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.
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.