colorful road

The Political is Personal: Mary as a Parent and Prophet of Righteousness

Until the 1970s in the United States, women could not bring charges of spousal rape. Like much so-called domestic violence, these actions were considered a private matter. As too often stated, “It’s none of my business.” Eventually, women and men agreed that such a bifurcation of public and private could not stand, and feminists popularized the term “the personal is political.”1 Law addresses matters of our common space and, more crucially, of power—and the latter is the core of politics. The catchy insight translated into legislation and, at least in some cases, worked to protect women. At least in some ways, society and individuals reconsidered our obligation to one another, especially to our vulnerable neighbors. No abuser’s home is his castle. We remain responsible to others for what happens behind closed doors, with the tender attention and confidentiality intimate relationships of all kinds require. We remain responsible to one another in our common life, in spaces of economics and politics.

The phrase “the personal is political” reminds us of what Christians know: Christ’s kingdom is here, reorienting every aspect of our lives. We cannot wall off our close relationships from our public witness, any more than we can neatly sever our formation as persons from our formation as persons-in-public. And the God who comes to us in Christ remains the God of the Older Testament. YHWH’s Decalogue moves easily between “religion” (have no other gods and don’t use YHWH’s name in vain), intimate relationships (honor your mom and don’t commit adultery), politics (be truthful with your neighbor and don’t murder), and economics (take Sabbaths, don’t steal or plot to take what isn’t yours).

YHWH boasted of his jealousy as the rationale for these commandments. When John Legend sings, “Give your all to me/I’ll give my all to you” we swoon; we long for that sort of trusting connection.2 Such is a sign of the sort of deep connections for which we all long. But only God can take all of us and not use us for some other end, as even the best intentioned of lovers remains a mere human, a person with conscious and unconscious needs of their own. Yet from the beginning, the people of God have balked at YHWH’s insistence on all of us. While in theory, perhaps, we trust God in everything, we too often resist this. As individuals and as congregations, we wrestle with God as we seek to contain him to domains of our choosing, that suit our particular spirituality or sensibilities. The patterns that emerge trend in two stereotypical directions. We can hear this in how two streams of Christian faith wield the word δίκη (dikē) which is alternatively translated “righteousness” or “justice” in the New Testament. One stream focuses on righteousness as individual piety and the other on righteousness as social justice. While this is admittedly simplistic, they name temptations to which we are prone, ways we seek to reduce the size of Jesus’ realm and give our natural proclivities space to roam.

Below, we’ll look at two typical modes of being righteous or just that are currently on offer. Then we will consider a young woman who testifies to how a “yes” to receiving the king and his kingdom reorders our most intimate relations to others and to our own bodies. Her utter submission to God paradoxically liberates her. She perceives the politics of the kingdom coming, with a power incomprehensible by pretentious worldly politics. A parent and prophet, Mary illustrates what the saints enact over the ages: The pious upend politics-as-usual, because they unmask the fragility of any authority that does not serve the good that is God’s reign.

A Shrink-to-fit God: To Be Right is To Be Righteous

We don’t set out to reduce God to size. Ironically, such shrinkage often arises because we sense that others have limited God in offensive or (to us) obvious ways. Some of us have become disgusted by the rhetoric and hypocrisy of Christian leaders and moved into the “exvangelical” camp. I see this in media streams or hear it among friends who ask questions like, “With all the injustices and real problems in our society, why are these Christians fixated on [say] sexual morality? Why don’t these people get out of their megachurches and cry out about immigrant children in cages at our borders?”

We cite (portions of) the OT prophets who proclaim that economic and social arrangements be measured not by the consumer price index but rather by how the poorest and most vulnerable fare within it. Our position on social justice affirmed, we are left unbothered by what we might think of as oppressive and therapeutically dysfunctional emphases on individual sin. We are free to tune our lives to our heart’s desires, attending to the “true self” through interrogation of our desires. No one can deny us rights for, say, sex or other relationships that work for us individually. We don’t challenge others on private topics, especially in church.

