There were two things I knew to be dangerous schools of thought. These were “isms” that were frequently referred to from the pulpit and blamed as the root cause of most of the evil in this world and in our hearts.
Now, this is not a dissertation on the origin and meaning of humanism and feminism. I think both of these movements are probably largely misunderstood by the majority of us and that debating their true meanings can become a contentious issue. I couldn’t tell you if I am either a humanist or feminist and I am not going to pretend that I understand the nuances of these powerful movements. If you were to ask me who the founders of either humanism or feminism were I’d turn to Google for the answer. Sure, I have some basic idea about what they stand for and I think I’d rather live in a world where humanism and feminism have a voice but that’s pretty much as far as my expertise on the subject goes.
What I can tell you is that Davit had a very definite point of view and he openly scorned feminism from the pulpit, blaming it on the moral and socio-political decay of our world. Of course he would, Alon was a potently patriarchal society, but not in the benign traditional sense. There was a complete lack of chivalry, which became more pronounced as the years went by. A man would never hold the door open or offer to carry your groceries (unless you were obviously buckling under the load) without other men looking at him as if he were a bit of a wimp. Men and women had clearly defined roles. Women were men’s helpmates, not the other way around. A man was the head of the home and wives were to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5v22…). Give it a read and you will be casting your eyeballs on one of the foundational scriptures by which we lived.
It’s a problematic subject to be sure, especially when you take the bible as the literal truth. Reading a book that was written centuries back and translated more times than any of us care to count, by people who not only lived in different times but in entirely different cultures and then taking it as black and white truth is, in my view, dangerous.
Davit was old school and despite being a hippy type raised predominantly by women folk he had a very clear picture of the way a submissive Christian woman should conduct herself and Sara was more or less the universal bench mark, attending to his every beck and call. She herself had come out of an extremely conservative household headed by a brutal father. I believe her childhood was far more traumatic than what any of us were ever told. Sara was the epitome of a well camouflaged sufferer of OCD. Home making and cleanliness was a passion for her and she could Mari Kondo the shit out of anything. I remember her roasting vegetables one day when I was still single and she had laid out all the various vegetables in neat little rows. The beans in one row, the peppers in another and even the sweet potatoes were lined up like little segregated soldiers. She would admit to being “neurotic” about order and cleanliness and regale us with stories of how she used to force Gad to play inside his big wooden toy box with his Lego because she couldn’t bear the thought of all those little pieces lying scattered on the floor. That word “neurotic” was a term she liked to fling around a lot when describing us women and any apparently quirky habits we displayed. For instance, I was a neurotic wife because I didn’t like being separated from my husband for long periods of time. It seemed that only women were able to be neurotic.
Sara was also lively and talkative, she was the “Joy in the home” which I thought was a verse in the bible but actually I think it’s just some kind of old fashioned saying similar to “Cleanliness is next to godliness”. It was the woman’s responsibility to keep everyone happy and to make sure that a husband came home to a stress free, welcoming environment where he could cast off the burdens of the day. His immense responsibility as a man and spiritual leader far outweighed any burden a woman might carry.
Don’t be mistaken, Sara was anything but demure. She was outspoken and wouldn’t back down for any man, besides her husband and later on her son. However, she did give all of us girls the distinct impression that we deserved a little less than the men folk, so it was a team effort of husband and wife that set the general tone in the battle of the sexes (not that I think there should be one).
Sara always had many words of admiration for the young guys and she scorned any woman that wouldn’t sacrifice her time, energy or food for a man. Sara took pride in speaking openly about the weaknesses of women and how petty and irrational we tended to be, she much preferred the company of men, especially the younger men in Anton’s age group – I am not suggesting that she was a cougar, I am just making an observation, and I think it had more to do with the fact that her beloved son was in the same peer group as most of the young guys.
In Sara I saw an example of constant self-sacrifice and surrender to her husbands hopes, dreams and wishes. She followed where Davit lead, she didn’t ever forge her own way or insist on him considering her wants and needs. Sara orbited Davit much like the earth orbits the sun. Yes, she rotated on her own axis and had her own personal seasons, micro moments of her own interests and enjoyment but she was always at the ready should Davit call. He set her trajectory and there was no room for deviation.
