Religion. It does a body bad.

UNITED STATES - MARCH 23: Nuns demonstrate outside of the Supreme Court as arguments were heard in a case which religious organizations are challenging the Affordable Care Act's provision that requires employers to cover birth control in health care plans, March 23, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

UNITED STATES – MARCH 23: Nuns demonstrate outside of the Supreme Court as arguments were heard in a case which religious organizations are challenging the Affordable Care Act’s provision that requires employers to cover birth control in health care plans, March 23, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Oh, this week was tough for the Scourge given the plethora of religious insanities committed. Yet since it’s Easter (named after a Germanic goddess of fertility and spring, but whatever) it seems only right that we focus first on the Jews and then the Christians. After all, Jesus was a Jew, no matter what some of his more rabid followers declare.

Ever wondered what happened to dickeys, those odd adult bibs? Look no further than Hasidic women, who’ve taken to the once-embarrassing-now-popular items (at least, according to Michael Kors) as a way to cover a plunging neckline and save themselves from immodesty. The New York Times did a piece on the convergence of women’s fashion and Hasidic dress codes, which apparently benefits everyone…except the women, that is.

“The general stress on tznius [modesty in appearance and behavior] is an equal and opposite reaction to the crudeness of society,” says Rabbi Avi Shafran (a man, not surprisingly), director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, which the Times describes as a “national organization of Orthodox Jews who adhere to a strict interpretation of religious law.”

Surely, there are readers who would vehemently disagree with my belief that there’s a root misogyny in Judaism, or that the women involved have been brainwashed or that even consistently using male pronouns for the “jealous God” of the Hebrew bible is an indication of a dangerous worldview. Those people could probably make great arguments for their positions and support these Hasidic women in their quest for sartorial hipness and spiritual holiness.

But then there’s this…


Please direct your attention to our first item on the left, “Quiet Step,” which thankfully “muffles sound of footstep [sic].” Mustn’t let one’s high heels break the concentration of the men around them. Mustn’t let yourself be seen or heard. That would be immodest.

Next, make sure to read the copy for the “double sleeves” on the right. These skin-tight coverings are not meant to be a sleeve extender, but as a modesty cover underneath another garment. You know, just in case you’re in a sudden summer storm in Brooklyn and a gust of wind lifts your wrist-length black blouse to reveal your scaly-ass elbows.

To be fair, the tznius rules apply to men, as well, which is equally dispiriting, because that means that the problem isn’t solely about gender, but about the body. One of the great failings of Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) myth is the demonization of the physical. Right from the start, there’s a problem with the human form. Our progenitors, Adam and Eve, eat of that famous apple and immediately make loincloths for themselves to cover their nakedness, because they were ashamed.

Why should eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil bring us disgust for the body? One could argue it’s because before taking that bite, they were in a state of non-dualism. After all, the tree from which they eat is the tree of the knowledge good and evil, the tree of relativism. When we’re in a state of undifferentiated consciousness we don’t know good from bad, and when we engage in behaviors that separate us from that state (i.e. “God”), we are thrust into the squabbles of discriminatory awareness – this is good, that is bad, do this, not that.

Yet even this sophisticated interpretation has a flaw. Who determines the difference between “good” and “evil?” Why didn’t Adam and Eve suddenly realize that sexuality and the body were beautiful and not something to hide? For that matter, why didn’t they see that god was evil and the serpent good? The story is too fraught with patriarchal, body-shaming themes to be anything but a projection of the cultural consciousness of the people for whom it was religiously significant – a nomadic, war tribe built on male power. The body and its animal desires is always a threat to such peoples, because it goes against simplistic endeavors to keep order. In fact, it’s possible that much of religion is an attempt to fight the natural impulses of the human condition in favor of some faraway land where no such degradations trouble us.

Next up, the Christians.

The Little Sisters of the Poor. So merciful. So generous. So stingy when it comes to their employees.

The Washington Post reported on a case before the Supreme Court, Zubik v Burwell, where the sisters are one of seven plaintiffs hoping to dodge the Affordable Care Act because of its requirement that employers cover contraception. Let’s be clear: Under the act, religious organizations already have an out – they can sign a document saying they won’t provide contraception coverage. This means that the government can ensure employees get contraception, but it won’t happen on the religious organization’s dollar.

But that’s not good enough for the not-so-good sisters. They don’t want their employees having non-procreative sex on their watch or on anyone else’s apparently. One of the nuns interviewed for the article called the document a chance “not [to] opt out. It’s an opt-in.” They and the other plaintiffs in the suit say signing the form would be going against their religious beliefs.

This would be all well-and-good if the Little Sisters of the Poor were the only ones who worked at their facilities, but they employ non-nuns, non-Catholics, perhaps even non-Christians who could likely use the contraception benefits. The D.C. branch of the order employs 100 people, mostly nursing assistants, who are not part of the sisterhood. Nor are the 2,500 people employed in their facilities nationwide.

The Scourge’s advice to the nuns? If you don’t want your employees to fuck for pure pleasure (which people have always done and always will), only hire nuns. But that’s not really possible, is it? Because women don’t want to be nuns these days.

The Catholics, forever tilting at erotic windmills, have turned sexual repression into a kabuki performance art where every gesture, every thought even, imperils the eternal soul of the individual. Like their seemingly disparate Jewish brethren, the Christian’s fractious relationship with the body stems from the same place  – one succulent piece of fruit, one tempting serpent, one a symbol of sensual lusciousness and the other a pre-Jewish symbol of wisdom and eternity.

As a result of adopting a mythological construct wherein knowledge of nakedness is paired with shame, we’ve doomed ourselves to eternal torment, because we can’t escape our physical reality. We are our bodies until we’re not. That’s not to say that our body is the only part of our identity, but it is the landing pad of all our experiences – mental, emotional and spiritual. By girding ourselves in glorified trash bags and Jesus jammies, we’re missing the point of spiritual practice:

If we are to be truly holy, we must stand completely naked. If we are to be strong, we must be vulnerable. If we are to understand our own divinity, we must divest of ourselves of the habiliments of humiliation.

Until next Sunday…the heretic’s day.

In other news of the faithful:

Businesses are coming down hard on Georgia’s religious freedom bill, saying it’s just discrimination in sheep’s clothing. Tragically ironic that a young gay man in Georgia is still recovering from burns after his mother’s boyfriend poured scalding water over him while shouting antigay epithets. That’s what comes from a society where government and religions unite against a group of people.

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court is hearing a motion to make the country secular…28 years after it was filed. I mean, sure, the wheels of justice turn slowly and all, but damn. Many Muslim clerics have their panties in a bunch, saying that Bangladesh is not a hotbed of extremism. Ask that of the Christian convert stabbed by said extremists. Oh, never mind. He’s dead.

Ted Cruz has convened his own Star Chamber on religious issues and plans to rescind every advancement made on sexual orientation, sex ed and gender issues in the past several years should he be elected president. Trump is terrifying. But worse, Cruz is on a mission from god.

The very first post of the Weekly Scourge was about the Phoenix City Council going apeshit over a group of very cool-sounding Satanist’s request to lead the pre-council meeting prayer. That led to the council replacing prayer with a moment of silence, but don’t worry, fundies! Prayer has made a comeback!

And finally, bad and good news. Members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee apparently roared their approval during segments of Donald Trump’s speech at their meeting in Washington last week. Perhaps they missed the report that Trump allegedly kept a book of Hitler’s speeches on his nightstand? Happily, some rabbis not only walked out when the tyrant took the stage, one was dragged out by security after protesting the Donald’s presence. Nice work!


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