Caught up in this stream, Christians increasingly identify as “progressive” and talk and post about causes that fall into this category. We are confident that what really matters to God is “social justice.” The nature of politics and the content of the justice are often prescribed by secular movements or ideological commitments. Swept into these narrowed visions of “politics,” it can be difficult in these settings (for us) to ponder how the crucified Messiah alters conceptions of power, strategies for change, or the tone of public proclamation. We might become reticent to talk about patience, fidelity, forgiveness, or longsuffering as weapons of peace, or, worse, forget that these are integral to justice and to righteousness.3

Another “type” worries that these Christians conflate the gospel with social justice movements. What is needed, we insist, is individual salvation and submission to Christ. We might believe that social problems boil down to a need for individual conversion. We assert that “Lord” means my personal savior—and, in obedience, I submit to Jesus, gladly offering up the itty-bitty territory of my “heart” to rule as he wishes.4 We suspect that immorality stems from lack of submission of our lives to Christ. We embrace our individual sinfulness and seek absolution. With Jesus thus confined, we are “free”—free to offer others our loyalty regarding economic or political arrangements, be it “America,” a political party, or some social organization.5 These other associations likely feed our longing for significance, order, and security amidst the secularism of our age.

Both streams claim to pursue the righteousness of God. Evidenced in our social media and mirrored around too many of our dinner tables, that pursuit sets us up for self-righteousness. We are pretty sure we have it right or at least know we have it righter than those other Christians from whom we’d like to disassociate. Notice, too, how these streams tempt us with a sort of liberation, leaving swaths of our lives untouched by an otherwise all-consuming king and that king’s reordering of our lives.

But like any leader worth their salt (or who hasn’t “lost their saltiness”), Jesus irritates me.6 He consistently interrupts my religion-as-usual while also shaking up my politics-as-usual. It’s the pesky content of our proclamation of Christ as Lord—and savior—that should remind us that attaching ourselves to movements (be they enthusiastic about our national culture or critical of it) must always be done with our hearts and feet in the kingdom of God.

Mary: Gestating Justice

The CEB translates the gospel invitation as, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark 1:14–15). Trusting the good news of God in Christ turns out to entail bodies, to inhabit new ways of living internally as well as externally. We state this in our confessions when we invite the Spirit to create in us clean hearts; at our communion tables we ingest Christ, receiving sustenance for our week’s work in a world in need of good news. Perhaps more than anyone else, Mary displays for us how saying yes to the kingdom, and its unlikely king, necessarily involves the personal but also reorients our social and political allegiances. Intimacy with God necessarily entails a political orientation, bringing or solidifying a way of seeing power and position.

What a courageous young woman Mary is! She agrees to receive the Messiah, her Lord, into her womb (“Let it be as you have said”). Immediately, she gives up a treasured social and personal status as a virgin. She endangers her betrothal. Really, who would have thought Joseph would ever buy her claim to fidelity? She risks—and perhaps experiences—humiliation, despite Joseph’s desire to spare her this. (People have always been prone to count backward from birth to conception, after all.)7 Without any assurances for her own security or future, she assents to bear the Son of God, one who will take up the throne of David and whose reign will not end.

Welcoming the kingdom can’t get more personal than offering one’s womb as the royal residence, more intimate than birth through water and blood, or more embodied than offering her breasts to nourish Jesus for years to come. Like most mothers, Mary discovers that attachment to her son brings with it anxieties and sorrows that slice open her very soul (Luke 2:35).

But Mary welcomes not only a son but a king, and she recognizes that her intimate “yes” bears political significance in multiple ways. The language in Luke underscores this. Gabriel says she bears the “Son of God.” That title was not merely “religious” but rather appeared on the coins of Rome in this conquered region of Palestine: Caesar Augustus ruled as the “divine son of God.” Each economic exchange recalled that Caesar provided for the ruled and warned off anyone tempted to deny his claim to power.

