Sunday, March 25, 2012

Who Was Mary?

As women's history month draws to a close I have been thinking about why there are so many Mary's in the gospels.  Just who were these Marys?

What we do know is that Mary the mother of Jesus, was absolutely devoted to her son and his ministry.  That she herself had knowledge of healings and herbs, and that she was the embodiment of so much Sophia or wisdom, itself an ancient idea that what is truly wise resides in the mystery of the divine feminine.  Think about it: where would a Jewish man get the idea that the first shall be last and the last shall be first?  Where would an itinerant preacher who had no standing on his own, learn to heal the sick and give comfort to the downfallen?  Where would even the messiah, stoop down, write in the sand and answer the angry men who wanted to stone an adulterous to death, “he who is without sin, cast the first stone”.  Where but through the women in his life, starting with his mother?  Not just any mother, but a Jewish mother.

What we do know is that Jesus loved Mary Magdalene most of all.  Although the women in the story are conflated into virgins and harlots, was it Mary who cleaned his feet with her hair and perfume before he was crucified?  Was it Mary who Jesus defended to the male displaces as doing God work and not their constant doubting?  Was it not Mary the Magdalene who the gospels are really referring to and not John, painted as a woman in Da Vinci’s last supper?  And would not a powerful and wealthy woman in her own right have taught her husband to stand up for what he believes in?  While Mary his mother, imparted wisdom and healing, Mary his wife, gave him courage.  Isn’t this the best of the women in our own lives?

What we do know is Jesus and all compassionate men have been taught and cared for by strong and compassionate women; they who embody the goddess.  The goddess is not just for women but for men who can learn from the power of intuition, powerful, if not always predictable emotions, and the courage to stand up for what is right.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Setting the Truth Free

More than one couple has faced the difficult challenge of navigating telling the truth with compassion. Standing before a mirror anyone can say to their mate, “look at me, my waist has grown, my hair is thinning and my arms are flabby” to which the appropriate answer is not “well there is nothing wrong with your eyesight.” It was Gloria Steinem who said, ‘the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off’. True enough. Most of us can’t or perhaps shouldn’t handle the truth in its fierce nakedness. It was Edward Murrow who said:

“Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up at least for a little bit” The question now is and has always been “will the truth set us free?” Gospel of John 8:31.

When Moses came down off that mountain top with the ten commandments and found his people worshiping the golden calf, apostates that they were, he did not argue with them that his new law was better than their old pagan ways. He destroyed the tablets in anger, melted down their idol, forced them to drink the gold, and went back up the mountain to get the truth all over again. It took a while to set the truth free. Will the truth set us free? It depends on which truth.One of our principles as Unitarian Universalists implores us to affirm and promote a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” It’s part of our identity as a church, to which we add service, although I was always a bit uncomfortable with being in search of service. Of all of our principles, I find this one the most difficult. Just who is it that decides what truth is? Is truth relative to each of us or is there an absolute truth? How do we even know where to look if truth is located only within our own hearts? Psychologists now agree that the perception of what is true is wired into us, in large part. Those who perceive the world using mostly their right neo-cortex tend to be more optimistic, seeing the good in most of the world, while those who primarily use their left neo-cortex tend to be more anxious. As Milton put echoing the Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” (see The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathon Haidt)

What will your truth be?

With Grace and Grit,  John