through the image of a woman crucified on the cross
I understand at last.
BustedHalo just released "The Contemporary Christa" by Donna Freitas, exploring the controversial image of Madonna crucified on stage:
If you managed to avoid the controversy last summer and fall, the centerpiece of Madonna’s summer Confessions Tour was a crucifixion scene. Each night an enormous, mirrored cross rose up from the performance stage to reveal Madonna wearing a bright crimson blouse and long black skirt, a crown of thorns resting on her head. With her arms outstretched, she sang the somber ballad “Live to Tell” (reportedly written about her experiences of domestic abuse while married to Sean Penn), while images of African children suffering from AIDS flashed in the background.
It didn’t go over well.
What more approprate image than the slow, painful death of crucifiction to represent the slow emotional and physical death caused by domestic violence?
Freitas goes on to detail the contoversy surrounding not only Madonna on the cross, but the imaging of God or Christ as a woman. But, as Freitas notes, if we are all in the image of God/Christ, can we not be images of God or Christ in the world?
It’s not that I’m not aware of Madonna’s past and her infamous ability to shock and scandalize especially when it comes to all things religious—it’s that in this case, I don’t think it’s relevant. In She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, Elizabeth A. Johnson argues that “the Christological symbol of God’s active suffering in Christ [is] a historically inclusive one, encompassing the suffering lives of women and men of all ages.” In other words, the possible portrayals of the divine are not only endless but endlessly diverse. For as Johnson argues, women are “imago Dei, imago Christi, daughters of Wisdom.”
If we are all imago Christi, then why not Madonna too?
Freitas' article brought to mind two other images of women crucified. The first being "In the Name of God," a life-size statue of a pregnant teen girl on the cross, representing victims of the Catholic Church's official policy on condoms as a means of AIDS prevention. This image stirred up controversy of its own, along with cries of blasphemy.
The next image that came to mind is of a woman crucified on a uterus posted in a blog on Rock for Life. Respondents to the blog call it "disgusting," a "mockery of Christ's crucifiction," etc.
What I find most interesting about the responses to all of these images is a revulsion towards equating women's bodies with the sacred, and a fear of women's sexuality, along with really examining or dealing with the issues attached (such as sex, abortion, birth control, and violence against women).
I have known you as a vulnerable baby,
as a brother, as a father.
Now I know you as a woman.
As women's lives are seen as disposable, women are crucified every day. These images, tragically, reflect that reality. Ignoring that fact will not make it go away.
(Italicized portions from an untitled prayer in Soul Weavings: a gathering of women's prayers edited by Lyn Klug)