What Does It Profit…
With firm reliance upon scripture, traditional Christianity would uphold these things:
1. That no male played a critical role in the impregnation of Mary, the mother of God;
2. That Jesus’ ministry was resourced by women;
3. That Jesus commissioned two women, the Samarian woman and Mary Magdalene, to communicate very good news, indeed;
4. That, with the possible exception of a “beloved disciple”, the compassionate witnesses to Jesus’ death were all women;
5. That, according to most of the gospel accounts, the post-resurrection Jesus was first seen by women;
6. That, in the early years of Christianity, women played a key role in organizing, hosting and managing gatherings of Christians;
7. That, in the early centuries of Christianity, church leadership was completely co-opted by males.
Now, I do understand that while these points are upheld by traditional Christianity, they would not be juxtaposed so neatly in a traditional Christian sermon or Sunday School lesson.
For no such presentation would care to address the piracy that this sequence may imply.
How else to describe the early and quite-thorough diminution of women in the church?
When duly pressed, traditional sources have responded in the following ways:
1) The early church fathers (boldface mine) were led by the Holy Spirit;
Which never succeeded in stopping the church from making all manner of decisions that we would regard, today, as hideously barbaric;
2) The church merely adopted the prevailing male-dominated model for governing human institutions;
True enough, just as it never summoned the nerve to let the two commandments triumph over a legalistic spirituality, and just as it never summoned up the nerve to reject a pharisaical power structure;
3) The only contemporary spiritual organizations that were led by women were some of the pagan mystery cults, and there was a fear that the Jesus movement would morph into that form. And that, in order to ensure that Jesus was presented as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and not as a different god, it was necessary to embrace the patriarchal power structure of Judaism;
Considering the points that are outlined above, perhaps their fears were well-founded.
For even traditional Christianity would hold that God designed the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, as well as the resources behind his ministry.
That being the case, what are we to make of these facts?
What are we to make of a God who enters the world through no male agency; whose earthly work is resourced by women, and whose death and resurrection are witnessed by women?
Who has lit the temple candles for this God? And who carried that light through the darkest of nights in order to seek him out?
These facts may well prompt a well-slap-me-for-a-fool realization that Jesus intended to establish a largely female power structure.
In fact, had he not commissioned some male disciples…
…I would be inclined to believe that myself.
The accomplishments of the women remain, unsullied yet neglected.
The accomplishments of the males?
Hardly neglected, yet hardly living up to the bright promise of the beginning.
For it is a compromised word that has been spread; a message that is riddled with so many inconsistencies and contradictions that it has left a tide of disillusionment in it’s wake and acquired a reputation that makes it difficult to open new doors.
For there are those non-Christians who instantly sense the hypocrisy of our witness, in our words and in our deeds; and, learning about our central commission to love, they see the million deliberate and programmatic failures to love that have marred our history and ongoing life.
More than anything else, they see our tendencies to exclusion.
Even in so-called “Christian” countries, they are well-aware of those Christians who have bounced from early attraction and enthusiasm to worry to disillusionment to cynicism to permanent exile.
And, like the rest of us, they are well-aware of those former Christians who have embraced alternative religions and ways of being, particularly those who have embraced spiritual forms that empower women.
One example being Wicca.
So much for those earnest church fathers who worried about “pagan mystery cults”.
The prophecy is self-fulfilled.
And realized through the very attempts that were made to thwart it.
If you doubt my words, then consider just the contemporary movements underway that would seek to graft Mary Magdalene onto a variety of alternative spiritualities, ranging from New Age to Ancient Egyptian.
At the least, they do sense our lack of respect for women in general and Mary Magdalene in particular.
And, at the least, they do sense the stench of an injustice that would reach even to the thrones of their own Higher Powers.
What about ours?
I post new articles twice-monthly in “Author’s Corner”.
If you live in or near the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, and you would be interested in meeting with others for discussion and/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.
Toward Dawn is a privately-funded outreach, and it neither solicits nor accepts contributions.
Rob Wright holds advanced degrees in education and performing arts, and he has been a professional teacher for over seventeen years. In his home denomination, 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.