Thursday, December 18, 2014

Judith, The Warrior

Where To Find Judith's Story

The book of Judith is found in the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Scriptures but not in the Protestant Bible. The book of Judith is also in the Septuagint, a translation of the Jewish Scriptures into Greek done between 300-200 BCE. Her story is one of only four biblical books named for a woman.

Judith Tells Her Story

I was disgusted by the people and by Uzziah's capitulation.  Surrender, that is all they can think of to save us, surrender   So they are thirsty.  I have fasted every day for the three years since my husband died,  What kind of faith does Uzziah show?  "Hold out for five days and if God doesn't show us mercy we will surrender."  

I had a plan.  I sent my slave woman to bring Uzziah and the elders to me.  I said to them, "This is not right. Who are you to put God to the test.  You cannot penetrate the depths of the human heart or understand the workings of the human mind how do you expect to know the mind of God? If we fall all Judea will fall and our temple will be desecrated and plundered.  We will be slaves and bring dishonor on our God.  We are being put to the test just as Abraham, Sarah, Jacob and Leah were tested. We must set an example."

Uzziah spoke condescendingly, "No one can deny your word or your wisdom but the people are thirsty so pray for rain."

"Listen and do not ask me what I am about to do.  Be at the town gate tonight to let me and my slave out.  With  the help of our God, the Assyrians will be delivered into the hands of a woman before the day you have sworn to the people you will surrender."

I prayed, but not for rain.  I prayed for a sword vengeance.  I called for the Lord's help. "Here are the Assyrians," I said.  "They pride themselves in their horses and foot soldiers.  They trust in their spears and shields.  They do not know you.  They plan to defile and pollute the sanctuary   Give me, a widow, the strength to crush their arrogance.  You are the God of the lowly, oppressed, weak forsaken and hopeless.  Use my deceitful words to remind the nation of your power and might." 

I am a very beautiful woman but I have hidden my beauty since the death of my husband, under sack cloth and ashes.  Not today, today I bathed and dressed in my finest clothes.  I put sweet smelling ointment on my body and wore my most precious jewels.  I packed food for myself and gave it to my slave to carry.  Then we went to the gate of the city.  Uzziah and the elders were there.  They were astounded by my transformation.  They made some speech about the God of our ancestors granting me favor to fulfill my plans so the Jerusalem would be exalted.

"Open the gate." I said. "So I can accomplish what you merely talk about."  As I hoped we were captured by the Assyrian guard.  I told them I had come to see their commander, to tell him of a way to capture the towns of the hill country.  They did not question me.  "Oh, we will take you to him.  Have no fear.  When he sees you he will, well..."  They were ridiculous, first they had to choose a hundred men to escort me.  Then there was excitement in the camp as notice of my arrival passed from tent to tent.  Eventually they were all standing outside the commanders tent looking at me.  Finally I was taken to the commander.

Do not be afraid, he told me.  If you chose to serve Nebuchadnezzar  the king of all the earth no one will harm you."

I laid it on thick. "I am your servant.  I tell you the truth, God will do great things through you.  I have heard you are the wisest and the most skilled in the whole kingdom.  I know Anchior told you that we could not be defeated because out God will defend us as long as we keep the commandments.  Well, the people are about to sin.  They are going to eat the first fruits and the tithes of wine and oil which are consecrated to God.  God has sent me to you to tell you when the people have sinned.  Then I can lead you through Judea to Jerusalem where you will set up your thrown." My words pleased him so I asked that I be allowed to go outside the camp every night to pray.  I told him God would tell me when the people had sinned and it was time to attack.

"You are beautiful and wise," he said.  "In fact no other woman in all the world looks so beautiful and speaks so wisely.  God has done well to send you to me."

I stayed in camp for three days.  Every night at midnight my slave and I went outside the camp to bathe and pray.  Finally on the fourth night he sent to me.  He was having a banquet and he told the eunuchs he sent to fetch me, "It would be a disgrace of we let such a woman go without having intercourse with her.  If we do  not seduce her, she will laugh at us." (NRSV) "Let the pretty girl come to me and drink wine with me and become like one of the Assyrian women who serve in the palace." 

I went but I did not drink his wine or eat his food.  He got so drunk he passed out.  All the servants and banquets guests left and closed up the tent.  I told my slave to wait outside.  We would go to pray a usual.  When everyone was gone. I grabbed him by the hair, said a prayer for strength and cut off his head.  It took me two blows but I did it.  I took the head out to my slave who put it in the food bag and we walked out of camp as if we were going to pray.  We kept walking until we got to the city gates.  At the gates we roused the sentry to open the gate.  All the towns people came out to see me because they had given me up for dead.  I pulled the head of the Assyrian commander out of my bag and said, "Praise God who has delivered Israel by the hand of a woman."  

Observations on Judith's Story

Finding a woman at the heart of the Christmas story is easy.  It is harder to find a woman in the Hanukkah story.  The book of Judith is dated during the Hasmonean dynasty which was established by the Maccabees.  First and Second Maccabees record the stories of the cleansing of the temple.  

If biblical women are described in the Bible  they are usually said to be beautiful.  Judith is no exception.  Judith 8:7 says. "She was beautifully formed and lovely to behold." 

