In speaking of Magdalene Christianity, I realize that there are differing views about Mary Magdalene and her role in Christian history and message.
I speak from my own perspective.
As I wrote in the Opening Message, I believe that Mary Magdalene’s actions in the garden (John 20) illustrate the primacy of love, as expressed by Jesus in his two commandments, and as later echoed by Paul.
My perspective is not centered around some of the more popular Magdalene themes, including Merovingian bloodlines or spiritualities beyond Christianity.
Among all writers, I am most indebted to Jane D. Schaberg*, who has described Magdalene Christianity as an alternative to those traditions in our churches that seek to dominate or exclude.
I believe that:
Magdalene Christianity expresses a commitment to love of God and love of neighbor that is not compromised by any traditional teaching.
Magdalene Christianity is a place of refuge for those who seek relief from all loveless traditions in our churches.
Magdalene Christianity speaks for love of all.
There may be those who say that feminist theologians have seized upon the figure of Mary Magdalene in order to promote a progressive agenda.
Concern for the reputation of Mary Magdalene is a wonderful thing. But the testimony of Mary Magdalene reflects the light of the two commandments. This testimony, together with the two commandments, is pristine and undiluted by qualifiers. Shake the dust of tradition from them at your peril. If one looks at them with fresh eyes, one may well feel that one has stumbled upon hidden wisdom.
What Christian authority could presume to compromise the two commandments? Who should I not love? Jesus added no qualifiers; should I? Or should I agree with the commandments, then tag on a “yes, but” condition that seeks to both agree with and strike down the commandments?
Who should I dominate or exclude, and by what authority? And what scriptural authority can supersede the two commandments, inasmuch as Jesus said “There is no other commandment greater than these."?**
So I uphold those who, by Christian tradition, have been dominated or excluded. I uphold those who have been judged on the basis of their identity or personal choices. I uphold those who have been marginalized on the basis of their gender, gender preference, gender identification, race or religion, as well as those who have been marginalized on the basis of their socio-economic class or even, in some communities, on the basis of their personal success, their political affiliation or their “unrepented sins”.
All means all.
The traditional scriptures tell us little about Mary Magdalene. What little is known about her from these sources could be summarized in a few sentences.
Depending upon your openness to speculation, and depending upon which historical reconstructions you choose to value, there may be more to her story.
For, as is true of all biblical figures, there was certainly more to her life. Fragments of traditional beliefs from various places echo down through the years.
We do know that in the early years of the church, women were silenced in the assembly. Some have suggested that she had a larger testimony that was lost.
And we do know that the silencing of women was followed by centuries of church-sanctioned violence against women and children.
Perhaps there is a chunk of missing testimony. At the very least, something is missing.
For, despite the endless analysis and prescription of all things Christian that mark the post-Gospel New Testament and the early years of the Church, violence was ganged onto a message of love.
It is made possible by the absence of something we need. It is be made possible by the absence of it’s remedy.
What is absent? That which was silenced.
Amid all of the things in The Da Vinci Code to which I take exception, I wonder if Dan Brown may be right on this point:
Perhaps Mary Magdalene is The Outcast One.
Magdalene Christianity seeks restoration. It seeks the restoration of the discarded. It seeks the restoration of the outcasts. It seeks the voice of the silenced.
As a sidebar, I would like to address a few words to those who, like myself, are in traditional positions of power. This includes the majority of white males.
It can be easy for us to become convinced of a cause. It can be easy for us to realize that there is a wrong that should be corrected. But we move toward resolution like we are walking through molasses. We think in slow motion and we respond in slow motion. We respond to atrocity slowly. We can relate to this, for we have been largely responsible for the legislative history of this country. The Civil Rights Voting Act was passed one hundred years after the end of the Civil War.
We delay endlessly. We fabricate an infinite number of “yes, but”s, “somewhat”s, “maybe”s and delay, delay, delay.
It is the inertia of privilege.
Let us, as Virginia Woolf might have said, stand up on our hind legs and move.
We can begin by listening.
It is important to admit that when some are excluded, all of us are impoverished. But it is not enough.
It is important to admit that exclusion is wrong in the sight of God. But it is not enough.
It is important to feel the pain of separation from the marginalized. But it is not enough.
We will move when we realize that we can hardly refer to Christian love except in terms of principles.
We will move when we realize that our prayers, thoughts, words and deeds are framed in terms of principles.
We will move when we realize that, in filling our heads with these things, we cease to hear the cries of the discarded.
We will move when we realize, in final horror, that with all the best intentions, and with words of praise on our lips, we have offered unto God, as our gift, the destruction of those whom we were called to love.
Let us, as Paul said in this context, choose “a more excellent way”***.
Let us love.
In my next message, I will take a short detour---in tone and distance--- in order to visit a certain bridge in Iowa. If you have not read or seen
The Bridges of Madison County, you may find it useful to do so before then.
I post new articles twice monthly in “Author’s Corner”.
If you live in or near to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, and you would be interested in meeting with others for discussion or prayer, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome, regardless of identity or personal choices. Please understand that I do not have the resources to guarantee that I will be able to read or respond to all other correspondence.
*Jane D. Schaberg is Professor of Religious Studies and Coordinator of Women’s Studies, University of Detroit-Mercy. She is the author of
**Mark 12, 31
***1 Corinthians 12, 32
Rob Wright holds advanced degrees in education and performing arts, and he has been a professional teacher for over fifteen years. In his home tradition, he has served as a lay minister in liturgical, educational and ecumenical activities. He lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire with his spouse of twenty years and their daughter.