Can the cross be ‘good news’ for women?: Video

Part I and II of Dr. Susanne Guenther Loewen’s talk on gender, violence, Mennonite theology and theories of atonement.

I regret to mention that the last few minutes of the talk were caught off due to technical difficulties. The final section of the talk is pasted below the video links.

Reinterpreted in this way – a way which rejects both the myths of redemptive violence and of the redemptiveness of all suffering, and which speaks to both voluntary and involuntary suffering and which combines the human-ethical dimension with a theology of the cross as divine solidarity with those who suffer unjustly – reinterpreted in this way, the cross can indeed be good news. Alongside other liberative interpretations of the cross, including the historical narrative of Jesus crucified as a consequence of nonviolent resistance to the systemic sins and oppressive empire of his day and the empty cross of the resurrection, the female crucifix or crucified woman can thus be a liberative symbol.

And the Crucified Woman sculpture in Toronto has functioned this way for many women, particularly in connection with the Montreal Massacre. Doris Jean Dyke describes how in 1989, upon hearing of the massacre of fourteen young engineering students – all women – eering students of Canada sat the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, shot by a man who declared himself anti-feminist, hundreds of people gathered around the sculpture of the Crucified Woman. In light of such blatantly misogynistic violence, people were drawn to this sculpture of a suffering woman – depicted nude and sorrowful, with arms outstretched in a cruciform shape – to express their anger and grief, to remember the victims, “some to pray, many to weep.” Vigils for the victims of the Montreal Massacre were held there in 1989 and in subsequent years.[1] These gatherings and vigils around the Crucified Woman were clearly not meant to glorify misogyny, and while on one level, they facilitated lament for tragedy, there was an additional dimension to them. Dyke writes, the “feeling of being abandoned and vulnerable was shared and talked about and yet all were standing together, committed to end the needless suffering of women.” In another similar instance, “[a] battered wife, told her social worker that when she saw the Crucified Woman she was able to relate to Christ for the first timeorm of strength for resistance which can be gleaned from the cross.ll were standing together, committed to end the n.”[2] According to Dyke, it is here, at the foot of this cross, that “[w]omen [can see…] their suffering, their dying, and their resurrection embodied in a woman’s body” and “know that their suffering is gathered up into the suffering of Christ.”[3] This clearly speaks to a different kind of “power in the blood,” to use Terrell’s terms,[4] a form of healing and strength for resistance which can be gleaned from the cross – in other words, it speaks to a redemptive aspect of the cross, in which God has not turned away from the suffering particular to women, but knows their pain and desires their liberation. Thus, as Grey explains, “Christa liberates not by . . . proclaiming that there is an innate redemptive quality in [women’s suffering]; but by being present with and sharing in the brokenness, identifying this as the priority for God’s healing love, Christ gives hope, empowers, and enables the process of resistance.”[5] Surely this is good news.

[1] Doris Jean Dyke, Crucified Woman (Toronto: United Church Publishing House, 1991), 67, 69-70.

[2] Ibid., 73. Cf. 76.

[3] Ibid., 2. Cf. 44-45, where she writes, “Some people have said, ‘Don’t you know that Jesus was a man?’ Yes, indeed Jesus was a man and he was a Jew. Artists have sometimes presented the Christ figure as African, Asian, and Native American, but more often white. Always as a man, seldom as a Jew. So finally, the question surfaces: Why not as a woman?” Sandra Schneiders has likewise argued, “Christ, in contrast to Jesus, is not male, or more exactly not exclusively male. Christ is quite accurately portrayed as black, old Gentile, female, Asian or Polish.” Quoted in Beattie, “Sexuality and the Resurrection of the Body,” 136.

[4] JoAnne Marie Terrell, Power in the Blood? The Cross in African American Experience, 2nd ed. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2005).

[5] Mary Grey quoted in Julie Clague, “Symbolism and the Power of Art: Female Representations of Christ Crucified,” in Bodies in Question: Gender, Religion, Text, ed. Darlene Bird and Yvonne Sherwood (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005), 49.

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A Persistent Theology – Fall 2017

persistent 2017 reading group_header

Persistence is required in calling the church to name and acknowledge abuses of power in its theology and practice. We invite you to join this reading group addressing questions of power and authority in the Mennonite church as it relates to our desire for faithfulness in our experiences of gender, sexuality, race, and economics.

This series will begin with a public lecture followed by four discussion sessions based on selected readings.

All sessions including the public lectures will be held in the Multi-purpose Room (3rd floor) of First Mennonite Church (922 Notre Dame Ave) Wednesday evenings from 7:00-8:30pm.

Public Lecture – October 18 – 7pm
Can the Cross be ‘Good News’ for Women – Dr. Susanne Guenther Loewen (Co-pastor, Nutana Park Mennonite Church Saskatoon, SK)

Seminar Readings (click links for .pdfs)
Oct 25   – The Question of Authority in Mennonite Churches and Theology

David Driedger – “Negotiating Authority in the Mennonite Church
Kimberly Penner – “Sacred Yet Insufficient: The Use of Scripture as a Source in a Mennonite-Feminist Approach to Sexual Ethics” from Women Doing Theology conference Mennonite Church USA 2014.

