Friday, December 26, 2014

A Culture of Rape in the Church

It's interesting to me that a secular movie network would choose to produce movies about Biblical characters. Lifetime recently aired a movie entitled The Red Tent, depicting the story of Dinah from Genesis 34. The movie did not get the story right by a long shot, but it did raise awareness. I'll trust you to read the entire chapter in your Bible; do not depend on script writers for theology or Biblical content. Here, for the sake of time and space, I'll summarize.

Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and Leah. The Bible tells us that she "went out to see the women of the land" they lived in. While she was out, Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite,  the prince of the land, saw her, seized her and raped her. He then said he loved her and asked for her hand in marriage.

Her father waited till her brothers came in from the fields, then told them what had happened. They were angry, and rightly so; their sister had been raped. Shechem continued pursuing Dinah's father for her hand, then pursued her brothers. Shechem's father, Hamor, pled with them on his behalf.

Finally, Dinah's brothers came up with a plan. They deceitfully agreed to give their sister to him in marriage and promised to "become one people" with the people of that city (verse 16). The one condition was that the men of the city get circumcised, saying it would be "disgraceful" to give their sister to one who was uncircumcised. So, Hamor and Shechem agreed to this plan and convinced the men of their city to agree to it as well. They wasted no time.

All the men of the city had agreed to be circumcised and were lined up to get the deed done. It takes time to heal from such a thing and on the 3rd day, when they were too sore to fight back, Dinah's brothers, Simeon and Levi, killed them all, took their wives and children and plundered their city.
They got justice for their sister.

Read the entire account, including how their father reacted to the brothers' acts of justice, in Genesis 34.

In studying this passage, I decided to do something I don't normally do. I decided to read a few commentaries on the passage. I read them for one reason and one reason only; I wanted to see what male commentators had to say about the rape of a woman.  (I do not consider commentaries to be Bible study tools and am actually amazed that some people do.) The tragedy of this story is the rape.

I was absolutely astounded that the vast majority of commentators blamed the rape on Dinah! In chapter 2 of the Alphabetical Exposition of the Bible published by Zondervan in 1988, one unnamed commentator said, "Had Dinah been content to remain a 'keeper at home' (Titus 2:5), a terrible massacre would have been averted, but her desire for novelty and forbidden company spelled disaster." No. This commentator is completely wrong. #1, Dinah could not read Titus 2:5 because it was not yet written, nor does it apply here. This is a gross misuse of Scripture. #2, the Bible does not indicate on any level that Dinah's going out to see the women of the land was wrong or sinful. It simply states that she went. #3, this commentator had the nerve to even blame the massacre on Dinah! She didn't massacre these men, nor did she come up with the plan to do so. #4, The sin here was rape! 

Matthew Henry said, "Young persons, especially females, are never so safe and well off as under the care of pious parents. Their own ignorance, and the flattery and artifices of designing, wicked people, who are ever laying snares for them, expose them to great danger. They are their own enemies if they desire to go abroad, especially alone, among strangers to true religion....Indulged children, like Dinah, often become a grief and shame to their families. She went to see the daughters of the land.....yet that was not all, she went to be seen, too." While Matthew Henry might seem to wax eloquent here, he's dead wrong. The Bible does not tell us she went to be seen. The Bible does not tell us that her parents objected to her going. The Bible does not tell us that Dinah was indulged. The sin here is rape!

The Pulpit Commentary states, "Dinah paid the full penalty of her carelessness." NO! The Bible does not tell us she was careless. She suffered rape. She was not responsible for what happened to her. She was a victim. The sin here is rape!

Why do these and other commentators blame Dinah for what happened? This tendency to blame a woman when she is raped is not confined to the 20th and 21st centuries. Many of the commentators I read wrote their works hundreds of years ago. Nearly all of them blamed Dinah in some way.

People, this has to stop. The Bible does not chastise Dinah. There is no record of her parents chastising her. For all we know, Dinah went out many times in the same way and no rape occurred. The sin is rape. Dinah is not responsible. Shechem is responsible; the commentators should be condemning him, not Dinah.

This way of thinking, to blame the victim in some way, fuels a culture of rape and it's even happening within the church. Women are not taken seriously, are minimized and set aside, them blamed for the sinful, disgraceful acts of men. Shame on these commentators. What I discovered through this brief research on what they had to say about Dinah is completely disgusting.

So, what's a girl to do? Stay inside her parents' house until her wedding day? Wear a Burqa with a screen in front of her face so she won't "tempt" a man or dare to be seen? Are we women such a threat to men that they cannot control themselves on any level and we are to be blamed if some man rapes us? Are we to believe that we bring shame on our families if someone commits any other crime against us? What about women who don't marry? Are they to be treated as undeserving spinsters and locked away in their father's house until he dies, then go live with a brother or uncle? Oh, my, how far this awful thinking could go.

These commentators are wrong. Young men, beware, commentators like this are trying to seduce you into thinking that if you lose control of your impulses, it's perfectly fine because it's a girl's fault. You have the power; she bares the shame.

