Strange that when George W. Bush was turning the clock back for the US, John Howard was also building conservatism in Australia. In addition, the UK’s New Labour all too quickly answered the call from the US to support them in invading Iraq. Religious fundamentalism does not walk altogether out of step with conservative politics.
While the political pendulum was clearly to the right in the ‘noughties’, post Sept 11th 2001, it is interesting to see the growth of religious fundamentalism in Islam and Christianity. More surprisingly, however, Judaism, also shows the same swing towards conservatism, where there is a new drive for complete separation of men and women in transportation, shopping centers and even the public streets.
At the same time, amongst progressive Jews, there is a much greater participation in Judaism amongst women, possibly as a result of greater access to education. Not unlike Christianity.
It is ironic that most of us, even conservatives, when viewing a different religion, see this passion to separate women from men to be misguided at best. When it comes to our own religion, however, some of us devoutly look back to various scriptures to justify our own conservatism and misogyny.
We seem easily able to accept the benefits of technological change, with fancy cars, wide-screen TVs and internet, but when it comes to relationships in times of trauma and change we often cling to the old sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’, the worthy and the unworthy. In this modern world, however, where women are acknowledged as equally gifted, it is strangely disconnected to insist that women do not have God’s blessing for ordained ministry. In a society where women are increasingly leaders in our secular world, it is rather limp to consent to such leadership but not to accept their pastoral leadership in the Church.