Sometimes, when I tell people that my degree is in theology, I notice an interesting reaction. Suddenly, the clouds part and doves descend. A choir breaks out in song. My halo is gleaming. While the person in front of me visibly attempts to put their church personality on as quickly as possible. For just a second, I enjoy the fact that my new friend thinks that I’m an angel walking the Earth and is slightly terrified. What have we been talking about? Was it churchy? I smile to myself and try not to giggle out loud. Let the fun begin, just wait until they get to know me!
I love theology because it’s an adventure. Like my own “The Librarian” movie series. If you haven’t seen The Librarian, I’m not sure that we can be friends. Indiana Jones kind of exciting? Theology is fun and it’s interesting. Not at all like trying to pay attention in church on Sunday. One of my favorite but most difficult classes was, “Women of the Hebrew Bible”. Guys, at the midterm point, I was certain that I was going to fail. I grew up in a very strict religion and while I’m no longer a part of that faith, the four or five days a week spent studying the scriptures made me feel like I had an advantage. I already knew these scriptures and these stories. This class was going to be a breeze. Did you know that the Latin root word for humble means “dirt”? Yep. Because sometimes being humbled means you find yourself in the dust.
Why was this class so difficult? Patriarchy. My entire life, the scriptures had been read and interpreted to me by an only male clergy and from an only male point of view. That lens was so powerful that it was invisible. I didn’t know that it was there. I could only see the women in these scriptures and stories as the ideal women that I was told they were, wonderful but always subservient to men. I saw them as characters but not necessarily as role models. I was the only girl in two years of high school drafting classes and the only woman in my police academy class. In my life, pursuing my interests, goals, and dreams, meant being rebellious. Not a church-going-like-the-women-in-the-Bible-good-girl. For the second half of the semester, I was determined to break through my ingrained bias and break down the invisible blockade. My adventure was on the other side.
This is what I learned. Many of the women of the Bible are bad-a**es! They have been there for hundreds of years in the pages, waiting to tell us their story. If only we can hear them and see them with a woman’s heart and through a woman’s lens. Is that wrong to do? No. Men wrote the Bible but if you believe that it is inspired by God. God would not allow men to keep good women down. The effects of society and culture on male writers might blur the lens but the words still jump off the page. Read them again and again and again and you will see what I mean. Cool, right?
One of my favorite examples is of Miriam. I had always heard the scripture read, “Then Miriam the Prophet, Aaron’s sister.” Oh, okay. Aaron was a prophet and she was his sister. I’ve heard it a thousand times. But read it again, Exodus 15:20, “Miriam the Prophet, Aaron’s sister.” If patriarchy is blocking your brain, read it again until you see that Miriam is the Prophet! What?! Well, that changes things. Aaron is just her brother. Word. There are more: Deborah the Judge, Esther the Queen, Ruth & Naomi, and my most favorite of all, Wisdom Woman. The description in Proverbs 8 is beautiful. It begins, "Wisdom is calling! Understanding is raising her voice! On the heights along the road, where the paths meet, she is standing; by the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud." Yes, she does. Next, the crazy cool part, if you read the entire description of Wisdom Woman in Proverbs 8, the words may seem familiar. Where have you read them before? Just for fun, read the description of Jesus’ Divinity in the Gospels and Letters to the Congregations. Keep in mind that the Hebrew Bible or Torah was written before the Gospels or New Testament. Jesus is the Word or the Divine personification of Wisdom. The descriptions are almost identical to the description of Wisdom Woman. Wow, right?
On this International Women’s Day, we can look to the future. Unite our voices to change the world. We will write our own stories and stories will be written about us. When we need inspiration, we can look into the past. Look past the lens of patriarchy. The women are there even if we didn’t see them before, hidden in the pages of Holy Books, and History Books, and Story Books. Telling us, “Wisdom Women of the World, raise your voices!”