In his fitting article on Marian devotion, John Haldane wrote:
Her unique elevation has been criticized from two opposing quarters: On the one hand by Biblical Protestants who view it as superstitious, idolatrous and entirely without scriptural foundation; and on the other by radical feminists who regard it is as part of the confinement of women, casting them in maternal and submissive roles.
Haldane is, of course, correct that criticism of Mary from such quarters has been steady. But perhaps it is further proof of the soundness of Haldane’s reasoning that there have been fortunate shifts on both those fronts.
Firstly, it’s no secret that Protestants are recovering Mary. A sampling of recent books on the subject would include Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary, or Tim Perry’s book Mary for Evangelicals. Perry’s substantial article on Karl Barth’s surprisingly high view of Mary also recently appeared in Pro Ecclesia, entitled “What is Little Mary Here For?” Barth, Mary, and Election.”
Among my favorite pieces are the contributions in Mary: Mother of God, edited by two Lutherans, Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson. There’s also Scott McNight’s The Real Mary: Why Evangelicals Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus. These aren’t just academic expressions either, having, if I recall correctly, graced the cover of Christianity Today in a moving article by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson.
Some third-wave feminists have been turning to Mary as well. Back in the seventies, Marina Warner concluded her study of Mary, Alone of All Her Sex, predicting that while the Virgin’s legend may endure, “it will be emptied of moral significance, and thus lose its present real power to heal and to harm.” Feminists, Warner implied, should give up on Mary. Thirty years later we have not silence, but The Feminist Companion to Mariology, which is but a sampling of the extensive recent literature, some of the best of which I’ve referenced before.
In short, I guess there’s something to “all generations shall call me blessed” after all.