Mary. Mother of Jesus. Badass!

DaisyJane

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This article recently came up on my FB feed.


A fellow theologian wondered about whether whether a more "moderate" view of Mary might offer a "sounder" argument.

My response was the following:

Ultimately I don't disagree with you. But as a woman who was only introduced to feminist theology in any meaningful way in recent years, I cannot deny that I find the exploration of Biblical women in more feminist and assertive ways appealing. Like many women my age, and likely many women period I would guess, I have been on the receiving end of some implicit and explicit messaging around the sacrificial and submissive roles of women for much of my life - messages that often serve to limit the potential of women and girls. Christian stories about women rarely explore the role of the woman as a badass heading off to something to do something epic - certainly a result of the patriarchal structures that exist with the church. For my formative years the very human element of the church sent strong messages about the value of modest, quiet, girls and women who toe the line, not kick the line and demand it be reimagined. We were openly rewarded for being "good girls" (and yes, that even included the state of our hymen as mentioned in the article), and were often chastised when we were more adventurous, or challenged the status quo.

I admit that these messages are human vs. Biblically based, and often perpetuated by men - so there's a problem there. But I was certainly fed a steady diet of these messages, and it has only been in recent years that I have openly challenged them. . As the proverbial good girl (granted, all grown up now) I have found these sorts of articles that celebrate the audacity and strength of Biblical women very liberating. I love the fact that we are exploring alternative and empowering narratives of Biblical women and I am fine with the pendulum swinging a tad too far in the other direction as part of the reaction. It will correct in time.

And in terms of the housework - there is simply no denying that statistically speaking housework largely remains women's work for a a significant portion of the world. Biblical narratives that portray women as natural keepers of the home (regardless of the value of that work) have served to trap women and girls in varying degrees in those very homes and limit their potential.

What are your thoughts?
 
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Mrs.Anteater

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I think that Mary was a young girl who got pregnant by a likely much older man as it probably wasn’t an unusual occurrence back then as it still is in parts of this world. The special “ magic” of Christmas was that the young woman wasn’t driven out of the village and stoned for it but that the fiancé took responsibility and stood by her.
I don’t think there is any need to interpret old stories into modern feminist stories.
Mary was turned into an approachable “ mother figure” by the Catholic church, probably because of the history of God, priests and Jesus not being approachable for the common Catholic over many centuries. I think that was also the reason to come up with so many saints to pray to.
 

DaisyJane

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I share your opinion that Mary was probably a young girl who got pregnant in the more traditional way.

Where I probably disagree is the need for feminist interpretations of Biblical stories, particularly stories involving women. I feel feminist interpretations are essential. Men have been interpreting and telling the stories of women since ancient times, and this explains the strong patriarchal themes found within Christianity. Women need to take ownership of their stories, and need to explore the liberating and redemptive messages within those stories; themes that work for them, not their male dominated communities.

The sacrificial, kenotic theme of Mary and mothering can be a destructive theme for women who are already molded into roles of self-abnegation. There is a wonderful article written by Valerie Saiving Goldstein (1960) that explores the often damaging message that sin=power, or the desire for power. Her argument is that for men this may hold for true, but for women who are often denied power and voice the redemption is in their assertive and rightful claim to power and voice. I like that this (above) article tries to imagine a more robust version of Mary beyond the common theme of her meek acceptance of the burden and stigma of unwed motherhood. The idea of Mary being a badass, doing something intrinsically radical for the world offers a powerful spiritual theme for women.
 
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Redbaron

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When I was young, one of the traditions we had around Christmas time was watching 'A Christmas Carol', with Alistair Sim playing the role of Scrooge. Growing up, that was THE image... people said no one played Scrooge like Sim, though many tried. In the mid eighties, I saw a made-for-TV adaptation of the story, with Scrooge played by George C. Scott. Same role, in many places identical lines, but, oh, what a difference! When I saw Scott playing Scrooge, Scrooge seemed more like a fully-rounded human being. Beside that, now, to me, Sim seems like a cardboard cutout.