Against such pretensions, the angel Gabriel speaks to Mary of a different throne and of an everlasting kingdom given to this yet-to-be-born peasant. Augustus was hailed as the savior who brought peace and prosperity to the world, but Luke’s heavenly army sings strange (and treasonous?) news to the shepherds: A swaddled bundle, resting in a trough, born to nobodies—this babe brings peace to the earth and all her peoples.8

Within the politics of the Roman Empire, heralds often brought “good news,” broadcasting the birth of future emperors, military victories, or the like. In each movement of Luke’s long nativity narrative, he connects the εὐαγγέλιον, or gospel, to language dripping with political and social connotations. But in his telling, the good news rings in an anti-empire key. Its means of arrival and those it honors are unknowns and insignificants: a young girl, a cuckolded husband, an old infertile couple, a cooing boy, and uncouth sheepherders.9 

But in case we miss the contrasting politics of Luke’s Gospel to that of empire, Mary sings the wonder of a savior who reorders institutions and upends social values:

Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
     because the mighty one has done great
     things for
me. . . .
He shows mercy to
everyone,
     from one generation to the next,
     who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm
     He has scattered those with
arrogant
     thoughts and
proud inclinations.
     He has pulled the
powerful down from
     their thrones

          and
lifted up the lowly.
He has
filled the hungry with good things
    
and sent the rich away empty-handed. (Lk 1:48 – 53, emphasis added)

Personal salvation and intimacy? Absolutely! But notice that the king in her womb does not merely remain a matter of familial affection or, shall we say, of “heart.” Mary testifies that the coming of God in her baby shakes up political and economic arrangements; the good news—for the disempowered and unimportant, anyway—is that business-as-usual bankrupts those who invest in it. The tense of Mary’s verbs in Greek reminds us that even if the externals seem unchanging, those who open themselves as she has done to receive the gospel know in the present a power stronger than the petty brutality of princes and enact a hope in the present more forceful than the cynicism of unseeing “realists.” Thus, Mary sings the good news: Shalom, true peace, marks the kingdom of God. Such peace comes to persons; such shalom reorders systems. To sever one from the other, the personal from the political, insults the God who wants all of us—and leaves us with a peace that is no peace.10

Mother Mary and the Politics as Personal

We don’t normally think of parenting as a political act, but it is for Christians. Following Aristotle and others, we recognize that as social, relational animals, even the most quotidian of activities entails a “politic.” We must organize, divide resources, and wield power for the sake of a shared end. (That’s part of why Aristotle believed that all virtues were, in some way, “political.”) The rub is that we are seduced by other sorts of politics than that of the kingdom, be they of Rome or of religiosity. “Give us your homeland, your loyal love,” they might cajole, “and Jesus can have your heart!” “God sides with those on this side of the issue,” they may pine, “so you are free to listen to whatever your authentic self commands of you!”

Mary’s story recalls that a most ordinary act, mothering, shapes—or misshapes—us for fidelity to the king and his kingdom. Parenting can serve a politic of self-preservation and protection, as when mothers’ anxieties over their sons press us to exclude other mothers’ sons from our center of concern. We are tempted to perpetuate a politic of fear, voting for those who promise security from the other for “my” child, often through violence or exclusion. Or we may be tempted to a politic of despair that maintains that in a world of scarcity and injustice, it’s more compassionate not to welcome the vulnerable at all, not to open wombs or homes to the lowly or weak whom the world, we suspect, will merely consume.

Mary knows better. She bears this boy, knowing full-well that the religious, criminal, governmental systems are broken. She flees the bloodthirsty Herod, becoming a refugee with her new family in a foreign land. She will watch those systems converge in a determination to torture and execute her innocent son.

Mary has been “exceptionalized” in many contexts, however, and, thus set above us all, her witness cannot upend the status quo. But most of the time she plodded along like all of us, like when her teenager caused frantic anxiety as well as inconvenience. (Even Jesus needed to develop his prefrontal lobe, apparently; see Lk 2:41–50). Mary models what it means to enact the politics of the gospel in ordinary practices, in everyday choices.

