Monday, December 26, 2016

11 Ways Jesus Fought Patriarchy

Patriarchy is the system of a society which grants a male perspective, power and principles greater pull than women’s, even though both are equally human.  In the Jewish tradition Jesus grew up in, both equality between sexes and a male-centric view was available, but his society was focused on the male.  Only men were granted places of authority, only men were allowed to interpret law (which gave them control over politics and ethics), and men alone were allowed to conduct family business.

It must be admitted that Jesus upheld the patriarchy at points.  Only men were allowed to be in the inner 12, and he allowed men to buster and command as if they were really in charge of his community.  Nevertheless, there are a number of ways that we can see that Jesus was trying to undermine the male-centric society.

1.  Jesus took on female disciples
Jesus was running a religious/political school, and there were some rules about how these schools worked, one of which is that no female students allowed.  They would distract the men, and women wouldn’t be allowed to interpret the law or wield influence (If you aren’t sure on this, watch Yentl).  But Jesus welcomed female students.  There was a small group of women who “followed” him just like the male disciples.  And Jesus openly encouraged Mary, the sister of Martha, to participate in his teaching sessions, saying, “She has chosen the better part.”

2. Jesus defended women over men
While a teacher might approve of something a woman said, in a patriarchal society they wouldn’t support a woman over a man, because this would shame the man.  Jesus, however, publicly rebuked men when they were on the wrong side of an argument with a woman.  Jesus sided with the woman anointing him over his disciple, Jesus even sided with a prostitute over a high-standing politician in the politician’s own party.  In fact, we have no example of Jesus siding with a man over a woman. 

3. Jesus promoted "feminine" virtues over "male"
Most teachers of Jesus’ day upheld the principles of law and justice in judgment was the most essential principle.  Jesus, on the other hand, upheld the more “feminine” or relational, gentle virtues.  He told the Pharisees to learn this verse: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”  He spoke of love, humility and compassion as the principles which causes one to be right with God and to build a spiritual community on.

4. Jesus defended “non-feminine” roles for women
Jesus found himself in an argument between two sisters, Mary and Martha.  Martha insisted that her sister not be lazy, but to take on her proper role in the patriarchy, which was to serve the men.  Jesus took Mary’s side, claiming that her role of being a student is better than her traditional female role.  I’m sure Martha was fuming that she didn’t have help doing the dishes.  If Jesus had been on the ball, I’m sure he would have sent Judas to help her.

5. Jesus taught equality between husband and wife
In Genesis, there are two creation stories of the forming of men and women.  One supports men and women being equally created and unified in marriage.  The second promotes patriarchy, teaching that women were created from the “side portion” of men.  Jesus never mentions the second story, but quotes the whole passage of female equality in relation to a matter of divorce, in which women got the worst end.

6. Jesus kicked the businessmen from the woman’s court
It was the policy of the high priest of Jesus’ day to allow people to exchange image-filled money with temple-approved money for sacrifices.  But Jerusalem was short on space, so the high priest allowed the money-changers to conduct their business in the “women’s court”, which was the only part of the temple women were allowed to worship and pray in.  Jesus threw the businessmen out, changing the high priest’s policy, reserving the space of women’s worship to be for them.

7. Jesus called himself a mother hen
In his sorrow over Jerusalem, Jesus proclaimed, “How I longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks.”  Not a great blow for feminine equality, but his heart is in the right place.

8. Jesus defended a woman caught in adultery
The famous story about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery is often placed in the book of John, but it doesn’t really belong there.  Some old manuscripts place the same story in Luke, but it doesn’t really belong there, either.  We don’t know where it goes, or if it’s really something Jesus did.  But we think it sound like something Jesus would do.  Why?  Because he defends a woman, who was “caught in adultery”, but the men who brought her didn’t bring the other culprit she was caught with.  Again, Jesus in this story promotes the female principle of forgiveness over punishment.

9. Jesus gave a woman primary place in his gospel
There is only one person whom Jesus guarantees a place in his story: the woman (some say Mary) who anointed his feet and who got yelled for it.  Jesus said, “Wherever the gospel,” (gospel =  good news of victory) “is taught, what this woman did will be told.”  This woman’s act is central to Jesus’ victory over the society of the world.  Partly because it was a woman who did it.  Without women, Jesus recognizes, his story would never be told.

10. Jesus recognized a woman’s gift over the wealthy
In looking at the givers to the Temple, Jesus recognized one person over the rest—a woman who had no standing in society, no way to make money because she had no husband to stand for her.  She gave a small coin, but because it was all she had to live on, Jesus proclaimed her gift the greatest.  (He did not, however, say it was just, as he rebuked those who collected the money as “devourers of widow’s homes.”)

11. Jesus’ first resurrection witness was a woman

The greatest thing for woman Jesus did was for Mary Magdalene.   She was the first--and for a while, only—witness of Jesus’ resurrection.  This was in a society in which woman couldn’t be a legal witness, where men didn’t have to believe women’s testimony.  But Mary was the one Jesus trusted to tell the story without twisting it.  No matter what, every man who told the story had to admit that a woman knew about Jesus’ resurrection before anyone else.  That she had to tell them, because they were in the dark.  This is a fitting beginning to a society built upon equity.

