April 30, 2006

Begin at the Beginning

Yes, I do believe one can be a committed Christian and also a feminist.

To many people, one automatically excludes the other.
I don't believe that is necessarily so, and I hope to provide some dialogue on how this can be done.

To start out, let's quote one of my favorite Scriptures, a passage from John chapter 8, verses 1-11. This passage may be considered in dispute, as it does not appear in four of the oldest extant manuscripts. Still, I believe it is a valuable insight into Jesus' way of thinking.

Quoted from The Living Bible.

"Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and talked to them. As he was speaking, the Jewish leaders and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery and placed her out in front of the staring crowd.

" 'Teacher,' " they said to Jesus, " 'this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Moses' law says to kill her. What about it?' "

"They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, 'All right, hurl the stones at her until she dies. But only he who never sinned may throw the first!'

"Then he stooped down again and wrote some more in the dust. And the Jewish leaders slipped away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until only Jesus was left in front of the crowd with the woman.

"Then Jesus stood up again and said to her, 'Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?'

" 'No, sir,' she said.

"And Jesus said, 'Neither do I. Go and sin no more.' "

There are many things I can say about this passage, but let's start out with (to me) the most obvious.

First of all, Jesus knew the religious leaders were out to entrap him, and were using this woman as a convenient scapegoat. Whether she really committed adultery (and apparently she did, to judge from Jesus' final words) was irrelevant. Of course, the Son of God can read hearts--and evidently thoughts--as mere humans cannot. Still, it behooves us to recognize that we cannot sit in judgment of other people, as everyone is guilty of some kind of wrongdoing.

One also wonders if Jesus was offended by the fact that the woman was brought up for judgment, while the man was not. It does take two to tango, and the Mosaic Law actually mandated stoning both guilty parties.

Finally, one must remember this entire incident took place in front of a crowd Jesus was teaching. The Pharisees knew this, and undoubtedly this was the reason they dragged the woman to face Jesus--they were hoping for a public humiliation that would undermine the support he was gathering. I greatly admire the way Jesus turned the tables on them, while giving us today an abject lesson in fairness and compassion.

At the same time, his final words linger in the mind: "Go and sin no more." Even though Jesus was not going to condemn the woman, he knew she had sinned. Sin cannot be wiped away just like that, even by God's Son. She was evidently forgiven, with a condition: stopping the aberrant behavior.

It's a message many people don't want to hear, in this relativist society: that some things are simply wrong. Nevertheless, if we call ourselves Christians, it's a message we must accept.

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