Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Clara Schumann

A Google doodle today honors Clara Schumann, a woman composer and pianist with eight children, on her birthday.

Clara Schumann was born Clara Josephine Wieck in Leipzig, Germany on September 13, 1816. She married famous pianist and composer Robert Schumann, and was reportedly good friends with 19th century classical music giant Johannes Brahms (how good? We'll probably never know.)

Clara Schumann is a quintessential example of someone who balanced a musical career and her family successfully, performing regularly as a concert pianist and even leaving behind some very good compositions for us to enjoy. While some people today ironically perceive music as a woman's pursuit, it has historically been frowned upon for a woman to perform publicly or play in an orchestra. It wasn't until 1912 that the Queen's Hall Orchestra in Britain set groundbreaking precedent by admitting four women. Only a few women in classical music have been remembered throughout history.

The Christian Science Monitor calls Clara Schumann "sassy." We'll roll with it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Someone brought this up the other day I went and looked it up. I admit I don't know all the details of Catholic teachings (I'm not Catholic, and the last time I read a Catechism it was one I picked up at a garage sale as a kid and put it back down after like 20 pages), but it's apparent that they teach what Jesus taught about divorce, even if sometimes they may not act the way Jesus would act towards divorced people (attitudes which are not limited to Catholics, of course—I've heard of churches of Christ barring divorcees from membership too):

Matthew 19:8-9

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Would you say this is "conservative"? Would you file it under "hardline"? If your church enforced this verse in the way it gave counseling, would it appear embarrassingly archaic (at least) or harmful (at most)? Is it a verse you're afraid your unbelieving friends will find out about and ask you about? It does seem at times conveniently avoided.

The church I used to attend was a fair bit more liberal than many who take a hardline approach to this verse, so I was taught that the Greek word for "marital unfaithfulness" in verse 9 meant "covenant breaking" and also could be applied to abuse and/or abandonment. I really liked that Jesus would have given an "out" for abused wives, but unfortunately for my Bible teacher, the word is actually porneiva (porneia), which means the following:

  1. illicit sexual intercourse
  1. adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
  1. sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
  1. sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,
  1. metaph. the worship of idols
  1. of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols

It's pretty specific to sexual sin.

But we need some historical context here. John Lightfoot's commentary points out that Jewish divorce culture at the time was particularly cruel to women and that the law in Deuteronomy 24 was given so that a man couldn't send his wife away without reason. He says further:

The Divine Wisdom knew that inhuman husbands would use that law of death unto all manner of cruelty towards their wives: for how ready was it for a wicked and unkind husband to lay snares even for his innocent wife, if he were weary of her, to oppress her under that law of death! And if she were taken under guilt, how cruelly and insolently would he triumph over her, poor woman, both to the disgrace of wedlock and to the scandal of religion! Therefore the most prudent, and withal merciful lawgiver, made provision that the woman, if she were guilty, might not go without her punishment; and if she were not guilty, might go without danger; and that the wicked husband that was impatient of wedlock might not satiate his cruelty.

So limiting divorce was actually a women's rights move. Jesus was speaking in favor of women's rights. Interesting, eh? It's not a hardline position. That sure makes me change my perspective on what was "conservative" and what was "liberal" Christianity. It also solidifies in my mind what Jesus really would have thought about churches barring divorcees from membership.