In the endorsement Reza Aslan wrote for my book he says, "The women warriors, prophets and disciples of the Bible have been miscast for centuries as demons, harlots and jezebels - and intentionally so.  For if the truth about who these women were and what they represented were more widely known, it would challenge most of the assumptions we have about Judaism and Christianity." Judith was one of those women. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Ordeal of A Suspected Adultress

Where to Find the Law Concerning A Suspected Adulteress

I usually write about specific women in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.  Many of the interpretations I have been taught or the way women are treated in scripture I find disrespectful at the least and in some cases abusive. Although I have read most of the Bible, I continue to discover women or verses about women that I do not remember reading before.  This little jewel is from Numbers 5:11-31. I suggest reading the biblical text before the story below.  

The Woman Suspected of Adultery Tells Her Story

I had to suffer the ordeal, the humiliation.  There was no evidence against me. There was no proof, no witnesses to any infidelity.  There was no infidelity.  My husband  had a vague feeling of jealousy, a spirit of jealously and because of our laws I am the one who had to suffer humiliation.  He forced me to go to the temple with an offering of barley meal. I had to stand there, holding the jealousy offering, with my hair uncovered.  "Tell the truth" the priest shouted at me.  "Have you had sex with another man? You are under the authority of your husband. What did you do to make him jealous?" They concocted a drink made of water, dirt from the floor and their words of accusation. "If your drink this water your belly will swell and your thighs will rot. You will become a curse among the people. If you are not guilty God will grant you children." I will never let that man near me again.  

I drank their water with the dirt from the floor and their words of the accusation.  My belly did not swell! My thighs did not rot.  "What is his punishment for false accusations? " I cried. "I did nothing but for me there is suspicion and humiliation."  The priest laughed,  "For him there is nothing.  He is guilty of nothing.  He followed the law concerning his vague feeling of jealously. Be grateful you are not cursed." 

Observations on the Law Concerning the Suspected Adulteress    

This is one of those commandments you are not going to see on a monument outside a courthouse.  The stupidity and injustice of this law is almost comical.  It is an appalling commandment said to be given by God to Moses.  Verse 14b -15a even says, "If a spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself; then the man shall bring his wife to the priest." The injustice of this law illustrates how patriarchy has tried to control women and women's sexuality across centuries and cultures.  Sadly, there are women who suffer this kind of injustice and humiliation.   

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Rape of Susanna

Where to find Susanna's Story

In the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Susanna's story is found in the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books.  It is a stand alone story about a beautiful, pious, Jewish woman.  In the Catholic, The New American Bible: St. Joseph's Edition Susanna's story is chapter 13 of the book of Daniel.  In many Protestant Bibles, Susanna's story does not appear at all.

Susanna Tells Her Story

"I am completely trapped.  For if I do this, it will mean death for me; if I do not, I cannot escape your hands." Susanna says to the would be rapists, in Susanna 1:22     

They slunk into the garden while I was bathing.  How long had those voyeurs been hiding and watching me?  Where had they been hiding? How did they know I was alone?  How did they know I had sent my maids to get olive oil and ointment? 
They came rushing at me, "The garden doors are closed" they yelled.  "No one can see us.  You will have sex with us or we will testify against you. We will ruin you.  We will say we caught you having sex with a young man."  I was not going to give into those foul, old men so I cried out for help.   
They began shouting that they had found me with a man who was not my husband.  An accusation that was punishable by death. All my household came to see what the commotion was.  No one defended me.  The next day those odious, old men came to my home filled with their foul, wicked plan to have me put to death.  My husband, parents, children, relatives and servants were all there.  They all knew the kind of woman I am but still no one, not one defended me.  They listened to the lies.  The old frauds told how they were walking in the garden and saw me dismiss my maids.  They said a young man was hiding there and they saw us having sex.  Oh, they were eloquent in describing how they had tried to get the man, but he was to strong for them.  But they had captured me.  
When they pulled off my veil I knew it was just to get a better look at me.  They were going to have me killed but they couldn't hide their perversion from me or their desire to humiliate me.  
There was a man named Daniel in the group that was leading me to my execution. He told the group that he wanted no part in the shedding of my blood.  At that moment I was sure God had heard my prayers. He called them fools for not giving me a fair trial.  He demanded that we return to court.  He questioned my accusers separately and discovered their stories did not match.   
They were put to death for their false witness.  All my family rejoiced because I was innocent. But, if it hadn't been for Daniel they would have allowed me to be put to death without one word in my defense.  My relationship with them was irreparably damaged.

Observations on Susanna's Story

From the time I watched the movie Psycho, I knew to always lock the door and close the window when I took a bath or shower.  Bathing is a dangerous thing for women.  Then I watched The X Files and I learned that even if Scully locked her doors and windows when she took a bath, the alien was going to get her.  
Of course, Susanna is said to be a beautiful woman.  With the exception of Leah in Genesis, I can not think of a single woman in the Bible who is not describe as beautiful, if she is described at all.  Susanna is trapped.  If she gives into the elders and has sex with them she has committed adultery.  An act punishable by death.  If she does not have sex with them, they will accuse her of having sex with someone else.  An act punishable by death.  
Susanna courageously makes the choice to stay true to her convictions.  In a situation where she is not allowed a voice to defend herself she finds her voice to pray aloud to God, exclaiming her innocence. 
In the end, it is not Susanna who is proclaimed the s/hero of her own story.  Her fidelity to the law, her husband and her faith in God are not celebrated.  Rather it is the reputation of Daniel that is acclaimed.    