We might wrestle with calls on our lives that seem too boring to be labeled “just.” Instead, we “just” take care of our neighbors and friends. Or maybe our bodies are worn down by illness or fractured by mental struggle. Maybe others of us find Mary’s manifesto out of touch with reality, because we know firsthand the coercion on which many powers and principalities (systems, institutions, organizations, or families) rely. Mary resists the temptation to shrink God’s righteousness. Her “yes” to the kingdom means she participates in that king’s reign—God’s justice comes to earth, enacted in the material world of economics, politics, and power.

The political is personal: Mary cannot choose between being a parent or prophet. When we say yes to God as our ruler, when we agree to the Spirit’s desire to enter us, we submit as an individual with bodily appetites and soulful longings whose most intimate relationships (with others and with ourselves) become subject to Another’s direction. We also join God’s revolution in Christ, one that cannot be stopped or contained in a religiosity that refuses to seek the beautiful disruption of the Magnificat.

May we take up the politics of the kingdom with Mary as a guide. May her story inspire us, so that we, too, might gestate God’s justice in all that we are, all that we lack, and all that we seek to become.

Written By

Erin Dufault-Hunter is associate professor of Christian ethics. She is the author of The Transformative Power of Faith: A Narrative Theory of Conversion and coeditor of Health, Healing, and Shalom: Frontiers and Challenges for Christian Healthcare Missions, with Bryant Myers and Isaac Voss. Her work explores the intersection of humans as embodied creatures with racialization, technology, gender, and sexuality, and she regularly speaks and writes on various aspects of our moral life, including sexuality, bioethics, and diversity. Her forthcoming book with Baker Academic is entitled Sex, Shame, and Salvation: How the Erotic Matters for Our Life with God.

Until the 1970s in the United States, women could not bring charges of spousal rape. Like much so-called domestic violence, these actions were considered a private matter. As too often stated, “It’s none of my business.” Eventually, women and men agreed that such a bifurcation of public and private could not stand, and feminists popularized the term “the personal is political.”1 Law addresses matters of our common space and, more crucially, of power—and the latter is the core of politics. The catchy insight translated into legislation and, at least in some cases, worked to protect women. At least in some ways, society and individuals reconsidered our obligation to one another, especially to our vulnerable neighbors. No abuser’s home is his castle. We remain responsible to others for what happens behind closed doors, with the tender attention and confidentiality intimate relationships of all kinds require. We remain responsible to one another in our common life, in spaces of economics and politics.

The phrase “the personal is political” reminds us of what Christians know: Christ’s kingdom is here, reorienting every aspect of our lives. We cannot wall off our close relationships from our public witness, any more than we can neatly sever our formation as persons from our formation as persons-in-public. And the God who comes to us in Christ remains the God of the Older Testament. YHWH’s Decalogue moves easily between “religion” (have no other gods and don’t use YHWH’s name in vain), intimate relationships (honor your mom and don’t commit adultery), politics (be truthful with your neighbor and don’t murder), and economics (take Sabbaths, don’t steal or plot to take what isn’t yours).

YHWH boasted of his jealousy as the rationale for these commandments. When John Legend sings, “Give your all to me/I’ll give my all to you” we swoon; we long for that sort of trusting connection.2 Such is a sign of the sort of deep connections for which we all long. But only God can take all of us and not use us for some other end, as even the best intentioned of lovers remains a mere human, a person with conscious and unconscious needs of their own. Yet from the beginning, the people of God have balked at YHWH’s insistence on all of us. While in theory, perhaps, we trust God in everything, we too often resist this. As individuals and as congregations, we wrestle with God as we seek to contain him to domains of our choosing, that suit our particular spirituality or sensibilities. The patterns that emerge trend in two stereotypical directions. We can hear this in how two streams of Christian faith wield the word δίκη (dikē) which is alternatively translated “righteousness” or “justice” in the New Testament. One stream focuses on righteousness as individual piety and the other on righteousness as social justice. While this is admittedly simplistic, they name temptations to which we are prone, ways we seek to reduce the size of Jesus’ realm and give our natural proclivities space to roam.

