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The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls

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Violence against women and girls is a human rights epidemic that affects millions of lives around the world. While many Christians are addressing this crisis through education, advocacy and philanthropic support, there has been a reluctance to name gendercide as a theological and confessional issue, a matter that strikes at the very essence of the Christian faith. In The C Violence against women and girls is a human rights epidemic that affects millions of lives around the world. While many Christians are addressing this crisis through education, advocacy and philanthropic support, there has been a reluctance to name gendercide as a theological and confessional issue, a matter that strikes at the very essence of the Christian faith. In The Cross and Gendercide, Elizabeth Gerhardt draws on Luther's "theology of the cross" to provide a theological basis for naming and responding to the grave sin of global gendercide. She lifts up the work and witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as an especially powerful resource for mobilizing the church today toward political action and social engagement. From the perspective of Christ's cross, the church must raise a prophetic voice against systemic violence and speak up for the myriad women and girls who are invisible and voiceless in the world today.


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Violence against women and girls is a human rights epidemic that affects millions of lives around the world. While many Christians are addressing this crisis through education, advocacy and philanthropic support, there has been a reluctance to name gendercide as a theological and confessional issue, a matter that strikes at the very essence of the Christian faith. In The C Violence against women and girls is a human rights epidemic that affects millions of lives around the world. While many Christians are addressing this crisis through education, advocacy and philanthropic support, there has been a reluctance to name gendercide as a theological and confessional issue, a matter that strikes at the very essence of the Christian faith. In The Cross and Gendercide, Elizabeth Gerhardt draws on Luther's "theology of the cross" to provide a theological basis for naming and responding to the grave sin of global gendercide. She lifts up the work and witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as an especially powerful resource for mobilizing the church today toward political action and social engagement. From the perspective of Christ's cross, the church must raise a prophetic voice against systemic violence and speak up for the myriad women and girls who are invisible and voiceless in the world today.

