I botched Lent this year. I didn’t fast from anything tasty or techno, or set aside time to meditate and pray.
To be honest, I think my lack of motivation stems from the lack of inspiration I draw from the Easter story, at least as I’ve known it so far. The story of Christ’s victory over death, the sacrifice of a Saviour who guarantees eternal life, is stale. I’m aware of the oppression and injustice that this story has wrought over time, both locally and globally: the domination of vulnerable peoples, the industrialization of the land, the exploitation of marginalized groups. With this knowledge, how can I celebrate Easter and be inspired to act justly?
Just a couple weeks before Holy Week, I took a moment to stop by a small shelf of abandoned books in the lobby of our housing complex. We live on the University of British Columbia campus close to several theology schools, so it’s usually a mix of old churchy cast-offs and undergrad business texts. That day there was a book with the hot-pink-coloured title: Christianity, Patriarchy and Abuse: A Feminist Critique. I started reading it that night and was pleasantly surprised to find the Easter inspiration I’d been missing.
Turns out the book is a collection of essays co-edited by Joanne Carlson Brown, the first gay or lesbian person to be ordained by the United Methodist Church. Definitely dated—1989, a year after I was born—it theologically handles the question of whether feminists can be Christians and vice versa.
It was the third essay by Rita Nakashima Brock that freshened things up for me. Her essay, “And a little child will lead us,” speaks to how classical elements of Christianity, like patriarchy and the Father/Son paternalism within Christology, neglect the vulnerable and, at worst, result in child abuse. Heavy stuff. But what’s neat is Brock’s recounting of the resurrection from the perspective of the vulnerable and wounded people Jesus connected with, particularly the women.
She starts with the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5, who is healed after touching Jesus’ clothes as he walks through the crowd. Jesus turns around and asks who touched him. She confesses, only to hear that her “faith has made [her] well.” Brock writes, “Her faith and courage re-establish her wholeness. Her courage comes from knowing vulnerability and, despite her fear, reaching out for healing. . . . She represents the brokenness of our human connections and her courage restores the flow of connectedness.”
Here, one of the most vulnerable people in society is empowered by the connection created between her own action and divine love. Brock goes on to say that “[d]ivine presence as love, as connectedness, had come to the community through the wounded.”
Jesus’ death, then, was a final act of connection with the vulnerable. “In being bound with the vulnerable who accompany him to his death, Jesus is exposed as one among them, too wounded to suffer alone.”
“The women return to his grave to claim him. When the stricken Jesus leaves them, they bring back his presence as a part of themselves, as a vision. . . . In claiming life for themselves, the community transforms Jesus Christ into Christa/Community.”
It’s a radical interpretation of the Easter story, but it inspires me because it empowers the weak and the marginalized. Jesus’ followers are transformed into a loving community, one that’s experienced justice and will continue to work for it. The resurrection becomes not just an event proclaiming the dominion of One, but life shared by many parts of a connected whole.
So this Eastertide I’m inspired to look for new life that comes from the transformative stories of vulnerable and wounded people claiming life for themselves. It’s definitely something to celebrate and keep in mind when we say, “Christ is risen!” Because maybe he’s not the only one.
Katie Doke Sawatzky (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Vancouver.