Your passing is so difficult for me. You took me under your wing when I was a graduate student struggling to make ends meet and write my dissertation. You welcomed me to teach at the University of Detroit during your sabbatical and were a guiding light when I decided to pull together my first course on Sexuality and Christianity. Without you, I might have never become a feminist. Without you, I might never have learned to read against the grain. Without you, I might never have struggled with holy misogyny.
I have always admired your courage and your conviction that the search for truth lies beneath, sometimes even in contradiction to the patriarchal storyline. You taught me that feminist reading is about fairness, about giving voice to what was marginalized, covered up, or forgotten. You taught me that feminism is about living with conviction and purpose even when the odds are stacked against you and what you have to say, as honest as it is, provokes disdain and anger and ugliness and suppression.
You were so brave in the face of fire when you set forth an interpretation of the virgin birth stories that rocked both the academic and church communities, when you said, look, there is something deeply disturbing going on with these stories, and I think it points to the illegitimacy of Jesus. You were so courageous when you brought the Magdalene out of the attic, when you took on Mary and re-envisioned her through Virgina Woolf and the non-canonical sources, when you saw her as Jesus' Elisha and revealed how women like Mary are silenced who question the patriarchal order of our world.
You dared to transgress the boundaries of tradition, and in so doing, you showed us a brave new world through your eyes. It is a world of radical transformation for women and men, where sexism, racism, and poverty, where all the distinctions that keep us apart, dissolve. I admire deeply how you were convicted that scholarship on the bible was not worth doing if it did not result in political and religious justice and the renewal of humanity.
You wrote your last book even while undergoing chemotherapy. You saw your own suffering and fear of death in light of Golgotha and the injustice of Jesus' crucifixion. You said: "Mary Magdalene of the Christian Testament is the one who stands by the dying...Each of us wishes for one like the Magdalene to go down with us into death, to stay with us to the end. I say this with cancer on my mind, and remembering those I did not stay with until the end, those I loved who died alone. More than that: she is the one who did not cease to love the dead, who remembered" (15-16).