Monday, May 22, 2006

Mary Magdalene in Newsweek

According to the Newsweek piece on Mary Magdalene, her image has been used to "fight" prostitution and decaying moral values throughout the centuries. "The early Middle Ages were a time of tremendous social tumult—war and disease roiled nations and sent destitute women into the streets. Gregory's church needed a character from Jesus' circle who provided an answer to this misery, who proved that the path of Christ was an escape from the pressures of the sinful world." "In Germany, the Penitent Sisters of the Blessed Magdalene took the lead in reforming wayward women;"When the Industrial Revolution upset gender roles and cities were plagued with prostitution and disease, preachers once again spoke her name from the pulpit, hoping to rein in the wayward world. "
And so again, she is reinvented as the pious, intellectualy virtuous woman to set the example for the rampant sexual immorality, of present day culture, I suppose.
Christianity and the Church, contrary to feminist conventional wisdom, did improve the lot of women. In Christianity, women were to be respected and provided for, slavery and prostitution were to be abolished and women who did not want to marry and have children had the opportunity to go into convents and lead far richer and longer lives than they would have ever led in the "real" world. I am not defending the mysogynistic aspects of the Church, as it was a product of its time. And Paul had a notoious aversion to women, which is apparent in his Gospel. Still, the Gospels in telling the story of Jesus are very generous with women in general. I believe that critizing the Church has become too appealing for many of us, who do so mostly on hearsay or inventions of a golden age of pre historic feminism.
christianity, Mary Magdalene


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