Postmodern Christologies: From Violence to Life through Rediscovery
JoAnne Marie Terrell makes it pretty plain in her essay entitled Power in the Blood?: The Cross in the African American Experience: it is not appropriate in the postmodern and/or post-colonial age to say that Christ’s death is pleasing to God. Rather, as Terrell seems to rightly suggest, such an unhelpful affirmation of violence both empowers the ongoing displacement of minorities in society and undermines the more affirming actions of God’s coming to earth in Christ.
The problem of affirming God as pleased in Christ’s death is first and foremost one of historical laziness. Unfortunately, the far majority of practitioners of the faith simply adopt the Christologies of their community without ever asking if there is another way of thinking about such matters. The blind acceptance of a violent theory of atonement, much like the historical affirmation second class citizenry of African Americans, is one which could be different. However, with ongoing propagation of Anselm’s notions of surrogacy winning out over those of the more subjective Abelard, the suffering of minorities in the fine line between coerced and voluntary labor continues. This is both unfortunate and avoidable.
Another reason why it is inappropriate for Christians in the postmodern age to say that Christ’s death is pleasing to God is that Christ came for more than his death. As Terrell notes in quoting Delores Williams, “‘Jesus came for life’ and to demonstrate the utter feasibility of life in love and honor” (122). Terrell’s point is simply this: by considering how scripture speaks to of the whole of Christ’s ministry one can not only have a better understanding of how God views Christ, but we can also come to a more liberating perspective on how Christ’s model of living (and dying) provides alternatives to violence.
In conclusion, although many contemporary theories of atonement fail to call into question the implications of their violence, one can find hope in the diversification of voices within the global church and its rediscovery of theories held long ago. Hopefully, as new and divergent voices seek to tell their stories in the context of the biblical and historical narrative, more long held “orthodoxies” will be challenged for the biased, and limited, norm they represent.
What do you think? Is it appropriate in this day and age to consider Jesus’ death as pleasing to God? Is this not, as has been mentioned elsewhere, a confirmation of divine child abuse or otherwise?