The Goodspeed Lecture welcomes Sharon Jacob, assistant professor of New Testament at Pacific School of Religion, presenting “Made in Bethlehem: Reading Mary Alongside Indian Surrogate Mothers.”
In this lecture, Jacob looks critically at the character of Mary found in the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke. She attempts to dismantle the dichotomous ways in which the character of Mary has been reduced to binary categories of hero or victim in biblical and theological scholarship. The textual Mary read through the living bodies of the surrogate Indian women reflects a mother who resists the attempts to polarize her choices into binary categories of victim or hero. The character of Mary has yet to be read through the complexities of globalization, where relationships derived through exchange rates, cheap labor, demand and supply expose the fissures in categories such as oppression-liberation, hero-victim, love-violence and empowerment-exploitation.
Therefore, highlighting these cracks helps us not only to disrupt the categories, but also construes new meaning to Mary’s choice/consent. Such an interpretation nudges toward the redefinition of categories liberation versus oppression, where freedom almost always is contingent upon one’s enslavement and choice becomes the reflection of systemic oppression which almost, but not quite, promises hope. Furthermore, interpreting Mary through the Indian surrogate’s experience embodies the ambivalence around issues of choice, agency and empowerment especially in a global context. For both Mary and the Indian surrogate, choice promises a freedom that is contingent upon their oppression. Therefore, choice for both mothers is never about freedom but is material and driven by the desire for a better life both for themselves and for their families/people.