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Spreading the message of Sufism through hip hop – Social News XYZ

Posted: November 20, 2020 at 11:54 am


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By Mohammed Shafeeq

Hyderabad, Nov 19 (SocialNews.XYZ) Hip hop and Urdu don't go together so also hip hop and Sufism but an Urdu hip-hop band has come out with an album with strange fusion of rap music with the Sufi message and in mostly Urdu lyrics.

As Hyderabad's Thug Unit is all set to release its album 'Resurrection 040', the duo behind it shared with IANS their experiences and the motivation behind the unique experiment.

Comprising 12 tracks and representing a variety of elements, the album is set to be released on Friday on Apple Music. Mostly in Urdu, the tracks also have English and West Indian flavor with Jamaican lingo.

Mudassir Ahmed and Syed Irshad, who go with stage names 'Mo Boucher' and 'Irish Boi' respectively, told IANS that for the first time message of sufism has been conveyed to people through the medium of hip hop.

People so far used to listen to qawwalis to known something about the message of Sufism but the Hyderabadi rappers with this album are adding a totally different medium.

"This is not philosophical Sufism like reading of books but it is actual practical journey. This has come out of our own experience," said Mudassir, who stopped writing poetry and composing music in 2012 for his spiritual journey and is making a comeback to the world of hip hop with his old friend.

"In 2014, I started to have spiritual yearning. I stopped writing and making music asking questions what is purpose of life. I started reflecting what I want to do with my life," said Mudassir, who read books include Bhagavad Gita and Vedas.

"I realised Sufism suits me on a personal level. I connected with the Sufi message. I spent 5-6 years with a Sufi master and learnt the Sufi traditions."

They said the main purpose of the album is to give good content to hip hop listeners. "What they mostly get is rubbish stuff like, sex, drugs and partying. Hip hop is not just that. It is reflection of ourselves," he said

Mudassir and Irrshad are confident that they will be able to change to hip hop scene in the country. "Hip hop is about poetry on any subject chosen and what we are seeing. We have put our own personal experience in the form of poetry," said Irrshad.

The musicians say that their fourth album, the first commercial one, has given them satisfaction. "Hip hop is a representation of yourself. You have to use it with responsibility because young people are listening to it. What they listen at this age is going to stay with them. We have a huge responsibility as to what content we are giving," said Mudassir, who started writing poetry when was 14.

He pointed out that one of the tracks in the album is on the current political atmosphere in India and the political shift that has happened in last 5-6 years, especially the last two years.

"As Indians while we were growing up it was different but now you have a completely different situation. There is more hate now and that is what motivated us to write a song about it," he said.

The album features pertinently named tracks Rubaroo (face to face), Raahe Rast (straight path), Suroor e Ishq, (exhilaration of love), Pardafash (unmasked), Azmaish (test), Atishbazi (fireworks), Bossman, Bus'em (Bust Them), Hate Monger, Intro, Kun (Be) featuring Rebel of Khan Artists and Original Rajah (Original Ruler).

The musical ensemble portrays Sufism-inspired self-reflection, community evils and voice against power establishments. Music for the album is produced by seasoned Grammy-nominated and multi-platinum producers including Buck Wild, making the duo the first from Telangana and perhaps from India to work with US-based Grammy nominated producers.

Thugs Unit inked a deal with Apple Music earlier this month. "We are happy that Bobin James Editor and Artists Relations Lead at Apple Music personally listened to our music tracks and liked them enough to honour us by featuring on a platform so robust like Apple Music", they said.

Source: IANS

Gopi Adusumilli is a Programmer. He is the editor of SocialNews.XYZ and President of AGK Fire Inc.

He enjoys designing websites, developing mobile applications and publishing news articles on current events from various authenticated news sources.

When it comes to writing he likes to write about current world politics and Indian Movies. His future plans include developing SocialNews.XYZ into a News website that has no bias or judgment towards any.