Too bad it fell from that lofty position so quickly and firmly. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Seven Kinds of Misfits in the Christmas Story

Mary, Joseph and Jesus,
known by Joseph's family as the
Unholy Trinity: "slut, wimp and bastard"
There isn't a single Nativity story, but most of the story is found in two sections of the Bible: Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2.  If there is one theme that runs through this story, it is that the soon-to-be-born and newborn Messiah, king of the earth, attracted the most unsavory people.

1. An adulterous wife
Mary, the mother of Jesus, received a great "blessing" of a pregnancy from God... the blessing of being accused of an unfaithful slut.  She was already engaged to Joseph, a trade-worker, so when she shows up pregnant, it's clear that someone wasn't following the rules. Frankly, under the rules of first century Palestine, she could have been stoned to death.  Her (soon to be) husband kept her from this fate because he was...

2. A mystical wimp
Joseph didn't want his fiancee killed, he just wanted her drama to go away.  That is, until he got a dream about an angel.  He didn't even get a face-to-face like his woman, he just had some spicy pizza and dreamed up an angel telling him to go ahead and marry the slut.  He even told the wimp what to name the kid when he was born.  He woke up and said, "Well, I know what to do now."  Really, how many people take their nighttime fantasies as commands?

3. A Communist
Mary decided it was a great time to hang with her cousin in the country, and while she was there she was singing communist propaganda. She sang about revolution and the proletariat taking over.  She also sang about communist deeds like feeding the hungry and taking possessions from the rich.  She was a real party-goer, that Mary.

4. Judgmental family members
We know that Joseph had to go to Bethlehem.  But he had to go there because that was his family home.  He didn't try to go to an "inn" but to a "guest room" that his family home had for visitors.  The room was "full", meaning they didn't have room for a socialist pregnant slut that their wimpy nephew decided to hook up with.  They can go out into the stables.

5. Smelly homeless people
Shepherds, back in the day, didn't smell like mothballs or the back of a church closet.  Rather, they smelled like sheep.  Take  a wool sweater, get it wet, roll it in some dirt and grass and then stick it in a box for a month.  NOW you know what shepherd smells like.  These "workers" just hung out with sheep, trying to find someone's lawn for the animals to chomp on.  So everyone within a hundred miles of every flock (read: everyone) hated these wandering guys who liked sheep a bit too much.  For some reason, the angels thought these were the guys who needed to see the great King pop out from a vagina.

6. Nasty Old Fanatics
When Jesus' parents brought him to the temple to have his foreskin ripped off his penis with an ancient "knife", two old people accosted them.  First was Simeon who was "told by God" that he would see the Messiah before he died.  Perhaps he knew the day was coming and just picked out a likely looking male baby and declared his allegiance to that slobbering, wetting-himself King.  Then eighty four year old Anna "who never left the temple" to like eat, or anything saw Simeon fawning over the brat, so she had to have a piece of the spiritual action.

7. Slackers
Those "wise men" we hear about?  They were actually astrologers, who saw a sign in the stars about the king to be born.  So they decided to pop over and see the king.  Only problem?  They lives in Persia, and cars weren't to be invented for a couple thousand years.  So they hoofed it, not having anything better to do, which took them a couple years, so the kid wasn't a baby anymore, but a toddler.  Meanwhile, they got the attention of the local king (read: serial murderer). and gave him the kid's whereabouts.  Then the bums scooted out of time before the genocide began. If it wasn't for another vision of the wimp, the toddler king would have bit the big one.

The whole point is this: the King of Jerusalem, the Teacher of Love, the Jewish Emperor of Heaven, the Son of God... or the Nazarene Bastard, whatever you want to call him... seemed to have a habit even before birth to hang out with people who had less-than-pristine reputations.  Maybe he wanted to have a community made up of the same, you think?  Perhaps he picked up his mother's communist tendencies?

Thursday, December 15, 2016


"NO! I don't wanna go to the doctor!  I wanna watch Dora!"

"Just let me sleep in, dad.  I don't want to go to school."

"Don't take away the Wifi!  I can do the stupid dishes later! Stop!"

"Why shouldn't I have a car?  I'm 16 and I've passed my driver's exam.  I'm old enough."

"You never understood me!"

"I hate you.  I HATE YOU!"

And the parent waits, patiently.  She waits expectantly. The child must grow, become more than he is.  Not that his present state is bad.  Just unfinished.

The parent does understand.  He had to pass through all of these minor deaths, these sheddings of the past self. He needed someone to stand for him, to press him on toward maturity, when he wouldn't do it himself.

Growth is always better when accomplished by one's choice-- most of the time it doesn't happen any other way.  But every single one of us have faced a time when growth had to be forced on us, when we did not have the discipline or wisdom to accomplish the next step of maturity on our own.  When we were so caught up in ourselves, in our problems, in our pain, that we had no idea that we were the problem.  That we had to be taken out of the equation in order for growth to occur.

Forced growth is anger-inducing, forcing us to face our greatest fear: that we are inadequate for the future.  Although surrounded by many who have been through that same process, we scream about our complete solitude, how no one could possibly understand.

Thank you, Father, for patiently leading us to greener pastures, even through the valley of the shadow of death.