Some catholic blogs I was reading last night were all in a huff about Father Greeley's new book on his take on Jesus and women.
Now, I have some problems with Greeley, but it's not about his R rated novels or his investigations on sex as a metaphor for God's passionate love of human beings (indeed, some of the passages of Benedict's God is love reminds us of the same thing: That God's love is not pure agape, the cold and intellectual care of others, but the passionate eros of God that feeds the human (i.e. emotional and physical) needs of ordinary human beings. The entire Charismatic renewal is indeed based on this idea.
The problem with all of this is that heresy is when an overlooked idea gets rediscovered and someone insists it is the whole idea. Nope. These things are part of the whole. And so when the church is overintellectualized, God sends the Charismatic movement. When liturgy gets so highfalutin it becomes gobbly gook, we get guitar masses. When Guitar masses become pat and superficial, we get Latin and icons and Mozart and the Orthodox liturgy.
The passage that was criticized (sorry no links) was that Greeley sees Martha and Mary as "teenaged groupies" who enthusiastically follow Christ. Hmmm.
Well, why not? Women in those days married young, so one doubts Mary and Martha were in their thirties.
The story we are usually told is that Martha and Mary are like pure virginal passive nuns who float around following Jesus. Mary is so etherial that she ignores the burning food, making Martha a bit perturbed.
In all of this Martha gets blamed for being a nag, and Jesus reminds her that she needs heaven. But like other housewives, I see Martha as a busy housewife with a lazy sister who needs to get off her tush and help.
Greeley sees them as the teens in his book: Upper middle class Irish catholic teens who are not shrinking violents but well balanced and feeling at home with men and women. I hadn't seen them as that way before, but you know, it makes them more sympathetic than the too good to be true goodie goodies of catechism class, or Mary as a sexual vixen who was sleeping with Jesus on the sly, which is the thesis of the DaVinci code and a dozen other oversexualized pot broilers.
Greeley's picture is that of "Groupies" but perhaps that word also implies the sexual promiscuity of rock stars.
Yet as a doc I am well aware that doctors (and priests, and teachers) often have adoring female students. And Greeley, who is a professor along with being a priest, has probably had neurotic students fall in love with him and try to seduce him, just like most of my fellow (male) docs have had women patients try to seduce him. But for every neurotic female, there are hundreds of caring, well balanced, ordinary women who literally love their doctor or priest or teacher. They would do anything for him, they trust him, they confide in him and the relationship is warm and loving and intimate on both sides, but not sexual and not exactly friendship either. It is the relationship of a woman with her obstetrician, a writer with her editor, a businesswoman with her mentor, or a newly graduated secretary with her boss.
And that is why I also agree with another theme of Greeley: The importance of celibacy as a way for male authority figures to be "safe" for women to approach (true...that's why no sex is in the Hippocratic oath). And so such "safe" figures allow a different type of male/female relationship, a combination of hero worship, respect, and father figure. Is there eros in this? Yes, but an innocent kind, since the "taboo" against sex makes friendship safe.
Indeed, the main "problem" of Greeley's idea is not that he sexualizes the relationship, but that her reminds us that eros is present in male/female relationships, including the most chaste.
And his reminder that men and women are different and have different rolls is quite countercultural to the present day feminism that insists men and women are the same and interchangable, and that sex is just a simple pleasure like eating cake, and not connected with love, passion, God, children, or community.
Greeley often say that those puritans who object to his novels on a sexual basis are really objecting to the way God designed men and women to reproduce the species.
But few recognize that his novels also criticize the PC refusal to see women and men as different in many ways, and hint that there is a reason that God made men and women and sexual passion...
Labels: feminism, religion