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Job's Wife

Where to Find The Story of Job's Wife

The nameless wife of Job speaks two sentences in the book of Job.  They are recorded in Job 2:9.  She is also mentioned in 19:17 when Job declares that his breath is repulsive to her and in 31:10 where he defends his sexual integrity by offering his wife to other men if he has not been truthful.  "Let my wife grind for another, and let other men kneel over her."  

Job's Wife Tells Her Story

"Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God and die." said Job's wife to Job.  Job 2:9

Gone!  Everything is gone!  My children, oh my children!  All our servants, the oxen, donkeys and camels are gone.  I think my husband has lost his mind.  He tore is clothes, shaved his head and is sitting in a pile of ashes.  If it could get any worse he has broken out in sores all over his body.  He will not let me help him.  He just sits in the ashes and scrapes the sores with a pot shard.  I tried to talk to him but he dismissed me, calling me a foolish woman.  After he called me foolish, he didn't speak for seven days.  Now his fool friends have shown up to comfort him.  Where is my comfort? My children, oh my children!

Observations on the Story of Job's Wife's 

She has lost everything.  The only difference between what happened to her and her husband is that there is no report of her being afflicted with sores.  In the wager between Satan and God, Job's wife, her children, their servants and the families of all the servants who were killed, are the innocent victims.  Job demonstrates no concern for anyone but himself.  He was a wealthy powerful man who bemoans the lack of respect he now experiences from people he considers beneath him.  

Job's wife tells him to curse God and die.  He calls her a foolish woman and then goes on to curse the day of his conception and birth.  He longs for death, the fate of a stillborn child.  Throughout the book he is self-righteous and selfish.  He regards his wife and her body as his property.  "Job's words are in keeping with the patriarchal perspective that saw a woman's sexuality as the property of her husband rather than the woman herself." (Woman's Bible Commentary, Newsom, p. 135)

At the end of the book Job's property has been restored and he has ten more children.  My question is, who had the pleasure of giving birth to ten more children?       

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Queen Esther

Where to Find Queen Esther's Story

Esther is one of only two books named for a woman in the Protestant Bible and one of only three books named for a woman in the Catholic Bible.  Her story starts in chapter two after Queen Vashti has been deposed.  

Esther Tells Her Story

"You know that I hate the glory of the pagans, and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised or of any foreigner." Esther C:26

  News of what Vashti had done spread like wild fire.  The Queen had said, "No" to the king in the presence of all his officials and they were furious.  The women thought this might bring a change in our lives but the officials made laws that controlled our lives even more.  

None of us expected what happened next.  The king appointed officers in all the provinces.  They were to search for all the beautiful virgins in the empire and take them to the king's harem in Susa.  We were torn away from our families and any life that we had hoped to have for ourselves.  We were put under the guard of a eunuch whose title was "custodian of the women."  We were given oil of myrrh, perfumes, cosmetics and beatifying treatments.  

Every night one of us was taken to the king's bed.  We were allowed to take on thing with us. In the morning we were sent to another harem, guarded by another eunuch.  Now we were concubines.  If the king liked us he might call for us again.  Otherwise???

In the tenth month of my captivity I was taken to the king.  I pleased him and he made me his queen!?   No one was more surprised than I.  I had not yet told him that I was a Jew.    

My foster father, Mordecai hung around the palace gate.  He wanted to get information about me and find out what was going to happen to me.  While there he overheard a plot, between two guards who were planning to harm the king.  He got word to me and I told the king what Mordecai heard.  The guards were killed and Mordecai was rewarded.  

There was a very evil man named Haman in the court of the king.  He wanted everyone to bow down to him.  Everyone did, except Mordecai.  We are Jews.  We do not give the honor reserved for G*d to a mortal man.  So this evil man decided that every Jew in the nation, man, woman and child should be put to death and all their possessions seized.  He convinced the king to issue a decree that on 12/13 every Jew should be slaughtered by the citizens of the empire.  It was a horrible thing for my people to face.  

Mordecai totally fell to pieces.  He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes and walked through the city, up to the palace gates wailing and crying.  No one is allowed to enter the gates in sackcloth, so I sent a eunuch to him with fresh clothes.  When the eunuch returned he gave me a message from Mordecai.  I was to beg the king for the lives of my people.

I had not been summoned to the king in 30 days.  Appearing before the king when one is not summoned is an offense punishable by death.  I wept and prayed along with my servants.  If I did not go before the king, all the Jews would be killed.  If I did go before the king, I would be killed first and then all the Jews.  It was clear to me that if my people were to be saved I was the one who had to do it.       

I bathed and dressed in my finest, royal attire.  I was terrified and leaned on my maid for support.  When I reached the king he looked up at me with such anger that I fainted.  When I awoke he was holding me and talking gently to me.  I had a plan to invite the king and Haman to a dinner which I would prepared.  I wanted to stay in the king's good graces and I wanted Haman to let down his guard.  I hosted two such dinners.  While the king was drinking wine at the second dinner I begged the king for my life and the life of my people.  I emphasized that the death of all the Jews would be a great financial loss to the empire.  As I hoped the king became angry and asked who had planned such a disaster.  Haman was petrified.  The king stormed out into the garden.  Haman began to beg for his life.  His final mistake was throwing himself on me.  When the king returned he thought Haman was violating me.  Haman's fate was sealed.

