Happy Reformation Day!

Just for fun, on this day that Protestants (oh who are we kidding, it’s mostly the Lutherans) mark the moment when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses, “A Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” on the door at Wittenberg, I share the closing scene from my 2007 book, Two Reformers: Martin Luther and Mary Daly as Political Theologians

(Yes, Martin Luther, 16th century reformer, and Mary Daly, 20th century radical feminist philosopher.  Trust me.  Read the book.)

An Unlikely Encounter

“Can you believe this?”  Mary waves a copy of the book, Two Reformers, as she stomps into the clearing, muttering to herself.

“What’s that?”  Martin looks up from his bible, startled at the sight of this woman in pants, boots, and a cotton t-shirt emblazoned with a labrys.  “W-w-h-h-o are you?” he asks as he sits up straight against the oak tree giving him shade for reading.

Mary stops, looks around bewildered.  “Where the hell am I?  Where’s Matilda?  Where’s Annie and the others?”  She looks disgustedly at the little man in the black robe shrinking up against the tree.  “And who the hell are you?”

Martin puts his bible down, brushes off his robe and stands up straight.  “I am Martin, child of God.  May I ask what book that is that you seem to be so upset about?”

“O.K.  Seriously.  Where the hell am I?”  She looks back in the direction from which she came and sees only the trees and tall grasses blowing in the breeze.  “I was just sitting back there talking to Matilda and Annie when this book dropped into my lap.  It had my name on the cover so I had to take a look.  I got up to try to figure out where it came from …”  Mary peers at Martin, her eyes growing wide.  “What did you say your name was?”

“I am Martin.  Doctor Luther to some.”  He is growing irritated with this woman who will not give him a direct answer.  “Who are you?”

Mary looks incredulously at the book in her hand again.  “Martin Luther?  Oh no, you’ve got to be kidding.”  She holds up the book for him to see the cover.

Martin sees his name on the cover too, and he starts to chuckle.  “I presume you are this Mary Daly person also named on the cover.  What sort of book would that be, that would have both of our names on the cover?  I mean no disrespect, but look at you.”  He gives her short hair,  faded jeans and industrial wristwatch the once over.  “And look at me.”  He gestures to his simple haircut, flowing black robe, and prominent cross necklace.

“Well,” Mary says, looking at the book in her hand again, “I have no idea what is going on here or where we are, but it seems to have started with this damn book.”  She opens it and starts to howl with laughter.  “Get this, Marty, the author says that you and I are actually doing the same thing in our theologies.  Well, there’s your first clue that this girl is cracked up.  I haven’t done theology since 1975.  Wait … she quotes me here, saying something about Aquinas and how theology is philosophy in another realm.  Shit.  She’s got a point there.”

Martin grabs the book from Mary.  “You?  Doing theology?  Surely you are joking.  And anyway, what could the two of us have in common anyway?”  He flips some pages.  “Hey, look at that.  I think that you might have hated the Roman Catholic church as much as I did.  Did you really say that women lost their heads giving head to the holy host?  Goodness, woman!  That’s almost as bad as my talk about the bishop of hermaphrodites!”

Mary starts laughing.  “Well, I did say at one point that the holy spirit was a drag queen and that the christian trinity was the perfect all-male marriage.”

Martin stops and looks up at Mary sternly.  “You will not blaspheme God in my presence.”

“Oh give it up.”  She looks at his cross and the bible he left on the ground.  “It’s pretty obvious that we don’t agree on a number of things.  Still, it is odd, isn’t it, how we do have some of those things in common?”

“Yes.  Odd is one way to put it.”  Martin closes the book and looks at the front once again.  “Political theologians?  The author thinks we are political theologians?  What in the world does that mean?”

“Well,” Mary replies, “I don’t know what she means by that, and I’ve never been called that before, but I do know that my philosophy – or, theology as she calls it – did bring me smack dab into some pretty intense political conflicts for most of my adult life.  I know that politics in my lifetime changed the world pretty remarkably, though the world was not changed nearly enough for my taste.”

“Oh let me tell you about intense political conflict, Mary.  Did you have to go into hiding for fear of your life?  Were you excommunicated from the church to which you devoted your life?   Did you get punished for pointing out basic and obvious truths?”  Martin implores his conversation partner.

“Yes, I was punished in a whole bunch of ways, you crazy monk.  It didn’t matter to me, though, after I figured out it was better just to depart from this ridiculous world and inhabit true Reality.”  Mary’s eyes begin to sparkle.  “That’s where I was when this crazy encounter began.”

Martin looks around the clearing again.  They’ve still not figured out where they are and how they both happen to be there together.  “It’s just that we’re so opposite.  But then again,” he turns to pick up his bible, “it is said that there are none of these false human divisions when all are united.”  He flips the book open for her to see.  “See, Saint Paul says in his letter to the Galatians that ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, there is no longer male and female;  for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28).

“I have nothing to say about your guy Jesus and don’t get me started on Paul.  However, I did once say in my Wickedary that there could be a ‘Sin-thesis,’ sort of like what you might call a synthesis, that is ‘the transcendence of patriarchal false opposites by Crone-logical Naming of Truth’”  (Wickedary, 1987, p.164).  She thinks about these two statements for a minute.  Then asks, “Could it be that this author, whatever her name is, sees some Truth that transcends both of us, that transcends the obvious opposites in our lives to uncover something that neither of us saw?”

“Well, I guess that is possible.”  Martin closes his bible.  “Shall we look around here and see what else we can find out about this place?”

 

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


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