Friday, May 10, 2019

JFK & Mary Magdalene

John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage. The book deserved the honor but not the purported author. Kennedy did conceive the idea and some of the content, but he did none of the research or writing. Most of that was done by Theodore Sorenson, whom Kennedy called his “research assistant.” Sorenson is the one who gave the book its “drama and flow,” according to historian Herbert Parmet. Ted Sorenson was essentially the ghostwriter of Profiles in Courage

I see a parallel in the gospel I call the “Fourth Gospel” instead of the “Gospel of John.” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do not really name authors of the gospels. Each of these gospel names, for various reasons, developed while the gospels were being passed around. They became convenient tags for identifying and discussing the gospels, but they are not the authors’ names.

“John” was thought to be the only real name of the Fourth Gospel, because John is named at the beginning, in Jn 1: 6. But the intriguing character in this gospel is the Beloved Disciple. And that person was Mary Magdalene, according to Ramon Jusino, whose reasoning I presented in my post, “Mary Magdalene authored the 4th G.”

I made the mistake of titling the 2014 post, “Mary Magdalene wrote the 4th Gospel,” and some readers commented that a woman could not possibly have written it. They were right. She didn’t, but she led the community that produced the Fourth Gospel.

All gospels in the New Testament were oral works first, evolving in communities that told stories about Jesus. Finally, the stories were organized and written down. Jusino attributes authorship of the Fourth Gospel to Mary Magdalene by building on the work of Raymond Brown, premier expert on the Fourth Gospel. According to Brown, the gospel was authored by the anonymous Beloved Disciple mentioned in 7 puzzling passages.

I urge readers to follow my link to Jusino’s article in “Mary Magdalene authored the 4th G.” where I summarize his arguments. He turned my initial skepticism into unreserved acceptance of his conclusion. Now it seems obvious to me that Mary Magdalene’s name completes the Beloved Disciple passages and that her name was written out of the story by patriarchal redactors. Go to my post for Jusino’s evidence, but here I intend to show how naturally Mary Magdalene fits into the narrative.

Jn 19: 25-27:
Near the cross of Jesus there stood his mother, his mother’s sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Seeing his mother there with the disciple whom he loved, Jesus said to his mother, “Woman there is your son.”
In turn he said to the disciple, “There is your mother.” From that hour onward, the disciple took her into his care.
Little imagination is needed to see that Mary Magdalene was originally the “disciple whom he loved” and who took care of his mother.

Jn 20: 1-2:
Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away, so she ran off to Simon Peter and the other disciple (the one Jesus loved) and told them, “The Lord has been taken from the tomb! We don’t know where they have put him.”
What follows in Jn 20:3-9 is a race to the tomb between Peter and another (male) disciple, who wins the race. Then this odd sequence in Jn 20:10-11:
With this, the disciple went back home. Meanwhile, Mary stood weeping beside the tomb. Even as she wept, she stooped to peer inside . . .
The redactor had gotten Mary out of the picture by saying she ran off to tell the men. How did Mary suddenly come to be standing at the tomb?

What follows is one of the most touching stories for Christian believers in the gospels. Mary Magdalene sees a man she does not recognize as Jesus until he says, “Mary!” The redactor did not deprive Mary Magdalene of this moment, although he interrupted her poignant story by inserting a race to the tomb by men.

Apocryphal writings that were not chosen for the New Testament state that Peter envied Mary Magdalene’s closeness to Jesus. Jn 21: 20-24 also suggests that Peter envied her. The “disciple whom Jesus loved” asks,
“Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus said to him,” If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
Although Jesus’ meaning is not clear, we infer that he tells Peter to stop competing.

The Fourth Gospel ends by saying the Beloved Disciple witnessed these things and “his” testimony is true. Jusino makes a convincing case for believing that that witness was Mary Magdalene.

