Guest Blog: Reflection on Good Friday and Resurrection
Nancy entered my office at 6:15 on that Tuesday morning without an appointment. She grimaced and hobbled as she slowly made her way to a nearby chair. Her actions caused me to look down at her feet. They were a fleshy mess, swollen and blood-stained; injuries, I soon learned, caused by her violent husband. “I need your help, Chaplain Al, in order to learn how to better deal with the sacrifices a dutiful Christian wife must endure from her husband, whether or not he’s abusive. Christ suffered so I shouldn’t complain about the cross I must bear.”
Nancy entered my office at 6:15 on that Tuesday morning without an appointment. She grimaced and hobbled as she slowly made her way to a nearby chair. Her actions caused me to look down at her feet. They were a fleshy mess, swollen and blood-stained; injuries, I soon learned, caused by her violent husband.
“I need your help, Chaplain Al, in order to learn how to better deal with the sacrifices a dutiful Christian wife must endure from her husband, whether or not he’s abusive. Christ suffered so I shouldn’t complain about the cross I must bear.”
Though deeply troubling, Nancy’s understanding of the abuse perpetrated by her husband is not unique. Millions of Christian women have been taught--by their intimate male partners, congregates, spiritual leaders, and family members that they have to make themselves a living sacrifice--even to the very men hurting them.
In short, suffering the injustice of domestic and sexual violence is a woman’s cross to bear.
This type of Christology and theology needs to be rejected, because it stands in stark contrast to the true meaning of Good Friday and the Resurrection of Christ as detailed in the New Testament.
The overarching message in the Christian Scripture is that Christ’s response to the evil being done to him, an unjust crucifixion, offers a pathway to freedom, justice, and love for all humankind. His death is not some type of hierarchical precept granting males power and privilege over women, children, and other men, an andocentric view which, unfortunately, has been taught by scores of male, and some female Christian leaders and laity for centuries.
Practical theologian, Dr. James N. Poling, illustrates how this issue is fueled with his writings in the book Cross Examinations.
Given the negative and conflicting images of women in many churches and their responsibility to be obedient to an all-loving Father God and his Son, Jesus, Christian faith means that men are closer to God than women, that the proper relationship of women to men is subservience, and that the traditional values of submission and obedience are the essence of the Christian faith.
Systematic theologian, lay preacher and womanist scholar, Dr. Delores S. Williams, also writing in Cross Examinations, highlights the true intent and spirit of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. She is addressing African American women, but her message is for all humankind.
The resurrection of Jesus and the kingdom-of-God theme in Jesus’ ministerial vision provide black women with the knowledge that God has, through Jesus, shown humankind how to live peacefully, productively, and abundantly in relationship. Humankind is therefore redeemed through Jesus’ life and not Jesus’ death.
Christ’s selfless act of resistance to the evil he encountered at Calvary empowers all humankind, females and males alike. The promised gifts of eternal life and light are offered freely to both genders.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12) And,
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Let’s return to Nancy, the woman who arrived at my office unscheduled early one Tuesday morning, blood-stained and swollen. After some hesitation, she disclosed that her injuries were the result of her husband, who was one of the pastors at the church they attended, beating her feet and legs with his baseball bat. She had been “disobedient,” Nancy explained, because she’d gone jogging while her husband was at work, “against his will.”
Nancy did not condone her husband’s actions; in fact she called them “unjust.” But she quickly added, “Our church teaches that Christian women have many crosses to bear as wives and mothers; and, we must always submit to the god-given authority of our husbands. This faithful obedience will one day result in everlasting life.”
I told Nancy my beliefs about the role of women and men in church and society differed significantly from those espoused by her church. In my view, God and Jesus Christ freely grant their love to both females and males, and place equal value on all humans. Therefore, I said, women should never be put in a subjugated position to men, or made to think they have some type of “cross” to bear that men do not possess.
I also told Nancy that no one has the right to abuse any person or, for that matter, any other living creature. Violence is always an unacceptable way to respond to the problems we face in life.
Shortly thereafter she left my office. And I lost touch with her.
But, late last year, I received a phone call from Nancy. I learned she now lives in another part of the United States. She divorced her abusive husband, despite what she called “massive pressure” from the spiritual leaders and congregation members at her former church to “remain faithful” to her “duties and responsibilities as a Christian wife and mother.”
Nancy thanked me for the unscheduled 20-minute office visit we had a few years ago. “It helped to put me on a path of freedom from the evils of intimate partner violence,” she concluded. This is what Easter looked like for Nancy.
Domestic and sexual violence are indeed evils. These issues must therefore never be given credence or justification—on Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday, or at any other time of the year.
The Rev. Al Miles, a FaithTrust Institute trainer, serves as the lead chaplain for Pacific Health Ministry at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is the author of several books including, Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know, First and Second Editions; and Ending Violence in Teen Dating Relationships: A Resource Guide for Parents and Pastors. Rev. Miles has been an ordained minister in the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) since 1983.