By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Features Editor
I HARDLY know where to begin in rebuking Rodney Moncur, social activist and defeated Democratic National Alliance candidate for his misogynist comments last week regarding women and their reproductive choices.
The most perverse aspect of Mr Moncur's rant is the way in which he cloaked his view in biblical language and Christian thought. But as perverse as it may be, it is predictable, because such is the modus operandi of many Christians, whether they are speaking about birth control, spousal rape, or something as mundane as Harry Potter.
"Satan, your weapon against the Bahamas, them wicked birth control pills. Let man's sperm 'bust' through those pills and the woman take seed," said Mr Moncur in a Twitter rant on Thursday.
The tweets were written in block capital letters, which in publishing language indicates he was shouting.
"Woman, thou art commanded to take seed, become pregnant and renounce those evil cancerous birth control pills," said Mr Moncur.
He referred to women who use oral contraceptives as "murderers" who should be hanged, as they are touched by the devil's evil hands.
I wonder what Mr Moncur has to say about men who use condoms, after all, those precious seeds are suffocated in a latex balloon and tossed in the garbage. What a horrible fate suffered by those hopeful sperm.
The kind of hyperbolic thinking that paints women and men who use contraceptives as baby killers is completely unhelpful.
If we did not have such a loose culture, where men spread their seeds in gardens they do not tender, and breed babies they have no intention of fathering; or where women birth babies they have no capacity to rear, and where families create poor living conditions for raising children; or where men violate the sacredness of womanhood with sexual violence and women compromise their sacred duties as negligent or abusive mothers, then we would hardly need to be speaking about contraceptives.
These failures I place squarely at the feet of the church. One could ask, what in god's name is the church doing? It certainly is not instilling a moral conscience in our people, grounding them spiritually or helping the community to prosper. So spare me the indignation about contraceptives.
Anyone who is sexually active with no desire to have children or no capacity to be a parent, would be irresponsible in these times not to use contraceptives.
Some people have taken the mistaken approach of making light of Mr Moncur's rant. It makes me wonder where our priorities lie. The nation was united in its outrage when Nellie Day wrote an ignorant and offensive article about how Bahamians live, because their pride was hurt.
Mr Moncur represents a mindset that is entrenched in the minds of many Bahamians, men and women. He was respected enough by the community to be offered as an elected official in the last general election, and people voted for him. His views, and the mindset they represent are not to be taken lightly, because they are precisely the views, particularly when condoned and normalised, that lead to the oppression of women.
Between DNA leader Branville McCartney, whose personal views on spousal rape I also consider to be misogynist, and former candidate Mr Moncur, I wonder had we elected the DNA to administer the government of the Bahamas, if we would have ended up with a band of medieval, witch-hunting, male chauvinists.
No doubt, there are a bunch of closeted men who fit this bill inside and outside of our government, and they cart around with a band of merry women, who are too asleep to recognise their own self interests.
I had to smile last week when I came across a poster from a feminist protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil, called the SlutWalk. It read: "I did not come from your rib, you came from my uterus."
To a Christian, the protester's statement would be blasphemous, but as an empowered woman, I can full understand her sentiment.
Christians may not collectively identify with Mr Moncur's views, but at some point, I wonder if Christians will open their eyes and see just how much bigotry, intolerance, and oppression is promoted in the name of their so-called holy doctrine.
It is not good enough for Christians who disagree to silently disassociate themselves, or "otherise" people like Mr Moncur. Their silent witness empowers those who in their name promote bigotry for self-righteous and self-serving purposes.
As a woman, I feel personally affronted, by Mr Moncur's rant, as every woman should, regardless of their personal views on contraceptives. His language was violent, threatening, derogatory, and demeaning.
Disagree with a woman's choices, by all means, but do not in your self-righteousness, use interpretations of the Bible to establish your views as divinely ordained, authoritative and conclusive, and beyond reproach or challenge.
In society we teach our children to be thinking individuals; articulate and analytical in nature; thoughtful and intellectually engaged. Why should we teach them to turn off this switch when it comes to interrogating religious doctrine; to act as though they lack intelligence and judgment in the face of those who flaunt the words of the Bible.
In education we have moved away from a rote pedagogy into active or associative learning, something that is much more critical and analytical. (Albeit we are still struggling with the implementation of the latter model).
We have not moved as far as adopting Paulo Freire's liberation philosophy of education, which we should, but we have long rejected the old theories of learning by repetition or memorisation without meaning, or for that matter, beating knowledge into children, which they did in colonial schools in Africa.
Sometimes I believe Christians still feel you can beat faith into people; that you can bully people into believing; that you can intimidate them into godly living or accepting one's Christian view of the world. You cannot preach the Christian into people.
Time has proven this over and over again. The state of crisis the Bahamas and the world finds itself in continues to prove the futility of this thinking. We have more churches in the Bahamas than we have good sense. We have more Sunday Christians than we have common decency.
When faith and spirituality form a core part of one's beingness, it is reflected in one's way of thinking and one's action; it is derived from a deep source of inspiration not the intellectual stimulation of "pulpit charlatans" (as Pastor Matthew Allen calls false prophets). You do not have to ask a godly person if he or she is a believer; you see it in their way of being.
Although we think of the Greek-derived concept of religion in modern times as a set of beliefs concerning the nature of man and God, held by an organised group of people, at one time in European history, religion was understood as the careful pondering of divine things; a respect for what is sacred; a reverence for the gods.
