whether he was, as he was claiming, like Moses in the dessert bringing good news to his people though some died eternally refusing to listen and following idols.  And my daughter, the most outspoken, made her public profession of faith as a missile back at the guy:  "Isn't 'good news' about love?  I'd rather go to Hell than to follow your version of Jesus."

Words are weird.  I grew up hearing the words "Tin Lành" in South Vietnam, where my American parents were Southern Baptist missionaries during the war.  There was a war for words there too.  In Vietnamese the word tin means "news" and lành mean "good."  And the phrase "tin lành" means "gospel" or "evangelist" or "Protestant" and actually is the label for a large (not Baptist) Protestant denomination.  "Good news," huh?

I've been thinking about these things a lot.  Rachel Held Evans has a series of posts on "good news," trying to define it and trying to get others to have a concensus about it while enjoying the diversity of it.  Wendy McCaig, similiarly, has a post "Good News?" and a post "What Label Do You Wear?"  This makes me want to write a blog post on the Hebrew (and Greek) origins of the phrase Christians and evangelical Christians, even street preachers, have appropriated exclusively for themselves, so concerned about its definition and the Jesus ostensibly so associated with the phrase.

In the mean time, I've appreciated Bob McDonald's thoughts about words and their translation.  Look here how he uses the metaphors "guest" and "host" languages!  This is a rather non-Western and a particularly Chinese sort of metaphor, if you ask Lydia H. Liu.  Look how Bob talks about those who think they are "far from God or Gospel."  If I had time to blog more (I don't), I'd say more just how sexist the street preacher was to these women (my wife and my daughters) whom he accosted with his gospel.  If I had time, I might also say how sexist I think the words niña and mallorquina are in the sonnet that Willis Barnstone (also a Bible translator) translated rather simply and all-too-benignly as "the pupil" and "the Mallorca whore."  I think they mean something like "little girl" and "shiksa slut."  Do I know Spanish and English and Yiddish and the author of the sonnet?  We all thought the bad words were merely those other ones, didn't we?  The excremental ones.  But when "good news" hurts women and men and boys and girls, aren't these also bad words?  Can't we talk about these words and their translation and our appropriations of them and exclusions by them a little more?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Women's Equality Day in the USA: What Do You Know?

Did you know that 66th Congress of the United States of America was comprised of 559 men?  Do you know how many women were in the Congress?  Yes, that's right.  0.  Zero.  Not even 1.

Did you know that the 65th Congress of the USA did have 1 woman?  Yes, that's right.  Jeannette Rankin, who first served as a Representative, a Republican, from the State of Montana, from 1917 to 1919.  She was the only woman among all the men, the first woman to serve as an elected representative ever.

A pacifist and a suffragette, Ms. Rankin opened the Congress floor in January 1918 with these questions:

“How shall we answer the challenge, gentlemen? How shall we explain to them the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted to make the world safe for democracy [through war] refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?”

Do you know what's most significant, most ironic, about these facts?

It was not until 1920, on August 26, that the Congress afforded the right to vote to women in all states of the United States. This was 42 years after Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the amendment to the U.S. Constitution and first introduced it to the all-male government in 1878.  This was 62 years after women and men gathered in Seneca Falls, New York, to sign the Declaration of Sentiments, to address the inequalities in the American democracy.  This was 144 years after the birth of the American democracy.

This Amendment reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.  Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

To celebrate the day of the passing of this Amendment, Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced the following statement:

Joint Resolution of Congress, 1971
Designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.

That statement, that joint resolution, was resolved 41 years ago.  So what do you know today?  How are we doing?  How are you doing with equality?

Quiz yourself here.

What of the historical data, to date, do you know?  Are you really happy about the equality of women today?  How many women have you voted for?  Have you voted for women and men equally?  Why not?  Is America ready for a woman president?

Read how one woman goes back to the Sacred Texts of Feminism here.

Read the 19th Amendment again here:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Bible Translator Uses Bad Words ("Ass, Fart, Whore, Piss, Shit")

Well, you're going to protest again maybe.  Here I go quoting a Bible translator's translation that makes you read bad words.  To be exact, ass, fart, whore, piss, and shit.

So would it make any difference to you if I told you that the published translation helped win this particular translator the "PEN American Center / Book of the Month Club Translation Award"?  Would you give the translator a break if one notable critic said that this is the translator's "most remarkable translation thus far" and that "it is, in fact, more an act of wizardry than of translation"?  What if you knew that the translator was also a poet, who was "[t]wice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry"?

What else might matter to you?  That the translator is not a woman, but a man?  Does he need to be a theologian?  A linguist?  If he's translated the New Testament, does he need to be a Greek scholar?  A Christian?  Part of a team of men scholars of theology and of Greek language and of translation science?  Would those things then make it okay for him to use ass, fart, whore, piss, and shit in his translation?

What I'm trying to get at is what counts for you.

