(This is taken from an earlier blog, with some additions and editing.)
I don’t recall much being said about the women prophets in the Bible in either the Presbyterian nor Catholic Church as I grew up nor as an adult.
The most striking memory I have growing up is the women of Salem who were accused of being witches. The girls accusing them would fake convulsions or other behavior and then claim these women were “causing” them to do it. And no woman was safe — one woman was a regular church goer who lived her Christianity as Jesus did, and yet she was accused and convicted solely based on the nasty girls’ word. Apparently, the girls had forgotten the Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” nor the “Thou Shalt Not Covet Another’s Things” (a judge accused a man of witchcraft — and had the man slowly crushed to death with stones laid upon his chest. After the man was dead, the judge acquired his property.)
Women in the Middle Ages were persecuted and drowned by the Catholic Church for heresy — the Church wanted to punish them for being independent and not obeying their authority. For all the church knew, these women were close to God and did not need the Church to tell them what to do or how to live their lives. **edited to add: I realized that I made it sound like the Catholic Church was the only one guilty of bloodshed. EVERY church has blood on its hands for persecuting those that chose another path, including Presbyterians and Jewish.
Most churches did not allow women as priests/pastors while I was growing up. And for the Catholic church, that has not changed due to some perceived deficiency. I was really appalled when the Pope had visited the U.S. a couple of years ago and the nuns were walking behind the priests holding umbrellas over the priests’ heads. These women are just as spiritual as the priests, yet they were relegated to servant status.
For me, personally, I could not get past the Confession. Even though I joined my (ex) husband’s church, I truly did not realize what it fully meant. The Confession, to me, was a barrier. Nothing can be more personal than to acknowledge one’s sins/errors to God and then ask for forgiveness. The Confession removed that close connection in my view. And it also placed the priest in a position of power not only over the parishioner’s spiritual life, but their cultural life, as well.
Having said that, I can say that the Catholic Church at least acknowledged the extreme sacrifice Mother Mary made. Although they stopped there, at least there was some acknowledgement of a woman of great spirituality. That comforted me while I was a member.
Too bad they portrayed Mary Magdalene as a whore and prostitute…when there was no evidence that she was *ever* a prostitute. And the way they went about correcting this smear campaign was by what some have referred to as a “page 11 retraction” in the newspaper. That is, they went to great lengths to portray Mary Magdalene as a prostitute as if it were front page news, but then they further denigrated her by quietly saying she was NOT a prostitute by burying that news so that even today, people still believe she was a prostitute.
In fact, the more I learn of Mary Magdalene, the more I see that she had Jesus’ back. She truly “got it” and that is why she was included in Jesus’ inner circle and she was the first person to see him rise…but again, the churches ignore her significance.
And not only was Mary Magdalene part of the inner circle, but Jesus and the Nazarenes were more egalitarian.
Mother Mary was not only Jesus’ mother, but she also was a prophet. This bit of information I’ve just uncovered in recent months….and it’s one of those slap your head moments where you think *of course* she was a prophet. She had to be.
I found a couple of good pages on women prophets:
Rediscovering the Prophetic Role of Women.
As I point out in my book, What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit, “The principles of 1 Corinthians 12 show the importance of the gift of prophecy. There it was emphasized that the Holy Spirit wanted to use the individual to bless and build up the whole Body. He wants us to grow up into Christ, for only as the whole Body is fitted together and united, with every part receiving a supply from the Head, does the Body grow to the upbuilding of itself in love (Ephesians 4:15,16). The love of 1 Corinthians 13 will also lead us to strive for prophecy above other spiritual gifts because it does more to edify the Church.”1 The gift is “available to any member of the congregation…. In fact, because of the edification of the Church through this gift all are encouraged to seek it.”2
Some Native American tribes believed that women were closer to God because of their ability to give life.
And they do not denigrate women’s menstruation as Christian and Jewish churches do, which claim that women are dirty and the blood is a curse that God gave them because of Eve. I personally feel that if God truly wanted to punish women, the gift of giving life would have been taken away.
Traditional Native girls have a ceremony to celebrate their first menses. There are some social constraints, however, and women on their “moon” are not allowed to prepare food or participate in some activities.
This, for me, also ties into women being given the gift of prophesy. If God considered them *less than* men– I don’t see that God would have given them the gift of prophesy, as well. So clearly God sees women as equals.
Before the European invasion, women were treated as equals in the Native tribes. Those women who were prophets were given the same respect as Medicine Men. It was only after the missionaries came and destroyed the women prophets’ respect in the community that they lost their equality. What is really bad is that some Native men of today will claim that there are no medicine women!
**edited to add: In the Native tradition, the women and men prophets were not treated any differently than the rest of the tribe. That is, they weren’t put on pedestals and dressed in gold and fine cloth. They were just ordinary people who were given a gift by God.
I was thinking about a childhood friend who had her “come to Jesus” moment many years ago. I was still in my questioning mode of whether there was a God, so I didn’t understand something she told me: she said that she put God first, her husband second, and her child last.
This bothered me because I thought children should be equally as important as a spouse. It felt like to me that she was putting the children’s needs last. This is especially important to acknowledge when a husband is jealous of the children. I can see the children’s needs neglected to satisfy a husband’s immature expectations.
Looking back, I still feel the same about the children, but now with wisdom of years and prayer, I see exactly what she meant in putting God first. The connection with God is a woman’s own. It’s her strength. It’s her source of courage to stand up for what she knows is right even though men are telling her differently.