For as long as the world can remember, religion has been a part of life throughout all of time. An astounding number of 84% of the world's population is affiliated with some type of religious practice (http://www.
washingtontimes.com, 2018). Religion has influenced the social, legal, political, and economic organization worldwide. It has done many exceptionally admirable things in the world.
Religious people and groups have started incredible charities and organizations and in like manner have offered comfort to the terminally ill. However, religion has equally had negative impacts on society, such as taking advantage of its power to do wrong. Barbara Kingsolver's novel The Poison Bible, uses the character of Nathan Price to demonstrate the destructive nature of religion when put into a power obsessive, controlling, and patriarchal man, which ultimately sabotages his children, his wife, and the people of Kilanga.Nathan Price is a Pastor, father, and husband who takes his family to the Congo to save the souls of the people of Kilanga by instructing them change their lives and by baptizing them into 'salvation'.
However, he obsessively prioritizes his religious mission over showing love and nurture for his children. First and foremost, Nathan does not simply neglect his children, but is disgusted with reproduction itself. His wife, Orleanna states, "He was profoundly embarrassed by my pregnancies. To his way of thinking they were unearned blessings, and furthermore each one drew God's attention anew to my having a vagina and his having a penis and the fact we'd laid them near enough together to conceive a child" (Kingsolver 198). Nathan does not view reproduction as a beautiful gift and miracle, but rather as a shameful action in God's eyes.
This proves how much he twists the bible's teachings in his mind and how he is not following legitimate Christian principles, but making up principles of his own. In Genesis 1:28 The Bible emphasizes, "God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it." (Biblegateway.com, 2018). God clearly gives a duty to Adam in the Bible; which is to multiply and have several children as husband and wife. Yet, Nathan distorts this principle in his mind and sees conception as 'dirty' and 'sinful'.
This confirms his absurdity, demonstrating that he does not genuinely follow Christian fundamentals, but believes he has the power to make his own. This consequently affects the lack of love and care he provides for his children. To add, Nathan chooses to disregard the Mission State's advice to take his family out of the Congo and back to safety to America when the Congo turns politically unstable during the war. His eldest daughter Rachel helplessly says, "Mother tries to explain to him day in and day out about how he is putting his own children in jeopardy of their lives, but he won't even listen to his own wife, much less his mere eldest daughter" (Kingsolver 176). Nathan risks the lives and well being of his family simply to continue his stubborn mission in converting the Congolese "sinners".
As the dangerous war begins, the Price family is asked to come back to America for shelter and protection. Nonetheless, Nathan Price's obstinacy and selfishness prevents him from making a rational and loving decision. He is unable to put aside his pride in fulfilling his duty in the Congo, endangering the lives of his young and innocent children. Additionally, Nathan continues to show his neglect towards his children through his reaction when his daughter Ruth May dies from a green mamba snake bite. Immediately after Ruth May dies, Nathan exclaims, "She wasn't even baptized yet" (Kingsolver 368). Instead of being in a state of shock that his youngest daughter is no longer alive, his shock is conveyed by the traumatic realization that he did not have a chance to baptize Ruth May before she perished.
His only concern is that he was not able to fulfill his religious mission through the baptism of all of his children. His self indulgence blinds him from feeling natural grief and despair. His loss is not found in her death, but in her "missed salvation". Despite his internal attempts to do good in the sight of God, Nathan proves himself as a poor and lousy father to his children as a result of his unhealthy 'religion'.At the same time, Nathan is a neglectful and unloving husband who believes his Congolian baptismal mission is exceedingly more important than the kind of relationship and respect him and his wife have together.
Nathan Price treats Orleanna as more of his child than his wife and partner in life. "Father looked at Mama hard for talking back to him." (Kingsolver 64). Talking back is a common 'sin' among children towards parents. It is immoral for children to talk back to their parents, for their parents are the figures of authority who have wisdom, knowledge, and life experience.
However, Orleanna is a mother and a grown woman, who is shamed for essentially 'having a voice' in their marriage. Nathan does not see her as an equal in their marriage nor in his religious mission. He continually establishes himself as the head of the marriage and family, and she, as not even the neck. Although a Christian, Nathan does not treat his wife as a Christian husband should, and instead sets his target on earning salvation by baptising all of the people in the Congo. Also, Nathan is stubborn and self centered despite the outward appearance of being generous and going all the way to the Congo. His mission is all a part of him wanting to fulfill his mission and gain personal favour with God.
