As I promised, here is part two. If you missed part one you can locate on my blog site.

Lets begin with a fairly easy question: do Christian groups still require women on their monthly period to be ‘unclean’ for a period of seven days as was once required by Jewish law and recorded in Leviticus 15:19? Easy answer: NO. Why is this?

Although we are not bound by the sacrificial system found in the Old Testament as a method of dealing with our sinfulness this does not render the Old Testament irrelevant to Christians; it is an error to reject the Old Testament completely. Regulations similar to what is found in Leviticus 15:19 were just as much about teaching Israel about person hygiene as they were a theological ideal. Instructions regarding rashes, discharges and other aspects of personal health were discussed in the Mosaic Law for the safety of Israel and as a demonstration to the other nations that Israel was distinctly different in their actions as a result of their covenant with God Almighty. Remember, the whole mission of Israel was that through their blessings and unique way of life all the world would find salvation.

Our culture has changed significantly since the time of Israel; we have a more fixed society (as opposed to a nomadic and travelling society) that has many social structures in place that help us to maintain our personal health and hygiene. We also understand many aspects of our own bodies in new and more complete ways; this allows us to react differently to changes in our body. Therefore, we understand the specific details of passages like Leviticus 15:19 to be culturally and contextually bound and certainly not fixed ritual law that must be carried forth today in order to appease God. Nevertheless, the principle of taking good care of the body God has given us remains.

I wonder if Muslim thinkers would be open to this sort of interpretation of such aspects of Sharia Law and/or the Qur’an?

I do not have so much of a problem with the ritual prayer that is taking place in the Toronto school as I do with the implicit gender segregation and inequality that accompanies this. Our society has an understanding of gender equality similar to the Apostle Paul when he says in Galatians 3:28, “[t]here is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. Nevertheless it seems that Muslims and sometimes Christians too hold onto contextually bound passages as if they are central to the message of God.

Why must such passages be interpreted as God ordained and essential to our faith? I affirm 1 Timothy 3:16 in that all Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting and so on; however, I think we need to dig a little deeper than surface before we hang out hats on a particular passage of Scripture and making it essential to our faith. If Paul really meant in 1 Corinthians 14:34 that women were never to speak in church and always had to be silent, why then would he also to the same church and in the same letter instruct women to wear a head covering when they prophecy (1 Corinthians 11)? Now we have a conundrum: should women always be silent in church or are they permitted to prophecy? Much of our understanding of gender and faith is subject to this same conundrum.

This is by no means a complete theology of gender; rather, it only scratches the surface and raises the questions in our mind that need to be answered. We can question the practice of segregating menstruating girls in a Muslim prayer gathering but we must also question our own Christian practices of segregation and inequality. This may prove to be far more difficult of a question.

Here’s to the continuing conversation! I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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