Is the Bible Ground Zero for Rape Culture?

1. bible ground zero pic

When the recent “Me Too” campaign—intended to bring awareness to the pervasiveness of sexual violence—took the internet, and my Facebook news feed, by storm, I tried to avoid it. I tried to sit quietly and let it pass while looking on with empathy and an encouraging nod to those who were brave enough to tell their stories. I really tried to silence that overzealous, inner kid who raised her hand to answer almost every question in class years ago.

“Friggin know-it-all”, I told her, “stay out of it!” It looked too messy and was too emotional for too many reasons.

I sat on my hands (figuratively) for a good, I guess, fifteen minutes.

And then, in my mind’s eye, I got a glimpse of that same kid sitting in teen church, shooting her hand up to quote bible verses, dashing to the altar in tears for this or that altar call, sitting in her “prayer closet” begging God to forgive her inevitable, human idiosyncrasies time and time again. I saw her, and I remembered…

I spent years studying the Good Book, anxiously running around school and my neighborhood witnessing to people, trying to turn them away from hell, thinking that their blood would be on my hands if they missed God on my watch. I offered to minister in prayer to my classmates during lunch, presided over my high school’s bible club, walked the halls every day with a bible housed in a creatively decorated, pink canvas cover. I stood before a packed house at our senior year Baccalaureate Ceremony and gave an inspirational speech that brought many to tears.

Then I graduated from college and got brand new. I grew into a fuller understanding of who I was and what I genuinely believed.

I de-converted.

When loved ones ask why I “turned my back on God”, to this day, my answer is the same. I never left God, I left behind a doctrine that my conscience couldn’t bear, one which I felt was an insult to the God I had come to know and love.

It wasn’t hypocrites that turned me off. It wasn’t the Pastor in the Maserati. It wasn’t the fact that God never “delivered” my dad from addiction or that my young adulthood was full of failure and difficulty.

It was that Book…that Book that I finally looked at with fresh eyes, through the eyes of a flesh and blood human being who could no longer read it as a woman or as a person of color and not feel my stomach turn.

When the scales began to fall from my eyes and I recognized the beast of blind belief for what it truly was, I couldn’t go for the low-hanging fruit, the typical excuses for backsliding. This was too important for that. I went for the jugular. I went for the doctrine.

There were many problems with the doctrine, but what immediately stood out was the ethnic cleansing of the non-Hebrews. It was the barbaric acts of genocide committed by the Israelites all throughout the Old Testament. And it was, especially, the rape, sexual slavery and pedophilia that the Book normalizes.

It was Numbers 31:7-18 – …“Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man…”

And Judges 21:10-24 – …“They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, ‘Go and hide in the vineyards. When the women of Shiloh come out of their dances, rush out of the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to be your wife…’ “

And Deuteronomy 21:10-14 – …”When you go out to war against your enemies and the Lord, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as your wife, you may take her home to your house… However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom…”

And Exodus 21:7-11 – “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again….”

It was Lot offering his daughters up to the mob of savages who were beating down his door to get to the angel he was harboring.

It was an apostle instructing married believers that “your bodies are not your own”.

It was the rape victims forced to marry their rapists because, according to God’s law, they were subsequently considered “unclean”.

It was Deuteronomy 20: 10-14 – “When the Lord your God hands [the town] over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the Lord your God has given you.”

It was the fact that God’s leaders COMMANDED these heinous acts, and that the perpetrators were never punished. And according to the bloodthirsty authors, God never objected.

After a decade of fierce, fundamentalist loyalty, my eyes were finally opened to the fact that the bible refers to women as “PLUNDER”, as “SPOILS OF WAR”. How could I have simply ignored that?

In some translations (namely the King James Version), the exact word used to refer to us was “booty”. Ever wonder where that term came from and why it refers to a pirate’s treasure as well as sexual conquest?

Many would dismiss my sentiments saying, “that was the Old Testament”. But if God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then the God who condoned this barbarism is the same one who led Jesus to the cross.

(And if the Old Testament directive concerning tithing, for example, is still relevant, why wouldn’t the implications of these other verses be?)

I could no longer numb myself to these scriptures. I could no longer accept that God had some mysterious reasons for condoning such horrible things, “way back then”. The doctrine itself was enough to make me walk away. It was enough to break the fear of the hell I’d been threatened with my entire life. It was enough to make me see that it was not truly faith, but fear that I walked in all those years, and I walked out of the prison of blind belief and into a whole new world. I joined the ranks of many other (specifically) young, Black Christians who would always love Christ but could no longer accept “Christianity”.

**My God is not a sadistic, genocidal maniac who condones genocide and sexual slavery. My God has not fashioned me as property.**

This was my resounding thought. I’d spent too many years wrapped in grace, seen too many prayers answered to stoop back to what felt like such a barbaric belief system. I became insulted by the notion that this is who God is, and I had a feeling that God was, too.

When these kinds of acts were committed in Rwanda and Sudan we called it genocide. When the Chibok girls were abducted we called it sexual slavery. And yet, some think that because it happened thousands of years ago at the supposed command of the God of the Israelites, that makes it okay. Are we to believe that those captured women gave of themselves freely to the men who had just murdered their brothers, fathers, friends, loved ones and children?

Where does our sense of humanity go when we become pious?

Do we become so heaven-bound that we are no earthly good? How do the faithful come to ignore all the things that should make us uncomfortable when we delve into such scriptures? And why are these the aspects of scripture that ministers never talk about?

If you didn’t know, THIS IS WHERE RAPE CULTURE BEGINS: It is the perfect habitat for its growth. It is where the mentality can incubate, in the guilt, the shame and humiliation, the ownership paradigm, and the stratification of individuals into categories which later justify their mistreatment.