Yesterday, I started in on a post by quoting a feminist, a woman feminist saying "pissed off."  But I said that this was Jesus speaking.  Immediately, you began to protest.  "Gloria Steinem is no Jesus."  And some of you were thinking, "Cuss words are not the Word of God."

What I'm trying to get at is how the Bible can immediately make seemingly unequal things equal.

What I'm trying to get at is how translation, likewise, makes things that don't at first seem to count as the same really, nonetheless, the same.

What I'm trying to get at is how literature, even a poem, a sonnet for instance, makes seemingly unequal things equal. 

"Now, just wait a minute," some of you are saying.  "The Bible in the original language(s) is not translation.  And a translation is not the original by any stretch.  Don't you know much gets lost in translation?  And, since you're bringing up literature, and poetry, don't you even remember how Poet Robert Frost wisely noted that 'Poetry is what gets lost in translation'?"

What I'm trying to get at is how you can make things you think are unequal equal.  Men and women?  Yes, equal.  Jesus and a feminist?  Yes, equal again.  The original spoken word of Jesus and it's written translation by someone claiming to be his student named John?  Right, equal.  A bit of history and a possibly fictional, late-added episode of narrative complexity?  Of course.  Equals.

What I'm trying to get at is how the Western mode of thinking that is binary really is what scholars Andrea Lunsford and Lisa Ede rightly refer to as the "logic-chopping automaton."

But none of us has to be that much of a scholar to see this.  Let me just turn things around and come at it from another direction.  What if you yourself are not really making unequal things -- say, males and females -- equal?  What if they really are equal but it's just your use of Western, Aristotelian logic that makes them un-equal?  What if the Bible, translation, and literature in general really free you to reconsider difference?

Okay.  I suppose you're dying to know.  Who is this Bible translator mentioned at the beginning of the post?  It's Willis Barnstone.  "What?!" some of you are exclaiming.  "He's not a real translator of the Bible.  He's only translated the New Testament and not anything else.  Well, okay.  He's translated the New Testament, but not the one I grew up with.  He's not gotten to any of the Hebrew books, or any of what may be called the Old Testament.  And he's thrown in a whole bunch of Greek books that are not canonical.  The best and top-most-ranked Bible bloggers didn't know much about him until you started mentioning him here.  Yes, we know you mentioned him yesterday in a post.  Yes, we saw how you quoted from his translation.  But where did he use the bad words, the unbiblical English, that you quote in this post today?"

Please let me answer.  What I'm trying to get at is that Barnstone is the equal of any other Bible translator, dead or alive.  He's a poet, a historian, a theoretician, and a practitioner of translation.  Here's his complete, to date, bibliography.  If that's not impressive enough, then do know that he does have his critics.  Even literary types are good critics, somewhat severely critical critics, of his New Testament translation.  And those who know some of the original languages better than Barnstone does perhaps, even though these might still be students, can be good critics, somewhat severely critical critics.  

Now if you've stayed with me this far, anticipating Willis Barnstone's translation that uses those words I mentioned earlier, then do know you're going to get to read it (and them).  I'm not going to say a thing really about the passage that Barnstone has translated other than this:  it really is an award winning translation, but it really isn't from the Bible.  It really is a sonnet, perhaps equal to the Spanish sonnet Barnstone is rendering.  Thus, if you believe me that Barnstone is equal to a translator of the Bible, then here's a translation of something else by "a Bible translator who uses these "bad words":

from Six Masters of the Spanish Sonnet

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

adding to the narrative complexity: pissed off bloggers and egalitarians and feminists and Bible translators

 “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.”
– Jesus

Oh, sorry.  The truth is that my attribution for this quotation above has added to the narrative complexity.  I guess I'll blog a bit further then.  The quotation, in truth, really sort of goes something more like this:

Then Yeshua [aka Joshua] said to the Jews who believed in him,
  If you remain with my word,
  Then you are truly my students,
  And you will know the truth
  And the truth will set you free.

You see, in the very same gospel, in the very same chapter, Jesus [aka the Jewish Joshua, aka Yeshua] had done something. He had already begun to add to the narrative complexity.

He had self-identified, by his actions, by his word too, as an egalitarian.   He had regarded his audience with respectfulness and had called them disrepectful.  Notice, he could have called them sexist. And he could called himself a feminist.

You see, his audience of men had caught a woman in the act of adultery, had brought her alone to him, and were hoping to catch Jesus being soft on her.  They had already accused him of being “emotional,” “erratic,” “self-righteous,” “snarky,” and “out-of-line.”  The whole truth of all of this really pissed him off.  They were treating a woman not as an equal.  But rather than calling them “man-first sexists,” he called on them to disrespect themselves first, to cast the first stone at their own sins first.  Later, his disciples stayed with his word, which is one of those words I've already quoted above here.  Since my blog audience is so big and sometimes some of the readers are so easily offended, let me not repeat them here again.