He can be reached at gopi@socialnews.xyz

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Spreading the message of Sufism through hip hop - Social News XYZ

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Light Without Wind | Opinion – Harvard Crimson

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This past weekend was Diwali, the Hindu New Year. I associate Diwali with being at home among family, with rows upon rows of traditional lamps, and with the triumph of good over evil. But Diwalis beauty can feel ephemeral. The dancing firelight eventually vanishes. The epic Ramayana, from which some stories of the triumph of good originates, doesnt end so happily after all. The semesters work comes crashing back after a weekend of cooking, cleaning, and family worship, and its like you had only been folded into a world of your own foolish construction.

This year, Diwali reminds me of my father, who underwent major back surgery about this time last year. The surgery was successful and my father is healthy. But for every year leading up to it, my father, a natural and skilled athlete, an intrinsically brave man, was perpetually in pain. I have vague memories of this fact, when he was a little bit more irritable after a long day of performing procedures as an indefatigable physician, or when he did not want to eat dinner at the dining table and instead watched TV from the couch. Still, it was only after I read about ankylosing spondylitis, the autoimmune arthritic condition that my dad has, on an organizations website that I realized the degree to which people with this condition feel pain: Bad days felt like grizzly bear claws and teeth ripping through my connective tissue and joints. And, I struggle to keep my mind positive and just want to cry which on occasion I do. For a time, I hardly believed that my father felt this kind of pain, because if I am having the least bit of discomfort, he is the first to advise ibuprofen. It is as if the fact that he has suffered from chronic pain means nothing for how others should learn to bear it, too.

A few weeks before the surgery, my mother called me and told me exuberantly that my father had finally signed up to take theological exams at the temple. These exams are meant to teach scripture of this particular Hindu tradition and ways of understanding the world and our place in it. Theyre open to anyone and are purely for spiritual discovery and fulfillment. My mom had been urging my dad to take them for years, since, in her view, without the positive pressure of an exam, its tough to find time to read anything at all. After eleven years of taking the same exams, I can say with confidence that Ive found this to be true. But my father always resisted, brushing it off jokingly as unnecessary, citing his busy work schedule as a valid reason not to do it.

Hes finally decided to do it! my mother was smiling at me from behind the screen. From behind her, out of the frame, my father called back, Dont get your hopes up too high! I was shocked; I couldnt be sure that his decision wasnt just a brief, noncommittal comment to assuage my mother.

There are times when I resent the added burden of studying for this exam, when my friends on campus are stressed about spring semester midterms, and I am stressed about all of those things plus the fact that I am miserably underprepared for an exam one that is supposed to tell me how to salvage the fate of my soul after death. The kicker is that having read by now thousands of pages on the subject, I still look at my father and think, here is a person who wastes no time drowning in theoretical faith. For him, faith is nothing like leaping off the edge, or a blinding firework, beautiful but short-lived. He is a person who enacts those theories and concepts that I only memorize. He is a person who is put to the test not once a year by pen and paper, but by nature. The word faithful has a longitudinal connotation, after all.

Diwali reminds me of my father because its not always jubilant and loud. Sometimes, like in the pandemic when we will not visit family members, it is quiet. Its less like a firework and more like an image I cherish from the Bhagavad Gita: a lamp in a windless place. It is still and warm; it is transparent and yet substantial.

Six years ago, I stood in the winding line of a ride called Leap of Faith at a resort in the Bahamas. From the railing, I could see him, sitting in a reclining chair surrounded by our shoes and towels. While the anxiety preceding a near-vertical slide into a shark tank rose, none of us mourned the absence of the lone family member who sat near the edge of the pool reading. Thats because it happens every time. My dad always spearheads vacation planning, hurtling headlong into the logistics for every excursion, and then sits out when the moment to lie on the salt-encrusted surfboard, to buckle into a humongous roller coaster arrives.

It was me, my brother and mom and cousins, and aunt and uncle, who leapt off the edge that day and came up sputtering at the end of the slide with chlorine in our eyes and noses. But it was my father, that day and every day, who gave faith a new meaning, steady and quiet, performing nothing, and needing no occasion but normalcy to find good in the dark. This Diwali, when the last light dissolves, I remember this.

