Originally published March 10, 2019
Another Facebook post that started to grow beyond reasonable means—now becomes a blog.
Sunday morning: Instead of reading through FB posts and tripping over things that make me sad or disappointed, I am choosing more frequently to spend time with those “other bookmarks” that I save for “when I have time.” Many of these articles are saved from Facebook posts of friends across the globe that share my interests, some are the product of searches to verify, or run from, a post that peaks my interest. A writer’s Google search may be revealing—but what is saved is a whole new ballgame.
One of this morning’s reads was about the history of women in religion and faith. Some of the most revered minds of our ancient past were female. [Hypatia, Aspasia, Diotima…there are dozens more modern and ancient on my Facebook page] The question is, why do we, as a gender, pay such a high price for what we have given to our species—including life itself both in the birthing of a child and in the commitment to nurture that child. This article is an excellent short history of the rise and fall of women in faith and religion.
Of course, as short as it is, there is much worthy of discussion that is missing. For instance, Hebrew tradition symbolizes wisdom with a female—Sophia. And yet rabbinic literature going back centuries warns of the dangers of a woman’s manipulative abilities. There are traditions that record Lilith as Adam’s first wife. Since she was unwilling to submit to Adam as her superior, she left the garden and was demonized for the rest of history. Poor Eve doesn’t fare much better. Deborah, a judge of Israel, appoints Barak to lead the army against Jabin and Sisera. He will not engage without her in the lead. And it is a woman (Jael) that takes down the commander Sisera.
For New Testament figures we have Mary, mother of Jesus who is raised to near-divine nature, while Mary Magdalene finds her contributions buried by the early church. The Magdalene is a mystery within a mystery due in part to the struggle for authority within the early church. Labeled as a repentant prostitute, she was kicked to the curb of history until quite recently.
This editing of history goes on even in the face of New Testament records (however bent a translation may be) that indicate women held leadership roles within the early church. This was not an exception to the rule, but a organic part of the church’s early need for solid leaders in the faith. An interesting bit of history is provided in this article.
My maternal great-grandparents came to the US from what was then Yugoslavia. Their home town sounded something like Poland to the folk at Ellis Island and for a good portion of my life I thought I was one quarter Polish. A cousin deep into genealogy research (not so easy in Eastern Europe) discovered the error and determined that the family originated in Croatia, and was, most likely Roma. The Roma are a people persecuted around the world for centuries. Although nomadic by nature, they were rarely permitted to own land or conduct a business. They were a target of Nazis during the rape of Europe. Forced to find alternative means of survival, they were often accused of theft (sometimes accurately). However, in contradiction to the contempt of “polite” society, deep were the paths worn in the dead of night to the doors of the old wise women who could offer cures, or hope, or spells for success. (Along with the more carnal needs of humanity).
I am truly not sure why the strengths of women are so disparaged in our current society. Why is it we feel that women should not be independent in thought and choice? Why shouldn’t they be leaders when our early history indicates they can do as well and sometimes better than their male counterparts (meaning that sometimes the fellows do better)? Why do we condemn the Muslims when so many of the practices we disparage are mirrored in our own society? Toss the Burka, but make sure that the little lady does nothing without her man’s approval. Why do we have such a propensity to ignore what we detest in others rooted deep within our own souls?
Our current culture (at least here in the US) blatantly supports the pervasive attitude that women are somehow less. Boys will be boys, but girls make choices for eternity—given the assumption they have a choice in a threatening situation other than to survive. Men can impregnate whomever they wish whenever they wish; but the mother must face the roadblocks of an uncaring system to care for that offspring even to the point (in some states) of providing a rapist with access to her child. A man can get a prescription for an “enhancement” drug that is covered, without hesitation, by any insurance company. A woman, however, must fight for coverage of any reproductive related medical prescription or treatment. Sometimes she must also fight for access. Does this make sense in a modern society with access to well-developed medical and scientific practices? Why is it even a question in this century?
Of one thing I am certain, wise women are women of patience. I knew my maternal grandmother well and we were very close. So much of who she was is very much a part of me. It is from that well-spring of strength that I know that one day our species will understand that the whole cannot function well without all of the parts functioning at the highest level of performance. We are a global family with limited resources and great responsibilities. We are way past the time when we should stop fearing each other, whether by perception or deed, and find a way forward to a more stable future.