Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Monologue for a male theologian who is somehow hired to do the commencement speech for an all-girls college

Thank you for inviting me. I’m not sure exactly why you invited me; perhaps “Jens” sounds feminine to American ears.

Uhm. Yes.

Well, I’ve always felt Christianity had more feminism to it than churches let on. I think they were intimidated. I grew up Irish Catholic and there was no stronger force in the world than my mother. My father was a distant second place. The local priest, somewhere in third. Sometimes she would even speak up during services, if she disagreed with the theme. One Sunday she and the priest got into such an argument over whether or not God could make a rock that He Himself could not lift that the services ended before the matter was resolved.

I hope that won’t happen today. It may be why I’m so nervous.

There is a lot of chauvinism in the business. The savior is male. All four gospels are from men, and institutions like the Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church are dominated by men. The sexless almighty entity is for some reason called “He.” My mother never liked that. As I said, though, a lot of Christianity doesn’t want to let on that there’s feminism to it.

After the savior, the most important person in that religion’s history is a woman. The Virgin Mary. It’s funny – “virgin” used to mean “mother,” not “chaste.” They called her the Virgin Mary because she was the most famous mom in the world, not because she and Joseph never fooled around. In their time motherhood was revered.

She wasn’t a divine surrogate, either. Imagine explaining to your future husband, should you marry, that you are pregnant with a celestial child. It takes a heck of a woman to sell that. After the birth, Joseph fades out of the picture and Mary remains. She informs Jesus of his divinity; depending on the gospel, he isn’t born knowing. When they’re at a party and he’s afraid to work miracles, it’s Mary who tells God it’s time to be a man and make the wine. Show me any scripture where an apostle tells Christ what to do.

The biggest mistake in Christian history was not having her write part of the Bible. Imagine that story. Imagine the nativity scene from her perspective. And watching the savior grow up? Was God a little angel? How was puberty? She was with him to his death. Literature has no greater loss than not hearing the thoughts of the holy mother who outlived her son.

None of that is to say your only role is to have children. Mary Magdalene convinced Christ to raise her brother, Lazarus. Mother Theresa built houses for the sick. If you believe the story of Joan of Arc, compare her to the Christian founder Paul. God tells Paul to quit being an ass and put his sword away, while he tells Joan to stand up. She fought an entire country. I sometimes wonder why you don’t just take the whole planet over.

I didn’t speak about Mary because she was a mother. It’s because you’re going into the world next week. The world that pays you less than men on average, has far more men in positions of power, and calls the sexless almighty “He.”

You’re well educated. I know because I’m friends with the Dean of Studies, and she’s smarter than I am. You can stand up. You’re ready. You don’t have to take a thing from this world; you can march into it with the confidence of the lady who can talk her husband into accepting immaculate conception and tell a little god what to do. It’s confidence that’s your birthright, which you’ll back up with ability built through effort.

I’m not just saying this because my mother went to this college and is sitting in the third row (hi Mom). I’m saying it because I don’t really know why I’m here, but if I’m going to be, I have things to impart. The most important is this: write and remember what is important in the years ahead, and teach it all to the world. We need the education.


  1. I wish I had ever met a theologian with this much truth and integrity in his heart, mind and mouth.

  2. I had the very great fortune of meeting a devote, Catholic man shortly after my falling out with family due to my lack of Christian faith. I was on a downward spiral of piss, vinegar, and hate. For the first few months I knew him, I had no idea he was even Christian. He never really brought it up. He was just a really cool, grandfatherly type with the best mustache I think I've ever seen.

    Anyway, one day the term "turning the other cheek" came up in conversation. I remember he furrowed his brow a bit, "You know that didn't always mean what it does today, don't you?" He went on to tell me that ancient Roman soldiers were not allowed to strike a person on both cheeks. He said that Jesus Christ, a political leader of the time, taught his followers to turn the other cheek specifically because it would save them from being struck again.

    It turned out that this gentleman had attended classes to become a priest, but didn't end up going all the way through with it. He shared a bunch of things in that conversation about alternate translations, things that were left out of the things taught to the general populace, and so on.

    I think if he had gone on to be a priest, he might have been like the fellow here.

    Thanks for sharing. This is fantastic. :)

  3. Well, I'd say he showed why he was invited, and it wasn't because the Dean of Studies is a friend. He made a slightly clumsy start of it, but finished stronger than Hell. (I chose that phrase deliberately.)

  4. I enjoyed the voice you captured here. I think I would find it an existentialistic experience to be asked to speak in a theology college.

  5. Great post, especially the last paragraph. :)

  6. I think this is one of my favorites of yours. Have you ever read Lamb by Christopher Moore? It's not from Mary's perspective (although someone needs to write that shit), but from Christ's fictional best friend. It's an amazing theory on the life of Christ before he became The Lamb. And it's pretty damn funny to boot.

    Growing up in the church, I wish I had met even one man with this Theologian's beliefs. Well done, my friend.

  7. This is fantastic. Wish more "Men of the Cloth" were like this.

  8. This is amazing! Off to share with a few people who really need to hear this :)

  9. Snarky gems hidden within the lushness of truth. Great piece, John!


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