Historicity and Jesus the Strategist
Its ironic that the subject of the Church of England Synod vote and the defeat of the motion to ordain women bishops should have bothered me so much. It has continued to bother me. As I said in a previous post: I’m an atheist. Why should I care?
Because Isaac Newton cared. Because Charles Darwin cared. And because, as radical as both these men’s challenges of their Church’s doctrines were, they were not excommunicated for their beliefs. And in 2008, the Church of England formally apologized to Darwin. Better late than never, the Church of England is not an irrational institution. Just sometimes a little sluggish.
I’ve been listening to the anti-female-bishops argumentation with great interest. There are, of course, those who quote Scripture – particularly 1 Timothy 2:11–12
11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
However, the problem is that there are a hefty number of bits of scripture that contradict this. Most especially Luke 24, because it is women who are told to go out and TELL the apostles about the resurrection. How you do this with your lips sewn shut is beyond me.
This tossing back and forth of scriptural passages is pretty pointless. Because no matter how much you may believe that a Divine hand guided the pen of those who wrote the scriptures (or picked which ones to include, or who translated them), we are left with the insurmountable problem of historicity.
I’ve heard a lot of conservative Christians say things like: if God wanted women to be priests and bishops, why wasn’t Jesus a female? Why didn’t he choose female apostles?
Well, if you do believe in God, I assume you don’t think HE/SHE/IT was stupid. If your aim was to get your ideas out and spread wide in 30 BCE, choosing women as your spokespersons would have been a very stupid move. If God had done that, we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all. Jesus would have just been another obscure woman with no independence and no voice. The apostles would have just been written off as a group of gossipy women.
Jewish society at the time of Christ was deeply male dominated. A woman’s testimony was only worth half that of a man’s. Women couldn’t travel on their own. Most women could not read or write.
The dissemination of whatever message you feel Jesus had to spread to the world would not have made it past the the kitchen door if either Jesus or any of the apostles had been women. And it was only because of the way in which Jesus valued the company and agency of the women around him that his Apostles had any time for them when they were informed of the resurrection.
For every time there is a season. You use the best tools you have available at the time.
In the 21st Century in the Western word, in a time of the emancipation of women and a deep, wide-spread suspicion of the legitimacy of male-dominated power structures, it’s far more likely that a woman’s voice preaching, teaching or spreading the articles of faith of a religion would have significantly more impact than a man’s – considering the message.
If God was a good tactician then, why would he be such a lousy one now?
But yes, if you were a religious person, you might have read my argument to this point as being cynical. So, let me take a less rationalist, more emotive tact.
At every point in history where Christianity acted as a repressive force, it has had to apologize for it later: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the rejection of Darwin. Christianity has never suffered for its acts of emancipation: of slaves, of the poor, of women, of all those who it once considered inferiors.
People who fear women as priest and bishops cannot, with any justification, fear the wrath of God. They just fear change.
Something that Jesus not only never feared, but actively promoted.