To continue with the feminist theme, I was just thinking about my university days. I took a seminar class called: Female and Male Voices in Early Modern England. It was taught by a young feminist. I had already taken a class with her, and quite liked her. The course itself sounded interesting, so I decided to take it.
We were studying on particular work by a female author, Rachel Speght. The editors comment on her knowledge of the Bible along with her “self-respect as a woman”.
Essentially, there was sexist pamplet called “Joseph Swetnam’s Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women”. Her response is “A Muzzle for Melastomus”, which reveals her wit, strength, vivacity and intellect. I might argue that in some cases, he has a point, but the generalizations of his assertions needed a rebuttle and Rachel came through!
The reason why I mention this is because I wondered how much God influenced Rachel. Her father was a Rector. As mentioned above, the editors of this anthology tell us her knowledge of the Bible was great.
I went through a period in my life where I allowed myself to get swept away in the feminist current. Having an alcholic father, who constantly disappointed me throughout my childhood. I.e. last minute cancelled visits to receiving really nasty messages on my phone as an adult. You can imagine that it wouldn’t take much for me to get riled up and angry at men.
But, I remember having a thought that I might be a mother some day. I might have a son, and did I really want him to bear the load of my anger or feel that he was inferior or bad simply because he was a boy. I knew the anger at men would have to go.
I think it was this realization that has made me sympathetic to the plight of men in today’s culture and society. We women tell men that we can do things better. We get things done, and then complain when men don’t ‘help out’. I think we may have partly created the problem. I remember a friend telling me her husband was trying to help around the house, and she would go behind him and “fix” what he had done. I said, “He’s helping. Let him!”
As we studied Speght in class, her poem talked about wisdom and knowledge. I remember one day in class, I said that the Bible says that God founded the earth by wisdom and knowledge, by her, he founded the world. (Might be in Proverbs.) I stressed that the words “wisdom and knowledge” were gendered female, to which one of my female classmates said, “That’s because Eve wanted wisdom and so it is a negative association.” I replied, “But, it says God founded the world on wisdom and knowledge. That’s not a negative association. It’s actually quite the opposite.” She looked down, and let out a sigh as though she was given new insight and information into a “God” she has been taught to “hate” for lack of a better word.
When I returned to God in my thirtieth year, I would not have expected that it would be this “male God”, who would begin to change me and soften my heart. I had been taught in university that God was a male-God, for men, not for women.
But Jesus challenges all that nonsense. In a time when women’s testimony meant nothing – women could not testify in court in Jesus’ day – after he had risen he appeared to women. (Now, if you are reading this as an unbeliever – just willingly suspend your disbelief for a second – like you were at at Sylvester Stallone movie – just like that.)
On the third day after his crucifixion the women went to the grave to annoint Jesus’ body as per the Jewish custom. When they arrived they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Suddenly, angels appeared telling them that Jesus was not there, that he had risen. They ran to tell the disciples what had happened. Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it just as the women had told them. Then they returned to the upper room. Mary Magdelene stayed behind, however, and Jesus appeared to her. She believed he was the gardener, and weeping, asked him where he had taken Jesus’ body. He said her name, “Mary” and suddenly she knew it was her Lord. He said to her, “Do not cling to me for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” (John 20:17)
That’s pretty amazing that Jesus would entrust his resurrection and ascension to a woman. He would later scold his male disciples for their unbelief.
Jesus’ resurrection not only saved humanity from their sins reconciling us to God, but also reconciled us to each other. Paul asserts, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). His life, death and resurrection changed the world, whether you believe it or not.
I had the privelege of studying Milton’s Paradise Lost after becoming Christian. I had studied it previously, but it didn’t inspire the same awe. It was written in iambic pentameter. Each line has 10 syllables. And, in case you were counting there are 12 books. It’s long. He invoked the Holy Spirit prior to writing it. No kidding!!
He ended his book on a very interesting and profound note. After Adam and Eve had fallen, they essentially tried to blame someone or something else when confronted by God. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent… When they had reconciled themselves to the fact they had both wronged God, they left the garden, hand in hand. It was this beautiful image of man and woman, together leaving Eden to begin life separate from God.
Let me end with Milton’s words (from Paradise Lost Book XII):
Descended, Adam to the Bowre where Eve
Lay sleeping ran before, but found her wak’t;
And thus with words not sad she him receav’d.
Whence thou returnst, and whither wentst, I know; [ 610 ]
For God is also in sleep, and Dreams advise,
Which he hath sent propitious, some great good
Presaging, since with sorrow and hearts distress
Wearied I fell asleep: but now lead on;
In mee is no delay; with thee to goe, [ 615 ]
Is to stay here; without thee here to stay,
Is to go hence unwilling; thou to mee
Art all things under Heav’n, all places thou,
Who for my wilful crime art banisht hence.
This further consolation yet secure [ 620 ]
I carry hence; though all by mee is lost,
Such favour I unworthie am voutsaft,
By mee the Promis’d Seed shall all restore.
So spake our Mother Eve, and Adam heard
Well pleas’d, but answer’d not; for now too nigh [ 625 ]
Th’ Archangel stood, and from the other Hill
To thir fixt Station, all in bright array
The Cherubim descended; on the ground
Gliding meteorous, as Ev’ning Mist
Ris’n from a River o’re the marish glides, [ 630 ]
And gathers ground fast at the Labourers heel
Homeward returning. High in Front advanc’t,
The brandisht Sword of God before them blaz’d
Fierce as a Comet; which with torrid heat,
And vapour as the Libyan Air adust, [ 635 ]
Began to parch that temperate Clime; whereat
In either hand the hastning Angel caught
Our lingring Parents, and to th’ Eastern Gate
Led them direct, and down the Cliff as fast
To the subjected Plaine; then disappeer’d. [ 640 ]
They looking back, all th’ Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late thir happie seat,
Wav’d over by that flaming Brand, the Gate
With dreadful Faces throng’d and fierie Armes:
Som natural tears they drop’d, but wip’d them soon; [ 645 ]
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.