Let me just suggest that Jesus was talking like a feminist.  I think we can safely say, in quotation marks to be sure, it was the egalitarian feminist Gloria Steinem who, noticing the disrespect of many sexists, said:

 “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.”

I myself am playing with these words in a blogpost because I just saw how Rachel Held Evans does too.

And Rachel adds to the narrative complexity.  Let me explain.  She discusses how her blogging has changed, how she's gained her voice and has begun to stand up for egalitarianism and against disrepect.  I'm going to say she stands up like a feminist (depending on who her audience is) and stands against sexists (since there are some in the blogosphere even).  So she gives credit not only to Gloria Steinem but also to “women like Margaret Feinberg, Christine Caine, Carolyn Custis James, Mimi Hadaad, Elaine Storkey, Phyllis Tickle, Lauren Winner, Kathleen Norris, Nancy Ortberg, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Mama Maggie Gobran” and to “women of valor” such as “Marta, Andrea, Elana, Cinda, Janet,” and “Lilet.”  Rachel has also thanked “men like John Stackhouse, Scot McKnight, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Jim Webb, John Ortberg, our husbands, our fathers, our brothers, our pastors, and our friends.”

And so this brings up another issue:  Jesus, like Rachel, thanks many others.  At least he shows his gratitude, his belief in those around him, his fore-trust of his students anyway.  There's an adding to the narrative complexity.  Here's what I mean by that.  It's almost as if he's counting on feminists, like Gloria, and egalitarians, like Rachel, to do what they do.  Just as he's spoken up for the woman so alone in the accusation of adultery, the disciples of Jesus speak up for him.  One way some of them have done this is not only by “remaining in his word” but also by translating his word.

Here's the way Rachel, civil as heck, uses her words to advise choosing words:

Depending on our audience, we may want to use the word “disrespectful” instead of “sexist” or “egalitarian” instead of “feminist.” There’s no need to turn people off with words that may be misunderstood.

I'm sure the earliest of students of Jesus got that, sort of.  They got how he didn't always go on a full-out assault of his enemies.  For example, here's the way his student, John, a self-identifying Jew discussing his fellows, re-ported and re-presented and trans-lated what Jesus said originally; notice how he chooses his words when rendering the words of Jesus into a language of world-dominating non-Jews:

ἔλεγεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς τοὺς πεπιστευκότας αὐτῷ Ἰουδαίους·
  ἐὰν ὑμεῖς μείνητε ἐν τῷ λόγῷ τῷ ἐμῷ
  ἀληθῶς μαθηταί μου ἐστε
  καὶ γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν
  καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς.

Now, to be sure, the truth of the matter is that this written Greek of John's has been translated countless times into written English.  I particularly like the way Willis Barnstone renders the gospel Greek (as Hebraic Hellene) into Poetry.  If you haven't already guessed, the English verse you read above is Barnstone's recognition and representation of the Greek as verse.

At one point in the narrative of the woman and of Jesus, Barnstone makes a remark, in a footnote, about John's wording to translate what Jesus said.  Barnstone says:

The Greek is sparse and needs no fleshing out, saying word for word, “The blameless you [gen.] first at her throw stone.”

In verse, in our English, that goes this way:

  The one among you without sin
  Let him first cast a stone at her.

And Barnstone, now the poet-translator of the poet-translator and the narrator's new narrator, after he's noted the real sparseness of the rendered speech, adds another footnote to the story:

[John] 7.53 - 8.11 is not in early manuscripts and is thought to be an addition.  Although an interruption in the flow of Yeshua's debate in the Temple and whether authentic or spurious, it still adds to the narrative complexity.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seeing "The Help" and "The Passion of the Christ"

It's been a week now since we went to the theater and saw the film, "The Help." This is my review for what it's worth. Suzanne says the movie is enjoyable if you suspend your disbelief, and she links to a couple of other reviews that point out worthwhile things about the pictureshow. 

It's been a week now.  Since our seeing "The Help," the anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution came and went.  I'm just bringing this up to get in a quotation by Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, who said for herself the following as a woman and as a colored as a representative of the World's Congress of Representative Women, some 27 years before the 19th Amendment and the equal right of women to vote with men in the United States:
The colored woman feels that woman's cause is one and universal; and that not till the image of God, whether in parian or ebony, is sacred and inviolable; not till race, color, sex, and condition are seen as the accidents, and not the substance of life; not till the universal title of humanity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is conceded to be inalienable to all; not till then is woman's lesson taught and woman's cause won—not the white woman's, nor the black woman's, not the red woman's, but the cause of every man and of every woman who has writhed silently under a mighty wrong.
In the film, "The Help," one of the first things you hear, and something you hear repeated, is the main character, Aibileen, saying the following to a young white girl under her care, as a black woman, as one of the help some forty years or so after women in the United States were finally granted the vote:
You is smart, you is kind, you is important.
This is the voice of the black woman, of black women, teaching other women as daughters who some day will later employ their own daughters when both grow up.  We wondered what the young and old African American women in the theater with us in Fort Worth, Texas, USA were thinking.  And there were many, relatively speaking.  At the end of the movie, there was light and not unanimous applause.  One African American couple headed straight to the door before the credits started rolling.

