Posts Tagged ‘love’

Mary Magdalene Picture.smallPicture 1; Mary Magdalene

As I sat in our church waiting for the Christmas service to begin, I reflected on the recent decision about women bishops made by the General Synod. What, I asked myself, is happening to the church?

The Christian Church was formed around the works of Jesus Christ, an extraordinary teacher, but it wasn’t only what he said that was important. The Jewish society into which he was born was very male dominated and women had certain roles they were allowed to fulfil in life and no more. Men were allowed the privilege of education, women were not. As we know, this domination over women has continued throughout our history and it was only this last century that women were allowed the right to vote in the UK. There are of course still many societies across the world in which women remain culturally, if not legally bound to live a heavily restricted and controlled life.

In these societies, the very concept of a women bishop is so foreign that if the Church of England Synod were to adopt this proposal, they would be likely to excuse themselves from the Anglican Communion. Their cultures would simply not allow them to support such a proposal. All of this plays perfectly into the hands of the traditional UK and USA church membership who don’t want change. Change is scary. Thus the vote was lost and the church remains trapped in an outdated mindset. It is interesting is it not, that the head of the Anglican Communion, the Supreme Governor, is a woman.

Christ on the other hand ignored these rules. His most important confidante was Mary Magdalene and he treated her as an equal as he did his mother and all other women around him. And yet if we read the Bible, we are given a very different picture. The scribes reduce her to being a prostitute, a way of putting her back in her place, a way of once again reducing the female to her position in society; one over which men have control.

If we are truly following the example and leadership of Christ and not following the prejudices of society, why then are we even contemplating this issue? Surely women should have been in the church hierarchy since the birth of Christianity?

This gives rise to another important question. Why do we need such a large Communion of churches in the first place?

Do we need such a huge church?

 The Anglican reach spreads far across the world and like the Catholic Church, it is more than just a place of worship. Underneath the spiritual message, the church is an extremely powerful, wealthy and political machine. It is powerful and it has influence. Yet in order to keep its power it must keep its flock together. In doing so however they are having to compromise, forcing their entire community to slow down, a dangerous position to occupy in such a fast moving world. The larger it is, the more immovable it becomes.

Why not allow the church to split up more succinctly than it has done so far, keeping the various bodies together in a looser union (a bit like the Commonwealth), where each church is autonomous? This way each branch of the church could mould into the local culture and develop at its own pace, without the need to conform to the hierarchy of a main church body. It would then be much more in touch with the people who form its core.

Yes, the church would lose some of its powerful political influence but should religion have that extraordinary power in the first place, where it can be misused? We have certainly seen this misuse throughout history and indeed we still see it today in countries like Iran. True spirituality is an individual journey, guided by an inner desire to connect with the divine. No amount of church going or pulpit pounding will change the heart that is not ready. Fear has been widely used as a tool to lever people into church with the threat of hell and damnation (and many still believe this) but whilst it may increase the number of participants, it does not increase the number with a real desire to embrace their spirituality for the sheer joy of doing so.

Perhaps it is time the church’s entire approach to spirituality should change. Too much time is spent on activities that really have no relevance at all to real spirituality. It is still too mired in history, still too tied to the original structure and purpose of the Roman church.

In 312 AD, Constantine converted to Christianity. This was not for spiritual reasons but practical reasons; it became a way to unify his people and consolidate his power. Its structure was moulded in such a way that people were held in awe by the huge temples and the finery of the church leaders and fearful of the threat of hell if they did not comply. Heretics were burnt publically at the stake. This was certainly not a time of spirituality.

The challenge we face is that our consciousness limits our future. It creates a tunnel* out of our past experiences (and with that I include our history) and continues that tunnel through our present awareness. Out of this tunnel of what is probable, our mind projects forward to construct our future but the tunnel is constrained and limited, so it falls short of what we really can be and do in the future. Our church leaders are trying to construct their present and future as a continuation of their past. Perhaps it is time to step out of the tunnel, re-examine the whole concept of spirituality and move forward with a new and vital message, a message of love. At the moment the symbol of Christianity is Christ suspended in an agonising position, dying on a cross. It speaks of violence, pain, anger and the abuse of power.

The ‘symbol’ of Christ on the cross was only adopted in the third century AD when Christians were being ruthlessly persecuted and killed across the Roman world for their beliefs. That is where the idea of Christians being prepared to “die for their faith as Christ himself had done” was first promulgated as a way of keeping their flock together. It worked and Christianity survived. The ‘symbol’ was adopted by Constantine and remains the same today.

Times have changed radically and I would like to suggest a new image should be adopted for the church, one that speaks of love; an image of Christ and Mary Magdalene standing together, reflecting the balance of the male and female energy and of course the equality between men and women. This is what Christ himself spoke of and how he treated everyone around him. All were equal in his eyes and in the eyes of God.

Now that really would be a powerful message for our time.

Jeshua & Mary Magdalene

Picture 2; Christ and Mary Magdalene

* Part of the wording and the concept of the tunnel comes from the book ‘The Power of the Magdalene’ by Stuart Wilson and Joanna Prentis.


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