The Jews were saved.  The community celebrated the days that were meant for our destruction with feasting and rejoicing.  We called the celebration Purim and I commanded that Purim should be celebrated  every year.

Observation on the Story of Queen Esther

Not all commentators have been impressed with Esther.  As Sidnie Ann White points out in The Women's Bible Commentary, "The tendency among scholars was to exalt Mordecai as the true hero of the tale and to downplay or even vilify the role of Esther.  As late as 1971 Carey More stated, 'Between Mordecai and Esther the greater hero in the Hebrew is Mordecai, who supplied the brains while Esther simply follows his directions' (Moore, p.lii)" In the text Mordecai asks Esther to plead for her people, he uses shame to convince her of what he believes to be her duty, but he does not offer a plan. 

Other commentators, ignoring the fact that refusing the king's harem would have meant her death have  criticized her for becoming a member of the harem.  The implication being that she was there to gain power and wealth.  
Esther enters her story as the powerless, sex slave of a powerful king.  At the close of her story she is a powerful queen who has manipulated her circumstances and saved not only her own life but the life of all the Jewish people.  Like many women before and after her she has made a way for herself where there was no way.     


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Forgotten Queen

Where To Find Queen Vashti's Story

In the book of Esther, Queen Vashti, was the queen Esther replaced.  When her story begins, Queen Vashti is entertaining women of the royal court.  She is commanded by the king to appear before the men so he can display her beauty.  Because she has no voice in the Bible we are not told why she refused his command, hence, many speculations.   "For instance, the Targum (the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible) informs the reader that the king wished Vashti to appear naked before the company and that out of modesty she refused."  (The Women's Bible Commentary, P. 127)  Her story can be found in Esther 1:1-2:1

Queen Vashti Tells Her Story

"NO!" Vashti's declaration to the eunuchs who informed her the king had commanded her presence.

I knew the consequence could be sever if I refused, but he had been drinking for seven days.  His officers, ministers, nobles and governors were all there and just as drunk as he was.  When the eunuchs came to tell me I was to appear before the King wearing my crown, I knew it was only my crown he wanted me to wear.  I refused to go.  He said he wanted to, "Display my beauty."  As if my beauty belonged to him.  A room full of drunken, powerful men is no place for a woman, naked or not. 
He was furious!  They were all furious!  So the king asked his lawyers, "What does the law say should be done to Queen Vashti for disobeying my order?"
They were in a panic!  There was no law that dictated what was to be done to a woman who dared to speak up for herself.  "She didn't just wrong you" they shouted "she has wronged all the men in the empire.  If the women hear that the queen disobeyed the order of the king they will think they can disobey their husbands.  They will have contempt for us and will rebel against our rule over them.  You must issue an irrevocable royal decree.  You must forbid Queen Vashti form ever coming into your presence again.  The law must declare that the king can give the honor of the queen to someone more worthy.  When the women hear these laws, they will have to honor their husbands.  The law must demand that men are the lords of their homes.  
He made a law, an irrevocable law that I could never be summoned into his presences again.  I refused to appear at his command and now he can never command me to appear.  What a happy consequence!

Observations on Queen Vashti's Story

How do our attitudes about biblical women influence our understanding of the atrocities experienced by women today?  Vashti's story is clearly a story of male dominance.  She is commanded to expose herself for the pleasure of her husband's friends.  If we believe she got what she deserved, that is being expelled from the court, as some commentators have said, then we probably believe women should be under the control of the men in their lives.  If we see her act of defiance as self protection we see a strong woman unwilling to be dominated.
When I first read this story I was surprised that such a shocking story of male dominance has remained in the Bible.  Obviously, the male translators and commentators saw nothing wrong with a husband demanding that a wife appear before his drunken friends.  Nothing wrong with all the men of the empire being afraid their wives might say, "no." Nothing wrong with the queen being deposed for standing up for herself.  Nothing wrong with laws being passed to insure woman would treat their husbands like lords.
The men knew their wives were unhappy and would rebel.  They knew their wives held them in contempt.  Rather than changing the way they treated their wives, they passed laws so the women could not act on their contempt.   


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

My Book Cove

Her Hands

The only aspect of the cover I have not explained are her hands.  I was once informed that red nail polish is a sign of the devil.  Only her pinkie finger shows but in the original image all her nails are painted red.  I wear red nail polish most of the time and my hands are not a sign of the devil.    

Her Image

Following is a response to my blog.  "Hi Paula, I just read your blog post and I really understand all of what you are saying and I think that your book cover does represent all women." Following that post I got a correspondence from Christians For Biblical Equality.  They are soliciting funds for a partner organization in Africa.  They write, "EFOGE is struggling to bring change to a deeply patriarchal society that uses the Bible to fan fires of domestic and gender based violence and many social vices."  Before I had confronted my personal feelings about the bloody halo, I would have said it represented the horror of the Bible being used to fan flames of violence and the damage done to women by patriarchal interpretations of the Bible. 
 Marg, in her questions wrote, "I really like the book, but the cover just doesn't seem to serve it.  I see your target as Christian women (and some men perhaps) curious to read a more balanced presentation of women in the Bible.  Or feminist women looking to gain a new appreciation for biblical portrayals of women.  The cover seems like it targets young adult males looking for something dangerous and sexual."  Women's bodies, if not for public consumption, are dangerous.  God forbid a woman breast feed in public or make her own reproductive choices.   Women's bodies are sexual.  Barnes and Nobel sees a naked woman on my cover, not fit for their religion department.  
She is not for consumption!  She is looking directly into the eyes of whom ever is holding the book, not submissive or apologetic but some what sorrowful.        

