A thought-provoking post by Chris Hedges, an ordained Presbyterian minister.
I agree with the premise that churches have become corporatized….along with the rest of America. We no longer seem to know what to truly value…everything we see has a dollar sign attached to it. The corporate media has trained our eyes towards the meritocracy — WHO has value and WHAT has value– and at what level of value??
I was alarmed during the Bush Administration when I saw megachurches really taking off….and their outside message boards were touting Christian financial seminars. And I became even more alarmed when I saw the smaller churches following suit.
I was wondering what the hell was happening. Pun intended.
Jesus plainly states in the Bible that one can only have one master: Money or God. And you will be asked to choose which is your master throughout your lifetime.
Not only that, but the only passage in the Bible where I saw Jesus with any anger was in the Temple, when he threw out the bankers (moneychangers) and merchants. I believe this was the moment the church leaders plotted to have him murdered. He was showing them up because he wanted to keep the space holy while they were denigrating it.
And I saw and read of churches actively telling its members that God would bless them with financial gains if only they believed in God and followed the minister’s dictates. There was a subtle judgment on the poor and those who were once wealthy but now poor…they *must* have done something to displease God….and God was punishing them for it.
God did not invent money.
So it stands to reason that God did not consider money important.
Therefore, it doesn’t make sense that God would reward or punish people with money.
As I have posted on before, I’ve had my own struggles with the Presbyterian church I grew up in…and how they feel they are becoming “too liberal”. I had gone back because of the church divesting itself of Caterpillar stock amongst others after Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and after reading of Presbyterians joining Jews and others to form a circle around a Muslim mosque in San Francisco so they could pray in peace.
Hedges remarks on subjugating women, but he doesn’t go far enough.
My memory could be faulty, but I don’t recall much being said about the women prophets in the Bible in either the Presbyterian nor Catholic Church.
Actually, 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.
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.
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.
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…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 have misinterpreted 1 Corinthians 14:34, “Women should remain silent in the churches” to mean that women should not minister in the vocal gifts. However, Paul had already said in verse 31, “you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” In the context Paul was also speaking about interruptions and disorder. Paul “suggests that another type of interruption should be avoided. Women (who were usually uneducated in that day) were asking questions in an improper manner and thus contributing to the confusion. They were told to hold their questions and ask their husbands at home. This should be applied to both men and women in matters that custom considers unbecoming.
Some Native American tribes believed that women were closer to God/Great Spirit because of their ability to give life.
And they do not denigrate women’s menstruation as Christian and Jewish churches do.
While Christian/Jewish women are told the blood is a curse because of Eve, traditional Native girls have a ceremony to celebrate their first menses. They are not told to be ashamed of themselves and their bodies, but instead acknowledge that the menstrual blood gives nourishment, and therefore life, to a baby.
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.
**EDITED to add: I was thinking about a childhood friend who had her “come to Jesus” moment awhile 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.