Blog 1 Kyra Perkins

Genesis is an important chapter within the Bible. Scholars throughout history have used this chapter as a moral argument for marriage, gender, and even reproduction. With everyone reading one single document, a person could naturally assume that every rational person would come to the same conclusion. However, this notion is false. Many different religions have different outlooks on reproduction and marriage that are based from the very same text. These differences seem to grow much deeper when asking individual members of different religious communities instead of just analyzing what religious leaders suggest that their religious communities should believe. Two of the religions who seem to completely agree on the understanding but somehow manage to disagree on the usage of the Book of Genesis are the Jewish and Christian religions. According to the second chapter of the Book of Genesis, man was created alone and then God decided he needed a partner. In order to fill this void God created woman from the rib of man. It then states that a man will leave his parents and find a wife. When he finds this wife, they will become one flesh. This is usually interpreted to mean that man and woman, when married, become one flesh. From that flesh, new life can be made. In other words, only from marriage can a baby be made. The conflict comes when discussing in what ways a married couple can make a baby. Specifically, when looking at technology in procreation religions have to consider how far is too far when involving technology in procreation. Jewish communities tend to be more supporting of ideas such as surrogacy because it was so prevalent in the bible. According to Don Seeman’s text, Ethnography, Exegesis, and Jewish Ethical Reflection: The New Reproductive Technologies in Israel, “One of the inescapably dominant themes in Genesis is in fact the desperate attempt by both men and women to bring forth children from childlessness by almost any means (Seeman 1998). In Genesis 16, for example, the matriarch Sarah gives her Egyptian servant Hagar to her husband Abraham in what we today would probably call a “traditional surrogacy” arrangement to produce the child that had eluded her.” In fact, Seeman notes that the entire Book of Genesis is saturated with women who were dealing with barrenness and struggles with pregnancy in some way or another. It was very common for wealthier more well-off women to then pay or force their servants to become impregnated by their husbands. The housemaids would then give birth to the child and the women would consider it their own child. This was effectively the earliest version of surrogacy. This was the norm in biblical times and therefore, many Jewish identifying men and women consider surrogacy and assisted birthing methods to be normal. Christianity, and more specifically, Catholicism, have a completely contradictory viewpoint. They believe, as stated by the Donum Vitae in section I Line 22, “The Congregation recalls the teachings found in the Declaration on Procured Abortion: “From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a new life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. “. The question for them becomes whether or not technology assisted birth is not normal, but rather whether or not it is morally acceptable or in some way harming or disrespecting this new life. In the eyes of the Catholic church, the only acceptable method is homologous invitro fertilization where the egg is donated from the wife and the sperm is donated from her husband. All other forms of technology assisted birth are immoral. Either the child will be created outside of wedlock which, as stated at the beginning of this post, goes against God’s intentions for the creation of life, or unused embryo which are not used will be frozen or thrown away which is equivalent to abortion. The Catholic church believes in respect for every and all human life at the moment of conception, therefore, any thing that they believe will somehow degrade or negatively affect a human life, even as an embryo they consider to be immoral and wrong. The important thing to consider here is much deeper than whether Jewish or Catholic religions actually support these methods of technology assisted births. The important thing to consider is that these vastly different approaches to the same issue are based around the same text. How then, is it possible to even begin to study or come to some consensus on this problem? Questions like this bring out the importance of ethnographic studies. What religious leaders may say does not always translate to what religious people actually practice. This point was made clear in the ethnographic study of Muslims in Lebanon. While religious leaders in the Islamic community believe that adoption, IVF, and sperm donation are against the teachings of Islam, some of the Muslim men who were interviewed still proceeded with these processes despite that knowledge. This brings up a very important difference between analyzation and practice. While religious leaders are trusted to analyze important religious documents and the points they make, the people who follow that religion are the ones who have to ultimately decide what and how they will practice the decisions of religious leaders. By using ethnography, religious and cultural scholars are able to get a more realistic view of the diversity within a religion as well as how certain religious ideals are actually practiced.

3 Replies to “Blog 1 Kyra Perkins”

  1. Hi Kyra! I really enjoyed your post, specifically your description of ethnography rooted in religious text. It truly is difficult to comprehend how two varying interpretations can come from the same literary work, but this is the case in Jewish and Christian religions. I like your point about the Catholic faith and how the focus is on the ethical implications of the reproductive technology, not the technology itself. These differences stress the importance of an ethnography that is based in experiences and the culture of a specific faith.

  2. Kyra – I love how you establish the contradictory nature of the viewpoints of both Jews and Catholics on Genesis 1&2. You clearly define each view point and state how in essence, they are completely different yet stem from the same text. I am curious to know what you belief the underlying causes of these interpretations are and what historical happenings might have helped to influence and form them. Do you think factors such as socioeconomic development, nature disaster, mass migrations/large historical events had influence on such conflicting stances from each side?

  3. Hi Kyra,

    Thank you for your post. You provide some very detailed and compelling examples, and I can tell that you did the reading carefully and have thought about your arguments. There are some areas in which I think you can improve; for example, sometimes I have a little trouble following your writing and argument. For example, you write, “Two of the religions who seem to completely agree on the understanding but somehow manage to disagree on the usage of the Book of Genesis are the Jewish and Christian religion.” However, I do not know how you are using “understanding” and “usage” here. In addition to the ambiguity, this argument is very broad. Is there really one sweeping and authoritative agreement of the understanding of Genesis within the Jewish religion? And “Christian” describes a wide plethora of religions, from Catholics and Baptists to Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Quakers. Do all Christians really have one understanding that is the same as the Jewish understanding? For the next blog post, please provide more detail and clarity when crafting your main arguments. Other suggestions I have for your next blog post are: edit before posting, checking the grammar; and break up your text into more manageable and readable parts, aka paragraphs. Formatting is always important, even for online blog posts.

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