That little aside sort of explains why i'll be following this thread. Growing up, to me, Mary was submissive, obedient, unquestioning, and of course the 'ideal' or motherhood and such. As I think about it, Mary was more a caricature than a character. I tha human being.ought of the Sim-Scott portrayals of Scrooge, and saw how much more 'real' one was than the other. The article, whether or not I agreed with all its conclusions, did make Mary less a Barbie doll and more a human being. Maybe some re-thinking and re-appraisal for Mary can help.
 

Northwind

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I had this on my FB feed. Thanks for starting this thread @DaisyJane

One of the things I liked about this article was the notion of Mary as a virgin. Apparently it really meant she was someone who had not had a child, not necessarily that she was a young teen. Thinking of her as a bit older, and just as a woman who'd never had a child puts a different twist on things for me.
 

Jae

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It seems to me that round about every Christmastime, there are those who feel the itch to try to reinvent Mary. Either they make too much of her (see: immaculate conception) or too little (see: she wasn't really a virgin).

Mary, the real Mary, as she's presented in the Bible, was given news, that she, the poor maiden, should mother the Messiah. She asked how that could happen. She knew herself to be a virgin. Gabriel told her that God would do something unique. The Spirit would make it so that a child would be produced from the virgin only. God's power would come upon her, and so the child which would be born would be holy.
 

PilgrimsProgress

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Interesting article.......
It's refreshing to have a feminist critique of mainstream Christianity.
Once Christianity became part of the Roman Empire under Constantine, it became part of the way of governing people under a defined structure based on power. Those that had power were men -and women's roles were of servitude.
This consolidated over the ensuing years and is now referred to as patriarchy.

As someone who dislikes housework -and sees it as both a chore and boring - I happily go along with this more high spirited and feisty version of Mary.
But, I also acknowledge there are women who are quite content in the role of home makers, and thus perhaps there is a danger in prescribing the way for all women to act and live?

I've also observed some women who've reached high levels on the corporate ladder who act and behave like they're just as much a part of the patriarchy power system as men.

Perhaps we all -men and women - have both submissive/dominant sides, gentle and badass natures?
If so, I would like to see both sexes feel comfortable at exploring and expressing both sides of their nature.....
 

Ritafee

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Biblical narratives that portray women as natural keepers of the home (regardless of the value of that work) have served to trap women and girls in varying degrees in those very homes and limit their potential.
Regardless of the value of that work?

My mother is now in 'end of life' palliative care.

She has been the personification of the biblical narrative of women as natural keepers of the home.

Against all odds she refused to be limited in willing service to her purpose/potential/calling ...

She was a keeper of the home and children in her care - extraordinaire!

Notions purporting mother hood and home making as limiting of a woman's potential ...

I am so weary of hearing them.

What the world needs now is many more selfless women like my mother ... women that embrace their potential for unconditional love and voluntary service in their homes and in their communities.

These are the real women of 'value' - and as we lose more and more of them the world is not shaping up to be very hospitable to 'children'. Children are fast becoming nothing more than potential commodities to be disposed of in any event that they might limit a woman's potential to 'be successful' at what - oppressing themselves ?
 

Northwind

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Has anyone read a novel about the two Marys? It takes place during Jesus' ministry and tells the story from their perspective. I thought it was called The Two Marys, but that book doesn't seem to be the one
 

Jae

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Regardless of the value of that work?

My mother is now in 'end of life' palliative care.

She has been the personification of the biblical narrative of women as natural keepers of the home.

Against all odds she refused to be limited in willing service to her purpose/potential/calling ...

She was a keeper of the home and children in her care - extraordinaire!

Notions purporting mother hood and home making as limiting of a woman's potential ...

I am so weary of hearing them.

What the world needs now is many more selfless women like my mother ... women that embrace their potential for unconditional love and voluntary service in their homes and in their communities.