He does not include his wife in any of his decisions. Orleanna Price concludes, "It's harder to imagine a mortal man more unwilling to change his course than Nathan Price" (Kingsolver 96). Nathan refuses to listen or consider all others' opinions and seeks only to achieve the mission he believes was sent to him by God. This ties in to the fact that he uses God and religion as a way to exert his arrogance and need for complete and utter control to show that he is correct and all others' opinions are lesser and inferior. Marriage is supposed to be a divine relationship that grows on communication and compromise. But Nathan does not see marriage as this type of communion.
He dominates over his wife and shows no compassion when she does not agree with his decisions for all. Plus, Nathan becomes violent when his wife Orleanna tries to put up any type of dispute on leaving the Congo in hopes to be safe and at home. "Orleanna, shut up!" he yelled, grabbing her arm hard and jerking the plate out of her hand. He raised it up over her head and slammed it on the table, cracking it right in two." (Kingsolver 134). Nathan Price's abuse escalates from not only mental and verbal abuse, but to physical and violent abuse.
This is surprising since the center of his life is being a pastor and being a Christian. In Colossians 3:19, The Bible discloses, "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them." (Biblegateway.com, 2018).
Although Nathan claims to be the prime example for Christianity, he is evidently a hypocrite in terms of following the doctrine of the Bible that says to love your wife. The Bible continually emphasizes the importance of being loving, kind, considerate, and humble to every person, but especially to your spouse. In The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 states, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (Biblegateway.com, 2018). It is obvious to see that Nathan does not acquire any of these qualities mentioned in The Bible. Religion is destructive when put into the hands of Nathan Price, for he uses it as a weapon to do wrong and ignore his dying marriage.Nathan is also ignorant to the fact that the Congolese culture is entirely different from the American culture and disregards the difficulty they have with understanding Christianity and its fundamentals.
He pushes it upon them forcefully, thus being inconsiderate to the essence and base of their beliefs. To begin, Nathan insults men and women for the clothes they have when they have no other clothing to wear. It is known that, "Traditionally men and women in Congo wore clothes made of raffia. This is only used today though, in special ceremonies.
It is much more common to see women wearing long skirts and tops with bold patterns and colors." (Shepard et al., 2018). Pastor Nathan Price does not embrace the Congolese culture and their differences but rather shames them for something they are unable to change. He believes the clothing they are wearing to the baptism is informal and disrespectful towards God. However, he is very unsympathetic towards the fact that they simply do not have anything else to wear.
Secondly, Nathan Price ignorantly baptizes people in a river where there are crocodiles. Leah explains, "She got killed and eaten by a crocodile. They don't let their children step foot in the river, ever. Not even to be washed in the Blood of the Lamb" (Kingsolver 81).
Even after being told that a child's life was recently taken there, he does not change his approach but simply persists to preach the importance and necessity of baptism and that the river is the only "proper" place to do so. He is unable to acclimate to the Congo's environment and amend to their ways of living, and essentially, surviving. Many of the 'parables' in the bible do not make sense to the Congolese people as they are unable to relate to and understand it contextually. However, Nathan keeps pushing this upon them when he knows they are unable to understand. Nathan ignorantly states, "If you change a few words they'll understand" (Kingsolver 246).
He is not open to moulding his way of preaching to a way that the Congolese people actually comprehend. He focuses on making himself appear knowledgeable and 'better' than them through his incomprehensibly rich vocabulary and parables. He does not care to teach them how Christian ideology can be applied to their daily lives, but rather only how they can ultimately transform and reach salvation. He is an unsympathetic religious figure that disrespects the beautiful differences between the Colognese culture and the American culture. His closed mind towards diversity hinders his mission in changing the lives of the Congolese, for he fails to connect with them on a personal and comfortable level.In Barbara Kingsolver's novel The Poison Bible, Nathan Price is proven to be a prime example in showing the dangers of religion when put into the hands of a narcissistic and controlling man.
This impacts his lack of love and nurture towards his children, his unhealthy marriage with his wife Orleanna, and his failed attempt to truly convert the people of Kilanga to Christianity. All religions such as Christianity can be ruined because of bad people. Take Matthew Hale, a preacher that is currently serving forty years in prison for soliciting a murder. He is a "Christian" leader that wishes to exterminate all races other than the white. He is a racist and convicted felon, yet he still dares to call himself a Christian. His immorality and hypocrisy has lead many people to turn away from Christianity, even though Christianity does not go correlate to his strong and unhealthy beliefs in any way.
Matthew Hale and Nathan Price are simply a couple of the many people that use religion as a weapon in gaining power to do harm in the world. Have you ever researched the difference between some of the followers of a religion vs. the religion itself?