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The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls Paperback – May 7, 2014
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"Gerhardt provides a cohesive church response to the problem of gendercide. The Cross and Gendercide educates church leaders, scholars, and laypersons about global violence against females, the subsequent complexity of the problem, and the need for theologically based responses rooted in Christ's redeeming work on the cross." (Amy Rasmussen Buckley, PRISM, Summer 2014)
"In The Cross and Gendercide, Gerhardt does an in-depth theological study of Christ, the cross and its purpose for humanity. She justifies a call for the church to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Abuse against women and girls is not only a sin, but it is a crime and a human rights issue. Christians need to stand up for the social injustice being perpetrated on women and girls, not only in America but all over the world. Many are screaming in silence. This must change." (Donna Watson, CBA Retailers + Resources, May 2014)
"Those who carry the cross of Christ to the farthest reaches of the Himalayas will find that in some villages there are no girls over the age of twelve. Gerhardt helps us make sense of the maddening global violence against women and girls by providing a theological response―a heartening call to live out the confession of our faith. From the foot of the cross, she challenges us to identify with those who suffer as we bind up the broken hearted and set the oppressed free. In The Cross and Gendercide, the church is urged to elevate the discussion beyond proclamation vs. social action to what Bonhoeffer described as a faith that gives us the courage to take risks as we bring good news in all its fullness to those in peril. Read this book and then join the resistance of the greatest injustice of our century: the wholesale abuse and exploitation of women and girls." (Michele M. Rickett, president and founder of She Is Safe and coauthor of Forgotten Girls)
"This book argues that sophisticated theological thinking has practical consequence, and it demonstrates this truth in great detail. This is its brilliance. With equal attention to the theology of the cross and violence against women, Gerhardt shows that the suffering Christ is the framework through which the church may recognize and actively resist gendercide in concrete ways. In doing so, she furthers a turn in Bonhoeffer scholarship, addressing pervasive evil by constructively appropriating Bonhoeffer's writings to our own historical context." (Jennifer M. McBride, Wartburg College, author of The Church for the World)
"The Cross and Gendercide is a thoughtful and thought-provoking call to action for the church to be holistic and creative in our response to ending violence against women and children by our close attention to an informed theology of the cross. Elizabeth Gerhardt examines global gender-based violence and offers the reader a sustained theological response using notions of confession and resistance. This book offers an invitation to churches and their leaders to imagine a theological approach to the evil of gendercide and then to act. Every pastor and every seminary student should have this book on their reading list." (Nancy Nason-Clark, University of New Brunswick)
"Elizabeth Gerhardt asks us to 'imagine a theological approach to ending violence against women that is holistic, and creative, and results in local and global initiatives.' This is what The Cross and Gendercide does. It feeds our imagination by bringing together in conversation a lifelong experience of dealing with the issues and a lively theological-ethical understanding shaped by Luther's 'theology of the cross' mediated through the witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The frightening global escalation of gender violence demands such critical theological reflection if Christians and churches are going to respond in ways shaped by the gospel, and with the commitment and urgency required." (John de Gruchy, emeritus professor of Christian studies, University of Cape Town)
"Few accomplish what Gerhardt succeeds in doing in this book: outlining the extent and roots of global 'gendercide' while also employing theological categories in order to call the church to action. . . . This book will certainly benefit church groups, undergraduate students, and persons training for ministry who wish to eradicate global violence against women and girls." (Sara Wilhelm Garbers, Religious Studies Review, June 2016)
"I heartily recommend this book for its solid missiological approach that does not separate proclamation from social justice, that centers the approach in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and that encourages us to begin both our theological reflection and resulting actions in prayer together, at the foot of the cross." (Nancy Thomas, Missiology: An International Review, April 2015)
"This much-needed work uses research data, individual stories, and short histories to explain how domestic violence, sexual assault, female circumcision, and murder continue to determine the lives of millions of women and girls throughout the world. Drawing on Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Gerhardt situates this violence in its particularity and locates Christ as present with these women and girls in empowering ways. The book's Lutheranism grants it both an unflinching look at gendered violence and an uncompromising commitment to its eradication." (Christian Century, May 11, 2016)
"The Cross and Gendercide is worth reading and worth taking to heart. Its strong Christ-centered challenge to the church to speak out against gender-based violence and to resist patriarchal structures of oppression is long overdue." (Kathryn A. Kleinhans, Lutheran Quarterly, Winter 2015)
About the Author
Elizabeth Gerhardt (ThD, Boston University) is professor of theology and social ethics at Northeastern Seminary, Rochester, New York, and adjunct professor in the department of religion and humanities at Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester.
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Reading Level: Moderate
“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.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”