Mark 12:38-13:2: Fourteen Reflections at CASA Community (Reflections 11-14)

Posted: February 10, 2014 in General

widowThe following are reflections 11-14. See reflections 1-5 (here) and 6-10 (here).

Reflection Eleven: “The Dalits, the majority community of India, are politically powerless, socially untouchyable, economically poor, and religiously voiceless. Even today casteism is practiced in several parts of the country, by which the interests of the elite are protected. Dalit women of India are victims of patriarchal and androcentric customs as well as natural and accidental catastrophes. They are still victims of a cruel and oppressive socioreligious order. The customs of the society traumatized the feelings of women, especially Dalit women, in the past even now it hurts their identity. Many of them are homeless, jobless, starving, sick, oppressed, exploited, persecuted, robbed, raped, hungry, and dying. Today, the Dalits are eagerly waiting for a paradigm message of transformation and equality to overcome the dehumanizing structures. Mark 12:38-13:2 is just such a text which provides powerful insights for developing a Dalit Theology” (See Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251). The story of the woman in Mark 12:38-13:2 can be considered as a sharp rhetoric in the context of prevailing exploitation and marginalization in the India.

Reflection Twelve: “The widow in Mark 12 is a victim of an imbalanced society in which she was oppressed as poor, subjugated as a woman, and dehumanized as a widow; she was indeed suffering from triple-oppression. A Dalit Christian woman is a woman, a Dalit, and a Christian. There is in India a tradition defining what each of these identities involve which is so strong that a Dalit Christian woman can be described as thrice handicapped or thrice alienated on the basis of her gender, her caste, and her membership in a minority religious community (i.e., Christianity in India). The Women’s Movement in India has emphasized that Dalit women are the dust of dust in the Indian society—the thrice oppressed, brutalized, and abused not only by the upper castes/classes but by Dalit men too. In Mark 12:38-13:2, while the rabbis walked around in long robes, the widows ended up with tiny coins; while the rabbis were greeted with respect, the widows were considered a public disgrace; while one people group was comfortable with their best seats, the other was without a place to lay their heads; and while one constructed their own splendorous mansions including the temple, the other had their houses devoured. These caricatures go well with the context of lower caste—higher caste or poor—elite disparity in the Indian scenario. The presentation of the Markan widow over against the giant men can be taken as a symbolic expression of a social reality. The life-situation of the widow in the narratives of Mark provides paradigmatic rhetoric for us to apply to the life-situation of India” (see Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251).

Reflection Thirteen: “Dalit women who are victims of patriarchal constraints within the Dalit-fold itself are emerging as a volatile force to challenge the status quo. They are targets of sexual abuse by upper castes in a context of caste/class clashes, of state-sponsored violence in various forms, and of domestic violence in the hands of their own men. The widow of Mark is a living testimony for all the widows, oppressed women, and all the Dalit people in India and elsewhere around the globe. She must not be looked at merely as a historical monument; instead we must place her into the real-life situation of all the oppressed and exploited classes as a directive force for transforming the dehumanizing structures that are prevalent in the contemporary global scenario. Not only in this story but throughout all the Gospels, Jesus stood firm for the causes of the marginalized and identified completely with them. Just as Jesus sided with the vulnerable as a prophet of social transformation, so too in the present-day situation the church should raise its prophetic voice on behalf of the Dalits, especially the Dalit women of India” (see Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251).

Reflection Fourteen: In recapitulation, the story of the needy-poor-widow-woman is not merely a ‘descriptive’ event of the past but a ‘gnomic’ story that can rhetorically intertwine readers ‘here and now’ and ‘everywhere and ever’. The woman of Mark 12:38-13:2 functions as a symbolical character who can influence the Dalit women of India, Black women of America, Minjung women of Korea, and all the needy-poor-widowed-women in different parts of the world. Similarly, Markan protagonist Jesus functions as the savior of the world with ‘gnomic effect’. Jesus is the liberator of humanity from clutches. The church of God as the miniature form of the Kingdom of God must take this as the kernel point and should stand firm with the poor and the oppressed. Let this message flourish among the people of God so that all may become ‘servants’ rather than choosing to become ‘masters’.

Reflections by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

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