This makes me want to throw up. I have raised five honorable sons. They all respect women, defend women and treat women as equals. They do not think they are better than women or superior to women, nor are they threatened by women. My married sons are married to strong women who can hold their own and they do not need to depend on their husbands, my sons, for their womanhood or validation as a person on this planet, nor their spiritual go-between in their relationship with Christ. My three daughters, two of whom are married, are strong women who will speak their mind and hold to their own opinions even if they disagree with their husbands, or their dad, or anyone else. As their mom, I will forever defend and applaud them for doing so.

Parents, raise your sons to respect women and treat them as equals. Not "equal but different," but full equals. Raise your daughters to be strong women who take no nonsense from anyone. Never berate a little girl for being too bold or outspoken or independent. Jesus surrounded Himself with strong women who not only traveled with Him, but supported Him from their own independent resources. He was not afraid to talk to women and have friendships with women. He did not tell women what to wear or what to feel, nor did He hold women responsible for the sins of men.

If you want to study your Bible, then put the commentators away in a box out of sight, for they are not enhancing your study; they are hindering it and polluting it with the religion of Secular Humanism. Study your Bible, using the Bible as your Source. Then you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free. John 8:31 & 32 says, "So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" He did not say, "If you faithfully read commentators." 

It's the Word of God that changes lives, not someone's comments on the Word. 
Get this. Understand this.


Friday, December 12, 2014

One Shepherd's Story

Janie stretched her back as she stood to walk around her herd once again. Being a shepherd was not an easy job, despite what people thought. She nodded to a fellow shepherd, giving her a quick smile as she softly petted one small sheep that was nuzzling her. Off in the distance, on a hill, she could see a couple other shepherds. One man was sitting on the ground while another was leaning on his crook, talking. The night was quiet, with a slight breeze. Despite the long hours of the job, Janie loved being outdoors, tending her sheep.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Janie saw a bright light in the sky! Fear immediately gripped her. Fear for herself, fear for her sheep, fear for the other shepherds. Janie was terrified! Seeing her fellow shepherds reacting the same, she jerked as if to run when she was stopped by a loud voice. "And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.'"

Suddenly, faster than Janie could even respond, there was a great multitude of the heavenly host, with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward mankind.'" Then the angels left and went back to Heaven. (Luke 2)

Janie looked at the other shepherds and said, "Let's go to Bethlehem, now, and see for ourselves what the Lord has told us!" And they ran and got to Bethlehem and saw.....there was Mary, and Joseph....and then they saw Him, just as the angel had said, lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. It was true!

And they told everyone and made known everything the angel had told them about this child and everyone was amazed at what the shepherds said. And Janie knew that her job of being a shepherd would never be the same.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Know Exactly What to do About Bill Cosby

I read an article in Christianity Today about the Bill Cosby scandal wherein the author of the article, Laura Leonard, stated that she does not know what to do about Cosby in light of his abuses having come to light. I can help Laura because I know exactly what to do.

First, care for the victims. They not only need acknowledgement that what was done to them was wrong, that they did nothing to deserve the abuse, that they did not bring it on, they also need to know they are not alone. The isolation that sexual abuse brings is nearly as devastating as the act itself. Many of these abused women have said they thought they were the only one. That's very isolating, especially when the perpetrator is so famous and loved by the world.

Second, give the victims a voice. The focus needs to be on the victims and we, as a society, should show our outrage over their abuse. We should collectively denounce his behavior and show compassion to the victims, giving them time to not only process the fact that their victimization is no longer a secret, but give them time to grieve as necessary and seek wise counsel.

Third, seek justice for the victims. The Living God is the God of justice and violators should be prosecuted and punished for their crimes. There's a reason there is no statute of limitation on some crimes; they are too hideous to be limited by time.

Fourth, realize who the perpetrator really is. People have said they learned so much from Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show and it impacted their lives and that Bill Cosby's character, Heathcliff Huxtable, was such a great dad, etc. I have news for you. You did not learn all those life lessons from Bill Cosby. He was simply the actor who portrayed an image assigned to him. The writers of the show taught you all those things. It was the writers. Bill Cosby played a part. That's all it was. Television programming is not real; it is filled with people playing parts and play-acting roles they are assigned. Bill Cosby was an actor playing a part, that is all. The fact that our society mixes up actors with their roles on TV shows is quite disturbing to me. His "job" as a great TV dad was nothing more than a role assigned to him, for which he received a hefty paycheck.

So, I hope Laura finds this helpful so that she'll know what to do about Cosby. I, for one, will be glad if his show, now in syndicated status, is off the air for good. The networks were wise to remove 7th Heaven when Steven Collins' sins were found out.

It seems to me that the world knows better than Christians when it comes to what to do about abuse. While the world immediately took action on Bill Cosby, Steven Collins and others, the Duggars, while proclaiming themselves "Christian," continue to promote Bill Gothard's teachings and will not separate themselves, even in light of his sexual abuse of more than 35 young women. They continue to distribute his literature, use his resources and will not condemn his behaviors. This is suspicious to me. (Add this to the fact that Jim Bob Duggar hardly ever gets through even one episode of their show without making some sort of inappropriate sexual comment, even toward his own daughters. Am I the only one who finds this grossly disturbing? By his own admission, he can't even give them a platonic hug.)