Below, we’ll look at two typical modes of being righteous or just that are currently on offer. Then we will consider a young woman who testifies to how a “yes” to receiving the king and his kingdom reorders our most intimate relations to others and to our own bodies. Her utter submission to God paradoxically liberates her. She perceives the politics of the kingdom coming, with a power incomprehensible by pretentious worldly politics. A parent and prophet, Mary illustrates what the saints enact over the ages: The pious upend politics-as-usual, because they unmask the fragility of any authority that does not serve the good that is God’s reign.

A Shrink-to-fit God: To Be Right is To Be Righteous

We don’t set out to reduce God to size. Ironically, such shrinkage often arises because we sense that others have limited God in offensive or (to us) obvious ways. Some of us have become disgusted by the rhetoric and hypocrisy of Christian leaders and moved into the “exvangelical” camp. I see this in media streams or hear it among friends who ask questions like, “With all the injustices and real problems in our society, why are these Christians fixated on [say] sexual morality? Why don’t these people get out of their megachurches and cry out about immigrant children in cages at our borders?”

We cite (portions of) the OT prophets who proclaim that economic and social arrangements be measured not by the consumer price index but rather by how the poorest and most vulnerable fare within it. Our position on social justice affirmed, we are left unbothered by what we might think of as oppressive and therapeutically dysfunctional emphases on individual sin. We are free to tune our lives to our heart’s desires, attending to the “true self” through interrogation of our desires. No one can deny us rights for, say, sex or other relationships that work for us individually. We don’t challenge others on private topics, especially in church.

Caught up in this stream, Christians increasingly identify as “progressive” and talk and post about causes that fall into this category. We are confident that what really matters to God is “social justice.” The nature of politics and the content of the justice are often prescribed by secular movements or ideological commitments. Swept into these narrowed visions of “politics,” it can be difficult in these settings (for us) to ponder how the crucified Messiah alters conceptions of power, strategies for change, or the tone of public proclamation. We might become reticent to talk about patience, fidelity, forgiveness, or longsuffering as weapons of peace, or, worse, forget that these are integral to justice and to righteousness.3

Another “type” worries that these Christians conflate the gospel with social justice movements. What is needed, we insist, is individual salvation and submission to Christ. We might believe that social problems boil down to a need for individual conversion. We assert that “Lord” means my personal savior—and, in obedience, I submit to Jesus, gladly offering up the itty-bitty territory of my “heart” to rule as he wishes.4 We suspect that immorality stems from lack of submission of our lives to Christ. We embrace our individual sinfulness and seek absolution. With Jesus thus confined, we are “free”—free to offer others our loyalty regarding economic or political arrangements, be it “America,” a political party, or some social organization.5 These other associations likely feed our longing for significance, order, and security amidst the secularism of our age.

Both streams claim to pursue the righteousness of God. Evidenced in our social media and mirrored around too many of our dinner tables, that pursuit sets us up for self-righteousness. We are pretty sure we have it right or at least know we have it righter than those other Christians from whom we’d like to disassociate. Notice, too, how these streams tempt us with a sort of liberation, leaving swaths of our lives untouched by an otherwise all-consuming king and that king’s reordering of our lives.

But like any leader worth their salt (or who hasn’t “lost their saltiness”), Jesus irritates me.6 He consistently interrupts my religion-as-usual while also shaking up my politics-as-usual. It’s the pesky content of our proclamation of Christ as Lord—and savior—that should remind us that attaching ourselves to movements (be they enthusiastic about our national culture or critical of it) must always be done with our hearts and feet in the kingdom of God.