I hope readers take the time to read “Mary Magdalene authored the 4th G.” and click on the link to Jusino’s article. His cogent arguments seem indisputable to me. I think the rare doubters I’ve encountered could not possibly have read the evidence and absorbed it.

Inserting Mary Magdalene’s name into the Fourth Gospel, particularly Jn 19: 25-27, Jn 20: 1-11 and Jn 21: 20-24, is the only way to make sense of the odd passages. It also helps to explain the unique perspective of the Fourth Gospel. Giving a man credit for a woman’s accomplishment is an old story repeated in history thousands of times.

Don’t miss reader comments following my original post at “Mary Magdalene authored the 4th G.” I think it provoked the most informed comments I’ve ever received on my blog. Note the varied responses to Dan Brown’s novels. 

Next time I plan to reflect on how I imagine Mary Magdalene’s influence might account for the unique content of the Fourth Gospel.   

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Silver Lining

This email came to me:
H.L. Mencken had it right when he said, “As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron."
H. L. Mencken.  The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

“Ouch!” I replied. “I don't like that sentiment at all.”

I prefer to look at the silver lining of any bad situation. If Hillary Clinton were in the White House now, the country would be less aware of immigrant suffering; less aware of conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; less open to people of color inhabiting our country; less accepting of Black rights; less opposed to gun "rights"; less aware of climate change.

And the list goes on. A Hillary Clinton presidency would have roused more furious right-wing emotion. She would not have been able to implement her ideas for domestic policy reforms. Our country needed Trump to show how bad right-wing ideology—which is not true conservatism—can get. Now we have to take advantage of the natural pendulum swing back toward the values needed to restore good government.

Years ago my spiritual reading led me to the habit of looking for what's right when everything looks wrong. This habit and a spirit of gratefulness keep me sane.

P.S. "I think HLM might have been referring to Harding," wrote Bill.
        I think this astute reader is right.
        "Quite timely though," added Bill.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Women, Blacks, and violence

Time magazine has a great article by Henry Louis Gates, America's Second Sin, and starting this evening, PBS presents the series, Reconstruction: America after The Civil War. In article and television broadcast, Gates informs us with amazing facts about Reconstruction that were unknown to me until recently. Also, I'm convinced after 16 years of supervising student teachers, unknown to high school teachers of American history. I don't blame the teachers; I blame our still-racist society.

Reconstruction raised African Americans from slavery to dignified positions in society. They became voters, educators, and legislators. Then, the federal government gave in to Southern states and they rolled back the gains of people freed by the 14th and 15th Amendments. One tiny fact. In 1898, 130,000 black men were registered to vote in Louisiana. By 1904, only 6 years later, the number had dwindled to 1,342.

Whenever I hear or read stories of Blacks acting with courage to counter white supremacy, I am inspired to keep working for women's equality in religion. All stories of overcoming injustice are related. In the Catholic Church, most voices demanding equality for women support women's ordination. A German Benedictine prioress raised a stir by doing this.

But supporting women's ordination is not enough.  In a letter printed in National Catholic Reporter, I wrote that cleaning up clergy sex abuse needs to include cleaning up sexist God-talk.

Maybe we're taking a turn to justice, because the highest levels of Church authority can no longer deny the Church's misogyny and violence against women. Pope Francis acknowledged the dirty secret that priests have been sexually assaulting nuns. 

Thanks to the #MeToo movement gone worldwide for making it impossible to keep these secrets any longer. But unveiling clergy sex abuse is only the beginning. To overturn inequality for women, the whole system of patriarchy needs to be overturned.

Patriarchy keeps all systems of injustice in place by endorsing unequal power. We need to topple the exclusively-male God-images perpetuating the injustices. Praying to Her needs to become as normal and right as praying to Him.

Don't forget to watch Reconstruction: America after The Civil WarIn my area it's on Channel 2 at 8:00 Central Time.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Women's Peacemaking Ignored

I’m profoundly moved by women’s struggles for justice around the world.

