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.