Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jesus's Solidarity with Outcasts in Light of Patriarchy's Abuse of Women

Attempts to show that the life of Jesus can be a ground for feminist concerns today focus on this or that facet of his teaching or behavior, but overlook its central thrust. In making solidarity with outcasts, Jesus was engaging in quintessentially “feminine” behavior.

Patriarchal societies are all about who has power to consume whom. They do not permit gestures of compassion from those who rule, because they construe such gestures as weakness. Thus, they tutor men to make allies with the powerful and dominate the weak.

Jesus’s solidarity with outcasts breaks fundamentally, radically, with such expectations. In making solidarity with societies’ refuse, he becomes a woman—one who is to be beaten, kicked, scorned, dispensed with when used up. Patriarchy crucifies Jesus as it crucifies every feminine gesture: to show that it has power to do so.

(The illustration is from William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer, "Study on the Physical Death of Jesus Christ," Journal of American Medical Assoc. 255, 11 [1986], illustrating the use of torture [scourging followed by crucifixion] by Roman soldiers to terrorize subjugated populations into submission.)