Pranati P. Parikh 21 is a joint Religion and Comparative Literature concentrator in Adams House. Her column appears on alternate Wednesdays.

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Light Without Wind | Opinion - Harvard Crimson

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Hindutva Hindrance To Economic Growth And Development In India – OpEd – Eurasia Review

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The perils of Indian economy are products of directionless economic policies of Modi government. It is led by ignorant leadership and arrogance of Hindutva politics based on exclusionary ideology, which is inspired by European Nazism and fascism. There is a method madness in the reactionary politics of BJP and RSS. It intends to convert multicultural India into a monolithic India based on Hindutva. It is a reactionary political outlook shaped by national and global capitalist classes. These forces have unrestricted access to national treasury and natural resources in India under Modi led government. From deregulation, demonetisation, GST to pandemic lockdowns, Modi government did everything to dismantle both supply and demand side of the Indian economy. The collapse of two primary pillars of economy led to the growth of unemployment and declining purchasing power of the masses. The consumption and consumer demands declined immediately, which shocked Indian economy and pushed it to undeclared recession for the first time in Indian economic history. Modi government is doing everything to protect corporate interests, when people are trying to find ways to survive with hunger, homelessness, unemployment and Coronavirus pandemic. Indian economic predicaments are inherent within exclusionary Hindutva politics. The economic recovery, growth and development in India depends on social, religious, and political inclusive culture, where citizens are equal shareholders of economic opportunities.

Hindutva exclusionary politics is trying to hide all its failures and constantly diverting public attention. The advocates of Hindutva glorify mythological Hindu past and blame all previous governments for all ills of Indian society today. The current problems are products of past deeds. It is a perfect Hindutva recipe that derives its philosophical legitimacy from the Karma theory of the Bhagavad Gita. The current problems are products of Hindutva economic policies, which are geared towards upholding the interests of corporates in India. It is evident in the rise of corporate wealth and decline of per capita income of the working Indians. Hindutva uses neoliberal dispossession to mobilise the masses and consolidates its Brahmanical social and cultural order. At the same time, Hindutva politics accelerates neoliberal economic policies that dispossess the masses. This political and economic contradictions are integral to Hindutva politics. The mainstream mass medias are playing a central role in hiding these contradictions by promoting Hindutva agenda of dispossession and disenfranchisement of majority of Indian citizens; Muslims, religious minorities, lower caste, tribals, women and working classes. Hindutva exclusionary ideology is not only depriving Muslims from their citizenship rights but also accelerating deprivation of lower caste, women and working-class population from participating in economic opportunities by privatising national resources.

Hindutva politics is opposed to the idea of India as an inclusive, constitutional, liberal and secular democracy. It follows mythological theocracy, which is opposed to very foundation of scientific and modern India of 21st century. The Indian economic perils are products of such a reactionary and medieval ideology of Hindutva. It is shaping India with its Hindutva shock therapy based on prohibitions, controls, and commands over everyday lives of people. Hindutva discourse is trying to dominate every aspects of Indian life from food habits, dress patterns, education, health to reproductive rights. These regressive outlooks are fundamentally opposed to economic growth and development in India. Because social, political, economic religious, and cultural marginalisation weakens citizens, families, societies, states and institutions to mobilise internal resources of India. The centralisation of power by Hindutva forces further diminish the abilities of local and provincial governments to mobilise local resources. The availability, accessibility and distribution of goods and services depend on production, demand and supply. Hindutva politics destroys every economic foundations of the country by creating social and religious conflicts and violently supressing political opposition and democratic decentralisation processes.