These are the real women of 'value' - and as we lose more and more of them the world is not shaping up to be very hospitable to 'children'. Children are fast becoming nothing more than potential commodities to be disposed of in any event that they might limit a woman's potential to 'be successful' at what - oppressing themselves ?
Very well said. My mother also served dutifully in the home until she was more or less forced back into the work force. My father had a cushy job with OISE but he chose to leave it to pursue a career as a professional magician.
 

Mrs.Anteater

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I share your opinion that Mary was probably a young girl who got pregnant in the more traditional way.

Where I probably disagree is the need for feminist interpretations of Biblical stories, particularly stories involving women. I feel feminist interpretations are essential. Men have been interpreting and telling the stories of women since ancient times, and this explains the strong patriarchal themes found within Christianity. Women need to take ownership of their stories, and need to explore the liberating and redemptive messages within those stories; themes that work for them, not their male dominated communities.

The sacrificial, kenotic theme of Mary and mothering can be a destructive theme for women who are already molded into roles of self-abnegation. There is a wonderful article written by Valerie Saiving Goldstein (1960) that explores the often damaging message that sin=power, or the desire for power. Her argument is that for men this may hold for true, but for women who are often denied power and voice the redemption is in their assertive and rightful claim to power and voice. I like that this (above) article tries to imagine a more robust version of Mary beyond the common theme of her meek acceptance of the burden and stigma of unwed motherhood. The idea of Mary being a badass, doing something intrinsically radical for the world offers a powerful spiritual theme for women.
Oh, I didn’t mean that texts should not be interpreted by feminists, I meant that there is really no indication that Mary, the mother of Jesus, steps out of her traditional role. And being a refugee doesn’t really mean that she traveled to see the world. I find the “ no housework argument “a bit confusing. Surely, Mary the mother of Jesus is not the same as Mary , the one that lives with Martha and lets her do all the housework while she prefers to listen to Jesus. The absence of something being mentioned can’t really be proof that it didn’t happen, especially in a society in which females hardly get mentioned at all. This kind of argument makes feminist interpretation rather ridiculous than acceptable to anybody who approaches interpretations from a logical point of view.
What I would wish from a feminist perspective interpretation is that instead of making Mary into an ancient feminist by using arguments of facts that are not written, is to say it out loud and clear: that it was a patriarchic society which put her on that pedestal, but it is very likely she just was a normal girl- and most of all, that babies don’t get made by holy spirits without the male part. Even the very independent feminists need artificial insemination for it. So be it Joseph and pre marital intercourse or a rape, the godly story would be that “ the King of David” was actually a “bastard” according to ancient and even today’s societal norms.
 

Redbaron

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Interesting how Rita and Jae seem to forget the woman of Proverbs 31, who is involved in business transactions, actually seems to produce an outside income for the family, and steps outside of the 'traditional woman's role', despite the spin that certain stripes of Christians put on this passage every Mothers' Day. The woman of Proverbs 31 does NOT fit into their neat pigeonholes, which they would realize if only they took the time to read the passage closely.
 

Luce NDs

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Be careful of the Magi-Zae ... it could draw you down ... with wisdom ... and there are those that under no uncertain terms wish to know anything other than a fixed bit!

William Blake reinforced this a men were drawn to the large unknown pool ... perhaps even known in myth as psyche. Give some high handed men a downer ... thus the dunk'n and baptism in sorts of ancient texts is of value ... goes way back to Devon Times and bare faced sheep. You learn nothing without the Jinn buried there as Jim ... or J'aimes to cloud it up to maintain the harryness ...

Imagine bauld faces ... crying because of loss of common knowledge ... aerei sense! Happens to those worshiping pure love and naivete! Have a few side clues ... Farc Cide? God the word can be worked --- Shaken points ... wee dark spheres as observed from way out ...

The business side of learning by psyche and soph sighs! God! the people of the mire are dense! What can we extract from them after the plunge and alloying ... that's "-ite" ... in a partial word some say iddy chitz! Learning one bit at a time ... separated by o's or OZ ... the mythological stuff that has to be assembled!
 

