Matthew’s gospel refers to this woman as a Canaanite woman. I love that the person who teaches Jesus to see the world through a much larger lens is a woman. When Jesus refers to Jewish people as God’s children and non-Jews as less than dogs, she calls him out on the hurtfulness of his rhetoric. She also uses his language against him to show him how blinkered his understanding is. And Jesus models humility. She is right, and Jesus makes an about-face.
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Remember, this is not just any Gentile woman. Matthew refers to her as a Canaanite.
This calls to my mind the words of James Cone in his classic, God of the Oppressed, and Philip Jenkins’ comments in Laying Down the Sword. Here are both:
“Native American theologian Robert Warrior [reads] the Exodus and Conquest narratives ‘with Canaanite eyes.’ The Exodus is not a paradigmatic event of liberation for indigenous peoples but rather an event of colonization.” (James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed, Kindle Edition Location 130)
The story of the Exodus speaks of liberation to some oppressed communities, and to others, this same narrative speaks of colonization.
“The parallels are all the more painful as European colonialists over the centuries consciously used the conquest of Canaan as a model for their own activities.” (Philip Jenkins, Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses, p. 20-21)
This month’s recommended reading from Renewed Heart Ministries is Randy Woodley’s Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview: A Decolonized Approach to Christian Doctrine. This volume is well worth reading as we also follow Jesus in listening to and growing our understanding of, relationships with, and reparations toward Indigenous populations today.
Who might our Canaanite women be today? Who might we need to listen to?
How can we follow the Jesus of this week’s reading and be willing to listen to communities our theologies and interpretation have harmed? Jesus followers who are men could begin by listening to the experiences of women. Jesus followers who are straight and cisgender could begin by listening to the experiences of those who identify as LGBTQ. Jesus followers who are White could listen to the experiences of people of color. Jesus followers who are upper class or middle class could listen to the experiences of those who spend every day trying to survive poverty. The list could go on and on.
What does it look like for us today to follow the Jesus in our reading this week? Again, who are the Canaanite women that we need to listen to today?
Herb’s new book, Finding Jesus: A story of a fundamentalist preacher who unexpectedly discovered the social, political, and economic teachings of the Gospels, is now available at Renewed Heart Ministries.