“Fleming Rutledge, 79, is a theologian and one of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church. Her book, ‘The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ,’ is a magisterial 669-page tome that has garnered the attention and respect of some unlikely religious leaders,” writes Jonathan Merritt, columnist for Religion News Service.
Below are a few excerpts from Merritt’s interview with Rutledge.
RNS: I know churches that feel uncomfortable about discussing the cross in all its bloody violence. Why do you think churches avoid preaching about the cross?
FR: One significant reason, as I explain in my book, is reaction against overemphasis on a particular version of “penal substitution,” which became an idée fixe in some Protestant circles. Other reasons may be cultural, since many mainline Protestant churches have associated the preaching of the cross with supposedly less-educated, right-wing Christians — and also, a bloody corpus on the cross was more typical of Spanish and Latino Roman Catholic imagery. A third factor is American optimism, a preference for what makes us feel good, and an unwillingness to talk about the power of Sin — in spite of the persistence of Sin throughout the world.
RNS: You think churches should embrace the gruesomeness of the crucifixion. Why?
FR: I wouldn’t put it exactly that way. As I point out in my book, the Evangelists don’t dwell on the gruesomeness. I do think it’s important for people in our sanitized society to know what is involved in this method of executing a person, but the shame, degradation, dehumanization, and, above all, godlessness of crucifixion are what’s most important. Those features, I believe, lie at the heart of what Christ suffered, and I argue that it is crucial (“crucial” derives from Latin crux, cross) for the church to ask why God chose to die in that particular way.
To read entire interview, click HERE.