MANY FACES

Magdalene

This image symbolizes the relationship between Feminism and the Christian church in the modern era. Even in this 21st century, the governing patriarchy of the Orthodox Christian churches forbid the rights of women to occupy positions of ecclesiastical power such as the office of priesthood. The Catholic church remains firm in it's all-male position. The Anglican church has made efforts to change, but not without a substantial resistance from conservative ranks. In this artwork, by presenting a woman as the crucified Christ, I intend to highlight the two thousand year old tradition of sexual persecution of the female sex by an all-male church hierarchy. The Priest's white collar around the neck symbolises the office of priesthood. Today the church stands as the only institution in the 21st century permitted to openly practice a politics of unequal opportunity.

Retired progressive Anglican Bishop John Shelby Spong writes: "For most of the two thousand years of history..., the Christian church has participated in and supported the oppression of women. This oppression has been both overt and covert, conscious and unconscious.... Patriarchy and God have been so deeply and uncritically linked to gender by the all-male church hierarchy that men have little understood how this alliance has been used to the detriment of all women...."
(THE VIRGIN MARY): "No female figure in Western history rivals her in setting standards. Since she is known as "the virgin" she has contributed to that peculiarly Christian pattern of viewing women primarily in terms of sexual function. Women may deny their sexuality by becoming virgin nuns, or women may indulge their sexuality by becoming prolific mothers. But in both cases, women are defined not first as persons and second as sexual beings but first and foremost as females who's sexuality determines their identity. This means, in my opinion, that the literalised Bible in general, and the birth narratives that turn on the person of the virgin in particular, are guilty of aiding and abetting the sexist prejudice that continues to live and distort women even as late in history as these last years of the twentieth century." "As a matter of fact, I think the case could be made that Jesus was a radical feminist in the context of the first-century world. He clearly had female disciples who, according to Mark, Matthew and Luke "followed" him all the way from Galilee. John suggests that he violated religious custom by speaking to the Samaritan woman by the well. The other gospels tell of Jesus allowing the touch of the woman with a chronic menstrual flow. Jesus stood against the law when he supported the woman caught in the act of adultery. Even John portrays Magdalene as the first witness to the resurrection, which was clearly the early church's standard for apostleship." (John Shelby Spong).

The artwork references the lesser known "Mary" in this biblical narrative, the person of Mary Magdalene. Wikipedia describes her as follows: "Mary Magdalene is described, both in the canonical New Testament and in the New Testament apocrypha, as a devoted disciple of Jesus... She is referred to in early Christian writings as "the apostle to the apostles." (Wikipedia).

Model: Melissa Atkinson

Photography: Graeme Wienand

REFERENCES:

Spong, John Shelby 1992, Born of a woman, Harper Collins, New York.

Wikipedia, Mary Magdalene, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Magdalene

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