Tag Archive | authority

Twelve Conclusions From Reading Paul’s Epistles in Full

Hypatia of Alexandria - SmithsonianToday I read all of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament from start to finish, something I never did when I was a Christian. No, I haven’t “seen the error of my ways” and converted back to that religion.  Rather this is part of my ongoing research into the life and death of Hypatia of Alexandria, the gifted astronomer and philosopher murdered in 415 CE by a mob of Christians in Alexandria.  I am seeking for the roots of her murder. Why was she considered a threat to the Christian community and why did that community believe it was morally justifiable to murder her so viciously when Exodus 20:13 is so explicit on the matter?

My reading of the epistles is first and foremost looking for bias — a critical job for any historian.  Who was Paul? What did he believe? What biases and bigotries did he possess? Here are my opening conclusions and impressions from reading the epistles as a whole:

1) Paul genuinely had one or more visions that affected him profoundly.
2) Paul’s legalism from his time as a pharisee did not go away. He believes in the written “word of God” as he experienced it as a pharisee.
3) Paul believes God has inspired him to write down what God wants for everyone. Because it comes from God, it must absolutely be obeyed without question or intellectual scrutiny.
4) Paul did not believe in individual liberty.
5) Paul believed in absolute obedience to authority without question. Especially slaves must obey masters. Women must obey men. Neither groups are persons with their own human rights.
6) Philosophy (the educational systems of his time) is bad. It leads you away from God and into sexual perversions.
7) Anything that takes you away from his view of Truth and God is bad and must be avoided at all costs. That includes people who do not believe or live as you do (though Paul contradicts himself on this point at times, depending on the letter).
8) God made women and slaves inherently inferior.
9) Women are innately perverse, sinful, lusty creatures.
10) Women need men as masters in order to be saved from Satan and hell.
11) Women lack the innate morality to lead men, especially in religious matters.
12) Sex and sexual desire, especially for a woman’s pleasure or between two men is gravely sinful.
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The final point about sex is especially important. Paul spends probably more time on sex and sexual mores than any other specific topic he covers.  It is almost an obsession for him.
For example, 1 Timothy 5 verses 11 and 12 says, “11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry.12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge.”

This theme continues in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 when he writes regarding all people, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.”

Paul sees sexual pleasure as a perversion that keeps men (males) from holiness and living godly lives. Women, seducers that they are, must therefore be tightly controlled and silenced because they through their sexuality are Satan’s tools who will sabotage men at every turn.

The birth of Pandora

This belief that women are seducers and Paul’s incessant missives to control women, to keep them away from places of influence and power, may be at the core of why church leaders in Alexandria were able to ignore Exodus 20:13 and command Hypatia’s murder.

It was not the first time the Bible was used to kill an innocent.  It was not the last.  But perhaps we can chart a different future, one where religion is no longer the excuse for the inexcusable.  Perhaps then we shall have peace.

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Repost: Voice may reveal who has clout

Yesterday I blogged a link to Richard Mann’s Radio Reflections which he not only presented, but produced as well.  So it seems fitting that today I should repost a report on some fascinating research, much of it done in the UK, on how our voices reflect social status and power — and perhaps why Margaret Thatcher was able to lead so effectively.

 

Voice May Reveal Who Has Clout
Be­ing in a po­si­tion of pow­er can change the sound of your voice, and lis­ten­ers of­ten pick up on that to fig­ure out who is really in charge, new re­search finds.

We tend to fo­cus on our words when we want to come across as pow­erful, but the find­ings sug­gest acous­tic cues are al­so im­por­tant. Mark­ers of more pow­erful po­si­tion, for ex­am­ple, may in­clude a higher and louder voice.

