A friend this morning called to chat and vent about a blog post she had read that said that if someone will just read the bible enough, systemically enough, that they won’t have difficulties in life and that the decisions they face won’t be hard. Her response was the same as mine and it fits right into the ongoing theme of what I am working on which is deconstruction.
This kind of thinking can be found in any religious or spiritual belief system but because of my life and experiences, I will be focusing on where this thinking is in christianity and why it is wrong.
The idea that someone is sick or is facing challenges in life because they aren’t praying enough, reading enough scripture, or doing enough is such a toxic one because if you follow it to it’s logical conclusion, not leaving the path of that logic at all, you will end up having to agree with these beliefs:
- A woman is genetically predisposed to having breast cancer and her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all died from it, but it is her fault for not praying enough and reading enough scripture that she gets it and also dies.
- A young boy is forced to kill his own parents in order to not be killed himself because he didn’t read the scripture enough and pray enough. It is his fault, not the fault of the warlords that came into his village and put him and every other boy child in the position of having to choose murder if he would live.
- A teenage girl is raped daily by strangers because she is the victim of sex trafficking. It is her fault for not having read the scripture enough or prayed enough, not the fault of the men who lured her to the place where she was kidnapped and where she was repeatedly raped, tortured, and drugged until she would no longer fight them. It is her fault.
- A small child is sexually and physically abused by their family members, beaten with a riding crop, emotionally neglected, sexualized by the adults, molested by other siblings. It is their fault for not having read the scripture enough or prayed hard enough. It is not the fault of the abusive family members.
- A baby girl is raped repeatedly by a man in her household… Her fault because she can’t read the scriptures. It is not the fault of the man who raped her.
- A baby boy is thrown up against a wall and beaten to death with fists… His fault because he didn’t pray hard enough. It is not the fault of the person who murdered him.
I think I’ve made my point.
Toxic thinking is always toxic. There isn’t a level of toxic believing that is healthy or acceptable. I grew up in the church so I know that the answer many very churchy people would give is that in these cases it isn’t their fault but for the rest of us, we need to pray more and be more fervent in our systematic reading of the bible or we will have many difficulties and our decisions will be hard because we aren’t connected enough to god.
I am not saying that it isn’t good to have faith or good to pray or good to read scripture. Psychological research continues to highlight the importance of honoring and fostering faith in mental health, meditating, growing in resilience, and finding support in a community of like minded believers. I know that I have always leaned on my faith. However, there is a difference between faith that comes from love and hope and healthy mindsets and boundaries, and faith that comes from fear, guilt, abusive thinking, gaslighting, and the blatant disregard for the impact of your words and beliefs on others. If the source of the belief or statement is toxic, the fruit of it is also going to be toxic.
Toxic positivity is a thing. It is a thing that says that no decision is hard if you just read the bible more, or pray hard enough, or have enough faith, or call the good from the universe to you, or hop on your foot under a full moon naked in a dry riverbed in March. It dismisses the experiences of those who have been victims of the crimes and sins of others, and sometimes the victims of a genetic lottery that they lost, by saying it is their fault that the bad things happened to them. It diminishes the fact that there are a lot of hard choices in this life that are never mentioned in the ancient scriptures people read and rely on. There is no precedent for decision making with regard to modern medicine, modern warfare, modern technology. There is no precedent for a life without slavery and where women are not the property of men. Sometimes you end up between a rock and a hard place with choices that are impossible.
The night before his crucifixion, Jesus bled from his face because he was so torn by the choice he had to face and god did not answer him, and as he hung on the cross he cried out asking, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
But we are supposed to believe that if we just read the bible more and pray harder that it will be easy for us and the reason things are hard is because we don’t?
Lizibet… Way to boil it all down. If I’d have tried to write on this topic, it would have been so much longer.
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And we forget that the Bible has been translated so many times that it is not only a few words of God’s, but all the changes through the years and through the languages. What is real and what isn’t. A faith is, to me, important. It must be served with goodness to ourselves and others also. We must use common sense to figure out what in our world and in God’s world is true and good. Hurting others or abusing others for any reason at all makes no sense in common sense or in a faith that would see us through the hard parts of life. No one or Bible ever told us what to do about the people who use and abuse us in daily life. That’s a part not spoken about. It’s a war we are now beginning to fight The whole world over. A slow path to take. It can be done. I am sure of that.
