My personal Leviathan spoke today in a facebook note, which led me to draw this cartoon. Have you had that experience where you just ask a simple question and your friend just blows your mind? I get that a lot here at seminary... here's what M3 had to say:
I say I am Mary, and you wonder if I am the virgin or the whore...
I say I am neither—I’m a composite, conflation, combination that the past has melted into one person…from the many of yesterday…if I’m Magdalene, I’m a whore, if I’m Mother I’m a virgin. What if I’m neither? What if I’m both? What of Mary of Bethany—sister of Martha and Lazarus? Of Mary Salome? The nameless sinful woman Luke portrays? One of the authors of the Gospel of Mary? My voice is the chorus of many; my melody is a harmony of multitudes. I have become the preaching and teaching woman in the early church. The only woman given voice of proclamation in all four gospels—“I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18).
But there were many of us…women teachers and preachers. You can hear our whispers through the stories in the Gospels and the letters of Paul. Our words echo through the Apocryphal Gospel. I speak of an empty tomb and announce the miracle of the resurrection to Peter and the other twelve.
Can’t you see that I am a disciple of Jesus? Don’t you know that it is I who stood at the foot of the cross; it is I who cleansed and anointed his body; it is I who first saw the resurrected Savior? That I am the one to proclaim of his return to Peter and the others—where were the men when Jesus died on the cross? Where were they to help anoint his body? What has become Peter’s proclamation was mine. Did you know there’s a gospel written in my name? The women’s stories and voices continued after me, and I have heard them through the centuries in the book written not by me but about me. In fragments you uncovered the remnants of a tradition, of a story…a story of the resurrected Christ. A story that affirms the value of all people and the temporal nature of gender. It shows that he knew me, loved me, valued me…listened to my voice and taught me to teach and to preach.
In the story, I am the teacher, the preacher, the healer. When the others are distressed, I assure them…I remind them not to “weep and be distressed nor let their hearts be irresolute. For his grace will be with you all and will shelter you.” In this story, I hold teachings from the Savior…teachings about the soul and spiritual maturity. Stories of death and resurrection. Stories of sin and redemption. But Peter rebukes me and disputes my teachings. “Did he then speak with a woman in private without our know it? Are we to turn around and listen to her? Did he chose her over us.” In the tale, Levi speaks in my defense and reminds all that “we should clothe ourselves with the perfect Human, acquire it for ourselves as he commanded us, and announce the good news, not laying down any other rule or law that differs from what the Savior said.”
But your art, your music, your literature, your poetry have bent and soldered me into the rigid lines of your patriarchal institution…I am branded with many labels…whore, penitent, weeper, hermit, preacher, midwife, miracle worker. I have become a paradox that you’ve wrapped in issues of sexuality and sin. A Jezebel who only claims to be a disciple—the apostle to the apostles and nothing more.
What if I chose singlehood and celibacy and never knew a man? If I embraced the power of having freedom over my body? They suspected any of us who claimed that right. Said that we were defying the empire, not fulfilling our duty. If we married, we were merely property—objects to be used or abused at will. Is it any wonder we would choose celibacy? Through chastity we could transcend our flesh and loose the reigns of gender. For this choice we are remembered as whores. For this and our prophecy, our voices were lost to what you call the Greco-Roman society.
To prophecy is to break the unwritten law of culture, the code the expectation. We cannot preach as we were seen as the ones who brought sin into the world, who broke the divine order. For these reasons, we were to deny adornment and were hidden away. Our place was in doors…our place was of the home. Dare you venture to speak in public to preach and teach, you became Jezebel, a woman who “claimed to be prophetesses, who by her teaching lures my servants into fornication and into eating food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication” (Revelation 2:20-22). Seen as whore merely for preaching the Gospel, for believing in the Spirit, for desiring to baptize and break bread. Our heritage bought and sold for the price of the state. You label me the prostitute. But who did the selling?
Yes, I kept company with Jesus. And my sisters offered lodging to Paul. Did you miss the names of Prisca, Lydia, Rhoda, Phoebe, Junia? The lineage of our leading is long and harkens to mothers of the synagogue. Are you not convinced that I am the voice of many…that your memory of me is an amalgam of more? Though they not be Mary of Magdalene, did they not speak?
What others have to say about gender from the Blogroll:
Confesssions of a Seminarian: Men, Few in the Pews
DeConversion: I found out what is wrong with Christianity: It’s been Feminized!