In The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls (IVP Academic, 2014), Elizabeth Gerhardt provides a timely and important response to this problem that is grounded in Luther’s theology of the cross and Bonhoeffer’s cruciform witness. I hope to write several blog posts on the subject that the book addresses. In what follows, I will take to heart Gerhardt’s emphasis on identification with those who suffer oppression as identification with Christ.
I value Gerhardt’s attention to Bonhoeffer’s witness. She writes, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer equated life in Christ with identification with the victims of violence and oppression because he maintained that the ‘other’ is Christ in the world. This strong incarnational life in Christ is the mark of authentic Christianity” (30). Bonhoeffer once put the matter this way: “Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants” (See Michael R. Marrus, ed., The Nazi Holocaust, Part 8: Bystanders to the Holocaust, Volume 3, De Gruyter, 1401). In other words, the Christian life and worship involve preferential treatment for those facing oppression and victimization, such as the Jewish people at the time of Hitler’s reign of terror. Just as our Lord became the victimized other, we must identify with the victim as well.
What does this mean for Christians’ engagement of women and girls today? There are many points to make. Among many other things, Christian men, for example, should guard against objectifying women as sexual treasures and operate in solidarity to guard against such objectification today.
One place where such objectification takes place is in the realm of pornography. Pornography addiction may appear to some (even Christians) as a private affair, but pornography addiction often leads one to move beyond the realm of the perverted imagination to physical exploits and abuse, including molestation and rape. Even when a man’s pornography addiction remains seemingly private, he still devalues women and girls and treats them as commodities. Such addiction dulls the conscience and weakens resolve to fight against the plight women and girls face globally. Only he who cries out for the victims of pornography may sing Gregorian chants.