Prioritizes survivors of abuse by reexamining Christian ideals about suffering and salvation
More than half of women and almost one in three of men in the United States have experienced sexual violence at some time in their lives. Yet our Christian tradition has failed survivors of sexual violence, who have been taught to believe that traumatic suffering brings us closer to God. Incarnating Grace attempts to save our broken ways of talking about God’s grace by unearthing liberating resources buried in the Christian tradition.
Christian ideas about salvation have historically contributed to sexual violence in our communities by reinforcing the idea that suffering is salvific. But a God worth worshiping does not want human beings to suffer. Drawing on the sixteenth-century Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila as well as contemporary political and feminist theologians, philosophers, and legal scholars, author and Associate Professor of theology Julia Feder offers an account of Christian salvation as mystical-political.
Feder begins by describing the breadth of traumatic wounding and the shape of traumatic recovery, as articulated by psychologists. Since the fullness of post-traumatic healing requires reserves deeper than those which can be articulated by the secular field of psychology alone, the book then introduces the Spanish Carmelite Saint Teresa of Avila and her theological insights, which are most helpful for constructing a post-traumatic theology of healing. Arguing that God stands against violence and suffering, the book also examines the notion of “senseless suffering,” a technical term that comes from Edward Schillebeeckx, a Catholic twentieth-century Flemish priest and theologian. The suffering of sexual violence serves no higher purpose or greater human value and pushes against all ways of making sense of the world as good and orderly. In the following chapters, Feder turns to two Christian virtues that animate post-traumatic recovery, courage and hope, and explores how Christian hope can provide a language to empower courageous activity undertaken toward healing. Incarnating Grace opens a new dialogue about salvation and violence that does not allow evil to have the last word.
Foreword by Donna Freitas | ix Introduction: Saving Grace | 1 1 Salvation as Mystical-Political Healing | 7 2 Teresa of Avila: A Saint for Survivors | 27 3 Teresa’s Embodied Anthropology | 49 4 The Survivor as Imago Dei: Created for Friendship | 69 5 Edward Schillebeeckx’s Theology of Suffering | 90 6 The Story of Jesus and the Mystical-Political Shape of Salvation | 103 7 Courage in the Work of Posttraumatic Healing | 122 8 Recovery and Hope | 152 Conclusion: A Theology of Healing | 165 Acknowledgments | 181 Notes | 183 Index | 235
Julia Feder is the Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of Spirituality and Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. Her research focuses on theological anthropology, theologies of suffering, and human evolution. Her essays have been published in Theological Studies, Horizons, the Journal of Moral Theology, the Journal of Religion and Society, Anthropology News, and Philosophy, Theology, and the Sciences.