The Gospel According to Mary | The Sociology of Religion

By: Kahlil Butler

Here is a paper by an Athabasca University Sociology 231 Student that points to a tradition of suppression in Christianity. This is not to point fingers. The “sacred” text of all religious have been tampered and doctored with in some way either because class, gender, and national interests. It is just to say, whether you are one of the faithful, a skeptic, or just someone seeking answers to the big questions of life, it is something to be aware of.

Expanding upon Unit 1 and its definition of religion as an answer to the big existential questions, Dr. Mike has provided the contention that religions are more than ‘opportunistic corruptions.’ I agree with this statement in its entirety and it is my position to further it by suggesting that the problem is deeper and stems from a flaw in the conception of religion. This flaw is the notion that religion’s core is rotten to begin with, which has lead to inevitable ‘opportunistic corruptions.’ This paper will argue that religion, Christianity in particular, serves as more than ‘opportunistic corruption’ due to a rotten core that operates within a flawed framework in which altered and omitted texts serve as the fundamental basis of belief. The flawed framework aforementioned is that of our capitalist society. As we have learned in the previous chapter, religion is an institution. Any institution that generates monetary benefits and exists within the capitalist paradigm will inevitably lead to corruption. The fundamental tenant of capitalism is the concept of gaining as much monetary profit as possible. We live in a world where monetary achievement is considered the greatest success. It is evident that a capitalist framework goes hand in hand with Dr. Mike’s submission of religion and its ‘opportunistic corruptions.’ Religion exists within a profit-based paradigm thus, religion is a profit-based institution, one with many ancillary benefits.

Religion provides humanity with the ideal moral blueprint to a fruitful life. It serves as a guide as to how one should conduct themselves within the confines of this place we call planet earth. But religious texts should not be the end all and be all, for that would put an end to the search and the search is what life is all about. It is my view that once one has accredited 100% of their meaning on earth, accomplishments on earth, and being on earth to a supernatural deity, that individual has ceased gaining any further knowledge on the topic, resulting in the implementation of a self-barrier. This barrier becomes even more damaging when the fundamental text of one’s religion has been altered or skewed. It is my position that religion is not only a form of ‘opportunistic corruption’ by a capitalist society, but the core scripture in which religions are based upon are fundamentally rotten. This is a double whammy!

A prime example of a corrupt text that has led to a rotten foundation is that of the New Testament Bible in which Mary Magdalene is not given her appropriate title as that of an Apostle. Scriptures have shown that Mary Magdalene had quite the significant following when she was spreading the word of Christianity. Her following and influence became so prominent that Paul began to feel intimidated. Scholars proclaim that Mary Magdalene witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, which was a turning point in Christianity.

In the gospel of Luke, the criteria set out for that of an apostle states that one must have been, with Jesus in his ministry, a witness of death and resurrection, and have the ability to teach the gospel that Jesus spoke. Mary fits this criteria, but nowhere is she listed as an apostle. This was partly due to the fact that the gospels of Mary were considered heretic. In the gospels of Mary discovered in the late nineteenth century in Upper Egypt, we see that Mary’s was in charge of telling other disciples about the teachings of Jesus. Through her gospels, it was also made apparent that Peter challenged Mary’s authenticity and posed doubt on her knowledge, based on the fact that she was a woman.

Due to this patriarchal Christian paradigm, Mary Magdalene has been regarded as a side figure; a figure with great vision but weak morals. Whereas, the gospels of Mary prove that Mary was as influential as Peter but her ideas were suppressed due to the “unorthodox “nature of her ideas. If the gospel of Mary is genuine, which many scholars and coptic experts believe is the case, then this gives a very different context of the disciples and the word in which they preached. It is evident that the text itself has been refined and reduced in a subjective manner, which has paved the way for opportunistic corruption in Christianity as a whole.

Was her gospel too radical? Could the fact that she was the apostle of all other apostles cause a fundamental problem within a patriarchal religion? Is she merely a prostitute like the Bible deems her to be or is she the ultimate teacher of all teachers? Here lies a huge discrepancy that challenges the accepted dogma of Christianity and it is our duty to examine such paradigms and challenge it with our analytical, critical, and rational tools. It is a known fact that men write history and the mistreatment of Mary Magdalene is merely a microcosm of this.

Lady Magdalene’s repressed role in accepted Christianity is a prime example of how a religious text, which serves as a blueprint, can be flawed further leading to the contention that religion is ‘opportunistic corruption.’ The barrier that Mary’s gospel was subject to was fundamental in nature. Paul and the other apostles believed that there was no way Jesus left a woman as the ultimate teacher and giver of knowledge. He found this to be outside the realm of female capabilities. Today, and historically speaking, we see Paul’s type of ignorance resurface rearing the face of fundamentalism, as mentioned in The Sociology of Religion – A substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach.

The ‘Fundamentalism’ concept breeds the type of opportunistic corruption that has penetrated religious cores since their conception. It seems rather primitive in nature that one would wish to assume the traditional views in a world that is continuously growing and expanding. A world where technology has knocked down technological dogmas. A world where science has evolved to bring cures to conditions which were once incurable. If we can progress, evolve and accept the technological and scientific advancements of our time, then why can’t we do the same for religious advancements? Such an ignorant approach to religion defies our fundamental capabilities of reason and rational thought. The art of reason allows us to ask questions and challenge accepted schools of thought. Suppressing these questions goes against every moral fabric of our human composition and is therefore unnatural and corruptive in nature.

For a second, lets look at this on a very basic level. Religion is an institution propagated by fellow human beings, human beings whose motivations are molded and formed as a result of the societal influences of capitalism. Capitalism breeds greed and with greed comes corruption. Capitalism + Greed = Corruption. This is not an elaborate, mind-bending explanation, rather the opposite is true. You see, this formula is so basic and certain that it might as well be regarded as scientific and mathematical. Since religion has thrived upon the underpinnings of a capitalist society, it is only natural that religion be a form of ‘opportunistic corruption.’ In fact, the opposite would be shocking. For me, the question of whether or not religion is ‘opportunistic corruption’ is undebatable. With that being said, I believe we should take religion with a grain of salt. Just because religion operates on a rotten core does not mean that religion should have the unwavering ability to corrupt the individual.

I grew up in a home where I was the only one attending church. One might ask, how does that happen? Well, it’s quite simple actually. I was fond of the idea of church and the mysterious omnipresent and omniscient power of the almighty one, so I took my curiosity to the next level. I started attending St. John’s Baptist Anglican Church at the age of 10 with my grandma as my grandpa had recently passed away. I would sleep over at her house on Saturday nights and wake up bright and early to some English muffins and Rain Bran.

While in Sunday school, I found myself asking questions that would leave the very pleasant but extremely close-minded Sunday school teacher dumbfounded. After doing a bit of research on my own, I began to feel as though things just simply were not adding up. After partaking in numerous Sunday School performances and plays, as well as, being the voice behind the reading of various scriptures in front of the congregation one out of every four weeks, the decision was finally made to re-assess my religious beliefs. My big questions were insufficiently answered throughout the course of four years and I decided to put a halt on my attendance until I figured things out. It has been 10 years and I am still figuring things out. But this makes the most sense to me and it provides a sense of closure, knowing that I have not fully committed to something that I am not 100% sure about. You see, even if I was 99% sure, that 1% of doubt is sufficient enough for the continuance of my quest to seek the answers to the big questions. Closed minds don’t get fed.