Monday, 1 April 2013

Mystery of Mary Magdalene

The Mystery of Mary Magdalene: I have just watched this BBC programme on iPlayer and am a bit bemused why Christian Concern announced in advance that showing it on Good Friday was "highly inappropriate and inflammatory" nor why they dubbed it "offensive". Melvyn Bragg concludes, "And I now understand why many Christians feel, despite all the many stories about who Mary Magdalene was, the most important thing is what she witnessed - the very first Easter." It was really rather good, I think.

Titian's Noli Me Tangere in National Gallery, London
Certainly it made me question some of the assumptions I'd previously made, particularly the conflations I'd liked to make bringing the Gospel stories together to make a coherent picture of Mary Magdalene (see God loves the red tops). I'm quite happy living with less certainty about that. Something which also should have emerged for anyone with an open mind was the essential historicity of the central events with which we know she was involved, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. As Professor Tom Wright pointed out, if people had wished to concoct a story of such an improbable event, the last thing they'd have done at a time when women's testimony was inadmissible in a court of law was have a woman as the prime witness.

I just hope that Christian Concern's many supporters did not in the event deluge the BBC with complaints about the programme. It's sad that in this instance CC (who often highlight real issues) prejudged a programme on the basis of a press report and mobilised indignation unjustifiably. In my view it deserves plaudits for being informative and balanced.

I think there's a danger of fuelling religious paranoia unnecessarily. I prefer the confidence of Pope Francis's Easter morning message: “We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means. What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom. God’s love can do this...." And his plea for peace, ending: “Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Human trafficking is precisely the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century! Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources!" Peace to this our Earth! May the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation."

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