Writing for the New York Times, Emily M.D. Scott asks a bold question I wish more pastors and Bible studies would address: What do we do about the Bible’s #MeToo moments?
The rape of Dinah in Genesis. The rape and dismemberment of the unnamed concubine in Judges. King David’s rape of Bathsheba in 2 Samuel. Those and other stories kick-started many journeys out of religion altogether, at least for some people I know.
Even the most devout believer can hardly blame Scott for her frustration that the voices of the victims often go unrecorded:
The myriad writers of our sacred stories, presumably all men, devote little time to women’s perspectives. When women appear, we are often mute or nameless, pawns in men’s games of war or violence, our reactions “unrecorded.” But read between the lines of the Bible and you can detect the narratives of women deleted by uninterested editors, or left untold. Not all of these stories are of sexual assault or abuse, but many are.
The women of the Bible would be just as unsurprised as I am by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Eric Schneiderman or any of their compatriots. They would know, as I have come to realize, that the more vulnerable you are — a child, a woman of color, a foreigner, a slave or a concubine, a transgender man or woman — the more you are singled out to be used and discarded.
I have heard Christians say that bad behavior in the Bible is merely “descriptive, not prescriptive” — meaning that it’s recorded as something that happened, but not something that God condoned. What I find more satisfying is the Jewish tradition of midrash, which can basically be summarized as biblical fan-fiction. What did Dinah feel after her rape? How did Bathsheba react when the king approached her, wanting her to come to his bed, knowing what could happen if she refused?
The Bible doesn’t give us these answers, but many scholars have attempted to fill in the blanks:
Christians owe a debt to scholars like Delores S. Williams and Phyllis Trible who have approached these texts from the victims’ perspectives. Dr. Trible labels such stories “texts of terror.” But rarely are these stories told in our churches. When we remember that a third or more of the women sitting in our pews have been sexually assaulted and the majority of them have been sexually harassed, the absence of biblical women’s stories is telling.
For Christians, the Bible is a divinely inspired book, but it also is a product of its time. Sanitizing these troubling passages doesn’t do anyone any favors.
On a side note: Beyond the #MeToo stuff, be sure to check out what Professor Phil Zuckerman had to say about the depiction of other women in the Bible. It’s very revealing.
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