The representations and the misrepresentations got us wondering about the stereotyping.  (Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, not a black woman herself, has helped us wonder much; and here's how she has changed her mind and the sensitive and rhetorical questions she's asked.)  How do we want our black women to represent themselves?  How if we're a white woman novelist or her chosen white male screenplay writer, both from Mississippi?  I'm reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, who self identifies as white, agnostic, half New York Jewish, half MidWestern Protestant, to show how different she is from Ms. Lacks and especially from her daughter Deborah, to whom this writer gives voice.  There's much much care and concern for right representation, for historical accuracy, for the issues at stake.  I highly recommend Skloot's book but hardly recommend the movie, The Help.  Oprah Winfrey has discussed with Skloot making her book into an HBO film, and she's hired Alan Ball to write the screenplay.  Ball is a man, a white person, who has proven how important it is to represent women fairly, and not just white women, for example in his writing of the screenplay "Towelhead," based on the book by Alicia Erian, who writes as an Egyptian-Polish American young woman.

Now, I'm not saying to anyone that they must boycott "The Help."  It is important to see the film the way it was important to see "The Passion of the Christ," written and directed and produced by a known anti-Semite and misogynist.  It was first written in English and then translated into Aramaic and into Latin, not any Greek.  The Latin was not the Latin of the characters in the film but is ecclesiastical Latin.  Who makes such films and how their characters speak does matter.  The backstory of the person telling somebody else's story does matter.  The "original" tellings of the story portrayed were translations from Aramaic and from Latin and from high Hebrew into goyish Greek turned Hebraic Hellene.  Now that's real important.  You understand the reactions of the different audience members, and you must freely have your own responses, when you get the story behind the telling of the story.

I know I'm not giving you much of a review of a movie.  I hope you'll hear and see for yourself some of the issues when someone is denied her voice or when a voice is represented and misrepresented.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Aristotle on Woman leadership around Democracies

And what's around Democracy [Control by the People], 
however, engenders Final Tyranny for All [a Tyrant's Total Control]:

καὶ τὰ περὶ τὴν δημοκρατίαν
δὲ γιγνόμενα τὴν τελευταίαν τυραννικὰ πάντα,

Control by Wives, 
particularly around the household

τε περὶ τὰς οἰκίας,

gives birth to reports 
against Husbands

ἵν᾽ ἐξαγγέλλωσι
κατὰ τῶν ἀνδρῶν

and to undisciplined Slaves 
for this same reason.

καὶ δούλων ἄνεσις
διὰ τὴν αὐτὴν αἰτίαν: 

Neither Slaves nor Wives, in fact, can turn on

οὔτε γὰρ ἐπιβουλεύουσιν οἱ δοῦλοι καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες
τοῖς τυράννοις,

They're just as much blessings to the days 
and necessarily blessings to the minds
of the Tyrannies
as they are to the Democracies.

ὐημεροῦντάς τε
ἀναγκαῖον εὔνους εἶναι
καὶ ταῖς τυραννίσι
καὶ ταῖς δημοκρατίαις: 

from the Politics (Bekker page 1313b, between and around lines 35 -40)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Classics Greek Scholars translate Ephesians 5


"... and subordinating yourselves to each other in awe of Christ.  Wives should subordinate themselves to their husbands as to the Lord."

   -- Richmond Lattimore


"   Be submissive to each other in awe and fear of the Mashiah.

Husbands, wives, and rules of the household
    Wives, submit to your husbands as to the lord.*

*Few passages have aroused more controversy and ire, on both sides, than these instructions about wives and husbands. As an apology for the commanding position of the husband, it is argued that there is a reciprocal agreement of responsibility that affects both husband and wife, especially with regard to love and loyalty. However, in the end [by this "complementarian" argument] the wife must obey her husband, and given his CEO position (financial images, from wages to redemption are favorite metaphors in New Testament persuasion), there is no question [in the minds of "complementarians"] where ultimate authority lies: 'Wives, submit to your husbands as to the lord.' ...

Between the initial and end verses that prescribe a wife's position in the household, it should be seen [contra the hierarchical argument] that there is also a core of idealized love between man and woman, with emphasis on the mystery of caring for person and flesh. After the diatribe against ill use of the body, an idealized love appears immediately in verses 31-32, ending with 'This is a great mystery.' However, the author immediately catches himself and warns inconsolably in verse 33, 'and a wife should be in awe and fear of her husband.'"