It is not the only place, but is the perfect place where slave law is established.

It is not the only place, but is it a primary place where women are separated into wives, concubines, whores, and spoils of war, where the less “clean” the less “moral” people are considered undeserving of a voice, of life itself.

It is certainly not the only place, but it is a well-known place where pedophiles are glorified, where they sit satisfied in pews, fat off the very life blood of the unprotected and the praise of the cowardly majority, where the affected spend their lives picking up the pieces in obscurity while the savages sit on holy thrones.

Is this your God?

Rhetorical Question.

The purported mother of Jesus herself was something close to 12 years old when she married Joseph. We can assume so because the age of marriage for girls then was around 12.

When children get sold into marriage to dirty old men in some far-off place in the world we call it tragic. When men lined up in droves to have sex with underage girls on To Catch a Predator, we gasped. But when the preacher waxes sentimental over Mary and Joseph we throw our hands up in praise?

Rhetorical Question. Please pardon me, I know Christmas is coming.

The Blame Game | Does religion foster a sense of victimhood?

At times, I sit back and recall my days as a devout, nearly fundamentalist, Christian and lay minister. I consciously de-converted from organized religion 8 years ago, and I consider the effect that inherited thinking patterns had on my experience. One glaring element of my worldview was a strong sense of victimhood, though I wouldn’t have called it that back then. I’ve since unpacked it and made a significant effort to rid myself of it.

This did not come only from my upbringing as a Christian, but also from being raised the black female child of an addict father and a mother who grew up impoverished. I realize now that there was a bit of poverty- and inferiority-consciousness coming from several angles.

When you grow up in the kind of Holiness storefronts, Baptist chapels, and non-denominational Megachurches where parishioners now stand by with cell phones ready to capture the next shouting phenom for YouTube, ironically, you hear a lot of victim talk. You may be familiar with that cloud of struggle, negativity and complaints patched with a shallow “but-I-shall-overcome” refrain:

 -Life is chaos-

“Girl, these people at this job can’t stand to see me coming ‘cause they know I love Jesus. They tried to get me demoted. It’s always a press goin in there for this ‘lil bit ‘o money. My lights bout to get cut off…yeah, and my daughter no-good boyfriend got arrested again… But I’m yet holdin on.”

 

 -The devil is always trying to get me-

“I can’t leave the house yet. The devil is busy—he done hid my car keys!”

 

 -I’m unhappy and I must grin and bear it-

“This marriage must be my cross to bear. God only approves divorce in cases of adultery and abuse. As long as ‘he be pleased to dwell’, and our life isn’t in danger I can’t leave him. I’m still believing God will save him one day.”

 

 -It’s us against the world-

“We are God’s chosen few, and the world hates us for it!”

 

In this spiritual twilight zone, religion thrives on getting you to believe that there’s something wrong with you, that you need something outside yourself to make you “right”, that you are worthless without devotion to ground you and keep you connected to God. You are sinful and insignificant in and of yourself. And everyone, including Satan, is ALWAYS after you.

Head in Hands
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You are one of very few spiritually awakened people in a dying world, a world which is always looking for a reason to persecute you. (How ironic that this thought pattern can be so humble and so arrogant at the same time.) You “die daily” with Christ, or whichever venerated prophet of your religion suffered greatly for the cause. You are a constant victim, a target, a living martyr, and martyrdom is noble.

If you aren’t struggling, then you aren’t doing something right. If your life isn’t a struggle, a climb up the rough side of the mountain, that’s a sign that you’re in cahoots with Satan. After all if Satan saw you as any kind of threat, he’d be on your heels at every turn, making you late for church, causing your boss to hassle you, or hiding your car keys.

Struggle becomes a way of life and something to be proud of.

So it’s no wonder that this same mentality of acceptance of victimhood and passivity weaves its way into the romantic lives of those who possess it. Men and women hide behind their holy books to avoid taking initiative to improve their lives, to avoid making demands in their relationships.

Some put up with downright abuse, because “God hates divorce”.

sophia

Others refuse to speak up when they have unmet needs because they believe “love your neighbor as yourself” actually means “love your neighbor (wife, husband, child, etc.) instead of yourself. They live on the back burner…then secretly resent being overlooked.

Then there are those oddballs who have somehow come to the conclusion that God only approves of vanilla, missionary-style sex. (LOL!  I’ve actually found myself in this conversation.) Their passion wanes, their beds grow cold, they go months at a time without even a little spice. And they still don’t take action! Now, in eleven years of intense scriptural study, I never came across a biblical Kama Sutra. And I can tell you, if had to keep my legs shut, chomp at the bit and wait years for God to send me a mate, and I finally got the chance to walk across the threshold into natural bliss, I’d enjoy it in WHATEVER position I wanted! But I digress.

After unpacking this element of victimhood and passivity, I realized that I had to learn how to be happy. I’m still learning. I had to take more initiative in my life, and that included taking steps toward a more balanced mental state. I asked myself:

“Do you even know how to be happy?”

“Can you accept your current position, flaws included, as meaningful and good—no doom and gloom? Do you know how to acknowledge the difficulties of life without wallowing in them? Can you take the initiative to use the resources that you already have rather than constantly begging God for a fix, rather than struggling through everything and waiting for happiness in the sweet by-and-by?”

“Do you realize that positivity, peace of mind, beauty, fun and enjoyment, flirtation and the dancing of masculine and feminine energies, laughter—all those things are supposed to be the rule, not the exception? Goddammit, your name is Joy (not Job). Pick up your mat and walk! Get down off your cross and live.”

At some point, the prospect of leading a life full of optimism and growth became much more appealing than existence as a self-absorbed victim. I started to understand why the Joy of the Lord is said to be our strength.

I’m still learning, but I’m enjoying the process.