It is a book that is culturally bound. It is the product of a culture even more repressive than our own. Why should women in particular give it any credence at all?
Well, there are women, and there are women. There are women who with deep sincerity read the Bible as though it has come from God’s mouth to the writers’ pens. To these women it is anathema that Biblical texts weren’t written with them, or any of us, in mind. They can’t fathom that what we call Holy Writ was instead directed toward the writers’ contemporaries.
These women tend to be content with their place in a patriarchal system designed by men for men. They either feel safe there, are too afraid to exit such a system, or simply don’t know how. What’s more the system has taught them that the way things are is God’s will.
It’s close to miraculous that any of us raised with that message have been able to see it for what it is and have stayed in the Church.
For those of us, on the other hand, who understand the Bible to be the product of human endeavor, the question still arises, “Why bother with it?”
Each of us has his or her own answer to that question. For me, the reason I bother with the Bible at all is that the story of Jesus is one of which I want to be a part.
I value the arc of the human narrative the Bible conveys, told, albeit, through the eyes of a small, singular people in the Middle East and Jesus who came from among them. In that arc I see a story of hope for the human race. I see a story of liberation from bondage, both literal and metaphorical. I see a story of “power over” giving way to a story of “shared power.” I see a story of division and exclusion giving way to one of unity and radical inclusion. I see a story of selfishness and violence giving way to one of radical self-giving and non-violence. To me this is a compelling narrative.
If it ever were to be manifested fully, it is a story that would change the world.
Along with those men who are beginning to hear and embrace this story, women are the ones who are living into this new reality. They are: “nasty women” who will no longer bow to Biblical texts that demean them; “uppity women” who will no longer kowtow to threatened men (and the women still subservient to them) spouting, “because the Bible says so;” intelligent, strong, educated women who find in the story of Jesus a way of life that honors their humanity, cries out for their gifts, and calls them into service on behalf of all that is.
Yes, the Bible is narrative that has been encrusted with centuries of dogma that has tried to silence women’s voices. But crack away all that hardened cultural overlay and the inequality it supports and what you will find is far different. The Bible is a narrative that moves slowly and inexorably toward the fullness of Love and the promise of new life.
We women know about that. Each month we are reminded of that hope, that possibility, for new life. Our bodies tell us there is more than today. There is a future waiting to come into being. We also know, because too many of us have experienced it, that new life can be born of brutality and violence, of indifference and pain. For these reasons, and even more because we know our place in the universe is sacred, we will not keep silent any more. We, the Life-bearers, cry out. We add our voices to the narrative arc of the Bible and add our creative and generative energy to the cause of Life.
When you see us who remain in the fold of the Church, do not assume we are yet under the thumb of “the way it always was.” We are bringing new life even within the shuddering walls of this doddering, once male-dominated institution. With our sisters and brothers whose hearts are open, with all other persons of goodwill who hear the call to the fullness of life, we are working and praying and singing and dancing a new existence into being ... an existence of compassion and love and equality and peace.
Leigh Waggoner is priest at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. She can be reached at 565-7865, or [email protected].