Hindutva model of economic and political governance of Modi government is based on multiple forms of exclusionary practices that hinder economic growth and development in India. Hindutvas innate hatred for Muslims is the first form exclusion, which diminishes more than fourteen percentage of Indian population and their abilities to contribute to their individual lives and to the national economy. Hindutva politics considers women only as mothers, sisters and wives who can be prayed inside the house. Such a patriarchal approach discourages civic and economic participation for nearly forty-eight percentage of Indian women population. The apartheid Hindutva ideology believes in caste hierarchy, which disables social and economic abilities of nearly twenty five percent of lower caste and tribal population. It means eighty-seven percentage of Indian population are living under the conditions of structural barriers that does not allow them to grow and be the shareholders of national life. The processes of marginalisation, denials of citizenship rights and lack of participation creates social, political and economic conditions of institutionalised deprivation, which gives power to Hindutva forces. Therefore, crisis crime, dominance, and deprivation are four weapons of Hindutva politics in India.

Hindutva exclusionary politics creates conditions of deprivation trap, which breeds unemployment, poverty, debt, destitution, marginalisation, illiteracy and illness. These outcomes are dangerous and weakening of India and Indians both in short run and long run. Social coexistence, peace and inclusive cultures are foundations of economic growth and development. But the idea of inclusive culture and peace are alien ideals and antithetical to Hindutva politics. Therefore, Hindutva ideology is a hinderance to economic growth and development in India.

The Hindutva politics led Modi can neither be reformed nor can be revised. The only alternative is to defeat it ideologically and politically till it becomes qualitatively and quantitatively irrelevant and illegal in India. Hindutva is Indian version of Nazism and fascism. It is detrimental to India, Indians and humanity. India and Indians will suffer social and economic underdevelopment as long as Hindutva rules the country. The institutionalisation of Hindutva discrimination destroys all potentials and conditions for economic growth and development. The struggle against Hindutva is struggle against caste, gender and religious based discrimination in India. The united struggle against Hindutva politics must develop radical narratives based on social, political and cultural integration, inclusive economic and development policies for peace and prosperity for the masses. These are essential conditions of sustainable economic growth and secular development of society in India.

*Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Coventry University, UK

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Hindutva Hindrance To Economic Growth And Development In India - OpEd - Eurasia Review

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Diwali a celebration of light and hope – Independent Online

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Professor Brij Maharaj

Monday marks the 160th anniversary of the arrival of Indian indentured labourers in South Africa and the 110th anniversary of the official recognition of the festival of Diwali in South Africa (1910).

It is also the 108th anniversary of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha established in 1912.

Historically, indentured Hindus (with fellow Muslims and Christians of Indian origin) in South Africa struggled against discrimination, poverty, lack of education as well as political and civic representation, and religious and cultural marginalisation.

The indentured built temples which provided comfort and encouraged communal worship observing birth, marriage and death ceremonies, and celebrating festivals.

Apartheid not only suppressed political freedom but also stifled religious choices in favour of a narrow Christian Calvinist agenda.

South African Hindus have come a long way from the era of memory, oral tradition (and distortions) in religious rituals and practices.

Tamaso ma jyothir gamaya lead us from darkness to light is an important concept in Hinduism, and is the essence of Diwali.

Dispelling darkness and illuminating truth, honesty, integrity, morality, righteousness with Divine radiance the ultimate triumph of good over evil are messages which permeates all faiths.

There are many explanations about the significance of Diwali, and the most well-known is the celebration of Lord Ramas return after his banishment and exile.

The Ramayan is one of the most popular scriptures among Hindus in the indentured diaspora because of this theme of exile and return.

The indentured laboured in the belief that like Lord Rama, they would overcome adversity in the colonies, and triumphantly return to India from exile.

The message that we must all work positively to build inclusive communities of love, justice and peace, where the dignity and equal worth of every human being is emphasised especially important in South Africa.

This is partly because of its complex colonial history, and also, because of the betrayal of the non-racial struggle, 26 years into democracy, the country remains as divided, polarised and corrupt as in the apartheid era, and minority groups increasingly feel threatened and marginalised in the land of their birth.

When South Africans (including Hindus and those of Indian descent) seek inspiration and enlightenment, they inevitably turn to the voice and words of Nelson Mandela, and his views on Diwali are apposite:

"The Hindu faith is as much a part of South Africa as any other religion

Justice, truth, integrity, humility, freedom, are values that the Hindu scriptures, like the scriptures of most other religions, espouse

At this time of Diwali and as I light this sacred lamp I am aware of how this lamp symbolises the triumph of: Enlightenment over blind faith; prosperity over poverty; knowledge of ignorance; good health and well-being over disease and ill health; freedom over bondage.

