The Search for What Saves Us

I’ve taken the title of this thread from a book by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, both Methodist Ministers, titled “Proverbs of Ashes.”

In this book, they explore the idea that by focusing on the Crucifixion as the source of salvation (many) Christians have confused an act of hate with an act of love.

As such, they believe that it is this focus which creates the damaging mentality that we must “be like Christ” and accept whatever suffering that comes our way, rather than stepping forward and saying, “This isn’t right. I deserve better.”

They say that making the Crucifixion God’s behaviour, rather than the act of hatred by people who were (rightly or wrongly) powerful and afraid of Jesus’ teachings, God is turned in to an abusive parent, and therefore encourages acceptance of abusive relationships in the world.

Their arguement is that salvation in Christianity (in general) needs to be shifted from the Crucifixion to Grace (or Love). That it is Jesus’ life and teachings that should be understood as our saving grace, and not his death.

I don’t know for sure where this debate will go (and no, I haven’t suddenly re-converted to Christianity ;)), but I am interested in hearing what other Dopers think about this. I’ve been thinking about posting this since I read the book, but it is this thread - in particular gobear’s comments about Jesus’ “purpose” and Jodi’s responses - that got me moving on it.

I don’t see that being overly meek has been, historically, the major problem with Christianity. (Of course, I don’t believe that the problem was love, either – more love would certainly be good!) It’s just that, in my experience, Christians tend to view themselves as victims or the oppressed but their behavior does not necessarily reflect that. You don’t have to look very far, for example, to find Christians in the USA who complain about persecution despite a powerful and prevailing Christian majority; yet, when persecuted (either in reality or in perception) Christians as a whole do not tend to turn the other cheek or allow themselves to be trod upon. Rather, the opposite seems to be true.

If any religious groups were to be singled out as suffering victims, I would think that the Jews or pacifistic Buddhists would be far more likely candidates.

I don’t think it’s the crucifixion that encourages acceptance of abuses behaviour, I think it’s the fact that Jesus tells people to accept it.

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

It really sounds like Jesus tells people to be a doormat, to not only suffer what is inflicted upon them, but go the extra mile (literally).

Shit happens; deal with it.

A Christian friend of mine was recently diagnosed with advanced lung cancer; she opted out of chemotherapy for a variety of reasons, not least of which being that a medical cure was hopeless. She could have shouted ‘this just isn’t fair!’, (and indeed I’m not at all sure that I wouldn’t be shouting just that in her situation), but she hasn’t; she has simply carried on with life for as long as it lasts

People have accused her of being in denial and deluding herself, but let me tell you, her example of calm acceptance has inspired many people in a way that I have never seen before. For me, it has been the essence of the famous (albeit now a little corny) prayer:
“Lord, grant me the strength to change the things I can change, to accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference”

I’ve just re-read the post I made above and I feel that I ought to clarify that my opening phrase was intended to be a succinct encapsulation of (one way to look at) the Christian approach to suffering, not a comment directed at the contributors to this thread.

Potayto, potahto.

Mohandas Gandhi, it might be argued, said much the same thing. Would you call him a doormat as well? However much you might disagree with it, the way of peaceful (non-)resistance has been used successfully in the past, and IMO deserves more than a scornful dismissal.


First of all, let me say that I was taught that it is the resurrection that’s the thing; not the crucifiction. What is important is that Jesus was willing to die for all of us, and the subsequent miracle that he rose from the dead. The fact that He died is secondary (though obviously necessary), and the method of His death is largely irrelevant, though obviously it underlines His sacrifice that He died so horribly.

I don’t think that’s what a focus on the resurrection (as opposed to the crucifiction) tells us. IMO, Jesus submitted to being put to death because He knew that it was His lot to suffer and die for all of us. That doesn’t mean that all of us are in turn expected to submit to suffering and death.

Well, I don’t like the choice implicit here, as if it has to be about God abusing His Son, or about people hating His Son. Neither of those is the appropriate focus, IMO.

My take on this is that “God so loved the world that he gave His only Son,” who would suffer so that all of the rest of us would not have to. It is an act of infinite love of all people. (Though of course it begs the much thornier question of why anybody had to (or has to) suffer at all.) It should not engender distrust of God as an abuser, nor should it engender hatred of anyone. God loved us enough to stand by and let all of us hurt His son. And He loved us enough to allow His son to suffer for us all.

[quot]Their arguement is that salvation in Christianity (in general) needs to be shifted from the Crucifixion to Grace (or Love). That it is Jesus’ life and teachings that should be understood as our saving grace, and not his death.

A few thoughts on this: (1) Grace and love are not synonyms, at least not in Methodism.* (2) Focusing on the resurrection (not the crucifixion) is focusing on grace, since the resurrection was the definitional act of a human raised through grace. (3) That doesn’t mean that the resurrection was not almost literally the saving grace of those of us who believe in it. (4) None of which undermines the importance of His teachings, which are themselves the embodiment of Jesus’s attempt to spread (and encourage) grace among men.