 I recently filmed a Youtube video for the book.  The interviewer asked me to explain the cover.  For the first time I had to talk about being molested.  I told my husband and sisters before I posted the first blog about the cover, but I had never talked openly about those experiences.  I thought I was going to have a heart attack.  It must have affected me more that I realized because the next day my annoying arrhythmia, which has not bothered me for years, flared up.  My heart started flopping around like a fish out of water.  It has been good to face the pain I see in her blue eyes.


When I look at her I see me living in a woman's body.  She is me praying and bleeding and longing for things to be different.  She is me and I love her praying, bleeding, sorrowful, straightforward self.    

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Book Cover

Her Body

Marg asks, "Why use a female image that has been so obviously photoshopped when this book is about how accurate portrayals of women in the Bible have been obscured by patriarchal and cultural expectations?"  In the original image, the body of the woman on the cover is visible from halo to hipbones.  I did not want her to be sexualized and requested the book designer tear the image to obscure most of her body.  From the feedback I have received, it seems there is no way to present a woman's body that is not seen as sexual.  Barnes and Noble will not carry the book in the religion department of their store because, the buyer for the religion section is reluctant to put a naked woman in her religion section.  I walked through Barnes and Noble and took pictures of book covers that displayed much more of a woman's body than my book cover.  Granted, not in the religion section.  

Living In A Woman's Body 

The photoshop question never accrued to me.  I see in her the image of my younger blond haired, blue eyed self.  She is the image of me living in a woman's body that is, "obscured by patriarchal and cultural expectations."  A body that is never thin enough, or never has big enough breasts and is always in danger of being exploited.  That is just my experience.  A Unitarian Universalist minister shared her experience of growing up with big breasts and the, "patriarchal and cultural expectations"  that resulted from having breasts that were too big.    

Women's Bodies

Patriarchy is not comfortable with woman's bodies, not on display for public consumption.  A good example is the ruccus over breast feeding mothers.  Patriarchy is not comfortable with women's bodies that do not conform to current standards of beauty.  A woman's body my be praised for the curve of her breast but not the curve of her belly.  Bellys should be flat.  Patriarchy is not comfortable with women's bodies that are not controlled by someone other than the woman herself.  I Googled, "Number of laws regulating women's bodies."  The first statistic I got is that in the first quarter of 2013 Republicans pushed 700 new laws to regulate women's bodies.
I see my younger self in this cover, praying and bleeding and longing for things to be different.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

My Book Cover

 Her Face and Hair

Marg asked, "Why use a white woman model, blond hair and blue eyes?  This is a book about middle eastern women."  

It was with surprise that I realized, when I look at her I see my younger self.  I see her messy blond hair and remember all the people who told me, "Your hair is so flyaway, it's like corn silk can't you do anything with it?"  Or the teacher in junior high who met me at the door every day with a rubber band.  I was not allowed in class until my hair was pulled tight in a ponytail.  

I look into her blue eyes and I see the sorrow I have so often seen in my own blue eyes.  When I was about four-years-old my mother sent me to a Bible study class.  The teacher asked if there was anyone who was not a sinner.  I raised my hand because my momma always told me I was a good little girl.  The teacher's reaction was swift and brutal.  Probably the reason I remember it 56 years later. 

On the face of the model, I see the pain from decades of sitting in church hearing again and again that I am a sinner and responsible for all the evil in the world, because of Eve.  I see in her face the pain of hearing that Bathsheba was a temptress, Mary Magdalene was a prostitute and Jezebel, Delilah and so many other women were all sinner and destroyers of holy men.  

Depictions of "Holy" Women

When I began looking at images for my cover, I found very traditional images.  Women with their hair covered and their eyes down cast.  Women with their hair covered and their arms out stretched, looking up.  Old women, nursing women, half naked women talking to fully clothed men, crying women, blissful women, submissive women, women with golden halos, nuns, icons and saints.

Yes, biblical women are middle eastern women and do not look like the woman on the cover.  The book is about biblical women and it is for me. It is for all women and men who are questioning what they have been taught about biblical women.  


I dyed my hair red.  It is just as out-of-control as it was when I was a child and I like it that way.  It is fluffy.
I still see sorrow in my blue eyes sometimes but now, like the woman on the book, my gaze is direct,  no apology, no submission.  To quote Pete Townshend, "I don't need to be forgiven."  I no longer feel the pain of male interpretations of biblical women but anger at how those interpretations are used to control and limit women.  The biblical character Eve is not the reason for all the evil in the world and neither am I.  Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute.  Bathsheba was not a temptress.  David was a voyeur and a rapist.  Jezebel was a woman following her own religious tradition.  Delilah was involved with a mean, egotistical man.  I can and do interpret biblical women for myself and the sorrowful, blond haired, blue eyed woman on the cover represents the decades it has taken to get me here.  
In my next blog post I will address Marg's questions about the woman's body.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Book Cover

The Bloody Halo

Marg Herder, Director of Public Information for the EEWC Christian Feminism Today asked me some important questions about the image on the cover of my book. I am happy to answer her questions and explain what this image represents to me.  She asks, "What is the meaning of the blood dripping halo?" The first time I was molested by a "man of God" was at church camp.  Many of the campers and counselors were in the pool playing volley ball and someone  grabbed me between my legs. I didn't know who had done it.  I jumped out of the pool and told the female counselors what had happened.  I thought they would tell the director and he would find out who it was.  One of counselors was the wife of the director.  Later that evening the director apologized for grabbing me and told me he was surprised at my reaction.  I guess he thought I would like it.   


