The alternative reality of Jesus, in Aramaic, malkuta Yahweh suggests “power with” rather than “power over”.The pyramid had already been toppled by the Holy One in the Moses revolution where the king (in tis case Pharaoh) was dethroned) and God was experienced at the base empowering the slaves. This is the Judaism Jesus promoted. It is obvious reading the synoptics’ constant admonitions that Jesus insisted on “taking the lower place”, walking with rather than commanding. People grasped the vision. It threatened the top-down empire; it challenged patriarchal power; it was deeply subversive. Jesus was killed fpr this subversion. This vision (”the Way” ) was shattered by Constantine and has never fully recovered. The Way was betrayed by an ideology of power.
In a similar vein Wes Howard-Brook reflects on the latest Vatican imbroglio with the nuns.
Much has been written about the ongoing assault by the male Catholic hierarchy on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, as well as individual women religious whose writings have been deemed “erroneous.” Non-Catholics might be inclined to dismiss this as merely an internal church issue. However, there are important implications for interfaith conversation between Jews and Christians that have not been as widely considered.
In its most stark terms, the women religious have largely embodied what I call the “religion of creation” while the bishops speak from within the “religion of empire.”
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What is crucial to note for the purpose of Jewish-Christian conversation is that “the Catholic Church” is deeply divided between those who seek to maintain traditional power and authority and those who put the Gospel at the center of personal and communal discipleship. There can be little effective dialogue between Jews and “religion of empire” Catholics. However, “religion of creation” Catholics, such as the women religious and their supporters, share much in common with progressive Jews, as we do with many Muslims, socially engaged Buddhists and Hindus.
Just as Jesus challenged not the “Jews” of his day but the upholders of the religion of empire, so Jews today might recognize that the problem isn’t with “Catholics,” but with those, like the bishops, whose loyalty is less to the Way of Jesus and more to defending their own, institutional authority. From Moses through the prophets – ancient and current – the Voice of YHWH empowers women and men to speak truth that topples entrenched power and reveals the joyous reign of the Creator God. May that one Spirit fill us all with strengthening courage to stand against domination in all its forms and in solidarity with one other.