I admit to feeling pensive and internal lately, and, well, more than a little bit weepy. And, at the same time manic. I clearly am preparing for something unknown, cleaning, re-arranging furniture, painting, and organizing and planning with all of the obsession of, well, an obsessive. It is a pattern that I have seen in myself before. So, when I sat down this last week to do my assignment for Wednesday Night Words (to pick a song that has had meaning for my life and to bring it to share with the group), I found myself making what many would consider an odd choice. No, no aria from an opera, no symphonic or choral work, not an old sappy pop tune from my youth.
I chose: “Did Jesus Have a Baby Sister” by Dory Previn. Yes, that’s right. An old chestnut from my days in the feminist trenches. You don’t know it? You can listen to it on YouTube, but here is a small sample of the words:
Did Jesus have a baby sister?
Was she bitter, was she sweet?
Did she wind up in a convent?
Did she end up….on the street?
On the run? On the stage?
Did she dance?
Did He have a sister?
A little baby sister?
Did Jesus have a sister?
Did they give her a chance?
Now, I will tell you the truth. I really haven’t thought about this song much in the some 20 years that I have known it. But listening to it in preparation for last Wednesday, I could see myself sitting in the seats at some theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, so excited for the beginning of the show when I first heard it; I could hear the laughter mixed with pain as I listened carefully to the lyrics for that very first time; I could see a distraught, teenage version of myself playing that record over and over and over again until the lyrics were burned into my memory, even now, so many years later.
And the first feelings that return with the music are those of a sad, lonely, confused teenager who had a pretty good idea that the world wasn’t telling her the truth about her worth and her identity; that she herself was valuable and part of this world even though she was a woman and not a man. But then I remember that, in this song was also born a sense of hope and a belief that all people are worthy, that all people posess a potential that is valuable to the world, no matter what anyone else said. And that belief comes from a very, funny, sarcastic verse in the very same song:
And did she long to be the Savior,
Saving everyone she met?
And in private to her mirror,
Did she whisper — Saviorette?
Save your breath.
To an impressionable, confused teenager, these words opened up a world of possibility. A woman as Savior (let’s fill in the word airline pilot, CEO, President, or pastor, for example) — what a radical idea. But a possibility.
Now before some of you want to string me up for blasphemy for all of this talk about Jesus having a sister, I would refer you to Matthew 13:55-56 :
Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? . . .
(New International Version Bible)
But I digress. What I really learned this week is that the roots of my radical Christianity were born of my early radical feminism: in my desperate search for my own validation as a woman with talents and gifts, and for permission to exist in the form in which I was created (as opposed to the form society told me that I should take to conform), I gave birth to a world view that had to believe that for everyone: that taught me to welcome the stranger, to welcome the “other”, to embrace that which is uncomfortable and to offer for anyone who wants it a sense of community, faith and love.
Feminism, was (and is) for me a world view that taught me that women were as valuable and as talented as men, and that they could pursue whatever calling God whispered in their ear. Radical christianity teaches me that the same is true for all people, whether or not they look like me and talk like me, whether or not they believe as I do or don’t have a green card, or don’t know how to read and write.
Yes, even you men. You are included too.