Webster's Dictionary gives this definition for molest, "To bother, annoy or persecute: to accost sexually.  This happened five different times.  Two camp directors, one church pastor, one youth minister and one regional pastor.  Each time left my teenage self feeling guilty, dirty and ashamed as if my very presence had made these "men of God sin." I had never shared this with anyone until I shared it with Marg, April 21 of this year.


Thanks in large part to the feminists in my life I have learned that this was not my fault.  Those men, who my parents and I trusted are the shame.  The bloody halo represents the pain I carried for years as a result of the actions of those molesters who pass themselves off as "men of God." 

In my next post I will address Marg's question, "Why use a white woman model, blond hair and blue eyes? This book is about middle eastern women."  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Another Woman Raped

Tamar, the Daughter of King David

Where to find Tamar's story

Tamar was the beautiful daughter of King David and Maacah one of David's many wives.  She was raped by her half-brother Amnon.  Her brother Absalom killed Amnon.  The Bible says the reason for the killing was revenge for the rape.  Her story is told to validate Absalom's killing of Amnon, but with Amnon out of the way Absalom was next in line to be king.  Her story is told in 2 Samuel 13:1-37 

Tamar Tells Her Story

"No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile!"  Tamar said to Amnon in, 2 Samuel 13:12.

I could not stand to be around him.  He was always leering at me, making suggestive remarks, touching me when no one was looking.  I tried to stay away from him but our father sent me to take care of him when he got sick.  I knew he was faking.  I did not think I was in any real danger.  I was after all, a virgin and the daughter of the king.  

He watched me as I made the cakes he requested.  When they were ready he sent everyone away and asked me to come to his bedroom and feed him the cakes.  I thought he was just being creepy.  "Let me eat them from you hand" he whined.  When I entered the room he grabbed me and said he wanted to have sex with me.  I begged him not to do anything so vile.  I begged him not to shame me.  I begged him to ask our father if he could marry me.  I knew our father would say no and once he saw  the kind of man Amnon was it would be easier for me to stay away from him.  

It was no use.  He was stronger than me and I could not fight him off.  He raped me.  His rape was not about love but loathing and the desire to have power over me.  He had ruined me. I beg him to marry me as our law requires.  I said, "No, my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me."  He would not listen.  He had his servant throw me out and called me, "this woman."  He didn't even use my name.  I tore the robe I was wearing.  It was the mark of the virgin daughter of the king.  I put ashes on my head as a symbol of mourning and ran to my brothers house, crying all the way.  There was nothing left for me now.  I was not a virgin.  I would never marry and have a home of my own.  I would live in the home of my brother and serve him.  My brother tried to comfort me but I was desolate.
When our father found out about my rape he was angry but he did not punish Amnon.  I was of less value to him than his firstborn son. 
Two years later my brother killed Amnon.  He was very cleaver in biding his time.  He waited until the celebration of the sheep shearing and when Amnon was drunk he ordered his servant to kill him.  Absalom went into hiding for three years.

Observations on Tamar's Story

The cover of the winter/spring 2014 issue of MS. magazine declares, "1 in 5 Women Students on College Campuses Will Experience Sexual Assault"  One of the more blood chilling statistics reported is, 63 percent of men who admitted committing rape or attempted rape had raped an average of 6 women.  Another chilling statistic is that 1.5 million women are raped or assaulted by an intimate partner every year in the U.S.  

Tamar's rape is a vehicle, a literary device presented to further the stories of the male biblical heroes.  We are not told about her life before the rape.  We are told that she was beautiful as if that is all that matters.  After the rape we know that she was a desolate woman living in her brother's home.  We are also told in 2 Samuel 14:27 that a daughter named Tamar was born to Absalom.  Miriam Therese Winter asks the question, "Was she Tamar's daughter?" 

I was never taught about the rape of Tamar in Sunday School or the laws which require a rape victim to marry her rapist.  Would the statistics of rape and assault be different if the church confronted these biblical stories of rape and assault?  If the church condemned the actions of the attacker would it make a difference?  Would there be less blaming of the victim if there were serious consequences for the rapist?  What difference would it make if this story were told, not as an incident in the life of a biblical hero but as the sad and ruined life of a biblical woman? 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Heaven is for Real

Whose Heaven?

 "Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live because she hid the messengers we sent. Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.  Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, 'Go into the prostitute's house, and bring the woman out of it and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.'  So the young men who had been spies went in and brought Rahab out, along with her father, her mother, her brothers, and all who belonged to her—they brought all her kindred out—and set them outside the camp of Israel.  They burned down the city, and everything in it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord."
  Joshua 6:17b, 21-24 NRSV

Creating Heaven in Our Image.

In the prologue of the book  Heaven is for Real the four-year-old protagonist informs his parents that Jesus asked the angles to sing to him.  One of the songs the angles sang was Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.  That song is based on the verses above chronicling the total destruction of the people and town of Jericho, with the exception of a prostitute and her family.

