Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Elsa Tamez and the Parables (part 3)

Elsa Tamez, Jesus and Courageous Women

After telling stories about Mary, the mother of Jesus (13-22), Mary and Martha, the friends of Jesus (23-31), and the woman caught in adultery in John 8 (33-42), Lydia turns to the parable of the Unjust Judge. The “stubborn widow” in the parable gives Lydia encouragement to persist in her own resistance to the oppression and injustice she faces:

The judge represented someone who was the complete opposite of the widow. She was poor, a woman, and a widow; in other words, she was vulnerable and defenseless. She had a legal case pending against someone who had wronged her. She reminds me of thousands of women today in our Greek and Roman cities, and also of our ancestors. The widow, the orphan and the foreigner are the most unprotected persons in our culture; they are frequently overlooked and their rights are denied. That is why we find that the statutes in their favor are repeated frequently in the Scriptures (43-45).

Corrupt people, like the unjust judge, are found everywhere, which is one reason why the Hebrew Bible repeatedly demands justice for the marginalized, such as the protections for residents aliens, widows, and orphans (e.g., Exodus 22:21-22).

The woman’s stubbornness and perseverance are necessary, Lydia notes, because usually those with wealth and power get their way, and the poor and powerless do not. The widow simply stands up for her rights and demands that the judge do what was right under the law, but he continues to refuse. In this case, the widow’s perseverance is her only recourse for seeking justice (45-46).

Lydia guesses that eventually the judge became afraid of the widow, or at least the situation became so scandalous that it became a public embarrassment. The unjust judge did not suddenly become just; the stubborn widow finally wore him down:

Finally she achieved her goal; her insistence and her constant demand that justice be done paid off. The judge didn’t concede out of his own good will; the rights of widows did not interest him. The judge gave in because he was overcome by the widow’s perseverance. The judge, an arrogant man, had to give in to the request of this poor and very stubborn widow (46).

Lydia concludes that this parable provides a paradigm for how to respond in an unjust patriarchal society. Passivity is not an option; women simply cannot allow themselves to be imprisoned in the roles a patriarchal society assigns them. Women must resist and struggle and persevere, because “Jesus provides the guarantee that justice will triumph” (47).

Another central message of this parable—and of Jesus himself—is that God is in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. God sees them as persons of worth and calls upon the followers of Jesus to do likewise (50), and reading parables from the perspective of women opens one’s eyes to the often-unchallenged marginalization of women. Tamez offers a reading that instead stresses their liberation from such oppression.

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