The Raw Beginnings in the Gospel of Mark
Though I’ve read through the Gospel of Mark at least 40 times (and in three languages), this time reading the first two chapters struck me in a new way, with its rawness, its almost-violent use of language.
There are no angels singing and people adoring at a nativity. Mark starts out in a wilderness, with a herald living on a siege diet of what’s at hand, not going to the people but straight-talking to them as they come in droves from their comfortable cities to see him.
Don’t get too relaxed, he tells them. Change up your minds (meta—as in metamorphosis –of your thinking processes.) In exchange, you get washed clean of the past – but this is not about the past, but rather the future. Someone is coming, and He outclasses me. I’m ready to pass the good-news baton to the anchor runner who’ll finish this race.
When that “He” arrives for His baptism by the wild man in camel coat, all of Creation spasms. The heavens, fixed since day two of Genesis, are torn open (the same Greek word is used for the ripping of the Temple veil at His death.) This is no gentle peek into heaven. The invisible Holy Spirit becomes visible. God speaks for the first time in centuries. But the trouble for Jesus is just beginning.
That same Spirit chases Him – the same word used for casting out of the camp a leper or a scapegoat – even further into the desolation. His only companions are slinking wild animals. Satan is given free rein for 40 days, giving his best shots at a continually-weakening mortal. At the end, only supernatural help keeps Him alive as the deacon angels try to repair the damage.
John’s reward for his service is a prison cave with no coming rescue. Jesus tells everybody that time is up and they have to change their minds and believe in some good news that no one knows yet.
He calls people to drop everything and follow Him. His first miracle is when he wins a shouting match with a demon. Shut up and get out, He says, and the demon leaves after putting his unwilling former host into convulsions. A leper comes to Him and Jesus breaks the rules by touching him. This time the convulsion is in the guts of Jesus (the verb for “to have compassion” literally means that His organs seize up with emotion.) Jesus heals and preaches; and His reward for his service is so much notoriety that He ends up, again, out in the desert.
Mark, as he writes his good news, begins it with putting everyone on notice. This is no sweet message.
If the cost was this high for the best of us, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Thank God Mark didn’t stop there.
Copyright, Latayne C. Scott
After I saw all those pink hats, and found out what they meant, I did what I never thought I’d do. I decided– and announced publicly– that I was going to start wearing a head covering while praying or speaking publicly at church.
From most ancient of times, a headcovering has been highly symbolic. For Christian women, it is a symbol of submission to the ultimate authority of God. For all my years as a Christian I have tried to exemplify by my respect and silence in church worship that I acknowledge that authority and that of my husband and church leaders.
However, the symbolism of a woman’s head covering has been perverted by those who wear deliberate rebellion–the sign of ones own genitals on their heads. https://www.pussyhatproject.com/
I chose to take back the meaning God gave to head coverings. Those who know me well know I hate bringing attention to my own appearance. This is hard for me to do. I don’t expect anyone to follow this example nor do I judge any woman who chooses to pray with her head uncovered. But for me, any symbol on my head is from this day forward that of submission to my God and His Word.
As soon as I’d announced that, I got criticism. Why didn’t I criticize Donald Trump for his crude statements (against which the women said they protested)? Why shouldn’t women use their constitutional rights to peaceful protests? Why was I criticizing the women who wore the hats? Jesus loved women, right?
I began by admitting my own faults and gratitude for grace, then tried to answer the questions:
Many things I’ll write about condemn me. I don’t always live what I believe. No wonder I’m a Christian – where else in the world can you get a get-out-of-jail-free card, have all your shameful acts forgiven—and forgotten– by an omniscient Creator who chooses never to think of those sins again? What a deal. And all I have to do is be truly sorry and keep coming back to Him.)
I’ll answer from a Christian viewpoint, what I as a Christian think. I believe that’s what you want.
It’s about symbols, symbols, symbols. Not people. Not marches.
First, I do not like, do not approve, and was aghast when I learned of what Trump said. But here is how I view that: it was a private conversation between men, it was 12 years ago, and most important Mr. Trump issued a public apology. (Many, many links to this statement on the internet.) What does a Christian do when asked for forgiveness? I forgive. Doesn’t mean I approved the sin. Doesn’t mean I have warm feelings toward the sinner.
Second, I didn’t condemn all the women wearing the pink hats. For two reasons: look back over comments on my wall and see that some who approved of Saturday’s activities had no idea what the meaning of the pink hat was. That’s why I posted the link. Some didn’t even know what they were supporting. They had good motives to support the rights of others, for sure, though. (More about that later.)
Of course I believe that peaceful protest is a right. I marched in the first Right to Life protest march in the city of Albuquerque! And the Bible shows clearly it’s right to insist on your governmental rights. Paul in Acts 22 did just that.
