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Jesus was an Ally

I’m sitting in church this morning, and I’m getting madder and madder. How much longer am I going to have to listen to that secondary, pitiful account of creation (“poor ol’ Adam—wah, wah, wah—all by his lonesome needed a helper”) and ignore the primary story of creation: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea….So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number…” (Genesis 1:26-28).

Why would my modern Episcopal church choose the wah-wah Adam story over the story of God’s creation of “them” “in our likeness”? The church has a choice, and by choosing the wah-wah story over the “in the image of God, male and female” story, we refuse to proclaim from the pulpit that women were created in the image of God exactly like, at the same time as, and with the same blessing as men. Instead, we validate and continue a story where women were only created because of some man’s needs.

I thought of walking out. I truly did. I felt complicit sitting there. (Was this life-long reaction to male-dominated storytelling exacerbated by the recent stamp of legitimacy on devaluing women as evidenced by the Kavanaugh hearing? You tell me.) But I didn’t want to leave my husband’s side, a man I love dearly who would fear I wasn’t feeling well. So I sat in the pew, and, finally, Jesus entered the scene.

The Gospel reading was the admonition against divorce found in Mark 10 where Jesus does the extraordinary thing of extending the right to divorce to women as well as men (“and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”) This was a radical departure from the belief at the time that women were property to be treated as men decided. Then, whoa, along comes Jesus and says, guess what? Women can divorce too. As a woman who divorced a rotten husband, I don’t like the admonition, but Jesus recognized I had the same right (and same responsibility) to divorce as my rotten husband did. How did Jesus get there? Well, he started with the primary creation story: “But at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.” He had to start there because you can’t get to equality starting with the wah-wah Adam story.

Now, I am fully aware that those who are against same-sex marriage and even same-sex love quote this “male and female” language to say, see: it’s only supposed to be male and female. But Jesus wasn’t asked, can same-sex couples marry? He was asked, can men divorce women? And Jesus said, yes, with consequences. And guess what? Women can too.

This is why Jesus was an ally of women. He found every opportunity to say, you blind men, quit judging it only from your point of view. If you want to divorce, understand women can too. If you’re without sin, throw your stone at this woman (this John 8:3-11 story isn’t the generic “don’t be a hypocrite” story it’s been turned into—it’s a specific story about men wanting to control and judge the sexuality of women while letting their own sexual behavior go unchecked.)

Further more, Jesus says, by the way, you women who have co-opted yourselves into the patriarchy? You open your eyes too. Quit telling other women they have to follow traditional homemaker roles (how many specific stories about women’s equality like Luke’s Mary/Martha story have we turned generic so we don’t have to hear the message?). And don’t call my mother blessed because she was a baby-maker; she was blessed because she followed God (Luke 11:27).

Jesus heard the devaluation of women in the question, in the comment, in the action. And, when he heard it, he called it out. That’s what an ally does. He stood up for the equality of women. The church has spent hundreds of years running from and piling dirt on top of this truth about Jesus, and it needs to stop.

As I said to my husband as we exited the church, “The only reason I’m a Christian is because of Jesus.” Literally, thank you Jesus for that.

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Comments (10)

  • Now you know why we left the Episcopal Church–passages like the ones you quote interpreted in a patriarchal context.
    But I think the church has changed–not enough IMO–but the liturgy is still sexist and demeaning.
    Do others in your parish share your views? Maybe all of you could make your feelings known to the Rector.
    Another issue implied here is how Scripture is viewed in your parish. Surely they don’t regard it as inerrant.
    I like the candor and anger very much.

    • Thanks, Joe. These were the liturgical readings for the day (the lessons (Bible readings) assigned from the liturgical calendar followed by the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches.) I don’t know how much leeway a congregation has in selecting from the readings. The priest, God bless his soul, was the one who preached about the extraordinary thing Jesus did in proclaiming that women could divorce too. So I can’t complain about my parish or the priest (and it was kind of like Jesus comes to save the day 🙂 ) I have never been in a congregation, however, that interpreted the other scripture passages about Mary/Martha, the adulterous woman, or Mary as baby maker as I have.

  • I came to the conclusion a while ago that Jesus is okay…. but I don’t have much faith in the people who claim to speak for him.

  • Yes, this will preach, E.
    Spend the 25 minutes to listen to Roz Nichols’ sermon I posted this morning on fb. It dovetails.

  • I wish I had the time and space to comment properly on your experience and on mine at a Catholic church this morning. Our lectionaries run in parallel most of the time, so the readings were the same. Unfortunately, I am away from my home parish and wound up having to endure a homily about the complementary nature of male and female, the equating of male/female with masculine/feminine, and the exclusive use of male pronouns in referencing the Creator God. It was painful.

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