"Much more encouraging is the sermon given in New York by a Lutheran minister on Mary Magdalen's feast-day, 22 July 1990.

" 'But there certainly is no biblical basis for identifying her as the reformed prostitute or that she had long red hair. The sole characteristic that stands out about Mary is the fact that she is not identified as the mother or the wife of some man. She has the audacity . . . to stand completely on her own as a person. For as long as this parody of Mary Magdalene stands, the church provides a continued obstacle to its own and the world's understanding of female social equality.

" 'This feast which honors Mary of Magdala for what she really is could be a key to a new level of Christian sexual consciousness. All we need do is proclaim honestly the true role this woman had in the story of our redemption. Recognize her as a full member of the revolutionary community created by the One who considered men and women equal . . . Jesus valued her as a unique person in whom the life and power of God flowed with the same degree of intensity as it did in Peter, James or John.'

"The sermon ends with Paul's exhortation that men and women be free and equal to emphasize the 'co-equal role of women' both within the Church and outside it. Mary Magdalen, the 'first preacher of good news', stands before us as a 'key that helps unlock the door to a new age of sexual equality and liberation'.
(John S. Damm, sermon given on July 22, 1990, at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, New York City.)

"So long as the Church chooses to disregard the new scholarship which has reinterpreted the women in the gospels — so easily dismissed by calling it feminist — it will continue to subordinate the 'real' Mary Magdalen in favor of 'mother Mary.' That is, it will deny her active role in the ministry of the church at a time when her modern counterparts are seeking their own role in the institution. It may be that historical reappraisals of Mary Magdalen have revealed a figure which appears lackluster and unromantic beside the mythical golden-haired whore; but the more accurate picture will have greater relevance and resonance for the majority of women looking for active roles both within and outside the Church. The true Mary Magdalen has much to offer when freed from the restrictions which gender bias has imposed upon her. Symbolism has done her an injustice; modern scholarship has made restitution possible. If there is still need for symbolism, would not the true Mary Magdalen, the disciple by the cross and herald of the New Life, no less beautiful than her mythical persona, and far more edifying as a figure of independence, courage, action, faith and love, serve women better as a symbol for today? Nietzsche wrote that every culture needed myth and was impoverished when it lost or lacked myth. In losing the myth of Mary Magdalen, however, has not our culture not only nothing to lose, but also everything to gain?"