I read the entire book.  It is a sweet but unconvincing story of a child's near death experience.  In the book Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers I repeatedly ask the question, "Does it make sense?"  My question here is, does it make sense that the angles are singing about the massacre of human beings?  Does it make sense that heaven is exactly like the child has been taught in Sunday School.  The father in the book even says, the Sunday School teachers must be doing a really good job.  The book works very hard to convince the reader that the child, raised in the home of a Christian minister, attending Sunday School every Sunday could not have gotten his vision from anyplace but a trip to heaven.  It is a very physical place.  Jesus has very pretty eyes, a rainbow horse and wears purple and white.  God even sits on a throne like one pictured in the child's story book. 

Who Gets to go to Heaven?

The child in the book is very adamant that there is no admittance into heaven without knowing Jesus. At the funeral of a strangers he exclaims,  "He can't get into heaven if he didn't have Jesus in his heart."  Using that criteria Mahatma Gandhi, The Dalai Lama, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Ruth Messinger among a host of others are not going to be there.  
What or if there is an afterlife I don't know. I am a Christian and it does not make since to me that an afterlife is a physical place with rainbow horses and angels singing about the destruction of any part of creation.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fight Church

"Sometimes the world is just too ridiculous to believe!"

That is the way I remember a line from the movie Little Big Man.  Today I watched a story about the film Fight Church on Good Morning America.  One of the cage fighting pastors says, "Mainstream Christianity has feminized men."  My first question is, "Who does he think has been running the church, women?"  My second question is, "Are they reading the same Gospels I am?"  

Using God as Justification

As a Christian Feminist I have to question the objectification of the young woman in a bikini who carries a sign into the ring.  As a retired kindergarten teacher my heart breaks for the scared little boy who is told, "God said, 'don't be afraid, don't be discouraged'" as his pastor dresses him to go into the ring.       

Why do we believe what we believe?

I wrote the book, Prostitutes,Virgins and Mothers: Questioning Teachings About Biblical Women in part, because my religion has been hijacked by people who call themselves Christians yet live a lifestyle of violence.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Christian Right is Wrong

Fundamentalist Christians

March 17th is my birthday.  As is my habit I decided to go to the cemetery to visit the graves of my parents.  I try not to go during the week after the time I was sitting at their graves and the sprinklers came on.  To get to the cemetery I had to drive past the church I went to all my growing up years.  I was feeling very nostalgic so I decided to stop for services.  

The male generic language was not a surprise just disappointing.  Especially, "Greet each other with a brotherly kiss."  My first shock was how few people were at church. I remember it as a large congregation.  My second shock was when the minister announced, "Bring a friend to church Sunday" and then asked the congregation to raise their hand if they had friends who were going to hell.  I tried to keep the shook from showing on my face as everyone raised their hands.  "Well," he said, "bring them to church and get them saved."  

My final shock came during the sermon.  The minister said, "God instituted capital punishment because murder is an assault against God's image."  I wrote his statement on the back of the bulletin  because I couldn't believe what I had just heard.  I wanted to ask about the sixth commandment, "you shall not kill."  Or, Jesus admonition to love your neighbor as yourself.  Or, what about the image of God in the person being executed?  

Unfundamentalist Christians

There are many unfundamentalist  Christian groups.  One on Facebook calls themselves Unfundamentalist Christians.  There is also, the Christian Left, Christians For Biblical Equality and The Evangelical, Ecumenical Women's Caucus-Christian Feminist Today to name a few.  They proclaim respect, inclusion, non-judgement, forgiveness and so much more that reflects and represents my faith.  I wrote the book, Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers: Questioning Teachings About Biblical Women because I felt like my religion had been hijacked by fundamentalist.  

I will not go back to that church. I choose to believe in a God who would be just as disappointed with the male generic language, just as shocked by the judgement on the lives of other people and just as shocked to hear that the loving creator had instituted capital punishment.   

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Women, Guilt and Lent

Where To Find The Reading For the First Sunday of Lent 

Sunday March 9 marked the first Sunday of Lent, for those of us who pay attention to such things.  The reading from the second story of creation found in Genesis 3:6 is about a woman who eats.  And that is where all the fuss begins.  I am not talking about the "original sin" thing.  That was developed by the misogynist, church father and saint, Augustine of Hippo who famously said, "I don't see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes procreation.  If woman is not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be?  To till the earth together?  If help were needed for that man would have been a better help to man.  The same goes for comfort and solitude.  How much more pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and a woman cohabitate?"


No, I am not talking about "original sin."  I am talking about women and eating.  I am talking about the culturally inflicted guilt that so often surrounds the necessary act of nourishing a woman's body.  Trader Joe's carries a line of "Reduced Guilt" products.  If you Google "guilt free" a list of foods that can be eaten without guilt appears.  I know I am totally screwed up.  Will, maybe not totally but enough.  I can remember the message when I was very young, "Don't drink your milk so fast or it will make your stomach stick out."  And, that was from someone who loved me.

The woman in Genesis was eating something that would make her wise.  Not a bad goal, but Christendom has blamed all the evil in the world on the innocent act of one woman nourishing her body in search of wisdom.  

The information is always changing around what we can eat and not feel guilty.  Don't eat wheat or drink milk.  Vegan is the only healthy way to eat.  Vegetarian is the only responsible way to eat. Coconut oil is bad for you.  Don't buy product that contain coconut oil.  Coconut oil is good for you.  Have some in your coffee, it will make you bullet proof.    