And even before the European concept of religion was born there was an indigenous concept of the divine, the sacred, of god. That concept was never seen as separate from one's beingness, or outside of nature. It was integral to the way people organised their societies and lived their lives.
Today, we have bastardised the concept of religion, and we have lost all sight of the divine, the sacred, and of God.
Though we may ascribe the words in the Bible to the divine creator, it was man who assembled the good book: men, who at the time believed black people to be no more than chattel, and women to be no more than obedient breeding bitches. The Bible is not without flaw and it is not immune to critique or interpretation from lay persons.
If there were not people, who through the ages critically interrogated biblical interpretation by Christian authorities, and the beliefs and actions of organised religion, we would still be condoning the European barbarism that led to the enslavement of millions of Africans.
Last month when I attended a Baptist church prayer breakfast featuring guest speaker Dr Xernona Clayton, civil rights activist and media mogul, founder and chief executive officer of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, I listened to Dr Clayton share her story about confronting Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon Calvin Craig in the 1960s.
Mr Craig was a deacon in a Baptist church and the chairman of the deacon board. He grew to become friends with Dr Clayton after rejecting the Klan's philosophies, attributing a black woman (Dr Clayton) for helping him to see the wickedness of his ways.
"I said to Mr Craig, well I'm a Baptist, what Bible do you all use? When I found out he used the same Bible, I said, well in the Bible I use it says to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and it didn't say, only if they look like you. So how could you stand in front of the congregation, look in the face of those so-called Christians, stand before that crowd representing God with bigotry in your heart?" asked Dr Clayton.
With all of her impertinence and audacity, as it would have been perceived at the time, and her impropriety and brazenness, Dr Clayton rejected the notions for which the church had ascribed about who she was as a black woman. She was not asleep to the hypocrisy or the immorality of the church itself.
With her own intelligence and judgment she formed her own beliefs; ones that were consistent with her personal sense of self-worth and morality. And it so happens that her own beliefs were more in alignment with Christian doctrine than those of the so-called religious authorities.
Has anyone ever stopped to think, Christians condemn other religions that use blood sacrifice, and yet Christians themselves uphold the practice. Where other religions use animal sacrifice today, Christians still eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus Christ.
In biblical times, animal sacrifice, even human sacrifice was practised. Christian thinking has evolved since then in many ways, and yet, Christian thinking still seems to condone archaic thinking about the relationship between men and women. It is no coincidence that women still have very little influence in shaping Christian interpretation or religious doctrine, even though women comprise the largest body of believers.
Christians nowadays remind me of programmed robots, shoddily built, allowing others to construct for them the world around them; learning by way of rote who they are and what they believe; being deceived by false propaganda.
Christians need to get back to a careful pondering of divine things; reading the Bible, and whatever other books teach history and increase knowledge of the divine, and start thinking for themselves, ensuring that what they support is in alignment with what they believe; ensuring that how they live is in alignment with who they desire to be; ensuring that what they know is consistent with what their leaders preach.
I share little common ground with anyone, man or woman, who after careful contemplation, finds biblical, religious or moral solace in the violent and bigoted words of Mr Moncur. And even still, I respect those who disagree with me and see the world other than how I see.
I bear no malice towards Mr Moncur, but I dare not let him presume that I am intimidated or fazed by his so-called biblically-based ranting.
It is not a sin to use birth control. It is a deeply personal choice for a woman, and it is often a saving grace. I am open to debate on its prudence, but I reject any claim to portray its use as a sin.
To some, it is morally wrong, yes, but to others it is not. And no man has a right to impose his moral judgment on another. We establish by collective agreement the laws under which we as a society are governed. There is often moral consensus, but at the end of the day, every man and woman acts of his or her own conscience.
Christian teachings say, God alone is the absolute arbitrator of one's righteousness. Lots are cast for every man and woman on earth, and every man or woman has the opportunity to be judged before the creator. So who on earth is worthy to be the judge?
Conventional doctors have rejected Mr Moncur's claims about the cancer-causing impact of oral contraceptives. Theodore Turnquest, clinical director at Doctors Hospital said the cancer risks formerly associated with birth control pills had to do with the estrogen levels. The dosage of estrogen in the new pills has been reduced to address the concern. Dr Turnquest said it is "misleading and inaccurate" to suggest that modern oral contraceptives are causing cancer, a claim Mr Moncur made.
As a naturalist, I am suspicious of practically every pharmaceutical product derived from western science, including medications used for hypertension, high cholesterol, and over the counter drugs. I regret that we as a society have moved away from our use of herbs and bush medicine, which for centuries worked for our ancestors, opting for artificially manufactured products. I regret that we allow big pharmaceutical companies to be intellectual property thieves, stealing our local knowledge of medicine.
But clearly, it is hypocritical and disingenuous to portray oral contraceptives as any more harmful than what is claimed about practically any and every other drug that is commonly consumed by Bahamians. Mr Moncur needs to get real, and stop spreading misinformation and lies.
As members of the human family, let us be passionate but practical; principled but tolerant. Let us be Christian, but Christlike.
Personally, I am tired of being bullied by pulpit charlatans who have not earned the right to establish themselves as the moral authorities in my life.
As a woman, I reject all fear mongering and any biblical interpretation that seeks to subordinate my will and demean my value; dismiss my intelligence and undermine my confidence, and disregard my right to self-determination.
Women, I hope you are with me on this.
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