Women in the Bible

A 1996 study by Sr. Ruth Fox analyzed passages chosen for the lectionary, the book of biblical readings used in liturgical celebrations. http://www.futurechurch.org/watw/womeninbibleandlectionary.htm

She found that passages in the Bible about women performing significant deeds have been omitted or relegated to weekdays instead of Sundays or “neatly sliced out of the middle of the lectionary passage.” The pattern of exclusion could not have been accidental. It was deliberate, and it reinforces the message promulgated by Church officials: Women are subordinate to men in regard to sacred matters.

Fox cites examples in the scriptures known to most Christians as Old and New Testaments. Some omissions are almost laughable because the reading stops just at the point when women are depicted as dignified messengers from God to humanity. And sometimes, writes Fox, “Passages containing positive references to [women] are left out while those containing negative references are retained.”

It’s all about perception. Deletion of passages about women leaders from readings of the Bible in church reinforces the exclusion of women from decision making in the Church.

Women in the Church need to make more rapid progress in prodding it toward gender justice. They could learn from women in the secular sphere. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy changed perceptions about women as leaders. In discussions about policies, speakers now refer to officials in companies, to members of Congress, and to a hypothetical president as “he or she.” The Catholic Church is way behind.

But life is not static. Religions, like species, thrive or die, depending on their ability to adapt to changes. My hopes rest on evolving attitudes toward woman power.

Women in the 4th Gospel    April 14, 2017

Theologian Sandra Schneiders renewed my attraction to the Fourth Gospel. Years ago, when I became aware of Christian myth and broke out of the Christian envelope, I didn’t like the Fourth for the same reason that most Christians favor it—because it does the best job of turning Jesus into God.

I recall the time a fellow writer, a minister, learned that I did not believe Jesus is God. He quoted, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life”
"The historical Jesus did not say these things," I answered. The minister knew I studied theology. He never came back to our writers group.

Then I read an article by a Hindu who finds the I AM passages in the Fourth ravishingly beautiful. They leave him "in an uplifted internal state" by evoking divinity in every individual, religious or non-religious. For "divinity" we can substitute "inner intelligence" or "moral sense."

I AM the shepherd, I AM the door, I AM the vine, I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world, I AM the way, the truth, the life. The Hindu writer recognized the I AM inside each of us.

Years later, someone in my woman-priest community, Mary Magdalene, First Apostle, brought evidence that Mary Magdalene was the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel. She was its founding author.

This seems preposterous when you first hear it. I invite you to change your mind by reading,  Mary Magdalene authored the 4th Gospel

Sandra Schneiders gave me new reason to cherish this gospel in an address at Newman Center. She finds in it four strong women, not one-dimensional women but capable of rational intelligence and of interacting with Jesus unmediated by men. She is more tough-minded, unconventional, courageous, committed, and powerful than many men in the gospels.

The Samaritan woman at the well (Chapter 4) converts her whole Samaritan town. Martha of Bethany (Chapter 11) leads her household, and her confession in Jn 11:27 surpasses Peter's in Mt 16:16. Mary of Bethany (Chapter 12) anoints the feet of Jesus. When Judas protests her extravagance, Jesus defends her. Most impressive is Mary Magdalene, the first to witness the risen Christ (Chapter 20).
These women protagonists break the mold of stereotypical portrayals of women.

I see differently two points made by Schneiders.

1) In criticizing the Church for its "canonized prejudice" (this phrase raised delighted laughter from her listeners), she stated that the over-arching problem in the Church's treatment of women, that from which all others flow, is clericalism. I don't think that's the  main problem. It's sexist God-talk.

The patriarchal concept of what's called "God" trumps every other sexist sin in Christianity, including clericalism. Everything would change, almost effortlessly, if the faithful were allowed to conceptualize the Highest Value imaginable as feminine.
If Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Intelligence, Power—whatever one holds highest—were called “Mother,” everything would change.

If appeals to Mother or “Her” became as commonplace as appeals to “Lord Father Him,” church people and people around the world, whatever their beliefs, would experience less sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and every other kind of bigotry. I believe people would be less cruel, less violent. The damage done by the patriarchal god of Western religion negatively impacts everything in human experience.

2)  Schneiders scoffed at Catholic women priests because they participate in clericalism. True. But Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) are well aware of this.  Nevertheless, women’s ordination is an effective way to resist the official Church’s mistreatment of women. And as individuals, Catholic women priests model non-clericalism.

After the presentation and questions, I asked Schneiders whether Mary Magdalene could have been the Beloved Disciple and the author of the Fourth. She agreed. “But of course, it can’t be proven.” Of course.

Again, I invite you to Mary Magdalene authored the 4th Gospel and hope you find the evidence as convincing as I did.


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