Mary: Gestating Justice

The CEB translates the gospel invitation as, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark 1:14–15). Trusting the good news of God in Christ turns out to entail bodies, to inhabit new ways of living internally as well as externally. We state this in our confessions when we invite the Spirit to create in us clean hearts; at our communion tables we ingest Christ, receiving sustenance for our week’s work in a world in need of good news. Perhaps more than anyone else, Mary displays for us how saying yes to the kingdom, and its unlikely king, necessarily involves the personal but also reorients our social and political allegiances. Intimacy with God necessarily entails a political orientation, bringing or solidifying a way of seeing power and position.

What a courageous young woman Mary is! She agrees to receive the Messiah, her Lord, into her womb (“Let it be as you have said”). Immediately, she gives up a treasured social and personal status as a virgin. She endangers her betrothal. Really, who would have thought Joseph would ever buy her claim to fidelity? She risks—and perhaps experiences—humiliation, despite Joseph’s desire to spare her this. (People have always been prone to count backward from birth to conception, after all.)7 Without any assurances for her own security or future, she assents to bear the Son of God, one who will take up the throne of David and whose reign will not end.

Welcoming the kingdom can’t get more personal than offering one’s womb as the royal residence, more intimate than birth through water and blood, or more embodied than offering her breasts to nourish Jesus for years to come. Like most mothers, Mary discovers that attachment to her son brings with it anxieties and sorrows that slice open her very soul (Luke 2:35).

But Mary welcomes not only a son but a king, and she recognizes that her intimate “yes” bears political significance in multiple ways. The language in Luke underscores this. Gabriel says she bears the “Son of God.” That title was not merely “religious” but rather appeared on the coins of Rome in this conquered region of Palestine: Caesar Augustus ruled as the “divine son of God.” Each economic exchange recalled that Caesar provided for the ruled and warned off anyone tempted to deny his claim to power.

Against such pretensions, the angel Gabriel speaks to Mary of a different throne and of an everlasting kingdom given to this yet-to-be-born peasant. Augustus was hailed as the savior who brought peace and prosperity to the world, but Luke’s heavenly army sings strange (and treasonous?) news to the shepherds: A swaddled bundle, resting in a trough, born to nobodies—this babe brings peace to the earth and all her peoples.8

Within the politics of the Roman Empire, heralds often brought “good news,” broadcasting the birth of future emperors, military victories, or the like. In each movement of Luke’s long nativity narrative, he connects the εὐαγγέλιον, or gospel, to language dripping with political and social connotations. But in his telling, the good news rings in an anti-empire key. Its means of arrival and those it honors are unknowns and insignificants: a young girl, a cuckolded husband, an old infertile couple, a cooing boy, and uncouth sheepherders.9 

But in case we miss the contrasting politics of Luke’s Gospel to that of empire, Mary sings the wonder of a savior who reorders institutions and upends social values:

Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
     because the mighty one has done great
     things for
me. . . .
He shows mercy to
everyone,
     from one generation to the next,
     who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm
     He has scattered those with
arrogant
     thoughts and
proud inclinations.
     He has pulled the
powerful down from
     their thrones

          and
lifted up the lowly.
He has
filled the hungry with good things
    
and sent the rich away empty-handed. (Lk 1:48 – 53, emphasis added)

Personal salvation and intimacy? Absolutely! But notice that the king in her womb does not merely remain a matter of familial affection or, shall we say, of “heart.” Mary testifies that the coming of God in her baby shakes up political and economic arrangements; the good news—for the disempowered and unimportant, anyway—is that business-as-usual bankrupts those who invest in it. The tense of Mary’s verbs in Greek reminds us that even if the externals seem unchanging, those who open themselves as she has done to receive the gospel know in the present a power stronger than the petty brutality of princes and enact a hope in the present more forceful than the cynicism of unseeing “realists.” Thus, Mary sings the good news: Shalom, true peace, marks the kingdom of God. Such peace comes to persons; such shalom reorders systems. To sever one from the other, the personal from the political, insults the God who wants all of us—and leaves us with a peace that is no peace.10