Editors and writers of a women’s magazine at the Vatican quit the magazine in protest. Its founder, Lucetta Scaraffia, sent an open letter to Pope Francis explaining their action. Woman Church World, the Vatican’s only publication run by women, has been published monthly by L’Osservatore Romano since 2012.

The new editor, explained Scaraffia, tried to control the magazine’s content by selecting women for the staff who would follow the line dictated by men. Pressure on the current staff increased when they reported that nuns had been sexually abused and were being economically exploited by priests.

PBS just concluded an outstanding series—Women, War, & Peace. The unbelievable courage and persistence of women struggling for peace against men determined to make war and ignore women brought tears to my eyes. The 4-part series documents neglected stories of heroic struggles by women in Northern Ireland, Palestine, Egypt, and Bangladesh.

In each fight, women recognized the need for collaboration with perceived enemies and acted on it. From opposite camps women reached out to each other and formed organizations to bond with their counterparts. Men followed, but not enough to sway official deals.

In Northern Ireland, former senator George Mitchell and Hillary Clinton praised the women of Northern Ireland for their peace work, but in the end the peace deal brokered by Mitchell, the famed Good Friday Agreement, demoted the work of women.

Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation since 1967. As the years pass, the plight of Palestinians grows no better. It could be said that it grows steadily worse and the injustice reaches its lowest point with the alliance of Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump.

But the Women, War, & Peace segment on Palestine informs us of events leading up to the Oslo Peace Accords. During the first intifada in 1987, imprisoned Palestinian women formed bonds that strengthened them to lay the groundwork for peace. But the famed photo showing Bill Clinton presiding over Mahmoud Abbas shaking hands with Yitzhak Rabin includes only men. No credit is given to women, who were working on a deal that would have been far better for Palestinians.

The heartbreaking story of Hend Nafea in Egypt almost prompted me to turn off the TV because it was so painful. I know I could not have endured the torture. Repeatedly she endured assaults but continued working for the human rights of others.

I encourage readers to go online and learn more. Again and again women’s contributions are bypassed or made invisible. Fights continue and women continue to work for peace. The planet depends on their efforts.

A must-see for central Minnesotans on April 4: Esteemed theologian Elizabeth Johnson is coming to St. John’s.  Her book, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, strikes me as a principal study in all theological discourse.

Friday, March 15, 2019

My next book soon

Beyond Parochial Faith: A Catholic Confesses is on the way. Emails tell me I haven't written about it enough. I learned that not all my readers know another book of mine is on the way. Beyond Parochial Faith is a memoir telling, not only about outer events in my life, but my inner evolutionhow my faith evolved beyond my very-Catholic upbringing on a Stearns County farm.

My story includes a grandmother heading off lecherous men, my midlife meltdown, the historical Jesus and the Goddess, both clueless and astute seminarians, helpful and astute Benedictines, atheists, Teilhard de Chardin, and Carl Jung,

I define faith as trust in spiritual power. With this I join everyone else who accepts something other than outer things we can see, feel, hear, smell, or taste. A few people I know and more whose writings I read don't believe anything else exists. Called scientific materialists, they deny the existence of any spiritual reality.

Scientific materialists are created by religious preaching that makes no sense. I went through the same disbelief, but life soon told me that, whatever the failings of religions, we're not just cells and molecules.

Our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and expectations are far more important than the stuff of us felt by outer senses. Deep inside we are God-stuff. Religions suggest this with myths, but they do it in a way that misleads.

One consequence for the Catholic Church is the clergy sex abuse scandal. After the abuse summit called by Francis at the Vatican, I wrote a letter to National Catholic Reporter commenting on the outcome. Instead of taking effective action, the bishops responsible for this raging scandal cluelessly, stubbornly, clung to clergy culture. American bishops proposed that archbishops take care of it by investigating bishops.

