Woman uplifted, humanity redeemed

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

The weeping woman. Whether portrayed as Michelangelo's "Pietà," Picasso's portrait of Dora Maar, or Eurpides's "Trojan Women," the image is iconic. But it's also obsolete. And has been from the very beginning.

Woman was not created to suffer, but to celebrate.

This is not to deny that there are still terrible injustices against women, but that's not the full story. In country after country, women are making strides in political, social, and economic justice. And today's women are just the latest representatives of those who, through the centuries, have refused to conform to those expectations of longsuffering.

In biblical times, Deborah was a judge and leader of her people. Abigail's intervention in a dispute between her husband and David averted a massacre. Phoebe was an emissary for the early church, bringing St. Paul's historic letter to the Jews at Rome. Something within these women resonated with a spiritual mandate, one embedded in the first pages of the Bible. There, God creates all there is, and it is completely good. The children of Spirit represent the sublime summit of creation: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

From the wording alone, it is clear that man – both male and female – reflects the undivided, divine essence of Spirit. Strength, wisdom, gentleness, compassion, conscience belong equally to men and women. All of us reflect the immense resources, abilities, and faculties of God as Spirit, never deprived of our spiritual heritage.

Sometimes, though, we can be convinced otherwise. The Adam and Eve allegory in Genesis may have us buying into the "Eve curse" and punitive Deity of old theology. That fabled punishment has come to justify women suffering everything from childbearing and reproductive cycles involving pain and disease to vulnerability, violence, and second-class status.

It takes the Christ to restore whatever we thought we lost or lacked. This is illustrated in an incident in Jesus' ministry. One Sabbath, a crowd had assembled in a synagogue to hear this preacher. Among them was a woman afflicted with a condition that had kept her bent over for 18 years.

Her situation did not escape Jesus' attention. He called her forward and healed her. What an example of spiritual restoration! The woman stood straight before them as proof. Then he pressed all of them to think through the ramifications of God's love: "Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" (Luke 13:16, English Standard Version).

To grasp the full implications of Jesus' explanation, we need to understand that "Satan" is the Hebrew word for "adversary" or "accuser." Mary Baker Eddy defined this negative influence on human thought more broadly as whatever "opposes, denies, disputes" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 580).

Since God is infinite and omnipotent, this negativity has no real personality or power. It's simply a way of thinking that binds us to limitations of all kinds – physical, mental, and cultural. The corrective is found in the Christ, which unites, affirms, and resolves, completely eliminating every adverse situation and condition.

Mrs. Eddy was another woman who thought, wrote, and acted outside the conventions of her times. She defined God as "Father-Mother" (Science and Health, p. 331). Father-hyphen-Mother. That simple hyphen is essential. It means each is equal in nature and that both are bound together; the fatherhood of God is equal to the motherhood of God, and they are inextricable from each other. So the motherhood of God does not weaken our understanding of the Divine. It completes it.

The lifting up of woman is not at the expense of man. Both are redeemed through Christ, which erases the disparities that burden either gender or that set them at odds with each other. Reflecting Father-Mother God, male and female work together as one.

Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel in recognition of International Women's Day, March 8.

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