Reimagining the Cross of childbearing: towards a Naga constructive Christology of natality
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The Naga women in North East India suffer in silence because of the unjust practices of child-birthing in their patriarchal culture, which privileges the birth of sons over daughters. Naga theology narrates suffering largely through Jesus' redemptive suffering on the cross, and Naga Christian women embrace this narrative, seeing in Jesus' suffering both a vision of Jesus as a friend who understands their pain and as a call to share in his suffering. Contemporary theologians have approached the symbol of the Christian cross in order to interpret it anew in light of marginalized communities. This dissertation examines Christology through the lens of the experiences of Naga women. It takes the issue of child-birthing practices within Naga culture as a starting point for re-reading the Christian cross by drawing on the theological writings of Jürgen Moltmann, Serene Jones, Rita Nakashima Brock, and Wonhee Anne Joh. This work turns to the theme of 'natality' in the work of feminist theologian and philosopher of religion, Grace Jantzen. Rooting Naga Christology in the concept of natality, it focuses on three dimensions of the life-bearing work of Jesus: embrace, respect, and nourishment. The central thesis is that a theology focused on natality provides not only a way to affirm the birth of girls in the Naga context, but it also provides a way to re-narrate the story of the cross in Naga Christian theology. In chapters one and two, this dissertation outlines the problem of child-birthing via the term `mascu-surrogacy.' The birthing mother becomes the surrogate for the male who seeks his progeny through dominating the female body. These chapters highlight the poetry and stories of Naga women, ancient and modern, to express the situation of Naga women; they also identify the centrality of the story of Jesus for Naga Christians. Chapters three and four turn to the contemporary theologies of the cross with the question of child-birthing in mind. Chapter five examines Grace Jantzen's philosophy of natality. The final chapter develops three aspects of a life-affirming Christology, based in the work of Mary Elizabeth Moore and concludes by reimagining the practice of the Eucharist for Naga women.