When Religion Binds

Some might argue that all religion binds, which they may have a point; however, I am using religion here in the sense of having the ability and freedom to practice religion. Religion becomes binding when it forces upon its adherents a set of rules that must be followed. However, this idea, too, is sketchy at best because in all walks of society, rules must be followed to secure right boundaries. The Ten Commandments, for example, are a set of rules that when practiced protects the individual whom is practicing it as well as others within a community. “You shall not murder” is a law (rule), or standard, that brings freedom and order to an unruly society. If there was no rule to keep someone from murdering, then the practices of murder would be acceptable. However, having the law state that one must not murder actually brings freedom to live in society where you can feel safe while walking down the street in hopes of not being murdered. Now, this doesn’t keep you from being murdered by an unlawful citizen, but it does bring to light that if this rule is broken, there are consequences that will follow. Thus, bringing justice for your family if such an event was to arise—God forbid! Ergo, not all rules are binding, as not all religion is binding, but in many cases rules bring freedom. This holds true regardless of whether or not it involves “Church” or “State.” The ideas of rules are for our benefit; it’s when certain rules bind individuals from common sense and personal responsibility all for the “sake of religion” is when religion crosses the line.


Recently, in an article by an online newspaper, Israel Hayom (Israel Today), it’s been reported that there’s been some controversy over ultra-Orthodox soldiers being obligated to attend military events where women are asked to sing.[1] Because of this, the chief rabbi of the Israeli Air force, Lt. Moshe Ravad, resigned stating, “[The] new regulation hinders religious soldiers’ ability to serve.” Prior to this obligation, ultra-Orthodox men could remain observant while serving in the military under the Shahar Project, which allowed for their absences from official military events where women were singing. However, it is now mandatory for all military personnel to attend official events where women sing; including, the mandate that women will sing at all military events. Of course, observant, orthodox military men don’t have to attend recreational events, but all official events, they are now obligated. So, is this where religion hinders or brings bondage?

Simply put, yes! Now, for those of you who are wondering about this controversy, apparently, according to the article, the Talmud states, “a woman’s voice is her nakedness.” Additionally, the article states, “Some ultra-Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law [the Talmud] forbid men from listening to women as it could be sexually arousing” (emphasis mine). Therefore, with this interpretation by some ultra-Orthodox groups, those military men who belong to them are exempt from attending any events, which have women singing. Now, although I searched for this in the Talmud, I didn’t find it; however, my research skills in the Talmud are limited. I did, however, find references to David’s lust over Bathsheba, which caused him to sin. But even then I would blame David not Bathsheba.

In the New Covenant there’s a passage in Galatians, which speaks about the fruits of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law” (5:22-23). That being stated, I guess what some of the ultra-Orthodox men are missing is the power and presence of the Ruach HaKodesh to walk out in the Spirit of self-control. Yes, women are required, according to the Scriptures, to watch how they dress because they don’t want to be a stumbling block to men. And, yes, women throughout history have aided in the down-fall of some of the greatest men the planet has ever known. But, besides that and in spite of that, men are required to be men of self-control and to take responsibility for their actions.

Over the years I have proven to be lacking in self-control when it comes to becoming easily-angered, my thought life, and my patience. However, I have no one to blame but myself. A lack of discipline in spiritual matters causes us to become weak, and in time we become susceptible to all sorts of evils within; yet, we are still responsible for our own behaviors. And, in my weaknesses, I must seek God for the strength that is required to honor him in all of the fruits of the Spirit; not just me alone, but every man and woman must do the same. To expect society to do this for you is denying the fact that even governments, once given over to the power of governing, rarely dismiss laws but add to them to the point where lives are controlled by their lust for power.

I couldn’t help but to reflect on the idea that as these ultra-Orthodox men continue to believe that God’s law teaches that men are not to be in the presence of women when they sing or they’ll become sexually aroused, the more I see how severely we’re a lost people and how little we’ve progressed from the original sin of the Fall.

Adam blamed Chavah (Eve), she blamed the serpent, the serpent blames God and us, and now some men blame the voices of women for the lack of self-control. This interpretation of the Talmud breeds slavery. Men are enslaved to women’s voices, women are enslaved to their own voices; thus, not being able to sing in the presence of men. (Talk about degrading women!) The Democrats blame the Republicans—just look at how the Obama administration has blamed G.W. Bush for his own inabilities to carry this nation to a greater state—the Republicans blame the Democrats, husbands blames their wives, and wives blame their husbands. Actually, I blame all of you for all my inabilities too! Heck, why not!? Since everyone else is blaming someone else for his problems, I might as well join the club; let’s call it the I.B.S.S. (I Blame Society Syndrome).

There comes a point in society where the righteous must stand up and be righteous, which means more than being born-again, saved, and freed-from-sin; rather, to act righteous, take personal responsibility, and minister to those whom are widowed, poor, and fatherless—for that is true religion; everything else is secondary, and most things are immaterial. Sure, we are saved by grace, but now what? Along with that grace, comes covenantal relationship with God and personal responsibility to do your part. It doesn’t happen on its own.

I can honestly say about my wife that she is an incredible singer, and that I love to hear her sing; however, I have never, once been seduced by her singing. That belongs in Greek mythology with seductions of Medusa. Sorry ultra-Orthodox brothers, but you might want to reconsider your interpretation.

By, Adrian A. Bernal © 2012, All Rights Reserved

[1]See, Yehuda Shlezinger, Lilach Shoval and Gideon Allon, “IDF Rabbi Resigns Post Over Regulation on Singing by Women,” 04 January 2012; article online at: <http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=2508> accessed 04 January 2012.

When Religion Binds

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