Garrett Keizer offers a fresh, not especially ideological take on Mary of Magdala.
Traditionalists will want to put a domestic spin on “ministered”: Mary of Magdala and her female companions in Martha of Bethany’s aprons, bustling among the Twelve, asking Bartholomew if he’d like another dumpling. Commentators of a different stripe will latch onto the “follow” in Mark’s version—“who . . . followed him, and ministered unto him”—hoping to discern a higher-status ministry. Bishop trumps deacon trumps waitress trumps mom. Of course, these are the very same commentators who can’t say the word hierarchy without heaving their lunch.
But such is the essence of bourgeois exegesis, the signature crop circle imprint of that UFO fantasy popularly known as “culture war.” In other words: let us talk about anything but the substance, the resources, the capital, the way the good things of life—health care, education, arts, purple mountain majesties, exemption from battlefield maiming and slaughter—get divvied up.
You be the Red States and I’ll be the Blue, you be the conservative and I’ll be the progressive, you be the stodgy apologist for Euro-centric values and I’ll be the transgressive cultural studies maven and somehow we’ve gotten locked in the library alone together and we hate each other’s guts, but, like, in a horny sort of way—on and on and on while the children go without food because it’s the weekend and there’s no school lunch till Monday.
A plague on both your houses.
Mary puts her money where her mouth is. Woman of substance, she ministers with her substance. Call it what you will, it comes down to money. Verily, verily, I say unto you: the ecclesial meaning of Mary Magdalene is so much piss until you grasp and embrace the economic meaning of Mary.