Power Dynamics

Dear Cynthia,

Your book “The Meaning of Mary Magdalene” was a game-changer for me. Having been close friends with numerous women who’ve been victims of trauma from various “spiritual teachers,” however, the opening up of the erotic, kenotic energy of Jesus as a path of conscious love with Mary brings up transformative hope as well as questions. How can victims of trauma trust the conscious love of Jesus? What does it mean for Mary to be both loving soul-friend and student to Jesus, a male teacher? (Aren’t there inherent “power dynamics” involved in such a relationship that in other spheres we would perhaps categorize as transgressive of healthy boundaries?)

Thanks for any insight you care to share!

~ Anonymous

These are excellent and thoughtful questions, but dominated so much by that “hermeneutics of suspicion” that infects so much of progressive, “politically correct” theology today. They are mental projections of possible worst-case scenarios. Do you REALLY want to live in a world where victim psychology overwhelms the love of Christ? Where absolute trust in the living presence of this person is not possible because he is a male, and women are not able to enter into soul-changing relationships with male teachers because of “inherent power dynamics?” Is “in Christ there is no male or female” merely a piece of theological rhetoric? You can inhabit that world if you want, but personally, I’d rather be turned into a stone!

Yes, I know that IN THEORY victims of trauma might have trouble trusting in conscious love. In practice, I haven’t seen it—except where a person is so insistent on hanging onto the victim’s badge that they refuse to move beyond it. Conscious love emanating from an authentic healer is very strong, pure, and healing (check out Jim Finley, for example!). It transcends gender and begins to address and release the wounds by bringing a whole new energy, which releases the power of old stories. If I couldn’t believe that this power still exists and that it overcomes all other wounds, I would hand over my collar and my teaching badge immediately; there would be nothing to say.

The Law of Three can perhaps be drawn on here to open another window of insight on what I’m trying to get at here. The current “healthy boundaries/politics of domination” model so characteristic of the “green” (pluralistic) level of theology and consciousness (where so much of liberal progressive theology is clustered) is stuck in the push/pull of opposites. There is no third force. Victims are always victims (denying force); teachers are always in the power seat (first force), dominators and perhaps potential abusers. Their roles are fixed, and green models aren’t about to release the roles. But that’s precisely here where the logjam occurs, leading to the defensive and angry tone of so much contemporary progressive theology; there is no third force! The precise role of third force when it comes, which is what a true conscious healer brings, is to release BOTH parties from former roles and establish a whole new playing field. That is the possibility that the real Jesus kerygma is based on – total liberation from the power of reified roles. And that’s the power we have to keep trusting in, working toward: wise as serpents, but also innocent as doves.