As we celebrate the triumph of radiance and righteousness over darkness and evil, it is appropriate to reflect on how we can illuminate the lives of those around us who are less fortunate, regardless of race or religion.

Scriptures compel all Hindus to engage in some form of charity (daan) and social upliftment, according to ability, selflessly, without expectation of reward (Nishkhaam Karma).

Some give money, while others offer time and labour in support of worthy causes.

According to the Bhagavad Gita (17.20) charity that is given as a matter of duty, desiring nothing in return, to a deserving candidate at the right place and time, is sattvic.

So as we celebrate Deepavali let us do it with purpose and meaningfulness beyond the crass conspicuous consumption in which the elite indulge.

Let it not be just for the day.

Rather, the spirit of Diwali must guide us through the year to ensure that righteousness and justice triumphs in our homes, communities and country, as well as in the world at large.

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Diwali a celebration of light and hope - Independent Online

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The Bible Passes the Bechdel Test. It Also Goes Beyond It. – ChristianityToday.com

Posted: October 31, 2020 at 6:34 pm


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Recently, a friend asked on Twitter if the Bible passes the Bechdel-Wallace test. Although this question has been asked on the internet before, my friends tweet made me wonder if I could use my Bible programming skills to do a deeper data-drive analysis than what I found online. (One of the best iterations comes from a blogger priest named Paidiske.)

If youre not familiar with it, the Bechdel test is a measure of the representation of women in movies and books. Its based on a comic by Alison Bechdel that suggests a work must contain a scene that meets three specific criteria: (1) at least two named women who (2) talk to each other (3) about something other than a man.

The films in the Star Wars franchise can serve as an example of the tests usefulness. The first Star Wars movie was praised for presenting a strong female character in Princess Leia. However, the only other named female character in the movie is Aunt Beru, but she and Leia never meet or talk, so the film fails the Bechdel test. By contrast, The Force Awakens (episode VII) includes a scene in which Rey and Maz Kanata discuss Reys destiny, which passes all three elements of the Bechdel test.

The Bible certainly doesnt need to pass the Bechdel test in order to be Gods Word. That would probably be a bad example of presentism. But the test can still be a useful way of reexamining the biblical stories and seeing Gods care for all image bearers.

Part of my interest in this question comes from the fact that I like playing with Bible data. But the deeper reason is that I am married to an incredible woman whose depths I have only just begun to see over the last 15 years, and I am father to an indescribably interesting young woman who wants to know: What is the place and value of women in the world? And what does the Bible have to say about that question?

To explore the Bechdel test question, I used an incredible open source dataset created by Robert Rouse of viz.bible that includes people, places, and events in the Bible. I used his data to find all the passages where women are mentioned together (Bechdel test number 1) and all the passages where women speak (Bechdel test number 2). Then I examined the overlaps to find which ones fully passed the test (including Bechdel test number 3) and which ones partially passed for various reasons. (My full data report is available on my blog.)

Heres a summary of what I found. Rouses database has 3,070 characters, and 202 of those are women. (For comparisons sake, the Quran has one named woman, Mary, and other religious texts like the Bhagavad Gita have none.) Of the 66 books in the Protestant canon, 34 are narrative or mostly narrative books, and 41 have female characters.

Narrowing to the pericope level, there are 147 scenes with two or more women (Bechdel test 1), 261 scenes where women speak (Bechdel test 2), and 14 where women are speaking to each other (Bechdel test 3).

Image: John Dyer

So does the Bible pass the Bechdel test?

This short answer is yes; there are multiple scenes where two named women have a conversation not about a man.

The longer answer is more complex but also richer, I think.

Although there are fewer female characters in the Bible than male characters and very few scenes that unambiguously pass the Bechdel test, when we read female-centric passages carefully, we find that the Bechdel test alone doesnt tell the full story.

