7/20/2008 10:14 AM
Professor Dolores Williams of Union Theological Seminary, for example, wants to replace the cross with the mustard seed as the primary Christian symbol, because she views the cross as a symbol of violence, especially against woman and children.
Anabaptist theologian Denny Weaver sums it up it like this: “The motif of Jesus as the substitute object of punishment, which assumes the principle of retribution, is the particular image that feminists and womanists have found very offensive. It portrays God as the chief exacter of retribution. God punishes -- abuses -- one of God's children for the sake of the others. And the Jesus of this motif models passive submission to innocent and unjust suffering for the sake of others.” (Weaver, Violence)
Some feminist and womanist writers also object to the passivity and submission of Jesus as encouraging the acceptance of violence to women by men.
Again Weaver says: “It is an unhealthy model for a woman abused by her husband or a child violated by her father, and constitutes double jeopardy when attached to hierarchical theology that asserts male headship. A model of passive, innocent suffering poses an obstacle for people who encounter conditions of systemic injustice, or an unjust status quo produced by the power structure. Examples might be the legally segregated south prior to the civil rights movement, or de facto housing segregation that still exists in many places; military-backed occupation, under which land is confiscated and indigenous residents crowded into enclosed territories, called "reservations" in North America and "bantustans" in South Africa and "autonomous areas" in Palestine. For people in such situations of an unjust status quo, the idea of "being like Jesus" as modeled by satisfaction atonement means to submit passively and to endure that systemic
“James Cone linked substitutionary atonement specifically to defenses of slavery and colonial oppression. Delores Williams calls the Jesus of substitutionary atonement, the "ultimate surrogate figure." After depicting numerous ways in which black women were forced into a variety of surrogacy roles for white men and women and black men, Williams says that to accept satisfaction or substitutionary atonement and the image of Jesus that it supplies is to validate all the unjust surrogacy to which black women have been and still are submitted. ”
Weaver concludes “Such examples show that atonement theology that models innocent, passive suffering does have specific negative impact in the contemporary context.” (Weaver, Violence)
In my next blog I will set out to explain why I think the critics are wrong.