About Me

She Who Suffers: Victims Bearing the Image of God

 

Guest Blog: Today’s guest post is from my friend, Kelly Edmiston. Kelly Edmiston is the Student and Family Minister at the 

First Colony Church of Christ in Sugar Land, TX. Kelly is a passionate leader following God’s call on her life to lead people in a growing relationship with Jesus. Kelly is a teacher, preacher, event speaker and writer. She is currently obtaining a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University. Her areas of interest are feminist biblical studies, spiritual formation and practical theology. She enjoys “suburban life” with her husband and two sons.

Find her blog at brophytwinspeak.com and connect on Facebook and Twitter 

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the First Colony Church of Christ.

This post is second in a series on female images of God. Previously, I suggested that female images be used in conjunction with male images for a fuller and richer understanding of who God is. This post focuses on female victims of traumatic suffering as an image for God, the one who suffers.

Traumatic suffering is not a uniquely female experience. However, females suffer as victims of violent and sexual crime at the hands of men at astronomically high rates.

A few examples:

Worldwide, it is estimated that 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of men.[1]

In the Bible there are far too many examples of women victimized, silenced and abused. Perhaps the most tragic is the nearly forgotten story of the nameless concubine, in the book of Judges, who was gang raped and dismembered into twelve pieces. (Judges 19:25).

Recently, at Baylor University unknown numbers of nameless women had their stories of trauma ignored and their tears disregarded for the sake of a winning football team.

Another recent example of female victimization that has gained much press attention took place near the Stanford campus. A young woman was raped while unconscious behind a dumpster by a student she met at a party.

Her words, written in a 12-page letter to the man who raped her, gives voice to victimized women:

When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced.[2] 

Nothing. Missing. Silence. These words describe the victim’s experience. Shelly Rambo defines trauma as an open wound and a death that persists in the inability to envision life in the future.[3] In her brilliant work, “Spirit and Trauma,” Rambo theologizes the space in the “middle” in which the death (or deed) is complete but life in the future is not yet imaginable.[4] In the Christian tradition, this is the space between the cross and the resurrection.

At the death of Jesus, life was not yet imaginable. Nothingness and silence prevailed on that dark and dreary Saturday. Jesus, who entered into the awfulness of humanity and became a volunteer victim of a violent death, was gone.

Jesus shows us the God who suffers in bearing the pain and trauma of the world on a cross. In this, the victim becomes an image for God.

In speaking about the Day of Judgement Jesus says,

I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

(Matthew 25:34-40)

In Jesus, God says, ‘what you do or don’t do for the victim, you do or don’t do for me.’ Herein lies the imperative to act.

Elizabeth Johnson points out that “if God is in solidarity with violated women, the call to resist is born at the very core of faith.”[5]

Something must be done.

The woman lying naked behind a dumpster beckons us to not go light on the one who raped her but to fight tooth and nail for justice. Fight for her. Speak for her. Advocate for her.

The passed by and forgotten stories of women lying on floors clutching pillows in the fetal position from being ravaged and abused by men stronger than they are, stripping them of their dignity and worth cry out to us for help, for healing and for hope that this will stop happening.

They are begging for the assurance that we will not stand for this.

Until we see God in the faces of these women we will fail to see the urgency to act. Until we see God in the faces of these women, we will sit by content with a six-month jail sentence for a man who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Until we see God in the faces of these women we will continue to allow men with power to operate “above the rules” in allowing the abuse and exploitation of women to happen under their noses and say nothing about it.

Knowing God as the woman who suffers trauma calls the believing community to proactively pursue justice and equality for women at every social, political and religious level. Knowing God as the woman who suffers trauma demands that something be done.

A Prayer of Confession and Lament

O Suffering God,

We are sorry that we have not protected you, sheltered you or fought for you.

We have turned our heads, pretending to not know you.

We have subjected you to shame in sick and cruel ways.

We have blamed you for things not your fault.

And we have refused to use our power on your behalf.

We stood by while you were bruised and beaten, raped of your dignity and worth.

Forgive us.

Lead us forward from this present darkness by the pathway of your tears.

Let them wash our eyes so that we can see.

Let them jolt us from our slumber so that we can act.

Let them purify us from the sin of idleness.

In your Holy and Hurting Name we pray, Amen.

-Kelly Edmiston

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[1] http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

[2] https://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/heres-the-powerful-letter-the-stanford-victim-read-to-her-ra?utm_term=.si0JVQpOE#.id4wmKzRo

[3] Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, ©2010).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, 10th ed. (New York: Crossroad, ©2002), 271.

 

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