   -- Willis Barnstone


"... while you are supporting one another out of love and respect for the Anointed One, wives, with your own husbands, as with the Lord.*

*ὑποτασσω, hupotasso, support. The oft-quoted verse, "Wives, submit to your husbands" does not occur in any known Greek text, yet has made its way into nearly every Bible version. The word, erroneously appearing as an imperative (in verse 22 where no verb appears), is in fact a participle and is in verse 21: 'supporting one another'. Even if mistranslated [in this context as] 'submitting', it would be 'submitting to one another'...."

   -- Ann Nyland


Of all three scholars, Nyland is the one whose English translation follows the Greek syntax and phrasing in such a way that the participial verbal ὑποτασσω, hupotasso, is part of a subordinate clause running down from an important main-clause imperative right through to expectations of one positioning oneself to one's others, under those others, always keeping the holy spirit and Jesus and God-as-Master in view.  The main verbs for Paul and his readers in Ephesus are further away from the "submit" verbal, the commanding imperatives much much earlier in what we call verse 18.  These main verbs are a negative and a positive put in contrast well before the subordinating verbs.  So pardon my pun, my looking at how subordinate is submitted below what's truly more important, start to finish:

μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ,
ἐν ᾧ ἐστὶν ἀσωτία,
ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε
ἐν πνεύματι,
ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις
ἐν φόβῳ χριστοῦ
αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν
ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ

"Don't be intoxicated with wine,
in a way that's unsavory,
Do instead be filled up
in Spirit...

positioning oneself under one's others
in fearful awe of Messiah
the women to their own men
as to Master."

The phrasing is clearly ambiguous, allowing the Greek reader and the English translator to interpret according to his or her own viewpoint.   Where one breaks the section headers, the verses, the sentences, the clauses, and the phrases matters.  Whether one sees women as inherently and naturally equal ontologically and functionally with men matters.

In Viet Nam, when I grew up there, left handers were seen as naturally and inherently inferior to right handers.  Get this; lefties were ontologically equal with righties.  But, functionally, they were not equal.  Hence, left handers were not accommodated in the school classrooms.  Left handers had to sit in desks made for right handers.  Left handers had to hold their pencils and chalk in their right hands to write.  This  was actually prescribed in the school code and also in the culture.  If you were born a lefty, as all of my siblings were, then nothing else about you mattered; you had to submit yourself to the right handers and their world.  When my mother started teaching my siblings and me, however, she threw these rules right out.  She was our schoolmaster.  We submitted ourselves to new rules that allowed for my siblings to learn to write with their left hands.  There was a new school code of freedom for each and all of us.  None of us could  feel or act superior to the other because of which hand we used naturally.  Turns out, one of my sibs found out he was ambidextrous.  The point?  Our new school master made all the difference, gave new freedom, didn't give room for superiority because of default or majority biology.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

S-U-B-M-I-T, find out what it means to her

In public, Michele Bachmann, candidate for the Chief Executive of the world's largest superpower, says that she will continue to submit to her husband.  However, this submission, she says, is respect.  And this submission, she explains, is mutual.   Here's exactly how she put it last night answering why she did something her husband told her she must do even though she hated doing it:
“Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10. I’m in love with him. I’m so proud of him. What submission means to us, it means respect. I respect my husband. He’s a wonderful godly man and great father.
He respects me as his wife; that’s how we operate our marriage,” she continued. “We respect each other; we love each other. I’ve been so grateful we’ve been able to build a home together. We have wonderful children and 20 foster children. We’ve built a business and life together, and I’m very proud of him.”
If Ms. Bachmann becomes President, then her relationship together with Marcus should not change.  He may tell her to do some things that she hates, and she will obey; she must do it.  This also came up last evening:
During last night's Fox News debate, moderator Byron York questioned Rep. Michele Bachmann about her 2006 remark that her "husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea. And then you explained, 'But the Lord said, 'Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.'" York asked Bachmann, "As president, would you be submissive to your husband?" The question received loud boos from the audience, and was the subject of attention in write-ups of the debate.
York, after hearing Bachmann's answer, was pleased.  He said:  "I personally thought she handled it very well. She handled it much more human -- it was like a very human moment for her."   So what does York mean by "human"?  Not mousey and wifey and womanly?  Rather mutual and sharing and two-way respectful?

We get the idea, then, that a President Michele Bachmann would have her cabinet submit to her.  In a human sense, therefore, they would love her and would work together to build with her and would mutually respect her.  The question remains where that would leave First Gentleman (not First Lady) Marcus Bachmann.  If he told his wife to do something she hated, then would he get obedience?  And what would be the chain of command for the Commander in Chief?

Now Wayne Leman at BBB blogged on this.  He says "we at BBB" (meaning the all-men team of bloggers at BBB) want to know:
Does the Greek word ὑποτασσω in Ephesians 5:21–and assumed by almost all Bible translators to be implied in the next verse–mean ‘respect’ or something else?
 Yesterday, I linked to an essay, a post, by Wayne Grudem in which he says that "submission is a respectful affirmation" but that submission must only go one way in a marriage.  Submission, he explains, is not "mutual."  Marcus Bachmann is not to submit to his wife Michele Bachmann.  As the husband, he is not to give her "respectful affirmation" in the sense that he is under her.  Rather, she is under him because she is a woman, because she is his wife.  She must respectfully follow his leadership even if he tells her to do something that she hates.

