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The song to which the punk band "p*ssy Riot" danced on Feb. 21 in Russia's iconic Christ the Savior Cathedral ends with a prayer asking Jesus's mother Mary to "become a feminist," but Mary always was a feminist through and through, with a voice speaking strongly for justice.
Centuries of saccharine portraits and iconography have obscured a more reality-based appreciation of this gutsy young woman. But recent scripture study throws light on how Mary implanted a vision of inclusive justice into the heart of Jesus.
Though Mary is not given a lot of airtime by the men who wrote the scriptures, it is not hard to figure out where she was coming from. Just give her a brief sound bite and those within earshot would have found her profoundly subversive of a corrupt system not unlike that existing today in the punk band's Russia.
In Mary's time, the religious authorities in Palestine were working hand in glove with the Herod-type sycophants of Caesar -- and doing quite well, thank you very much. (No invidious comparison with Emperor Putin and the successfully co-opted Russian Orthodox prelates is intended, of course.)
Mary is thought to have been several years younger than the courageous women of "p*ssy Riot," but she clearly shared both their outspoken exuberance and belief that God was, in the end, a God of justice and would deliver. Here's Mary upon learning she was to be the mother of Jesus, who might just deliver the Jewish people from their oppressors:
"I am bursting with God-news; I'm dancing the song ...
God has shown strength,
Scattering the bluffing braggarts.
God knocked tyrants off their high horses,
Pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
The callous rich were left out in the cold. ...
It's exactly what God promised, beginning
With Abraham and right up to now."
(Luke 1: 50-55 -- Eugene Peterson translation)
As the passage shows, Mary was outspoken in her advocacy of inclusive justice -- the biblical precondition for Shalom, which can be defined as peace, completeness or the elusive moment when everything is right. For in the biblical perspective, peace is no more nor less than the experience of justice.
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