A woman doesn’t become a hero overnight and she doesn’t do it alone. It takes a village to make a hero in the form of an Olympic athlete. A village of men and women working together to make something spectacular occur in one rare and gifted human being. But that’s not the point, the thing about watching women set some of the world’s greatest records in this year’s summer Olympics is simply that we are not accustomed to seeing women shine so brightly on center stage and we don’t know what to say. Even seasoned commentators seem to stumble, searching for excuses as to how this can be happening, preferring to lay the proof of her success on the shoulders of the (perceived) real hero, her male counterpart.
Quite simply, we are seeing things we never saw before and it’s magnificently stunning.
We’ve known it all along, that women are heroes, leaders, strong, wise, and the equal of men, not the same, that is, but equal, nonetheless. But these facts have remained hidden in plain sight. Even in the Bible, there is a whole class of women warriors hidden in the pages, but with just a little digging, we can find at least six scripture references to the class of warrior women in the ancient Hebrew culture who led, fought, strategized and prophesied in Yahweh’s army. Perhaps we are just now able to welcome them onto the scene of religion, though they have been there all along.
As we learn to see the world through the eyes of women, we see our world changing, both the old and new. This is scary for a lot of people, but it need not be. Things are changing in our world largely due to the perspectives female leadership is bringing. New perspectives are often frightening when we’ve lived so long in the old. Take the Bible, for example, it’s been the bestselling book in America for a very long time, the cornerstone of the “swearing in” of legal court procedures, and yet many popular Biblical interpretations support perspectives that promote practices of violence against women, sexism and silencing as the norm.
Depth Psychologist, C.G. Jung said that in order to understand the American psyche, we need to read our Bibles. This is also scary because many oppressive biblical ideas about women became the foundations upon which our culture was constructed. While I’m a female pastor and search for new perspectives on the old, old stories to inform faith in the 21st Century, I try and remember that the Bible didn’t invent patriarchy, but many interpretations of Bible portray a system in which women were conscripted to become subservient to males as a form of moral, civil and religious practice. In other words, Bible culture often promotes a world view like Etta James sings about in the old blues song: “it’s a man’s world but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.”
But there is a way forward, a kind of third way, something Jung was popular for promoting. The tension between the opposites, and we’re seeing it now in our world and we can see it in our religion, too, if we’re willing to open our eyes and hearts to a new perspective, accepting not only a woman’s leadership, but learning to see the world through her eyes, backwards and forwards.
We can still do Bible and believe in women’s identity, it’s not an either or situation, we don’t have to isolate ourselves from society to adhere to a morality system built for the first millennia BCE, and we don’t have to ditch our Bibles to see something new.
As woman becomes more and more the hero, the champion, the lead character in her own story, we begin to see our old, old stories differently, too. The women in the ancient stories who led men, became warriors and war strategists, and through their leadership, accomplished heroic acts on behalf of God, become more present on the pages that undergird our faith world as women become more prominent leaders in our world, too.
Jung also said that what is needed in our time are new narratives from old stories. If we can learn to read our lives through the eyes of the women who are leading us forward, with the seeds of new life in their hearts, we just might see things we never saw before, the future just might be brighter than we think.