Repost and Reposte

Longtime reader buckyinky made an interesting comment to my recent post.  It raises interesting objections and poses an interesting question, so I copy it and my answer here.  Buckyinky writes:

Men and women are corrupted cowards? 

In the Passion account you lay out, the women mark themselves as anything but. You already mentioned the attempts of Pilate’s wife to keep him from the evil of an unjust sentencing. 

As we remember in the Way of the Cross, the holy women of Jerusalem meet Jesus on his way to death, presumably to do what they can for him, give comfort if possible. We are certain they would do more if only given the strength and influence of men, the true cowards.

This is not to gloss over Jesus’ meeting with His Mother earlier in the 4th station.

Or the corporal mercy shown by St. Veronica in the 6th.

I will grant you Simon in the 5th, giving his begrudging aid under force. He was a coward.

The burial and resurrection of our Lord sees the same pattern — the women true, sacrificial, virtuous, and believing; the men false, petty, cowardly, and unbelieving.

So in this most important of events in all of history we do see the men as cowards, but not the women. What are we to think of this?

To this I answer:

You are right that women are not conspicuous villains in the crucifixion story, but that may be because they were the conspicuous villainesses in the beheading of John the Baptist. What looms large in that story is sexual immorality, or the misuse of erotic power, by both Herodias and her daughter (normally identified as Salome). Also the fury of Herodias when John condemns her misuse of erotic power. Also, of course, the cucking of Herod when Salome demands the head of John the Baptist. The beheading of John foreshadows the crucifixion of Christ (innocent blood spilt to sustain a sham), but the blood in this case is on the hands of the daughters of Eve.

I think it is best to see that women have unique moral virtues, and that their unique moral vices are perversion of these virtues. The dance of Salome is a symbol of this truth, since Salome misused her loveliness to do a terrible thing. Women are, for instance, really good at the whole compassion thing, but often go overboard and forget about justice. This generally makes women extremely forgiving of injuries to other people, and extremely unforgiving of injuries to themselves (vide the fury of Herodias).

Your closing question is provocative. My first response is that, with the exception of the discovery of the empty tomb, women are very minor characters in the crucifixion story. They obviously number among the followers of Jesus, but their roles in the gospel drama are limited to that of Martha (drudgery) and Mary (devotion). They are not conspicuous for courage or rectitude. I would add that what some take as female courage is, in fact, female confidence that the men did not take them very seriously. Female followers of Jesus could be present on Golgotha because Roman and Jewish authorities were only going to arrest his male followers.

13 thoughts on “Repost and Reposte

  1. Longtime reader buckyinky…

    You forgot to include “…and gnat” Ha! I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I feel inclined to say again that I don’t mean to come across as ornery as I no doubt do with my occasional, petty commentary. The truth is I have been helped a great deal in particular by the vivid presentation of true virtue in your patient writing over this past decade, but only usually feel inspired (no slander meant to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity!) into typing something when I find myself in disagreement, no matter how meandering from the main topic that disagreement turns out to be. That I can imagine you have no idea what I am talking about in respect to display of virtue is just the sort of thing that has aided me.

    On the subject at hand, another thing that strikes me as a redeeming quality of the men involved is that they were inclined to hide their own displays of virtue while trumpeting the virtues of others. After all, it is the men who wrote these accounts that make themselves look so bad!

    • I don’t mind ornery. You know where you stand with an ornery person. All the people who disgraced themselves in the crucifixion story would have benefitted from a strong shot of ornery. To my mind ornery means possessed of a spine, and the opposite of ornery means resembling a jellyfish. That is a good point about the warts-and-all quality of the gospels. This is what I meant in my comment to Joseph about the Christian discovery of deep irony.

  2. … it is the men who wrote these accounts that make themselves look so bad!

    This is a constant throughout the Bible, from beginning to end. This forthrightness of the Biblical authors about their own wickedness, and that of their cultural heroes, is a palmary testament to their honesty. Not only were the authors of the NT ready to die for what they had witnessed, they were happy to portray themselves as cowards and fools for ever having erred or strayed from that total commitment their own experiences entirely warranted. No stronger warrant of the accuracy of their accounts is conceivable.

    That they even noticed the role played by the women on Good Friday and Easter, ditto.

  3. It would seem worth noting that the post-Crucifixion story begins with the resurrected Christ appearing not the the male leaders of the church but to the women. The first person to get the greatest news in the history of this world was Mary Magdalen–and then to Mary The Mother Of James, Salome, And Joanna.

    Later, he also appears to Peter and the other Apostles, but the order that he is revealing is not accidental.

  4. I don’t know what, if anything, umphrey2020 is suggesting by his comment about the Resurrection being revealed first to the women, but I usually hear the point raised as an introductory paradigm of the new Kingdom, where the last will be first. Therefore before Christ the women were always last, got the raw deal, while the men had the choicest places and parts, and enjoyed life on their own terms. In the Kingdom of Heaven, the roles will be reversed, or at least should be, and men will be last, while women will have the best part. Or this is the way it would be if we were living according to the standards of the Kingdom of Heaven and didn’t fall back to the old habits.

    Maybe this is a correct understanding, but it rubs me the wrong way. It seems like a slander upon our fathers, and also no different essentially from feminism.

    • The point I hear raised is that discovery of the empty tomb by women suggests that the story is true, since an invented story would have made the discoverers more credible by making them men. The discovery by women is an awkward fact, and awkward facts lend credibility to a story. Role reversal strikes me as a heretical reading of the doctrine of a fallen world. There is nothing to suggest that Eve wore the pants in the Garden of Eden, or that the Curse involved inversions or role reversals. In fact, the plain reading of that story is that women ruin everything when they get out of their proper sphere, and that a hankering to get our of their proper sphere is the unique vice of women. The proposition that the New Creation will be a gender-fluid matriarchy should rub you the wrong way.

      • Thanks, that’s reassuring. I chalk this up to the fact that I’m a late GenXer (with all the trappings of public school health class, wild-eyed feminist instructors, etc.) along with having something of a sensitive nature that tends to take certain things probably too much to heart (especially a problem in my more formative years), but my fall back understanding of these sorts of things is to assume there must be something conclusive about the feminist take, often without even recognizing the take is indeed a feminist one.

      • Part of stepping outside the feminist frame is rejecting what feminists say about men who step out of the feminist frame. Part of it is rejecting what feminists say about themselves. It is important to understand that feminism is a frame, since this means you cannot pick and choose the parts you like. Once you are inside the frame, dissent from feminism looks like misogyny and feminists look like the only people who have the best interest of women at heart. Living inside the feminist frame is kind of like living inside North Korea.

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