I read Junia Is Not Alone at the beginning of the month and her story has stayed with me. Her story is bigger than her single verse mention in the Bible, but in all the ways that the verse has been corrupted and neglected over the years. Even in the book, it’s not just about her but about the way that her story recurs with others.
So, could you be a Junia?
Do you go to church and do good work that gets forgotten about the minute it is done? Do you lead people in their spiritual growth and then have credit given to someone else? Are you silenced or discredited when you try to speak up?
Junia’s one little verse comes in the Bible at the book of Romans in chapter 16. For those not familiar with the Christian Bible, Romans is a series of letters that Paul wrote to actual Roman people who he had shared the gospel with and where he had planted at least one church. He mentions Junia as a fellow apostle which is why she is later turned into a man. The early translators and such assumed that a woman could not be an apostle. Yes, this points out flaws with the Bible, which is considered by many Christians to be infallible. There are many paths that delineate from this thought process. Some believe total infallibility, some believe the message is infallible and perfectly related even though the details may not be perfect, others believe that it is flawed all over the place by man but that it’s not a big deal. The message of salvation and love is supposed to be the important part.
I read somewhere that Christianity was considered a woman’s religion for a long time. It was the first to welcome women to participate and they threw themselves into it, even though their men were hesitant. Christianity, in my opinion, is essentially nurturing but for people who don’t nurture, this can be a problem. I am not a nurturer, so I have trouble sometimes. This, of course, should not be confused for being a “good Christian” as so many put it. There is a large and specific difference between “good Christians” and those who follow the tenets and message of Christianity. While both come in all appearances and levels of passion, this is not a contest to be righteous enough. Piousness cannot be measured by people because we cannot see into each other’s hearts, we don’t know why people do things, and we aren’t with them every second of the day. That people in and outside of religions cannot tell this difference is a pretty big problem with our overall image, but I’m getting off the point.
Anyone can be a Junia, man or woman or non-binary. Anyone can be forgotten, taken for granted and then silenced. Anyone can be alienated from any denomination or religion. Anyone can do things that are so outside the box for them, their gender, or their background that credit is given to someone more believable. Junia is not alone. We are reenacting her story all the time.
We do this when we don’t call the Children’s Ministry leader (typically a woman) the children’s pastor and then we do call the Youth Ministry leader (typically a man) the youth pastor. We leave women behind all the time. Yes, we leave men behind sometimes too. Yes, non-binary people are rarely made comfortable when walking through the door, and when they do come back, their plight is worse. Women are in the church about as often as men, though. When are we going to acknowledge their leadership in greater numbers? When are we going to recognize that plenty of women have leadership ability and that we have many other talents in addition to taking care of the babies and children? When are we going to allow ourselves to accept that we can branch out into leadership in Outreach?
Then again, it doesn’t take working in the church to be silenced, neglected, or forgotten. Are you a Junia in any place in your life? What are you going to do about it?
Some other notable women of the Bible that have been forgotten are Deborah, Priscilla, Huldah, Noadiah, Miriam, and Anna. Most are prophets, Deborah was a judge, and Priscilla was leader and teacher in the early church.
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