how to justify embarrassing bible verses – part 2

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These posts may seem light in tone but they cover serious issues. Rape, for example, isn’t anything to take lightly and while it’s possible to laugh at Bible stories and be amused at Christians trying to concoct reasonable interpretations of these stories, the conclusions that some Christians come to are seriously worrying.

While we learned in the previous post that if a virgin was raped, the law stated she was to marry her rapist, in this next biblical story we learn that a virgin, Tamar, who was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, was distressed that her rapist half-brother wouldn’t marry her:

‘No, my brother!’ she said to him. ‘Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.’ But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, ‘Get up and get out!’ ‘No!’ she said to him. ‘Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.’ (2 Samuel 13: 12-16)

Now this is a foul story and of course no Christian thinks this is how their god wishes men to behave. However, it is relevant as confirmation of the law discussed in the previous ’embarrassing verses’ post, which led one Christian apologist to state:

It seems that within their culture this was a desirable law at least according to Tamar who didn’t even bring up the law. She said marriage was the better outcome in a moral sense, not citing the law.

Let’s be clear about several things here:

  • If what the apologist says is true, he can never argue that absolute morality exists. According to this argument, morality evolves and changes with time.
  • Even if this story is true, did Tamar write this story down? No, a man who believed rape victims should marry their rapists is likely to have written this story and several other men are likely to have been involved in editing it. Did they know Tamar? No, it is likely they lived several centuries after she is suppose to have existed and based the story on an oral tradition handed down by men who believed rape victims should marry their rapists. This being the case, who in their right mind would make any argument based on the supposed wishes of Tamar?
  • If a woman wanted to make the case that Tamar would have had a moral sense that she should marry her rapist brother, I’d be worried about her, but I’d listen to her point of view accepting it as potentially relevant. When a MAN decides that he could possibly understand what rape is like for a woman and can project the cultural sense of ‘right’ onto a woman who has been raped by her brother, I’m totally disgusted, offended, and concerned about how lightly he takes rape.
  • Why do Christians accept that the god God swooped in to reveal himself to the people of Israel making radical changes to their culture, such as abandoning all other gods, outlawing adultery etc, but it would have been too big a leap to suggest that women (i.e. half of humanity, half of the god God’s creation) should be treated equally to men and not like property? Why do they think it would have been too big a leap for the god God to say that if a virgin is raped SHE HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG, she is not one flesh with her rapist, and that she could go on to have a normal relationship with someone else? Do they really believe that the only ‘kind’ option the god God could come up with was that a rape victim should marry her rapist, and that he therefore enshrined it in their god God-given sense of morality?
  • I am now finally convinced that children should never, ever, ever be given access to the Bible. Like any other work of fiction with references to graphic violence and sexual abuse, it should be reserved for the upper shelves, out of reach of anyone under the age of 18. Seriously, would we give any other book with depictions of incestuous rape and such barbaric moral standards as presents to children?
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