46 review for The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    There is a war going on that knows no national borders or physical territories. It is a war that occurs in clinics, ritual ceremonies, sweatshops and brothels, college campuses and religious homes. It is a war against half of the planet's population. It is the war against women. One manifestation of this war is that there is not a woman I know who feels safe walking alone at night. Sometimes the warfare is expressed "merely" in leering looks or harassing comments. But the war is far more serious There is a war going on that knows no national borders or physical territories. It is a war that occurs in clinics, ritual ceremonies, sweatshops and brothels, college campuses and religious homes. It is a war against half of the planet's population. It is the war against women. One manifestation of this war is that there is not a woman I know who feels safe walking alone at night. Sometimes the warfare is expressed "merely" in leering looks or harassing comments. But the war is far more serious in many parts of the world. In some cases, girls do not even have the chance to be born or are killed shortly after birth. Female genital mutilation is practiced in many parts of the world, affecting both sexual intimacy and exposing women to problems with infection and incontinence. Women are trafficked for sex and labor in forced servitude. Rape is used as a tactic of war. And sadly, even in homes of church leaders, women and girls are exposed to physical and psychological abuse and this has too often been justified or covered up by religious leaders. In the first part of her book, Elizabeth Gerhardt chronicles both the current extent and historical roots in societal, political and religious contexts of the violence against women that scars or takes their lives. What must be faced is the complicity of many churches in this violence, sanctioning cultural rituals like female genital mutilation in some contexts, or in attributing blame to women when they are abused by husbands with no repercussions or discipline toward the husband. This is not just an advocacy piece however. Gerhardt, as a theologian, believes that the church's response to violence in various forms against women must be shaped and informed by the central reality of Christian faith--the cross of Christ. In the cross, we see the identification of the Son of God with those who suffer violence. In entering into the suffering of those who have faced such violence, we walk in the way of the Savior who suffered. In understanding that the cross is the Triune God's just response to human sinfulness and injustice, we are challenged both to repentance and advocacy on behalf of and care for those who suffer injustice and resistance toward the political structures and persons that perpetrate that injustice. Gerhardt considers Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany as a model of this Christ-shaped response to evil. She traces the three-fold response of advocacy, care, and resistance in which the Confessing Church and Bonhoeffer participated and its confessional roots. And she applies this as a model for how the church in various countries may respond today whether in denouncing abusive patterns in marriage, supporting micro-finance efforts that help women experience economic independence that makes them less vulnerable to abuse, or in forms of resistance to corporate or governmentally supported attacks upon women. My one question in this treatment is what the cross means for the perpetrators of evil against women. Perhaps this book was more or less silent on this issue so as to make unequivocal its advocacy for women and the Christian implications of the cross for them and for the church. But it seems that something needs to be said of both the cross's implications of judgment against evil and the possibility of repentance, forgiveness and transformation of the worst offenders. This can't be spoken of lightly in a way that sweeps violence under the rug. It means confession of wrong-doing, legal consequences, restitution where this is possible, and a reformation of life and in the treatment of women. This consideration aside, Gerhardt's book is a singular and important contribution to a uniquely Christian response to the global concern of gendercide. So often, Christian activism is not grounded in Christian belief but rather a kind of "us too" response. Hopefully books like this can help galvanize a response in the church that contributes to protecting the lives of women and girls and pushing back the individual and structural forms of oppressive injustice afflicting our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    Editor: Elizabeth Gerhardt Publisher: IVP Reading Level: Moderate Pages: 181 “The Christian church, no matter the denomination, has as its central confession faith in a God that became incarnate and identifies with the abused and marginalized.” (57) “The language of the cross calls a thing what it is. Abuse against women and girls is sin.” (156) “We begin the work to end violence against women and girls…in humility and prayer.” (148) Frequenters of my reviews know I don’t use words like “my.” The word Editor: Elizabeth Gerhardt Publisher: IVP Reading Level: Moderate Pages: 181 “The Christian church, no matter the denomination, has as its central confession faith in a God that became incarnate and identifies with the abused and marginalized.” (57) “The language of the cross calls a thing what it is. Abuse against women and girls is sin.” (156) “We begin the work to end violence against women and girls…in humility and prayer.” (148) Frequenters of my reviews know I don’t use words like “my.” The word “I” has also never been used. But in reading The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls the only way to format this review was to incorporate myself. The words “me,” “my” and “I” were required to communicate the importance of the subject matter. The purpose of Dr. Gerhardt’s writing this book is to encompass the church with the necessity of a confessional response to the sinful pattern of abuse shown to females. The Cross and Gendercide thus requires that I speak as a person under the conviction of its gospel and proclaim as a “me” that ”we,” the church, need to respond to this issue. The early chapters of The Cross and Gendercide are brutal and cutting. I couldn’t help but weep internally at the devastation that sin has produced. It put me in a sour mode for days. We in the cultured west have hidden ourselves from these things. Our society knows well to keep them off our televisions and computer monitors (except when it can become a trendy hashtag). But the facts stand there in your face. The facts stand in the face of the church. 85-95% of victims to violence in the United States are female (37). There are more human beings in slavery now than in the 16th and 17th century (47). Sinfulness abounds. And the presentation of the church is as one that stands idly. Whether we desire the tag our not, we are often guilty of proclaiming a half-baked gospel of personal fulfillment. To some this idea may be repugnant. But replace the word “fulfillment” with “justification” and ask yourself the dark haunting question, did Christ come to justify His personal creation? And since He did in fact die for the world, who is the justifying Christ today in the proclamation of the church? The church must be called to a faithful “proclamation of the whole gospel” (17) and not just some justification centered idolatry. We meet weekly for Bible study but do we meet weekly for outreach? The church is responsible to communicate (confess) the full revelation of God, found in Jesus Christ, suffering on the cross for the downtrodden. It is in these pages that Dr. Gerhardt presents some of the hardest words to read (60-67). And it is compounded by the fact that I don’t believe the theology of the church is wrong. There are times I wonder if the concept of “patriarchy” in The Cross and Gendercide is something made up, a social condition or an accurate representation of the church’s theology. I do think Dr. Gerhardt uses it to accurately describe a social/religious condition. But I also perceive that we see the Old Testament law differently. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The state of global violence against women is a painful testimony to read (chapters 1-3) and any theology that stands in silence while it occurs needs to be discarded. Our lack of church discipline and theological/pastoral leadership has led us to a place where we cannot faithfully move outside the walls of the church to address Christ in those suffering persecution. So while I presume our theology is correct, it needs a book like The Cross and Gendercide to spark us towards revival. So what is the church to do? What am I to do? Thankfully, Dr. Gerhardt does not leave the church without an attempted solution. Ultimately she does provide some practical examples and advice (chapter 6). But before that the theology of Luther and the German reformation is presented in an extensive manner. The theology of the cross and the incarnational suffering of Jesus Christ are placed before the church (chapter 4). It becomes evident that the church fixated on Christ cannot be solely engaged in “self-focused efforts” (86). No matter how “well intentioned” its programs may be the church must die to itself (86). Concern about numbers, finances, sermon recording quality and praise styles must die. These are all the practical outcomes of a theology consistent with a distinction between faith and works (92). Since we affirm confessionally a salvation apart from works, we must be persuaded to freedom for obedience to Christ. Freedom from all. Submission to all. And the logical conclusion: the church is endowed with the power to “address evil in the world” (110). Though Dr. Gerhardt is less optimistic toward the future of the church and society, I cannot bring an accusation against her faithfulness to the Scriptures in this regard. The church must endure its trials and provide confessional resistance to those mistreated by the world. To illustrate such a resistance Dr. Gerhardt presents the life and history of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Church history in both its failures and success towards Nazi Germany are replayed in a pertinent way. Here the theology of The Cross and Gendercide hits history. Here the theology of the cross is found intersecting with history. Here the words and thoughts of theological giants are pulled forward for the church to read. Jesus Christ’s suffering and call for resistance takes center stage. Bonhoeffer eventually required that the prophetic voice of his time be weighted equally between confession and resistance. Confession without resistance becomes faux ethics. Resistance without confession does not present the Christ of the cross. I must admit that among the strengths of this prophetic cry there are some low points. I believe Dr. Gerhardt unnecessarily depreciates the Law of Moses and the revelation of God’s character that it contains (116, 170). There are moments of confusion as to how the church can practically determine if the state is using its strength “too much” or “too little” (132-133). But I, and the church, cannot use these differences to dismiss the reality that a crucified Christ calls us to serve the poor and needy. Nor can churches of differing confessions permit the cross to be placed behind some other doctrine. We all affirm an incarnate God. A God sensitive to the suffering of humanity (57). And so we must be persuaded that Jesus Christ in His suffering is the fullest reflection of God. On the cross Jesus Christ commissioned His disciple John to take care of His mother (John 19:26-27). His brother James carried forward the call to orphans and widows (James 1:27). The Cross and Gendercide stands in that tradition of prophetic voices calling the church to work together, not separately, in its effort to bring “good news to the poor” and “liberty [to] those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). I now stand in that tradition. A blessed husband and unworthy father who’s heart cannot stand the reality of this global violence. Neither can I stand the genuine theological responsibility placed upon the church and our failures to carry it. I too must return to the cross as the broken and downtrodden man that I am. I must begin in “prayer and humility” (148) and then with the strength of the resurrection call the church to follow suit.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Creedy