But it also tells us that governmental authorities are more than they appear. Romans 13:1 says God Himself put them in place. (And this article expands on it better than I have room for, here. http://www.challies.com/…/at-least-5-things-scripture-teach… )
No, I don’t approve of Trump’s sin, don’t like his personality, but he says he is sorry so I forgive. The Bible gives us the example of using your governmental rights, so I’m good with that. It also tells us we must submit to governing authorities. Thank God for the right today to express a contrary opinion about an authority’s actions without having your head chopped off—but when Paul wrote this originally, he was talking to people living under the horrors of Roman emperors. Yet Paul’s portrayal of women was not as chattel nor possessions. The way early Christians treated their women was waaaaaay above their surrounding culture.
Now, I did condemn something, and I did it not because of my personal preferences, but because God has spoken on some matters. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul talks about body parts, and the NIV at least says that there are parts of the body that should be treated with special modesty. I would assume that’s talking about genitalia, wouldn’t you? But does the wearing of something with a crass name that represents that body part—is that honorable? And for the life of me I can’t see how wearing a pussy hat (or the more extreme examples of the yard-long vaginas) makes a woman less of a sex object or magnifies her inherent worth. Okay, she’s protesting an apologized-for statement made 12 years ago. Really?
The whole point of what I was saying is that God has spoken about the power of symbolism. The power of symbolism has been harnessed by God Himself since Creation. Things stand for more than they seem to be: Abel’s sacrifice, a rainbow, a tower, a tabernacle, a temple, a cross.
Head coverings for women are a big deal symbol. They have something to do with angels (and I have NOOOO idea what that really means.) They are powerful statements. My problem was that as a Christian woman, I felt moved to reclaim, to retreat to, to run to this most ancient symbol.
Head coverings for women in the New Testament are about submission. Of course worldly women don’t want to talk about submission. But that’s the essence of Jesus’ life. Submitting is what He did, right up to the point of death. No wonder that’s the tipping point where people won’t go any further. His teachings, and His Kingdom, are obnoxious to the human spirit. As Matthew 21 shows, who He was and what He requires is a stumbling block so big most can’t do it.
That’s the example we are to follow. Not asserting the message that this is my body and I will use it in any way I like. Scratch below the surface of the altruistic marches and it’s really about the idolatry of the body, sexual freedom: to use, if you want, your female body in a way that exchanges natural sexual urges for unnatural ones (Romans 1:26), throw off any sense of being obligated or submitted to anyone, to kill the innocent, helpless unborn you create in your quest to live for oneself — and, and, and condemn anyone who doesn’t agree with you as a bigot.
The Bible says specifically that sexual sins ARE NOT like other sins (1 Corinthians 6:18.) They’re worse. It is sinning against your own body, the polar opposite of standing up for its rights.
In the women’s movement, the standard is what makes them feel good. Our standard is the Maker’s instruction manual for the women whose bodies He designed and maintains, molecule by molecule, moment by moment.
(Christian women often join “causes” because they feel great empathy for the downtrodden. (May I mention that almost all charitable work done in the western world up until 1900 was done by Christians?) Jesus said to do unto others as you would have done unto you, and so we try to empathize with anyone who is mistreated. That is right and good. But compassion is also a symbol. Someone once pointed out to me that even though Jesus could have healed everyone with whom He came in contact, He didn’t. Was His compassion limited? No, He had a point, a purpose, for what He did. He was always pointing people to His Father. THAT was the point, not compassion. If Jesus Himself with unlimited power didn’t heal everyone, if He did what He did to glorify God, what focus does that give me, for my exercises of compassion and empathy? How in the world could I possibly join with a group that claims to help females when they enable them to abort other females more helpless and literally downtrodden than they ever were? When that group says that the sensations of your own body matter more than those of others and more than any standard given by an eternal God? When they would exclude God from the conversation at all?)
My argument is with the symbol on tops of the heads of the women who marched. The Bible says a head covering (hair or cloth, I don’t think it really matters) is a sign that a woman understands the idea of submitting to an authority. Nothing could be more hateful to the modern women’s movement. When I said I was going to start covering my head, at least in certain situations, I was retreating to the original meaning of a woman’s head covering. It points not to me, not to others, but to God.
And it has nothing to do with what the pink hats represent.
I have a friend who is suffering. Here is the prayer I wrote and prayed for her today:
I pray she will awaken and say today, “This sorrow is a little less acute, the spiny edges of it have worn down a bit, and I know a new thing. I can feel something as I see a beauty that God is holding up in His hands as a peace offering to me, a beauty that has been unnoticed, now just at my elbow, waiting for me to turn and to delight.”
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