NCR printed my letter. I can't find it online so I print it here:
"Vatican likely to empower archbishops on abuse claims against bishops" (NCR, Dec. 28-Jan. 10):
Clerics investigating clerics are expected to mend the clerical sex abuse scandal? With this suggestion, the U.S. bishops show they still don't get it. Expecting clerics to clean house in their own ranks is precisely what perpetuated the problem. 
The only fix worth considering is to release control to laypeople and secular authorities. Conferences of the Catholic hierarchy produce only more controlling patriarchal claptrap
Feminine energy is needed to balance clerical culture. If the prelates sincerely want reform, they will ordain women, let themselves be re-educated by women theologians, fill seminaries with women faculty, and practice praying to Her as well as to Him.
Thank you, NCR, for printing my non-conformist letters.
NCR plus good Catholics in my life keep me in the Church, which I left for a while but went back to. I invite you to watch my journey in Beyond Parochial Faith when it comes out.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

How to rid Church of hypocrisy

Again I offer an excuse for not writing here more often. I've been preoccupied with getting my memoir ready for publication. That consumes my writing energy--how many hours it takes amazes me--but I keep up with my usual reading of magazines and newspapers. For Catholic news, National Catholic Reporter is tops. The latest NCR turns my attention to the following.

Officials in the Church finally are responding to outside pressure and removing the cloak of secrecy hiding their sexual misdeeds.  German Cardinal Reinhard Marx admitted that Church files documenting sexual crimes were destroyed or never created. Victims' rights were "trampled underfoot."

The word "hypocrisy" now is heard in official  mea culpas.
An excerpt from a new book, In the Closet of  the Vatican, contains facts that surprised me, despite decades of reading about sex abuse in the Church. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. I didn't.

Author Frédéric Martel spent four years investigating, "living immersed in the Church" by installing himself "inside the Vatican" one week every month. The outcome is this book. He writes,
The Vatican has one of the biggest gay communities in the world, . . .
According to Martel,  what bothers Pope Francis--and I think it should bother us--is not that the cardinals and bishops in the Vatican are gay but that they publicly denounce homosexuality while actively practicing it in secret.
. . . the dizzying hypocrisy of those who advocate a rigid morality while at the same time having a companion, affairs, and sometimes escorts.
In Minnesota, John Nienstedt, Archbishop of St. Paul, demonstrated such hypocrisy, although not with a regular companion. Before a statewide election on gay marriage, he led a campaign against it by sending a DVD to every Catholic household in the Catholic parishes of Minnesota at the cost of a million dollars funded by an anonymous donor (Would that such largesse be used to relieve suffering!)

Martel confirms an observation of mine:
the more homophobic a priest is, the greater the chance that he himself will be homosexual.
After Nienstedt's campaign failed, I learned from two personal sources that Nienstedt himself was undoubtedly gay. Subsequently, his reputation has been completely destroyed amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Finally Church officials are admitting some things: that secrets must be aired and victims compensated, that Church officials cannot police themselves and clear guidelines are needed for bringing prelates to justice.

The biggest lesson has not been learned or even talked about.

Martel writes that "the broadly homosexual dimension"is key to understanding "facts that have stained the history of the Vatican for decades . . ." Among them he lists the disastrous prohibition on artificial contraception by Pope Paul VI and "unfathomable misogyny of many cardinals and bishops."
And, "alas," he writes, homosexuality is one key to explaining institutionalized cover-up of sexual crimes. Martel himself is gay and likes the gay men in the Vatican, but he gets it. I also like gay men and my book reveals one reason.

I admire Martel's insight as far as it goes. Neither he nor other commentators on the sex scandal have seen its connection to the exclusively male image of God imposed by the Vatican in liturgical language.

Think about it. Misogyny (hatred of women and girls) and God having to be lord, father, he, him, his without fail. Of course, they're connected. So thoroughly has the male god been drummed into people that my computer rebels every time I write "She" in reference to God.

I don't believe the Catholic Church can clean up its sex scandal without cleaning up its sexist God-talk.