Nov 1    – Naming the Violence of Church Process

Stephanie Krehbiel – “Naming the Violence of Process” (Chapter One of her dissertation Pacifist Battlegrounds: Violence, Community, and the Struggle for LGBTQ Justice in the Mennonite Church USA)

Nov 8    – Sexual Ethics and John Howard Yoder

Rachel Waltner Goossen – “Mennonite Bodies, Sexual Ethics: Women Challenge John Howard Yoder,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 34 (2016).
Lisa Schirch, “To the Next Generation of Pacifist Theologians,” (http://www.ourstoriesuntold.com/to-the-next-generation-of-pacifist-theologians/)

Nov 15 – Revisiting Manitoba Mennonite Origin Stories

Benjamin Goossen – “Mennonite Fascism,” (https://anabaptisthistorians.org/2017/04/27/mennonite-fascism/)

Vincent Lloyd – The Problem with Grace

We will be starting our series reading through Vincent Lloyd’s The Problem with Grace. We will meet Fridays once a month from about noon – 2pm at The Katherine Friesen Centre (940 Notre Dame Ave).

Here is the proposed schedule.

1. January 15 – Introduction (available here as a pdf.)
2. February 19 – Chapters 1-3
3. March 18 – Chapters 4-5
4. April 8 – Chapters 4-8
5. May 6 – Conclusion and Appendix

Critical Conversations in 2015 – 2016

This year we will explore a new format and work through two books in the course of the year.
We will meet Fridays once a month from about noon – 2pm at The Katherine Friesen Centre (940 Notre Dame Ave).

This year we will read through Daniel Colucciello Barber’s On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion, and Secularity as well as Vincent Lloyd’s The Problem with Grace: Reconfiguring Political Theology.

I can provide a .pdf of the opening chapters of Barber’s work for those want to begin immediately (daviddriedger-at-mymts-dot-com).

Here is the current meeting schedule

Barber – On Diaspora (see here for previous online book event)
1. October 9 – Introduction and Chapter 1
2. November 6 – Chapters 2 & 3 (meeting at 11am)
3. December 11 – Chapters 4 & 5

Lloyd – The Problem with Grace (sections to be determined)
1. January 15
2. February 19
3. March 18
4. April 8
5. May 6 (if necessary)

CC in June – Decolonizing Epistemologies

This month we will be reading ”Mujerista Discourse: A Platform for Latinas’ Subjugated Knowledge” by Ada María Isasi-Díaz. This piece comes from a collection of essays entitled Decolonizing Epistemologies which she co-edited with Eduardo Mendieta. Melanie Kampen will be facilitating.

Mujerista Discourse: A Platform for Latinas’ Subjugated Knowledge [pdf]

This will likely be the last Critical Conversation of the summer. We will meeting Tuesday, June 16th at The Goodwill Social Club (625 Portage Ave) @ 8pm.

Critical Conversation in May – Divinanimality

This month we will read a chapter of the recently released Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology. This book is a collection of essays from an earlier conference of the same name. From the publisher,

A turn to the animal is underway in the humanities, most obviously in such fields as philosophy, literary studies, cultural studies, and religious studies. One important catalyst for this development has been the remarkable body of animal theory issuing from such thinkers as Jacques Derrida and Donna Haraway. What might the resulting interdisciplinary field, commonly termed animality studies, mean for theology, biblical studies, and other cognate disciplines? Is it possible to move from animal theory to creaturely theology?

We will be reading the following chapter,

Devouring the Human: Digestion of a Corporeal Soteriology,” by Erika Murphy

We will be meeting Friday May 22 @ noon (Katherine Friesen Centre; 940 Notre Dame Ave).

CC at night in March – Agrama and Abu-Lughod (Update!)

** Update ** In light of our readings and an event (see info here) that was just brought to my attention we will now be meeting at McNally Robinsons for the event at 7pm. For anyone interested we will connect after the event to go for drinks or coffee.

Our second round of Critical Conversation at Night will engage two interventions in the convoluted project of Western attempts at understanding Islam.

Hussein Ali Agrama develops the thesis that secularism “incessantly blurs together religion and politics, and that its power relies crucially upon the precariousness of the categories it establishes.”
Secularism, Sovereighty, Indeterminacy: Is Egypt a Secular or a Religious State?” [pdf]

Lila Abu-Lughod explores the limitations and perversions of Western claims to be ‘saving’, particularly, women from oppression in Afghanistan.
Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others.” [pdf]

I do not assume any sort of continuity between these two pieces only that I hope they can illuminate models of understanding not represented in dominant Western media and culture.

We will meet March 12, 7:30pm @ The Goodwill Social Club (625 Portage Ave). (See updated info above)