Mrs.Anteater

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Interesting how Rita and Jae seem to forget the woman of Proverbs 31, who is involved in business transactions, actually seems to produce an outside income for the family, and steps outside of the 'traditional woman's role', despite the spin that certain stripes of Christians put on this passage every Mothers' Day. The woman of Proverbs 31 does NOT fit into their neat pigeonholes, which they would realize if only they took the time to read the passage closely.
I don’t think there is any question that there are females mentioned in the bible that have non traditional roles and pointing those out would be a great opportunity for feminist bible interpretation. I would however caution to argue with arguments of anything NOT being mentioned. Feminist interpretation has already benefitted in pointing out Gods female character. My understanding of Ritas remark was that there is nothing wrong with nourishing a family/ society- and we need more of it and it needs more recognition.
 

Luce NDs

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Some individuals just don't get female sensuality ... in the urge to confine and dissatisfied souls! Thus the feyed portion ...
 

Jae

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Interesting how Rita and Jae seem to forget the woman of Proverbs 31, who is involved in business transactions, actually seems to produce an outside income for the family, and steps outside of the 'traditional woman's role', despite the spin that certain stripes of Christians put on this passage every Mothers' Day. The woman of Proverbs 31 does NOT fit into their neat pigeonholes, which they would realize if only they took the time to read the passage closely.
I'll address Proverbs 31's woman on a new thread.
 

Mendalla

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I tend to see two Marys when push comes to shove.

The real Mary, about whom we don't really know a lot, is a young mother. And I am not sure we can say much more about her. She saw her eldest grow up, become a prophet and religious teacher, and then be executed at a fairly young age even by the standards of that time. That had to hurt. We get hints of that Mary throughout the Gospels, but not much more.

Then there is the Mary of Luke. She is, to my eye, pretty clearly a mythological figure with the "real" Mary as the core. . What does that mean? The angels, Magnificat, and probably most of the story are made up details that accrued posthoc to what is really a simple story: A young mother giving birth while on a trip.

Why? Because the Gospel writers and early church in general were seeking to build meaning around their founder and, as happens in religious traditions, that meant mythologizing parts of his life. And some, Matthew and Luke at least, included his birth in that. The Matthew version is, if anything, even more mythologized with the wise men story.

Since that makes Mary a character in a story, there is leeway for reading that story in many ways, none of them definitive. This strong feminist one fits well with our modern understanding of the world. Not sure I totally buy it, but it's a good one.
 

unsafe

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Redbaron said:
Interesting how Rita and Jae seem to forget the woman of Proverbs 31, who is involved in business transactions, actually seems to produce an outside income for the family, and steps outside of the 'traditional woman's role', despite the spin that certain stripes of Christians put on this passage every Mothers' Day. The woman of Proverbs 31 does NOT fit into their neat pigeonholes, which they would realize if only they took the time to read the passage closely.


So is this your take on what Proverbs 31 is saying that the woman is involved in outside the home business transactions ?
 

Jae

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Mary was betrothed with Joseph. She'd agreed to a marriage, she'd pledged her word to Joseph, just as he was bound to her. While Mary was betrothed, she still lived at her father's house. Some time passed before a betrothed virgin was given in marriage and taken to her husband's. During this time, living together didn't occur, though the marriage contract was legal. It was then that Mary became pregnant. Her state was the hardest which could fall to a virgin. She knew herself to be innocent of any sin, she was convinced that her state was due only to the Spirit's working, but she could expect no one to trust her defense, should she try one. Her trust in God helped her when her life was at risk.
 

Carolla

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She'd agreed to a marriage
So you think young girls' consent was sought & freely given? In a historic time when women were seen as chattel? And marriages were most likely arranged to suit the patriarch of the family? Seems unlikely she "agreed" in any sense that we would understand that word today.
 
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