Whereas men are gallivanting all over the pages of Scripture, faithful women are always present and prominent during the key movements of the biblical story when God is making major moves toward saving humanity. Its almost as if, in a world of patriarchy and misogyny, the presence of women functions as a marker that says, Pay attention; this is important! for each major movement of the biblical story.

Genesis begins by reminding readers that both male and female are created in Gods image (1:27). Then in Genesis 3, Eve speaks to the serpent (v. 2) and to God (v. 13) on equal footing with Adam. Although these scenes dont pass the Bechdel test, my friend and colleague Sandra Glahn suggests that a new test is needed where a named woman having a conversation with a being that outranks a man about something other than a man gets extra points in the representation scale.

As we read on, we find that the rest of Genesis can be a brutal place, especially for women, who are often exploited, sexualized, and mistreated by men or one another. Genesis also contains the launch of Gods plan to redeem humanity through a single human family, and in that story comes a powerful scene that derives some of its significance precisely because it doesnt meet the Bechdel test.

In Genesis 12, God promises that he will make the descendants of Abram and his wife, Sarai (both named in Genesis 11:29), into a great nation, through whom he will bless all people groups. Sadly, Abram and Sarai fail to trust that God can give them a child, and in the process, they abuse Sarais servant Hagar. Sarai and Hagars dialogue is not recorded, but we can fairly well infer that the conversation was quite nasty.

However, the words of Hagar that are recorded make her the first character in Scripture to give God a name. She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: You are the God who sees me, for she said, I have now seen the One who sees me (Gen. 16:13).

This is one of the first instances where not passing the Bechdel test is precisely what gives the scene its power. In the midst of a womans suffering, God sees her pain and is working to redeem it.

As we continue through the early biblical story, we encounter passages that fail the Bechdel test because they pass only the third criterion, where named women speak about something other than men, but they speak to men or crowds rather than to other women. For example, in the story of Moses birth, Pharaohs daughter is unnamed, so her conversation with Miriam doesnt fully pass the Bechdel test (Ex. 2:110). Other key instances come with the female negotiators in Numbers 27 (see also Joshua 17) and in Deborahs song in Judges 5.

Judges 4 and 5 contain the stories of Jael and Deborah, and although the two characters never meet or speak, they represent women as whole persons, capable of being wives and mothers but also leaders, negotiators, prophets, and stone-cold assassins.

The next major movement of the biblical story comes in the establishment of the Davidic covenant and the promise of a righteous king whose just reign will be eternal. This major event is preceded by and dependent upon the clearest case of the Bible passing all three elements of the Bechdel test.

In the opening chapters of Ruth, Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth discuss men: their dead husbands and the prospect of future marriage, and Boaz. But Naomi and Ruth also talk to one another about their lives, their relationships to each other, and their work (Ruth 2:2). In the middle of these conversations comes one of the most beautiful passages in all of Scriptureone that conveys the promise of Gods chosen people bringing the good news to all nations. That story is told through an exchange between two widows, both foreigners and immigrants:

But Ruth replied, Dont urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me. When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. (1:1718)

The highpoint of Ruth stands out even more sandwiched between the brutality of Judges and the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. In these books, women are rarely recorded speaking to one another (1 Sam. 25:1819), but women do speak, and one scene in particular stands out.

In 2 Kings 22, we meet King Josiah, who ascends to the throne at age eight. Eighteen years later, he decides to clean up the temple, and in the process, one of the priests famously recovers the Book of the Law (v. 8). After being broken by hearing the words of Scripture for the first time, Josiah doesnt consult the priests. He instead asks five male priests to seek the wisdom of Huldah the prophetess.

This is another instance in which not passing the Bechdel test heightens the significance of the story:

Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She said to them, Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord I also have heard you. (vv. 14, 1819)

According to Aimee Byrd, Its the first time we see the Word of God being authoritatively authenticated as canon, and its done by a woman. Thats amazing.

In the Gospels, some passageslike Martha telling Mary that Jesus wants to see her (John 11:28)clearly fail the Bechdel test. But some of the most significant scenes actually pass it.