The BBB all-male blogger team want to know what this means.  If you are a woman, then do know that there is a special practice by this team for moderating the comments of females.  The way blogger Theophrastus has tracked this is as follows:
The situation over that the BBB is that all male-blogging team has decided on a secret rule that issues of gender cannot be discussed in blog posts.  However, this rule is inconsistently enforced – it is particularly enforced on women who try to comment on that blog.
If you'd like to comment freely, whether you are a woman or a man, then always feel free to do so at this blog.  Or, if you really want to reply to the BBB questions but find yourself moderated in any particular way by the all-male BBB team, then feel free to do so at the BBBB.  The BBB all-male no-woman team has promised that everybody gets automatically moderated in reply to Wayne Leman's recent post.  The BBBB, however, will allow you to make your comments openly on this same topic or on any topic you somehow want to bring up there.

Now, before we leave the topic of ὑποτασσω as Paul wrote it to Greek readers in Ephesus, I thought we might listen to how his first Greek readers, those Ephesians, may have heard this word.  There's no reason to believe that these Ephesians in Ephesus were uncultured.  There's no reason to think that the husbands and wives to whom Paul addressed his letter would not have attended the local plays.  There's no reason to suggest that they might not have gone to watch the plays by Euripides or even his play that we know today as The Bacchae.

As we all know, the Bacchae were women, not men.  

They were also called maenads, those females who followed and nursed and submitted to the god Dionysus.  The Bacchae or Maenads were "Raving Women."

If you've watched the play by Euripides or have read it, then you know how these raving women murdered a human king for banning their worship of the god.  If it's significant, this particular god, Dionysus, had a human mother.  At any rate, we all know how the Bacchae or Maenads or Raving Females broke the law of the king and killed him.  They did not submit.  They did not like this chain of command, this male hierarchy from the king.  In fact, the mother of this king usurped the male authority and led the raving women.

Here's a memorable moment from the play in which this king, before he gets assasinated, is getting a report on these women and on his own mother (as translated from the Greek of Euripides into English, by George Theodoridis):
But just then she [your mother] shouted, “Hey, my speedy bitches, there are some men here who are hunting us.  They want our submission. Come, run with me.  Arm yourselves with your thyrsus and come with me! Let’s get them”

We just managed to run away and escape the slaughter but they threw themselves, with no spear nor sword, at the calves that were quietly grazing nearby.  One of those women tore a poor, tiny calf away from its mother’s udder and others ripped calves to bloody pieces with their bare hands and then they began eating them raw.

My Lord, you could see bits of flesh strewn all around the place. Whole sides of animals, legs, other chunks of animal flesh hanging from the fir trees, dripping blood.  Huge bulls, my Lord which only a few minutes earlier stood tall and proud, the sort that if one got them angry they’d tear everything apart with their massive horns, well, now they dropped their bodies to the ground and straightaway countless girls dragged them about with their bare hands and… and by the time you blinked your royal eye, my Lord, they’d have the skin torn off those massive carcasses of them bulls.

And then they went flying about like the wild birds that ruin the proud wheat stalks of Thebes, the ones that fly low next to the rushing waters of Asopos river.  Then off them women rushed to the villages of Erythres, near Ysies, at the foot of Mount Kitheron and just like an invading army they turned everything upside down, ripping children out of their houses and taking all sorts of goods from there, which they just threw carelessly over their shoulder without tying anything together; still nothing fell to the dark soil, not even bronze or iron, my Lord!

And, o, my Lord Pentheus [the king], around their hair there was this brilliant fire that had no effect on them. Didn’t burn them one bit.

Then all the men came out fuming with anger and fully armed, wanting to bring these Bacchants into submission [ὑποτάσεις], but then, my Lord, if only you could have seen this most awesome thing!  Most terrible thing to see.
So the Ephesians would get that submission was not mutual in some contexts, that the king was to be obeyed, that women especially raving females should be under male gods and male leaders.  This was a gendered thing.  A one-way sexist thing.  Or was Paul suggesting mutual submission of all one to another also?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wayne Grudem issues an apology

In an almost unpredented move, Wayne Grudem followed the lead of Don Miller.  Grudem has deleted a post and issued an apology for what he wrote about men and women.  And now, I am impressed. Today Grudem wrote,
If anything I said personally offended you, will you accept my deepest and most sincere apology?
The post was deleted from both the website of the Gospel Coalition and the website of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  But it remains on the bible.org website at http://bible.org/seriespage/wives-sarah-and-husbands-who-honor-them-1-peter-31-7.  Therefore, Grudem contacted J. K. Gayle of Aristotle's Feminist Subject, asking Gayle to post his apology there.  Grudem also wanted to add a few comments of recantation given that bible.org wouldn't let him take the post down there.  Gayle is calling it a guest post.