“Whether it’s par­ents at­tempt­ing to as­sert au­thor­ity over un­ruly chil­dren, hag­gling be­tween a car sales­man and cus­tom­er, or ne­gotia­t­ions be­tween heads of states, the sound of the voices in­volved may pro­foundly de­ter­mine the out­come of those in­ter­ac­tions,” said lead re­searcher Sei Jin Ko of San Die­go State Uni­vers­ity in Ca­li­for­nia.

It was form­er U.K. prime min­is­ter Mar­ga­ret That­cher who in­spired the re­search. “It was quite well known that That­cher had gone through ex­ten­sive voice coach­ing to ex­ude a more au­thoritative, pow­erful per­sona,” ex­plained Ko. “We wanted to ex­plore how some­thing so fun­da­men­tal as pow­er might elic­it changes in the way a voice sounds, and how these situa­t­ional vo­cal changes im­pact the way lis­ten­ers per­ceive and be­have to­ward the speak­ers.”

Ko, along with Mel­o­dy Sadler of San Die­go State and Ad­am Galin­sky of Co­lum­bia Busi­ness School, de­signed two stud­ies to find out. The findings were pub­lished Nov. 20 online in the jour­nal Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence.

In a first ex­pe­ri­ment, the investigators recorded 161 col­lege stu­dents read­ing a pas­sage aloud; this first re­cord­ing cap­tured their voice be­fore any par­tic­u­lar high-or-low pow­er sta­tus was ev­i­dent. The par­ti­ci­pants were then ran­domly as­signed a high- or low-sta­tus role in a ne­gotia­t­ion game.

Stu­dents as­signed to a “high” rank were told to go in­to the ne­gotia­t­ion im­ag­in­ing that they ei­ther had a strong al­ter­na­tive of­fer, val­u­a­ble in­side in­forma­t­ion, or high sta­tus in the work­place, or they were asked to re­call an ex­perience in which they had pow­er be­fore the ne­gotia­t­ion started. Low-rank stu­dents, on the oth­er hand, were told to im­ag­ine they had ei­ther a weak of­fer, no in­side in­forma­t­ion, or low work­place sta­tus, or they were asked to re­call an ex­perience in which they lacked pow­er.

The stu­dents then read a sec­ond pas­sage aloud, as if they were lead­ing off ne­gotia­t­ions with their im­ag­i­nary ad­ver­sary, and their voices were recorded. Eve­ry­one read the same open­ing, al­low­ing the re­search­ers to ex­am­ine acous­tics while hold­ing the speech con­tent the same.

The re­search­ers found that the voices of stu­dents as­signed to high-pow­er roles tended to go up in pitch, be­come less var­i­a­ble in pitch, and be­come more var­i­a­ble in loud­ness than the oth­ers’ voices.

“A­maz­ingly, pow­er af­fect­ed our par­ti­ci­pants’ voices in al­most the ex­act same way that That­cher’s voice changed af­ter her vo­cal train­ing,” said Galin­sky.

And the stu­dents’ vo­cal cues did­n’t go un­no­ticed. A sec­ond ex­pe­ri­ment with a sep­a­rate group of col­lege stu­dents re­vealed that lis­ten­ers, who had no knowl­edge of the first ex­pe­ri­ment, were able to pick up on these pow­er-related vo­cal cues to de­ter­mine who did and did not have pow­er: Lis­ten­ers ranked speak­ers who had been as­signed to the high-rank group as more likely to en­gage in high-pow­er be­hav­iors, and they were able to cat­e­go­rize wheth­er a speak­er had high or low rank with con sidera­ble ac­cu­ra­cy.

In line with the vo­cal changes ob­served in the first ex­pe­ri­ments, lis­ten­ers tended to as­so­ci­ate high­er pitch and voices that var­ied in loud­ness with high-pow­er be­hav­iors. They al­so as­so­ci­ated louder voices with high­er pow­er.

“These find­ings sug­gest that lis­ten­ers are quite per­cep­tive to these sub­tle varia­t­ions in vo­cal cues and they use these cues to de­cide who is in charge,” said Galin­sky.