  • “Grace,” stictly speaking, is an undeserved gift. If mercy is God withholding something bad we deserve, grace is God offering something we don’t deserve. Beyond that strict definition, grace in the context of Methodism is the gift of God moving a person to realize his or her own imperfection and to desire to be closer to God and do God’s will. Methodists believe that people are saved through grace, not through works, no matter how good the works may be. (I will not zealously defend this definition of grace, which is a nebulous, personal, and hard to define concept. I’m just trying to give people an idea of the concept, not to exhaustively define it.

I have to agree. In my experience, Christians are not exactly acting like doormats. Does “Proverbs of Ashes” give any examples of how this supposed mentality is hurting Christians?

I don’t have the text with me right now (I’m at school) but things that I remember are women being told by their pastors to stay with husbands who abuse them (or accepting the abuse without complaint) because “God meant” for the family to be together or because they felt it was their cross to bear or what have you.

I’ll try to get specific examples when I get home but I’ve got a rather busy evening ahead of me.

Jodi- I couldn’t for the life of me remember if it was Grace or Love I wanted. From your explanation I see it was, in fact, Grace that I was thinking of. Sorry for the confusion.

I can’t find much support for the theory that we are supposed to be meek. The ‘turn the other cheek’ comment is contained in the Sermon on the Mount, which also contains such gems as:

‘If you want to avoid judgement, stop passing judgement.’ (7:1)
‘Be on guard for against performing religious acts for people to see’ (6:1)
‘Treat others the way you would have them treat you’ (7:12)

It’s all very much about personal conduct for the right reasons. Suffering in silence isn’t even mentioned as far as I know. ‘Turn the other cheek’ could be a caution against retaliation, or about taking the higher moral ground in a dispute, or not seeking vengeance…Christ always expects us to take the high road. These various things can be put into practice a hundred times a day, beginning with the jerk who cut you off in the road this morning and ending with the brother-in-law who needs another loan of cash tonight. I don’t view ‘turning the other cheek’ as necessarily meek, I think in lots of cases it is simply just the more practical, or the ‘bigger’ thing to do which I think requires strength. To use that as a reason to stay in an abusive relationship seems like taking it way out of context, IMO.

** Sister Coyote**, I don’t mean to hijack your thread at all, but I just had to respond to this reference because I was just discussing this with passage with one of my professers today. I believe the passage that you are refering to is Ephesians 5:21- 6:9. The reason I feel that it is so important to discuss is that I know women who have been in ** the exact ** situation that you described who have been told basically to put up and shut up. Such an interpretation is a horrible mistranslation of the original intent of the passage. I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching, so I’ll just quickly say that the original intent of the passage was to subvert the traditional Greco-Roman household structure which was * very * anti-female. To look at the entire passage, it must be taken in the context of the entire book of Ephesians which basically deals with starting a new life in Christ.
Therefore, this particular passage is a culmination of the entire book.
Anyways, enough with my ranting. :slight_smile:

I would also point out that the Bible has historically and famously been used as justification of slavery, both generally (because slavery is permitted in the Old Testament) and specifically (enslavement of American blacks was okay because being black was the “mark” put on Cain). So it should be no surprise that the Bible can be used to oppress women. And beyond argument, it is used for that purpose by some (though not all) fundamentalists who take “Woman was made from Man” and “wives, obey your husbands” as authority for everything from God-mandated inequality to physical abuse. But what may be considered by those of us who are liberal to be a misuse of the Bible doesn’t mean we have to change what we read in the Bible, or what we consider important. Rather, it means we should question our own (and others’) interpretations and assumptions to try to decide for ourselves – using the brains God gave us – if those interpretations and assumptions are reasonable.

I know that this occurs, but this is completely separate from the Crucifixion. The patriarchial point of view in the Bible goes far earlier than the New Testament.

The interpretation that I usually got was not that women should obey their husbands because being meek and enduring suffering is good (that is, emulating Christ) but rather that it was because of OT doctrines about the man being the head of the household and so forth. (I have even spoken with Christian men who say that it is better for a Christian women to endure abuse from a Christian spouse than to get a divorce.) I have never heard it say that it was a woman’s cross to bear – it was her proper place in the universe to be below men, just as it is the place of men to be below God.

Of course, you can easily argue (as many do) that the Old Testament laws and points of view are generally outmoded and no longer used. Christians eat pork, wear poly-fiber clothes, and don’t stone people to death for adultery. [There are always people who look at the Bible and point out certain verses to determine sin in others (like on the subject of homosexuality), but the Old Testament is not considered universally applicable except for a very small minority of Christians.]

In short, this really isn’t simply because abuse is good, or that suffering is good; this is a seperate phenomenon.

Jodi wrote:

Not to mention that women should shut up in church and stop wearing pearls (1 Timothy 2:9-12).

In regard to the OP, Will Rogers once said