March 1, 2019

On Sunday I went to Mass with the Mary Magdalene, First Apostle community, after which we discussed In the Closet of the Vatican, the sex scandal, and my blog post (above).

Malcolm (see his comment in last post) asked, “Why are men in the Vatican misogynists?” Good question.
He pointed out that you’d think men who belong to minorities (gays) could be expected to sympathize with other groups who are marginalized. 

The “unfathomable misogyny of Vatican cardinals and bishops” is both enlightening and befuddling. Gay men I know seem to understand the feminine perspective better than straight men. 

I experience gay men as talented and creative, less focused on sports, more appreciative of the arts, and more supportive of women than many straight men.
Gays don’t hate women. So why are cardinals and bishops in the Vatican misogynist?

Is it because the hierarchs have given themselves privileges? They claim that ordination sets them on a level higher than ordinary humans. Excluding women from their exclusive club worked for years.

A Benedictine friend bemoaned the Church’s abuse scandal. I confess I’m glad of it.
The Church hierarchy is being called to account. That's good.  The Catholic Church does not have hegemony where it once did. That's good. People are thinking more critically about religion and spirituality. That's good. Spirituality is becoming less tied to specific religions in localities. That's good.

Now we need to evolve to the ultimate lesson taught by Church sex scandals—the need to stop worshiping lords. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Political worries

My outdoor thermometer registered 32 degrees below zero about 6:20 yesterday morning. I'm fortunate because I don't have to leave my house. On I-94 I saw traffic moving, less heavy than usual but not by much, it seemed to mepeople going to work or doing necessary chores, I'm sure.

Pre-publication tasks have taken my mind away from blogging but not from political events. On MPR I heard a political scientist review our history since 1969 and express concern for the state of our nation today.

In the January 11 to 24 issue of National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters wrote,
The country is headed into some rough and uncharted waters. We Americans have not witnessed such a direct threat to democratic norms since, well, never.
This is worse than Watergate, worse than the McCarthy hearings. Our nation has faced other kinds of crisis, from the Civil War to the Great Depression, and in those times the constancy of our democratic norms has been a source of solidarity.
He expressed doubt that Republican leaders today would act as courageously as Republican leaders during the Watergate era.

I take heart from the editorial in the same issue of NCR, which quotes a roster of respected conservative columnists, all critics of Trump: Michael Gerson, George Will, the late Charles Krauthammer, and David Brooks. I consider them true conservatives, whom I distinguish from right-wingers.

In the latest developmentnew ones come every day—Trump lashed out at intelligence chiefs who corrected his false claims. He called them "naive" and suggested they "go back to school." Some people are outraged by his foolishness. Not I.
I laugh at the image of a kindergartner mouthing off at college professors.

Although I title this post "Political worries," I'm less worried than most. I think, finally,  Trump's boast that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose voters, which so far seemed accurate, will prove less than prophetic. 
As the foolishness and cruelty of right-wing ideology grows impossible to miss, it is bound eventually to be undone.

Looking for the silver cloud, I see how this unsavory Trump saga has uncovered trends in our political system that need mending. Only when the public can clearly see what's wrong can remedies occur. Signs of public awakening appear for eyes to see. 

Awareness is growing that capitalist markets left unregulated cause severe injustice. Groups historically excluded from power have been roused to action. They're entering politics. 
Women and other marginalized groups are smarter about societal norms because they've had to swim in waters not of their own culture. We can realistically expect more diversity in political leaders to produce good outcomes. 

When things reach their lowest point, there's nowhere to go but up. Trump is not the cause of what's wrong; he's the effect. And also the billboard showing what needs to change. 

Before the 2016 election, a psychic friend received the image of the sun rising at the horizon, about to rise over it. After that election, she saw the sun higher, above the horizon and still rising.

The picture may be bleak now, but I have faith in our system surviving and growing stronger from it. My generation will not see the far-reaching consequences. They'll appear after we're gone.

(I'm powerless to control the  font change.)