But her loud voice, sharp wit and vibrant nature prevented her from appearing like a docile wife.
Of course, there is the part of that scripture in Ephesians that instructs husbands to “love their wives as Christ loves the church” but the whole piece does still end with a final word of warning that “wives must respect their husbands”.
Davit could be heard insisting (rather repetitively I might add) that women were not second class citizens and that husbands should “carry their wives on a silver platter” which I always thought was a rather creative bit of imagery and pictured Sara lying on a bed of parsley bedecked in Israeli jewelry (Davit loved to buy her gifts from the Holy Land) with a little apple daintily perching in her mouth.
We were, however, second class citizens.
It’s a strange thing, how Sara loved to hang out with the guys and Davit really enjoyed chatting to women, just not all women. Sometimes I’d hear tales of their travels overseas when they were younger and how insanely jealous Sara would get because all the ladies loved Davit as he was so very charming. I’ll be honest, I’d never call Davit a lady killer but maybe in his youth he had a more irresistible swagger, who knows.
Davit wasn’t a burly man’s man. In fact Sara was far more adept at taking care of practical matters such as cars, maintenance and security etc. She always paid the bills, even if she wasn’t the official bread winner. If it wasn’t for Sara I don’t believe Davit would have had much success in all his endeavors at all. So they were “equally yoked” and a powerful team. And I sometimes wonder who really wore the pants in their relationship because if there is one thing I have learned it’s that appearances can be deceiving (which is funny because Sara literally never wore pants, only dresses). Maybe she was playing the fool but actually running the show?
A woman who was not submissive and yielding was labelled a “strong woman”. While this term is usually a compliment in our day and age, at Alon being a “strong woman” was the very pinnacle of godlessness.
And don’t think that you could simply slip under the radar by keeping your mouth shut, because there was another even more sinister category of female godlessness: quiet strength. This was when you submitted and obeyed and didn’t talk back but your eyes told a different story. So basically, in order for you not to be a strong woman you had to transform from the inside out, you had to break to be rebuilt into a vessel fit for service unto man… oops, I mean God.
“Stop being so humanistic.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard that line being hurled at myself and others. In context what it implied wasn’t really anything to do with the traditional understanding of humanism but instead an Alon style term to describe tolerance and benevolence. If someone did or said something that wasn’t acceptable then it was expected of you to observe and address this by confronting the person or situation and dealing with it in a very brutal and honest manner. If you were to hesitate or perhaps try to reason that the culprit in question was possibly innocent and meant well then it would mean that you were defending immoral behaviour and putting the interests of man ahead of the interests and commandments of God himself.
I get it. Humanism kind of lends itself towards the idea that people are generally good and can, if given the space and means, become better versions of themselves simply by tapping into their inherent human qualities such as intelligence, social awareness and reasoning. But in a Christian (or other fundamental religions too I suppose, but I can only speak from the experience of being an evangelical Christian) paradigm, only God is good and therefore any goodness in us can only be attained through God. We, as a race, are inherently evil. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3v23.
This breeds a rather harsh outlook on your fellow man. I am not saying that all Christians will be this short sighted and unyielding but I am sure you can imagine how this perspective can foster an atmosphere of criticism and judgement.
Of course, most of us were evil humanists a lot of the time and got into trouble for other people’s supposed wrongdoings when we were merely witness to someone stepping out of line and we didn’t at least acknowledge their sin. Or if any of us had “fear of man” which in essence meant a dislike for confrontation, then we were operating under the spirit of humanism.
Oh, these movements or philosophies were living moving beings, spirits to be exact, that could possess the spiritually undiscerning among us.
So, the tolerant, peace loving, anxious and introverted members of Alon had to do a whole lot of character overhauling. And if you added being female to the mix then good luck to you.
Conversely, if you were an independent, feisty, outspoken ambassador for justice and you had boobs then your days at Alon would simply be numbered.
You may be wondering why anyone would endure this distorted approach to life… this article might help: