Thursday, May 18, 2006

My Two Cents

The Da Vinci Code, The Da Vinci Code, The De Vinci Code! The hype is everywhere and I am sure every blog in the country is writing about it so why not me, too. I read the book and I enjoyed the book. My mother and my daughter have both read the book along with the entire world. I have argued with my priest about the book. He puts it in the same category as the fictional "Left Behind" series--read them if you would like but remember they are works of fiction and nothing more.

I disagree with him about the Da Vinci Code. The discussion this whole phenomenon has fostered is eye opening, explosive and necessary. I think the men of the Roman Catholic Church are over reacting. Jesus loved debate and he loved questioning. He was always asking his followers to look at issues in a different light. And we should be now. People who are upset about some of the ideas contained in Dan Brown's novel, I believe, are insecure about the Christian faith.

First things first. To me, Jesus was Divine as well as human. If He fell in love and fathered a child as human beings tend to do, then so what? Frankly, I think His mind was on other things. He was given a rather enormous job to do and I am not sure He had time for a love affair, let alone marriage. Plus, the French claim the bloodline. Do you know anything about the French?? This is completely cultural and typical. According to them they live in the perfect country with the perfect civilization, the best food and the best wine. Naturally, they would assume they have the DNA of Jesus, too. It's laughable; cracks me up!

When my mother went to Israel to visit sacred sites (long before The Da Vinci Code hit the shelves) and to see where our Lord walked and talked, she had a young Jewish man as a guide. We tend to overlook that Jesus was a young Jewish man. Her guide stated quite emphatically that Jesus as the son of a mainstream carpenter would have undoubtedly been married and it would have been weird for Him not to be. This guide stated that if Jesus had not married by the age of 30, it would have been so unusual in Jewish culture at the time that certainly this fact would have been mentioned somewhere. My mother was shocked but who knows?

The positive door The Da Vinci Code has opened for me and for millions of Christian women is the overlooked significance of Mary Magdalene. I grew up in a church where only men were priests. I grew up in a church where my brother got to be an acolyte but I wasn't allowed to light altar candles because I was a girl. I grew up in a church where the governing body was only men. I grew up in a church where the women ironed the priest's vestments and the altar cloths. I grew up in a church where as little girls, we were told that Jesus only picked men to follow Him. I grew up in a church where little girls were told that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. I grew up in a church where the women of the Bible were completely ignored and we were led to believe that lowly sinful disgusting Mary was merely visitng the grave of Jesus to sprinkle some herbs on a dead body. And as an Episcopalian, Mary the mother of Jesus, was hardly acknowledged.

When my teen age daughter read The Da Vinci Code, an entirely new conversation was hatched. And it has to do with women. As a Mom, I am gloriously happy to see my daughter curious about Jesus. To her, Jesus loved women as well as men, and women were among the group that traveled with Him during His ministry. To her, Jesus did not separate out the men to worship with out women. He was a rebel, after all. She believes that historically, women have been written out of the picture and Jesus never intended for it to be that way. The reality and the truth are now coming out. We are learning that early Christianity had great equality among men and women following presumably the model Jesus inspired. Our church's St. Hilda is a perfect example of an early female church leader. Male popes took over and somehow we lost this history and half of the population has been excluded. In our church now, women do a lot more than iron altar cloths. Little girls can be alcolytes and little girls can dream about becoming priests or even Bishops.

Mary Magdalene was never a prostitute. Pope Gregory was wrong! Yes, she had problems in her life with perhaps depression or anxiety and Jesus helped her overcome her demons. Mary Magdalene was not lowly and disgusting, but Jesus held her in high regard. She was an integral part of His ministry and she had a lot of responsibility and respect.

Most importantly, Mary Magdalene alone--not Peter, not James, not John---Mary Magdalene, who Jesus loved, was the first to see, to experience, and to speak to Jesus after He rose from the dead.

Now how cool is that? The first witness to a history changing event and the most significant detail of the Christian faith was a remarkable woman.

If it takes the over the top madness of a fictional book and movie to spotlight these explosive few moments in a garden amongst tombs over 2000 years ago, then so be it.

So be it.