A Cross Between Empowerment and Self-Giving

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Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico

 

This article by Jessica Parks, a grad student at Houston Baptist Seminary felt like the framing of a question I have batted around for years: where does the empowerment of feminism meet with the self-giving nature of the Christian life? More precisely, what does that look like in practice?

She refers in her article to Philippians 2:1-11 (copied below), where Paul encourages the Philippians to empty themselves in emulation of Jesus. Paul is suggesting here that when God became Jesus, that moment of incarnation is God giving up God’s power. And that Christians should emulate this action by giving up power that they have as well. This emulation of giving up power as demonstrated in incarnation and crucifixion is the “cruciformity” Parks is referring to.

This article brings up some great questions, including some of the assumptions she is working from.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

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One thought on “A Cross Between Empowerment and Self-Giving”

  1. I mean he didn’t necessarily give up all the power of God – miracles still happened and the like. But I think he became a “slave” to the cycle of life and death. God surrendered power to reach a level of equality with the most basic truth of human existence – that it is temporary.

    This is sort of my issue with the question at hand – neither Christianity nor feminism is a call to completely give up or completely claim power, respectively. Certainly Jesus would not be described as powerless, and certainly no feminist would deny the empowerment of women. However, I think the general rule of following Christ’s example is sound, but suggest that our first reading of what that example is may not be accurate.

    What I hear from this passage and from my limited understanding of cruciformitude is in direct keeping with my strong orientations toward feminism and gender equality. In order to commune with humanity, God surrendered the power that separated God from us. A sacrifice of power in the name of equality. I think that exact thing is what powerfully advocating for gender equality necessarily includes. In order for all people to experience a humanity that is on equal footing, those of us with an imbalanced amount of power must surrender that power. We (the privileged, and in the case of feminism, men) must hang that power on the cross, so that it can die and be reborn in everyone, not just a concentrated few.

    I think people have taken Paul a little too far, even Jessica Parks who hints at a theology in this sentence:

    “[…]how I can be actively working for women’s rights while at the same time laying my own rights down.”

    that suggests that women should be shamed for trying to claim rights that they deserve. I don’t think that’s what God meant for us, nor what Paul meant for us, when he was describing the sacrifice of Christ. The message here isn’t “give up all your rights and become a slave because that’s what Jesus” the message is “In the name of peace, love, and righteousness, do whatever it takes. Even if that means dying. Even if it means giving up power that you hold. God gave everything so that you may know love. How can you carry that same spirit?”

    Like

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