Violence Against Women: The Underbelly.

Extreme violence has always bothered me. Forget trying to get me to watch a really violent film. I will have both of my ears stopped with my hands or a nearby cushion. But violence against women seems to me particularly unseemly and not just in an ungentlemanly sense. The movie The Passion of the Christ gave me a clue about this inclination.

What Incarnation?

In the scene where Christ is being flogged, the character of the devil enters in a figure that mocks Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the birth of the Christ himself. That image stuck with me and then I realized that there’s a sense in which all violence against women mocks the Incarnation.

Hear me out. You can have your say in the com boxes below.

Each act of violence against a woman makes it harder to believe that God could be born of something so apparently worthless.

There’s a reason why the concept of courtly love developed in a Christian culture; it was a culture that deeply loved Mary and women were seen to mirror her.

There’s a reason why Christianity was the first major religion to have the same initiation rite for women and men, namely baptism, and why it was the first religion to allow women to have a say in whether or not they married, even whom they married. That reason is twofold: Mary and the Incarnation.

A recent CNN video reporting on yet another “honor” killing in Pakistan reminded me of this.

Farzana Parveen was stoned to death because she did not agree to an arranged marriage. She was three months pregnant when her family publicly and brutally murdered her. No one stepped in to help. Like many cultures, hers is reported to be one in which family actions are private no matter how public may be their execution [no pun intended]. Her husband (not the man her family wanted her to marry) talks about what a good wife she was. But as he tells his story, it also comes out that he killed his previous wife so that he could marry Farzana. Disposable wives. Fantastic.

In Pakistan alone, there were almost 900 honor killings last year. That doesn’t even begin to take into account other actions of violence against women in Pakistan, much less violence against women elsewhere.

Here’s the thing. If violence against women makes it more difficult to accept the Incarnation, then it also makes it even more difficult to believe that a God exists “who loved the world so greatly,” including each one of the perpetrators of these crimes.




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  • JohnE_o

    Each act of violence against a woman makes it harder to believe that God could be born of something so apparently worthless.

    How is this any different from saying that each act of violence against a man makes it harder to believe that God could Incarnate as something so apparently worthless?

    • Ryan Haber

      JohnE_o, I think there is an analogy here – a similarity with a difference – and I am gonna try to put my finger on it, though I’m not sure I’ve got it right. I am only responding to set myself a reminder. It’s a good question. Maybe Dr. de Solenni already has an answer ready to go :)

    • donttouchme

      It’s different because women are subordinate to men in the natural order.

      • donttouchme

        I mean, you’re technically right, but in the context of the post, the question is why does violence against women seem worse than violence against men. It’s essentially because God created woman to be man’s helper.

        • JohnE_o

          Is that what the question is? Because I’m not sure what the point being made here is besides ‘violence against women is bad’, which I’m in total agreement with, but don’t see what it has to do with how easy or not it is to accept the Incarnation or the existence of God.

          • donttouchme

            Yeah, that’s what the question is. She’s trying to figure out a way to explain why that is without giving up her disordered belief in equality of the sexes. It’s an iteration of the have your cake and eat it too philosophy that is feminism.

  • mithril1971

    I need to read this more… and think more… this is brilliant. “all violence against women mocks the Incarnation” Yes, yes, and yes again. I have been writing on the sacramentality of the female body, and the prophetism of the female body… and I never thought of this put just this way – so directly – this is so right. Can I quote you? (Christine Dalessio)

  • Al Cruise

    Each act of violence against humankind, when examined closely has its roots in religion and the belief of acting on behalf of God. Makes it hard to believe in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc, etc , etc., etc., etc.

    • Rose

      How is being murdered for one’s iPhone an act rooted in religious belief?

      • BT

        It’s a denial that the victim matters as much as you – it places me in God’s place and sees in the victim no image of God. It says “I matter. You don’t.”

  • captcrisis

    For years, regulated violence against the wife was officially tolerated and sometimes even recommended. Both in Christian and non-Christian countries.

  • Daniel

    So every time a woman dies because she is denied an abortion, it proves god doensn’t exist. That sounds about right.

  • Erik Ho

    Interesting take on this topic. Is this a kind of spin on the problem of evil?

    • Pia

      I wouldn’t call it a spin on the problem of evil, but perhaps a more spiritual way of looking at this particular form of evil. There are some forms of evil where one can see directly what is the object. Some evil acts, for example, are a direct attack on the family.

      • Erik Ho

        Ok. I re-read the post and see what you mean.

  • The_Physeter

    Women don’t have rights because of God. Women have rights because they stood up and demanded rights (and to some extent, because honorable men were willing to help them). If it wasn’t for the suffragettes in the 20s and the feminists in the 60s, you would still be a second-class citizen totally subordinate to your man.

    I don’t know whether anyone cares about my opinion here, since I’m not Catholic.

    Many non-Catholic scholars believe the prominence of Mary came about because she was a replacement for the godesses that already existed in pagan, pre-Christian religions. So it’s hard for me to buy this idea that Christians were the first to honor women, especially when the Bible says women were MADE for men, and women are the weaker vessel.