THE CROSS AND GENDERCIDE by Elizabeth Gerhardt
In The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls, Dr. Elizabeth Gerhardt asserts that this female-directed violence is the central issue of the 21st century. Millions of families and communities are impacted by domestic violence in the home, gender-selective abortions, sex trafficking, rape as a weapon of war, female genital mutilation, exploitation of women and girls in sweatshops, and other horrific crimes.
Gerhardt explains that this complex human rights issue exacerbates other global social concerns such as poverty, the international AIDS crisis, and the proliferation of orphaned children in underdeveloped countries. While most nations have laws against such violence, political, social, and religious institutions and systems often permit it to continue unchecked. In light of recent findings of the World Health Organization—that one in three women worldwide is a victim of violence, resulting in a global health epidemic—The Cross and Gendercide warrants the attention of the global church.
The author's background in counseling, theology, social justice, and global studies provides a unique perspective for addressing violence. Her study offers a historical and sociological overview of the issues, including systemic causes of violence, patriarchy, domination, and objectification of women and girls. Moving beyond evangelical books that address education, counseling, and self-help, Gerhardt proposes a distinctly theological response, defining human rights violations as sin. Gendercide is a confessional issue requiring broader and deeper solutions by the whole church.
Gerhardt revisits Martin Luther's theology of the cross and Dietrich Bonhoeffer's 20th-century interpretation of it within the context of Nazi racism and church identity. She offers a radical and nuanced interpretation of Luther's theology, emphasizing the encounter of the living Christ through identification with and relationship to poor and oppressed neighbors far and wide. Leaning on Bonhoeffer's descriptions of the roles of the church, Gerhard calls for both proclamation of the gospel (kerygma) and service to neighbor (diakonia). We must not only proclaim Christ; we must incarnate his presence to others while challenging the institutionalized subjugation of women and racial and economic injustice.
Confession, conversion, and resistance are pivotal to prophetic response. It is necessary for Christians to confess that silence is a form of collusion with evil. Feeling sympathetic and collecting an annual offering or hosting special activities to help alleviate the suffering is important. However, compartmentalized reactions that center on individual giving do not go far enough. Gerhard urges the whole church to become better educated regarding the extent of gendercide, to use theological and legal human rights language to define it, and subsequently to engage in resistance to the cultural, political, and religious systems that continue to support this violence.
In closing, Gerhardt offers theological reflection aimed at creative activism. She emphasizes the importance of Christian hope, community and global connectedness, prophetic speaking on behalf of the voiceless, and survivor aid/interventions. Overall, Gerhard provides a cohesive church response to the problem of gendercide. The Cross and Gendercide educates church leaders, scholars, and laypersons about global violence against females, the subsequent complexity of the problem, and the need for theologically based responses rooted in Christ's redeeming work on the cross.
Amy Rasmussen Buckley is a freelance writer, speaker, and activist. She is a contributor to Strengthening Families and Ending Abuse: Churches and Their Leaders Look to the Future (Wipf and Stock, 2013) and oversees the "Stop the Silence Initiative," which addresses domestic violence, as an editor at SheLovesMagazine.com.