A woman was ‘caught’ in adultery. Nothing new there. The man wasn’t accused. Nothing new there. She was dragged to be stoned. Nothing new there except that nowadays it’s more metaphorical. She would be used as a pawn. Nothing new there. To trap a good man. Nothing new there either.
In the end the accusers left her. And Jesus said to her ‘No one’s condemned you?…. Neither do I.’
That’s new. In fact it still feels new. A woman who is in the wrong has all her accusers and accusations made to leave. And she is not condemned.
The rape case in India showed up the attitude of a certain section of its population. It’s the girl’s fault. She shouldn’t have been out late. She shouldn’t be so westernised… blah blah blah… and we have condemned many innocent girls to horrible fates through our prejudices.
Jesus in this story seems to go completely the other way. The system of condemnation that has dragged this woman in, is made to leave. He declares the entire system to be without validity. The system of condemnation and misogyny for that moment crumbles. In the end it’s just him and the woman. He addresses her directly. ‘Is there no one to condemn you?’ No, she replies. ‘Neither do I’ he says, ‘Go and don’t sin anymore.’ This is the freedom that Jesus offers. The woman acknowledges his act by accepting that there is nothing to condemn her.
I think that this is the Jesus we all need to embrace.
A lot of folk say that religion or any belief in God is a crutch. Interestingly believers without using the same terminology reinforce this assumption in the way they express the need for God. So often it is said that when we are in trouble, God will help us; or to go a bit further God will rescue you from hell.
Is that it? Is that all faith is? Is that all religion is? Any adherent of any belief system will proudly say, we are not really religious; it’s our way of life.
It’s a way of life. Get it? It’s not something we turn to when things go wrong. It’s alway around we. It’s our world view. It’s like water, which we drink when we are happy and satisfied after a meal or when we are dying of thirst. It’s not a crutch.
If anything, Jesus calls us to throw away all the crutches that we’ve built around us.
For those who care, in India, the last few weeks has opened a conversation about misogyny and the nature of male female relations in India and beyond.
I’ve since childhood been sensitized to the problem of misogyny. It’s a problem that so many refuse to even acknowledge. Yet we were made aware of it because of our militant school principal Mrs. Mary Roy. The mother of the marginally less militant Arundhati Roy fought so many battles for women. Some were famous, some were unnoticed. The larger than life personality that she is, we were often privy to the battles she fought. I didn’t fully understand all of it but I realised pretty early on there is a problem with how women are treated.
She got us to watch The Accused and asked for a discussion about it. When the then Chief Minister of Kerala said rape is… like drinking tea we had a special assembly and a discussion for it. Once there was a case of abuse in the school and she got the whole senior school together to talk through it.
However, knowing about all this didn’t really change my actions. I still expected my mother to do all the cooking and the maids to do the cleaning. In theory I supported feminism, deplored the misogyny in church but essentially all that remained in the head.
After marriage I did the classic ‘you’re better at it than me, dear’ excuse and got my wife to do most of the housework and I grudgingly ‘helped’. Thankfully my wife didn’t let me get away with it. Through persistent reminders of housework I slowly started doing it. Even then in my mind I was ‘helping’ my wife in her duty. After a couple years of marriage it dawned on me. When I did housework I wasn’t helping. I was just doing my bit in the house. That was a huge realisation. I slowly changed. Too slowly for the wife but we’ve survived.
Now we’ve reached a point where I do all the cooking and bins and she does all the cleaning. And we share the child care as our schedules permit. Thankfully we had the circumstances that allowed us to reach this point.
I think this is the starting point for the move against misogyny. It starts at the home, where boys aren’t allowed to get away without learning to cook and clean. Where husbands have to share the title of bread winner and child carer.
The question for me is, how do I as a man gather together with other men so that we can move towards allowing women to be full persons in society regardless of their gender? But I suppose small steps first.