    This book is one that I picked up from a friend recently, and wish I’d read when it was published back in 2014! The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls is a superb book, that could easily have been three books; one on the gendercide, one on the Cross, and one on practical theology. Finish my review over at my blog: https://www.thomascreedy.co.uk/book-r... This book is one that I picked up from a friend recently, and wish I’d read when it was published back in 2014! The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls is a superb book, that could easily have been three books; one on the gendercide, one on the Cross, and one on practical theology. Finish my review over at my blog: https://www.thomascreedy.co.uk/book-r...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy Hughes

    Important information, devastating testimonials, excellent theological work with Bonhoeffer, and a convicting call to action. I assign a couple of chapters from this book in my theological anthropology class. A book I wish every Christian would read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Naomi Young

    This was a worthwhile, although slow and frustrating, read. The introductory and concluding sections -- in which Gerhardt outlines the scope and nature of violence against women and girls, then suggests fruitful actions to battle that violence through systemic and individual action -- are most satisfying. It is in the middle, in which Gerhardt attempts to provide a theological basis for action based on Luther's theology of the cross as expanded by Bonhoeffer, that the book failed in its potentia This was a worthwhile, although slow and frustrating, read. The introductory and concluding sections -- in which Gerhardt outlines the scope and nature of violence against women and girls, then suggests fruitful actions to battle that violence through systemic and individual action -- are most satisfying. It is in the middle, in which Gerhardt attempts to provide a theological basis for action based on Luther's theology of the cross as expanded by Bonhoeffer, that the book failed in its potential, for me. I suspected, going in, that an author working in Lutheran territory might see Catholic teaching as a necessary context to react against. It was discouraging, however, to see this critique in only a veiled form in which the Catholic teaching (though, sadly, truly, not common practice) is misrepresented. Most frustrating were her repeated statements that "violence against women ... is not redemptive suffering." Well, yes, no, maybe?? Since Gerhardt never defines redemptive suffering, and certainly doesn't reference Salvifici Doloris or any theological document which does, it's hard to engage her assertion. The citations it the sections delineating the condition of women and girls are abundant, and she cites even Luther's and Bonhoeffer's most basic arguments through their primary sources, so the silence here is a strange vacuum. As best I can tell, she is reading "redemptive suffering" as, roughly, "Shut up and take it; perhaps you deserve it, and at any rate, suffering makes you holy!" rather than, as I understand it, "From the greatest injustices, God can bring something good." Perhaps it is the judicial and substitutionary nature of Christ's suffering on the cross in Lutheran theology that separates it so thoroughly from our own human sufferings, such that she cannot see the beauty and worth of uniting them? (And again, let me reiterate, saying that we should offer our sufferings in union with Christ's need not mean that we make no attempt to be safe, or self-protective, or to seek social, legal and ecclesial actions against those who abuse us!) I can't deny that far, far, too many women (and one would have been too many!) have been told by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox clergy that they should not leave abusive situations, or that their own behavior may have brought on their abuse. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. But it is a perversion of the teachings of Christ. I'm tempted to knock a star off for the converted-dissertation flavor this book has for me, but that's unfair, since it is after all published by an explicitly academic imprint, and implicitly linked with other textbooks in the preliminaries of the book. Still, the dryness can't be denied. Further, perhaps because of the sola fide tradition in Lutheranism, Gerhardt often speaks against "works righteousness" and "building the kingdom of heaven on earth" without defining how action would NOT fall into such error. This is the more confusing because she definitely advocates that living the gospel truth will result in concrete actions, actions that MUST be taken for the Church to be acting faithfully. This, is, then a worthwhile book. But more and better can and should be written; and Gerhardt herself makes only the claim that her work is an invitation to discussion through a particular perspective. As such, it is a success.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shaun Brown

    My review is forthcoming in Priscilla Papers.

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    Hala

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    Nicholas Tangen

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    Jennifer Lucking

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  46. 4 out of 5

    TW

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