Dislodging the myths that were embedded in me as a child has been a painful and illuminating project of adulting. In a cosmic game of Jenga, I delicately loosen, rearrange, and rebuild the planks of my beliefs and practices, hoping to avoid a total collapse.
This project takes on more urgency as my three-year-old begins to understand more and more about the world. When we go to the Christmas Eve service at the church where I grew up, I want her to experience reverence and beauty—choral music, handbells, candles—but not misogyny. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Why do we need to keep hearing the old verses about Mary’s virginity and Joseph’s judgment of her sexuality? And the gendered implications of Jesus’ being the son of God the Father, who will grow up to be King can’t be lost on young ears. Mary Daly observed in 1973, “If God is male, then male is God.” As the #MeToo movement continues to remind us, our society is still struggling with this conflation. These beliefs seep in very young.
What if we just switched pronouns? That’s what Silent Voices: The Feminist Bible does. Take a look at these familiar passages, from silentvoicesbible.com:
You shall call her name Jesus, for it is she who shall save her people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
Behold, wise women from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is she who is born Queen of the Jews? For we saw her star in the east, and have come to worship her.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw her glory, such glory as of the one and only Daughter of the Mother, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
How refreshing! Now, I’m not suggesting all of our world’s problems will be solved by empowering women and oppressing men. Nor does this website include nonbinary genders or gender fluidity; including all genders and disrupting the entire notion of gender are important projects as well. What reversing a few pronouns in canonical texts can do is shake things up and make us think. What if I suggested to the church of my youth that we start balancing out 2,000+ years of Biblical male-dominance with a Christmas Eve reading giving women and girls the spotlight? Why would this still be controversial in the year 2019? But in response, I would fully expect loud, panicky calls for “Tradition!” from otherwise reasonable and well-meaning Presbyterians.
I saw this meme on my friend’s Facebook page not too long ago: “Tradition (n). Peer pressure from dead people.” It made me laugh out loud. At its best, tradition can give us a sense of belonging and stability. But who are we leaving out when we invoke tradition? Who is being harmed? Is it worth it?
When we keep asking these questions, things do change for the better. Our dear wise woman, Anita McLeod, led the way in asking questions and creating safe spaces and empowering communities. Now her writings are available in Elder Wisdom: Searching for Truth in Circles of Women.
On December 21, we’ll partner with Dances of Universal Peace for our annual Interfaith Celebration, where we create new, inclusive traditions. Together we can build on small changes and honor each other’s wisdom. May such gatherings be a balm in a season of contradictions.