My goal this Lenten Season is to eat without guilt.  I had a mango for lunch.  I know, it is a tropical fruit and I should not eat tropical fruit because they have so much sugar. It was delicious!  I am going to have a baked potato for dinner.  I know, it is a starch and I shouldn't eat starchy vegetables, but I really like baked potatoes

At a church BBQ recently,  I recently wanted a hot dog on  a white roll with mustard and onion and some baked beans.  I loaded my plate with everything but what I wanted.  I told myself,  I can't eat white bread, there are probably nitrates in the hot dog and who knows what the meat is.  The baked beans are loaded with sugar.  I took my plate covered with everything except what I wanted and sat down.  The beautiful, slender, slim and fit woman sitting beside me was having a hot dog and baked beans.  "I never do guilt around food,"  she said, "I just eat what I want."

"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make on wise, she took of its fruit and ate."  Thank you biblical sister for setting a good example for the rest of us. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Assertive Women

Women's Rights

Listening to Public Radio International during the height of the struggle in the Ukraine I was struck by the words of one woman.  "We are fighting for our rights," she said, "We have to fight for our rights.  No one is going to just give them to us!"

She reminded me of an obscure woman in the book of Joshua.  Her name was Achsah.  She was given to a Othniel, her father's nephew as a reward for the nephew's accomplishments in war. She was sent away to live in the desert with her husband.   

Where To Find Achsah's Story

Achsah's story is told twice.  First in Joshua 15:16 -19 and again in Judges 1:11-15.  She is also mentioned in Chronicles 2:49.  As historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich pointed out in 1976, "Well behaved women rarely make history."  Achsah must fit into the, "not well behaved" category.  Not only is her name recorded, her story is recorded twice, her mother's name is recorded, she is included in the list of her brothers and she has a voice.
Achsah Tells Her Story

"Since you have sent me to live in the desert, give me a spring of water."  Achsah's request of her father upon her arrival in the Negeb desert, in Joshua 15:19.

I was the spoils of war.  My father promised me to any man who was strong enough to attack and conquer Kiriath-sepher.  I am sure my father wanted a husband who was as strong and assertive as I am.  But he didn't just attack Kiriath-sepherit, it was the totally destructoyed.  There has been so much blood shed.  The destruction of Jericho was the worst.  The life of everything, except Rahab and her family, was rubbed out.  Every man, woman, child and animal destroyed. 

It was my cousin Othniel I had to marry.  We went to live in the hot, dry, dusty, desolate Negeb. I was determined I was not going to have a miserable life.  I convinced Othniel to ask my father for a field.  When my father asked me what I wanted I did not hold back.  "You have sent me to live in the desert.  I want a spring of water."  He gave me two.   

Observations on Achsah's Story

In my book Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers: Questioning Teachings About Biblical Women I offer my own observations on the stories of biblical women.  While reading The Woman's Bible published in 1895 I was struck by the observation of Achsah's story written by Elizabeth Caddy Stanton.  The language is dated but the sentiment is timeless.

"Achsan's example is worthy the imitation of the women of this Republic.  She did not humbly accept what was given her, but bravely asked for more.  We should give to our rulers, our sires and sons no rest until all our rights-social, civil and political-are fully accorded.  How are men to know what we want unless we tell them?  They have no idea that our wants, material and spiritual, are the same as theirs; that we love justice, liberty and equality as well as they do; that we believe in the principals of self-government, individual rights, individual conscience and judgment, the fundamental ideas of the Protestant religion and republican government."   

Well said sister Suffragist!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking

I went to the anti-human trafficking task force meeting Wednesday.  An FBI agent was there to explain to us the work the FBI does for victims.  At one point she said, "Well in last weeks container incident..."  I raised my hand and said, "I know I don't want to know the answer, but what is a container incident?"  The answer, a container was off loaded from a ship and it was full of women and their children being shipped into this country for distribution and sales.  

Women as Property

What can we imagine were the circumstances which brought these women and children to a container  ship in the Los Angeles Harbor.  Did they go willingly?  Were they tricked by promises of good employment in America?  Were they kidnapped?  Are frantic families overseas desperately searching for their loved ones.  Were they sold by families who are so poor they could not take care of them or families who needed money and selling a daughter was an easy way to get it.  All of the above are probably true.  

In the book of Judges 19:16-25 there is a story of a young woman who is offered by her father to a mob of men intent on rape.  It is male guests in the house they want to rape but to protect the guests the father offers his daughter and another young woman.  The daughter is spared but the other women is not and her life is ended. 

Women's Safety 

The video below gives a glimpse into what people in containers may experience.  The most chilling moment is when the man being interviewed say if things don't work out the container can be dumped with the people inside.
The story is horrific.  The betrayal by family is horrific.  How many of the people in that container sailed across the Pacific Ocean with the knowledge that they had been betrayed by their families?  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  Ironic that the Super Bowl is played at the end of January.  The city hosting the Super Bowl boasts the largest number of trafficked women and children   in the United States during Super Bowl weekend.

Human Slavery

Human trafficking is modern day slavery.  Slavery has never gone away.  It is more lucrative than drug trafficking because a person can be sold over and over again.  Drugs can only be sold once.

Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery

Human trafficking and slavery are in our own neighborhoods, nail salons and farm fields. Slavery isn't someone else's problem.  It is our problem.  Shame on us that it exists.