“The whole thing about Judaism and Christianity,” Clair said, ” and just about every monotheistic religion, is that they’re all patriarchal. Men made these religions up. So guess who God is? A man.”
“Watch out, Clair,” Larry said. “Mitchell was a religious studies major.”
Clair grimaced and said, “Oh, my God.”
“I’ll tell you what I learned in religious studies,” Mitchell said with a slight smile. “If you read any of the mystics, or any decent theology – Catholic, Protestant, kabbalistic – the one thing they all agree on is that God is beyond any human concept or category. That’s why Moses can’t look at Yahweh. That’s why, in Judaism, you can’t spell out God’s name. The human mind can’t conceive what God is. God doesn’t have a sex or anything else.”
“Then why is he a man with a long white beard on the Sistine Chapel?”
“Because that’s what the masses like.”
“Some people need a picture. Any great religion has to be inclusive. And to be inclusive you have to accommodate different levels of sophistication.”
-Jeffry Eugenides, The Marriage Plot
I was reminded of this passage yesterday morning, whilst reading the patriarchal theologizing of head coverings over at Energetic Procession.
When it comes to church, I am partial to head coverings, dresses and long skirts, or slacks, cardigans and vests for that matter. Which is not to say I can’t appreciate jeans or a short skirt, or the suitably eclectic jeans and headscarf combo, which my wife pulls off from time to time. I just have a special place in my heart for anachronisms and old things, generally, and frumpy old things, more specifically. However Stuff White People Like that may be.
Of course, there can easily arise a theological sexism out of these preferences, or more often, these sort of preferences can easily arise out of a dogmatic sexism. It is no coincidence that calls for broad use of head coverings are generally made by misogynists. The strange tend to dominate the margins.
Some years ago, I theologized my beard, first as a tounge-in-cheek exercise, for the purpose of religiously justifying my facial pubis, should an unlikely workplace dress code situation occur – which would not take place at my current place of employment, though the man whose name inhabits the letterhead jokingly accuses me of anarchism. Later, under the influence of some strange, and long excised enthusia, I began dogmatizing it seriously. As though there was some cosmic meaning behind the wiry hair that has inhabited my chin, near continuously, since I was a 15 year old Lutheran, because of some ancient musings on machismo fashion – perhaps with a dash of envy over pre-islamic burkas.
I wonder if there is a way to approach attire in a way that does not boil down to patriarchal gender roles and language of feminine submission, or just plain old aesthetic preference.