Grudem added this, the guest post:
Please know that I'm not some emergent church uncredentialed writer like the pop Christian author Donald Miller.  And please don't let anyone think I'm going soft on the Bible, on biblical doctrine, or on systematic theology, or anything like that.  I'm not.  I'm still the manliest of men God ever made.  I still believe in the femininity of women too.

Here's the thing.  I've been thinking hard about what Suzanne McCarthy wrote:  "If we feel that the scriptures are turning hierarchy upside down, let us follow suit."  Now, mind you, I'm not backing down on logic or on reason.  However, I've been out of touch with my real feelings lately, as if emotions are only for women.  They are not.  I can feel as a man.  Jesus wept.  And Jesus said again and again, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, .... But I say to you that everyone ...."  He said that in accurate ESV Bible English.  Yes, and I know that everyone now notices that he's included women in his "everyone."  So I started thinking (I mean) feeling that words really do matter and that all of the sudden what Jesus was saying is part of the scriptures. No scratch that too. What Jesus said really must be now called the scriptures, the very scriptures which are turning hierarchy upside down.

Yes, I know the objections.  Paul wrote AFTER Jesus spoke.  So Paul trumps Jesus, at least chronologically.  And Peter validates that too, even if he complains that Paul is too hard to read; Paul wrote the scriptures too.  Paul surely trumps Jesus, and so does Peter who validates Paul.  Are you following my logic here?   Any reconciliation of Jesus's words with the epistles of Peter and of Paul must be a fitting of the Paradox of how Jesus may have contradicted the Law and may even SEEM to have contradicted both Peter and Paul, who trump Moses too.  Are you tracking with my thinking, my reasoning, my ivory tower proofs?  Yes, I know these objections very well.

Let's follow Peter and Paul very closely at little more.  With logic.  And then I feel I need to recant some things.  To turn some things upside down.  To meta-noia.  To re-think.  To really feel.  To weep.

Peter and Paul were hard on the evangelical feminists.  And please don't mistake me for one of them.  I mean don't ever call me a "feminist."  In that post I deleted, I had to show how "evangelical feminists must take two steps in the interpretation of Scripture that are simply incorrect and that show their position to be contrary to Scripture.said how the evangelical feminists."  Talking of Peter and Paul, I wrote this first:  "In fact, it is very significant that the New Testament authors never explicitly tell husbands to submit to their wives."  And then I referenced the most authoritative scriptures written Peter and Paul (and Luke a little too) to show that "evangelical feminists take another illegitimate step in Bible interpretation when they change the meaning of the word hupotasso ('submit to,' 'be subject to'), giving it a meaning that it nowhere requires, something like 'be thoughtful and considerate; act in love' (toward another), without any sense of obedience to an authority.Peter and Paul win.  Evangelical feminists lose.  And I really like to win.  So I was on what I knew what the winning team:  Peter's and Paul's.  I like to be on the winning team today.  So I do remember using the English word "today" some 15 times in that blogpost I regret writing today; that blogpost I deleted today.  The whole point was to have Peter and Paul make sense for women today, to get them to submit today.  To take away any notion of feminist or egalitarian "mutuality" of the sexes today.  Submission was to go one way today.  But my "today" is now yesterday.  Jesus Christ, I remember the scriptures saying, is the same yesterday and today and forever.  This may even be something Paul wrote after Jesus if he wrote Hebrews.  Even if he didn't, whoever did wrote it after Jesus.  But now somehow my logic fails.  Jesus comes back, from yesterday, past Moses and the Torah and the Law and Peter and even Paul, to today.  He's forever.  Which means if he overturns the hierarchy, then any contradictions get overturned too.  Or at the very least we sweep them under the logic preserving rug we call paradox.  Did you see how my friend Raymond Ortlund, Jr. and my other friend Denny Burk and I did that with the seeming contradiction between woman's equality with man (ontologically) and woman's inferiority to man (functionally, in roles in the home and in the church)?  Paradox is a cool tool.  And it works both ways.  I'd just never thought, um, felt it could be used to overturn Paul, who comes after Jesus.

So I must confess.  When Paula (not Paul) wrote something (albeit neither purely scriptural nor academical), I think the Holy Spirit began to deal in my heart.  She said, "It was always about privilege."  What I'm beginning to see -- and it's still kind of foggy -- sort of like Paul's scales coming off his eyes just at first -- is this.  I'm starting to get the fact that we men who use the scriptures, whether Genesis 1, 2, and 3 in harmonized paradox or Ephesians 5 or the household codes of Peter, will insist that they privilege them.  We won't let Jesus take it back to Genesis in a different way, saying, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."  We have to say, yes, but Paul adds the other side of the Paradox.  And so does Peter.  The no longer two but one must become two again:  the male over the female.  The female sub-missive to the male.  And if God's image is male and female, then in God his female side must submit functionally to his male side.  And the one side then must obey the authority of the other side.  Paul and Peter never say any different.  But look.  This is exactly what Paula is saying.  It was always about privilege, this argument of us men.  And I now don't for the life of me feel that God has privilege in half of himself.   So I'm recanting.  I'm letting Paul and Peter's silence on the husband needing to hupotasso his wife just be first century silence.  Jesus, forever, yesterday and still today, didn't seem to assert this one-sided-ness, that one-up-man-ship.  So I'll just follow the scriptures.  I'm following Jesus.

