Brock, Rita Nakashima 1950-
BROCK, Rita Nakashima 1950-
PERSONAL: Born April 29, 1950, in Fukuoka, Japan; moved to United States, 1956; daughter of Clemente Morales Torres and Ayako Nakashima; stepdaughter of Roy Grady Brock; married Tommy Charles Douglas, April 15, 1980 (divorced May, 1982). Education: Chapman University (Orange, CA), B.A., 1972; Claremont Graduate School of Theology, M.A., 1981, Ph. D., 1988; attended graduate study at University of Basel and Ecumenical Studies Center of the World Council of Churches. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Hobbies and other interests: Downhill skiing, painting, reading.
ADDRESSES: Office—Bunting Fellowship Program, 34 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138.
CAREER: Instructor, Claremont College, Claremont, CA, 1977-80; instructor, Scripps College, Claremont, CA, 1980-81; instructor, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN, 1983-84; director of women's studies, Stephen's College, Columbia, MO, 1984-89; assistant professor, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA, 1989, 1990; professor, Hamline University, St. Paul, MN, 1990-97; director, Bunting Fellowship Program, Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, MA, 1997—. Member, board of directors, Starr King School, Berkeley, CA, 1991—; Division of Overseas Ministries, Indianapolis, IN, 1996-97, Common Global Ministries, Cleveland, OH.
MEMBER: American Academy of Religion.
AWARDS, HONORS: Publisher's Award, 1988, for Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power; Press Award, 1997, for Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States.
(With Rebecca Ann Parker) Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2001.
(With Susan Thistlethwaite) Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power, Crossroads Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Setting the Table: Women in Theological Conversation, Chalice Press (St. Louis, MO), 1995.
SIDELIGHTS: A leading scholar of feminist theology and women's studies, Rita Nakashima Brock began questioning the theology of the cross early in her theological studies, when she worked with high-school students who told her of violence in their lives.
Brock became increasingly convinced that "Christianity could not promise healing for victims of intimate violence as long as its central image was a divine parent who required the death of his child." She maintains that the orthodox doctrine of God so loving the world that he gave his only begotten son and God's calling for Jesus' obedience and sacrificial death on the cross to atone for the world's sins is actually a theology that sanctions violence. In her first book, Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power, Brock argues that sacrifice theology essentially makes God a child abuser.
Brock acknowledges that her work is troubling, even heretical, to many; fundamentalists have called her the anti-Christ. Mary Ellen Ross, writing in Theology Today, generally agreed with the author's premises: "I found this work strongest when it was most concrete and concentrated on family dynamics and the many ways the divine family of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost both reflects and reinforces abusive human family relationships.... Analyzing the problems of patriarchy is easier than creating solutions, for our immersion in patriarchal structures make imagining alternatives difficult.... This book will have broad appeal. Brock presents her ideas in an accessible way, and her theology of child abuse should interest anyone—lay person, cleric, or academic—who wants to know more about the relationship of religion to feminism."
In Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States, Brock and coauthor Susan Thistlethwaite examine the Asian sex trade and the responsibility of both the Buddhist and Christian hierarchies that permit it. "Evil," they write, "should be reconceived as whatever increases human helplessness, reinforces or inflicts pain without a healing purpose, and/or creates separation from relationships of love and nurture. Those three things—helplessness, pain, and separation—define evil as it is experienced by those exploited by the sex industry."
In a review for Women's Review of Books, Lillian Robinson noted that "Casting Stones is particularly strong in making connections between the military as masculine mindset and as economic force. The book underscores causal relationships between local and transnational economies—national planning mechanisms, multinational corporations, international lending agencies—and the sex trade. Its authors observe that, lacking restrictions on unfair competition and any kind of protective labor laws, 'the sex industry is one of the last bastions of pure capitalism.'" "The temptations of market economic theory," the authors conclude, "are to reduce every aspect of human life to its value in the marketplace....Thewayin which certain economic systems contribute to human sin is to institutionalize the lack of care in a society and to make the consequences of this lack of care invisible."
In Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us, Brock and coauthor Rebecca Parker write alternate chapters to show how emphasizing Christ's obedience to God and sacrifice on the cross sanctions violence and exacerbates its effects, condones silence about the abuse of human beings, and hinders any process of recovery. Their own experiences also led to questioning. Parker was sexually abused as a child but repressed the memory, trying to be the self-sacrificing Christian her Methodist family valued. Brock, part Japanese, faced racism and a sometimes violent father and could not find in church anything to support her conviction that she was not bad. In neither of their cases was there a place in the church for a child who was experiencing violence.
The authors do, however, still believe that there is a saving message in Christianity, involving the building of community, working to change unjust systems, being and having steady witnesses (people who are capable of facing violence straight on and supporting those who do), and actively thinking through theology.
Steven Schroeder praised Proverbs of Ashes in Booklist, noting, "The three sections of their book correspond to Lent, Pentecost, and Epiphany; this organization carries the text from suffering to presence, thereby presenting the argument in the order of the liturgical year. Within that continuum, which sustains theological reflection, Brock and Parker also tell the book's many particular stories beautifully. Furthermore, they report that their friendship made the book possible. Indeed, that friendship breathes in its pages as it pronounces good news for readers of all faiths who are seeking resources for resisting violence."
In "What is 'Religion?': Definitional Disruptions and Eruptions," a paper presented by Brock and Jace G. Weaver at the 1998 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Brock concluded, "These days . . . I find my own sense of religion more in line with my Japanese pragmatic roots. I am more interested in the kinds of community and ritual that come from my religious affiliation than in the ideological power of particular beliefs. I am more interested in how religious communities participate in and work for justice, both within their communities and in the larger society, than in their doctrines. I have found that committing myself to religious communities of disparate people teaches me more about my world than seeking those too much like me. While I consider myself loosely Protestant, I have found there is much to be learned from the interaction of faiths—for religions are not fixed entities, but fluid processes by which human beings create meaning and live with one another."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, January, 1995, p. 30.
Booklist, October 1, 2001, Steven Schroeder, review of Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us, p. 280.
Canadian Women's Studies, summer, 2000, review of Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States, p. 158.
Christianity and Crisis, December 11, 1989, Carter Heywood, review of Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power, p. 381.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, fall, 1998, review of Casting Stones, p. 654; summer, 1992, review of Journeys by Heart, p. 328.
Library Journal, November 15, 2001, Stephen Joseph, review of Proverbs of Ashes, p. 71.
Publishers Weekly, March 17, 1989, William Griffin, review of Journeys by Heart, p. 73.
Theology Today, October, 1997, review of Casting Stones, p. 414; July, 1989, review of Journeys by Heart, p. 206.
Women's Review of Books, October, 1997, Lillian Robinson, review of Casting Stones, p. 19.