Not a 'Women's Issue'

THE CULTURAL explanations and defenses for women undergoing genital mutilation, female infanticide, domestic violence, and other atrocities crumble under the weight of the cross. The involuntary suffering endured by millions of women is not redemptive; it is a suffering borne out of opposition to a God that desires to crush such bondage. An orientation of the cross emphasizes the importance of maintaining a precise language for a Christian perspective and application. According to Gerhard Forde, our modern culture has been so sensitized and psychologized that we are afraid to call a spade a spade. We often act many times “on the assumption that our language must constantly be trimmed so as not to give offense, to stroke the psyche rather than to place it under attack.” Our language can ultimately decline to a type of “greeting-card sentimentality.” Forde claims that when this happens we have lost our theological courage and legitimacy. A theology of the cross provides a paradigm or conceptual framework for a language that always speaks truth to power.

The language and meaning of the cross provide the most relevant and useful foundation for creating a practical social ethic for the work of ending violence against women and girls by identifying oppression, abuse, and violence as sin, and by providing a direction and necessary focus for the church. By using the language of the cross, the church embraces the gravity of violence against women and girls. It is not a “women’s issue” or merely another “social problem.” It is sin that violates the integrity and humanity of God’s creation. The work of Christ on the cross demands that the whole of the church respond to the ongoing evil and sin at work in the world. The power of God can be expressed through this language of the cross.

A theology of the cross insists on the proclamation of the gospel as the primary focus of the church. The work to end injustice is necessary, but it is not the primary work of the church. Faith and works cannot be separated, but neither should they be collapsed. There are social, economic, and political realities that obstruct belief and are destructive to the integrity of humanity. The church is required to draw boundaries and declare those acts to be sinful and wrong, work to obstruct those acts, and then act in a positive manner to provide the resources for a new order.

This aspect of thetheologia crucis, the language of proclamation, is particularly significant for a church response to gendercide because it provides the starting point for the work. It shapes our orientation to God and others within our own historical and social context. From the perspective of the cross, violence against women is exposed as sin that divides humankind, violates the dignity of God’s creation, abuses power, and obstructs the gospel message of salvation and freedom.

Taken from The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls, by Elizabeth Gerhardt. Copyright (c) 2014 by Elizabeth Gerhardt. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, www.ivpress.com.

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