If anything I said personally offended you, will you accept my deepest and most sincere apology?

Will You see "The Help"? (How?)

We don't usually boycott films or books.  But this morning "J" tells me she's not sure about "The Help."  Maybe she'll go with our daughters and use it as a teaching moment.  She'd seen Melissa Harris-Perry's review.  I'd told her what "V," our friend, had shouted out to me last night as her husband, their son, our son, and I jumped in the car to go to the T. D. Jakes "man" conference.  "The book is good," V said. "But not the movie."  That's Oprah's assessment too, my spouse reminded me.  And Oprah's question to all of us is, "So what do you think?"  And Martha Southgate's evaluation - "The Help is only a symptom, not the disease" - almost gives the book and the film a pass.  However, there's still the question,

"Will you see the film 'The Help'?"

Whether you do or not, whether you consider a movie viewable because it's only a symptom, then can we see the disease?

Southgate points it out the disease of remembering and figuring white people as necessary but black people as always just merely only in the shadows, as marginal, even in their own histories.  She concludes:
Suffice it to say that these stories are more likely to get the green light and to have more popular appeal (and often acclaim) if they have white characters up front. That's a shame. The continued impulse to reduce the black women and men of the civil rights movement to bit players in the most extraordinary step toward justice that this nation has ever known is infuriating, to say the least. Minny and Aibileen are heroines, but they didn't need Skeeter to guide them to the light. They fought their way out of the darkness on their own — and they brought the nation with them.
And this history is still being written.  We may be part of the contagion, of the spread of the disease today.

If we ourselves are not, then at the very very least, the movie industry that we support by our movie watching is.  For example, just a few months ago this year, the day after the Oscars were handed out earlier this year, Kevin Eason stated the obvious:
"As controversial as the Oscar nominations usually are, there is one issue that stands out more than most. Namely, why are there no black Oscar nominees this year?"
Then Easton concludes, as with some hope:
"It also seems that there may not be that many opportunities this year for African-American actors to make the shortlist either. Two big films that might change the situation are The Help, about the lives of housemaids during the segregation of the Civil War-era, and Winnie, a biopic of Winnie Mandela starring Jennifer Hudson...."
Of course, Easton might have seen the disease, with both of his hopeful films this year being symptoms.  Nonetheless, it seems he didn't anticipate the controversies surrounding either film.

The film "Winnie" was written by white South African filmmaker, Darrell Roodt.

And it's based on the book Winnie Mandela: a Life, by white South African, Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob, the former UN peacekeeper and radio reporter, who also wrote The Nelson Mandela Story, about Winnie's ex-husband of course.  But neither du Preez Bezdrob nor Roodt consulted either of the Mandelas for the books or the film.

The book by du Preez Bezdrob didn't fairly represent Ms. Mandela's experience, according to some.  For example, the Nigerian-Jewish British actor, Sophie Okonedo, who played Winnie Mandela for the tv film "Mrs. Mandela," said this about the book:
[I had to do my research] about five weeks before filming. So I started reading. I read the Anthony Samson book, which gave me a pretty good overview; the Emma Gilbey book, which is more judgmental I think. I started the one which is quite famous, Winnie Mandela: A Life [Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob], but I just thought she kept assuming things about Winnie. There was lots of, "No one knows what happened in that cell but we can imagine"… then a whole chapter of imaginings. I just put that book down.
The film by Roodt is one that Winne Mandela herself has publicly criticized:
"I have absolutely nothing against Jennifer [Hudson, who was cast to play me], but I have everything against the movie itself," she told CNN.  "I am still alive and I think it is total disrespect to come to South Africa, make a movie about my struggle and call that movie some translation of a romantic life of Winnie Mandela. I think it is an insult."
Of course, "Winnie" may earn Jennifer Hudson an Oscar nomination.  Likewise, "The Help" may provide Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer an Academy Award nomination as well.

Any yet, we may well note already how differently the main black actress(es) of "The Help" are being portrayed in the media compared with the main white actress.  As you decide whether to go see "The Help," notice just the magazine cover differences.  Notice which magazines Emma Stone is the cover girl for.  Notice which ones for Viola Davis and for Octavia Spencer.  Already our daughters (and sons) are getting an education in the representation of women, and of white and black women differently:

So (how) will you see "The Help"?