The Incarnation itself is marked by a scene that passes the Bechdel test: Elizabeth and Marys discussion of their upcoming pregnancies (Luke 1:4145). In the following chapter, when baby Jesus is brought to the temple, he meets Simeon and then Anna. After seeing Jesus, Anna is recorded as being one of the first to explain the theological significance of this little baby. Arguably, the scene partially passes the Bechdel test because a named woman is speaking to people (presumably other women) about the redemption of Jerusalem:

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (2:36, 38)

Moving forward to Jesus death, we find a scene in which Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome discuss the stone being rolled away. The stone is of course related to Jesus, but it is striking that in the most significant event in human history, named women are talking to one another about a major plot point:

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb? (Mark 16:23)

And finally, in a scene that fails the Bechdel test but is significant because of it, Mary Magdalene becomes the first to share the good news that Jesus has risen from the dead:

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: I have seen the Lord! And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:18; see also Luke 24:10)

It is a wonder that the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the proclamation of His triumph are tied to scenes that pass (or intentionally fail) the Bechdel test.

The book of Acts tells the story of the spread of the church, but it does not record women directly dialoguing with one another. And yet there are stories of women taking significant roles, such as Lydia lending her home to one of the earliest churches (Acts 16:1115) and Priscilla and Aquila team-teaching theology courses for Apollos (18:26).

My algorithm also surfaced two instances of named women speaking (greeting) at the end of Pauls letters:

The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. (1 Cor. 16:19)

Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters. (2 Tim. 4:19, 21)

Claudia, named in the Timothy passage, is thought to be a British woman living in Rome and among those who cared for Paul during his imprisonment. Without dialogue or named characters receiving the greetings, these verses dont pass the Bechdel test, but they do highlight (again) the significant roles that women played in the early church.

There is one more passage worth pointing out that arguably includes two significant female characters. In Pauls first letter to Timothy, he pens some of the most controversial words about men ( 2:8) and women (vv. 912) in all of Scripture, and then he follows with this:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearingif they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (vv. 1315)

Although most modern English translations render this passage similarly, it is important to point out that the plural word women in verse 15 is not actually in the Greek, nor is the punctuation between verses. The verb will be saved is singular (see the English Standard Version), which means it should be connected to the last person in the passage.

In addition, the word for childbearing is not used anywhere else in the New Testament, and its grammar indicates that it might not be referring to childbearing generally but to a specific childbearing. Citing some church fathers and several modern commentators, George Knight writes, The most likely understanding of this verse is that it refers to spiritual salvation through the birth of the Messiah. This means the passage should be rendered, But she [Eve] will be saved by [Marys] childbearing (v. 15).

Although Eve was the first to become a sinner, by Gods grace, the vessel through which deception came into the world is the same vessel through which redemption will come. Eve, like all of us, will ultimately be saved by the work of Jesus, which began with a single cell in Marys womb.

Although many commentators reject this interpretation (see the New English Translation notes), I prefer it for two reasons. First, it avoids the problem of explaining how childbearing confers salvation. More importantly, it offers one of the most sweeping, beautiful, and succinct retellings of the entire biblical story and reminds us how God is saving all humanity, male and female, from beginning to end, by displaying his infinite power and love in the most vulnerable and intimate of ways.

Scripture, I would argue, passes the Bechdel test and also goes way beyond it. In this final scene of two women together, they are valued not for what they say or what they do but for who they are: children of God. Whatever the state of our current conflicts over ethnicity, gender, power, and economics, from the first sinner to the last, one day, we all will be saved by God the Son who became a man carried by a woman.

Let us then continue in faith, love, and holiness.

John Dyer (PhD, Durham University) is a dean and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who teaches and writes on theology, technology, and sociology. You can follow him on twitter @johndyer and find him on his blog.

This essay was adapted from a blog.

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The Bible Passes the Bechdel Test. It Also Goes Beyond It. - ChristianityToday.com

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October 31st, 2020 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Bhagavad Gita