Mother Mary and the Politics as Personal

We don’t normally think of parenting as a political act, but it is for Christians. Following Aristotle and others, we recognize that as social, relational animals, even the most quotidian of activities entails a “politic.” We must organize, divide resources, and wield power for the sake of a shared end. (That’s part of why Aristotle believed that all virtues were, in some way, “political.”) The rub is that we are seduced by other sorts of politics than that of the kingdom, be they of Rome or of religiosity. “Give us your homeland, your loyal love,” they might cajole, “and Jesus can have your heart!” “God sides with those on this side of the issue,” they may pine, “so you are free to listen to whatever your authentic self commands of you!”

Mary’s story recalls that a most ordinary act, mothering, shapes—or misshapes—us for fidelity to the king and his kingdom. Parenting can serve a politic of self-preservation and protection, as when mothers’ anxieties over their sons press us to exclude other mothers’ sons from our center of concern. We are tempted to perpetuate a politic of fear, voting for those who promise security from the other for “my” child, often through violence or exclusion. Or we may be tempted to a politic of despair that maintains that in a world of scarcity and injustice, it’s more compassionate not to welcome the vulnerable at all, not to open wombs or homes to the lowly or weak whom the world, we suspect, will merely consume.

Mary knows better. She bears this boy, knowing full-well that the religious, criminal, governmental systems are broken. She flees the bloodthirsty Herod, becoming a refugee with her new family in a foreign land. She will watch those systems converge in a determination to torture and execute her innocent son.

Mary has been “exceptionalized” in many contexts, however, and, thus set above us all, her witness cannot upend the status quo. But most of the time she plodded along like all of us, like when her teenager caused frantic anxiety as well as inconvenience. (Even Jesus needed to develop his prefrontal lobe, apparently; see Lk 2:41–50). Mary models what it means to enact the politics of the gospel in ordinary practices, in everyday choices.

We might wrestle with calls on our lives that seem too boring to be labeled “just.” Instead, we “just” take care of our neighbors and friends. Or maybe our bodies are worn down by illness or fractured by mental struggle. Maybe others of us find Mary’s manifesto out of touch with reality, because we know firsthand the coercion on which many powers and principalities (systems, institutions, organizations, or families) rely. Mary resists the temptation to shrink God’s righteousness. Her “yes” to the kingdom means she participates in that king’s reign—God’s justice comes to earth, enacted in the material world of economics, politics, and power.

The political is personal: Mary cannot choose between being a parent or prophet. When we say yes to God as our ruler, when we agree to the Spirit’s desire to enter us, we submit as an individual with bodily appetites and soulful longings whose most intimate relationships (with others and with ourselves) become subject to Another’s direction. We also join God’s revolution in Christ, one that cannot be stopped or contained in a religiosity that refuses to seek the beautiful disruption of the Magnificat.

May we take up the politics of the kingdom with Mary as a guide. May her story inspire us, so that we, too, might gestate God’s justice in all that we are, all that we lack, and all that we seek to become.

Erin Dufault-Hunter

Erin Dufault-Hunter is associate professor of Christian ethics. She is the author of The Transformative Power of Faith: A Narrative Theory of Conversion and coeditor of Health, Healing, and Shalom: Frontiers and Challenges for Christian Healthcare Missions, with Bryant Myers and Isaac Voss. Her work explores the intersection of humans as embodied creatures with racialization, technology, gender, and sexuality, and she regularly speaks and writes on various aspects of our moral life, including sexuality, bioethics, and diversity. Her forthcoming book with Baker Academic is entitled Sex, Shame, and Salvation: How the Erotic Matters for Our Life with God.

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Fuller Magazine

Nikole Lim, founder of Freely in Hope, shares stories of healing and redemption she has witnessed through her work with survivors of sexual violence.