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I know that Lizzy is deconstructing in her faith, as am I, and for me it comes down to really the upset I feel about how much was mistranslated over the centuries in order to keep people controlled. I’m looking to people who have read the original texts to find out what was actually said with the mindfulness that they were writing in a different time and different societies. I don’t think ownership of others as slaves or wives was ever what god wanted; I think the truth lies somewhere in the stories but also somewhere in what wasn’t included in the book we call bible. Like… There are 4 gospels because those are the ones which were most alike and because someone did some numerology trick and they decided that there should be 4 like there are 4 seasons and 4 cardinal directions.
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Deconstructing to me is seeing that the words have been changed and seeing how they’ve been changed to keep people in bondage.
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put some light on the dank frozen lock
took time but it opened up slowly
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People don’t always like the light when it shines…
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The worst is when the good people hide away. If the ones who are bad would hide from us life might be easier.
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tough cookies gwenneth ann. i ve had a shit of a day and god darn im tootin at cha anywez
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I recently saw actor Jon Voigt interviewed on TV and he recounted a very low period for him where he wound up on his hands and knees sobbing, “Why is this so difficult?” He continued that he heard a voice in his ear as clear as day say, “It’s supposed to be difficult.” His faith intensified after that. I know for me, the best changes in course and improvement in my life came after very difficult periods by doing what I thought was right and holding on tight.
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It is funny that you say that the best change comes after difficulty because a friend of mine said something exactly to that effect two days ago.
I don’t like the idea that people think it should be easy or that people are blamed for what happens TO them. Like… Have these people never heard the story of Job?
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I like that thinking but I also don’t like it. I am tired of things being difficult.
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Rabbi’s are scholars. They get together as they have for centuries to figure out what is meant in todays words the words of the Old Testament. I am sure there are scholars at Universities across the world and here in the states who do the same and include the New Testament. The library or ebooks may have them also.
It’s an ancient study to keep up with the world.
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Unfortunately a lot of people who do the study of New Testament work are operating out of the same seminaries and bible colleges and using the same textbooks that explain and justify the mindset they want people to have. Maybe GwenAnn will talk about a book she read that talks about this stuff just a little on the surface for women in the Bible. She knows a lot about it.
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For a person who loves to learn and read, it’s a good project. For me I’m on my second pass through the books. I have to wonder where some of our rules came from. The words seem to have been twisted.
They have been twisted a lot. For instance, every rape in the old testament was translated to English as the words, “And he went into her and made her his wife.” It’s a lot!
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Can you write about that book you told me about? The one on women in the Bible? Please?
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Yes. But I have to either do it in a series or have a disclaimer because it is a lot and I’m trying to be bite sized.
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That’s very sad. A deep sadness that God had to have felt badly about. Man doesn’t always make go choices. Now it needs to be redone.
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Unfortunately, some people get very defensive of the mistranslation because it challenges their thinking and believing too much to consider they’ve been teaching people wrong.
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Can you give an example? I tried to google instances of rape in the Tanakh and didn’t find any glosses like that. Perhaps my google searching skills need improvement, but I would definitely appreciate a starting point.
I think the disconnect between seeing it and not seeing it has less to do with seeking the word “rape” on google and more to do with understanding the historical context of the books when they were written.
In the time that the books in Tanakh were written and were about, women were property. Israel held women in a higher standing than the rest of the ancient world around them as evidenced by the fact that Jewishness is inherited from the mother not the father, however, that does not mean that women did not live in an patriarchal world and society. The writers of those books were MEN in the same society and timeframe writing about the life and events with the framework of men in the same society and timeframe.
When G_d destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was unacceptable for the angel of the lord to be in the street to be raped by the mob, but it was acceptable for Lott to offer his virgin daughters to the mob instead.
When marriage covenants took place, it was not the woman who chose who to marry, it was men. Her father, her brother, a man who saw her and wanted her… Not her. Where is her choice in the matter in the Tanakh? Even in a modern marriage ceremony the woman is given away by a man to a man… An exchange of property is still reflected.
Jacob was so unconcerned about the woman he married that he didn’t even bother to look at her face or speak to her before he had sex with her and it was only after he had done the act that he discovered she wasn’t who he thought he was getting. Does that sound like love to you? Does that sound like a woman having the choice to consent or not consent? Having ownership of her body? Did he care how she was feeling, that she felt safe, that she was fulfilled? Or did he just act in the tradition of the day: he bargained with another man over the ownership of a beautiful woman, he came to an agreement, a woman was handed to him, and he fucked her to establish ownership and ensure the blood was there to verify she had been a virgin and hadn’t been “used” before him.
I understand that in different periods in time that patriarchy was much more prevalent then it is now. However, the fact is that if a person does not have the right or ability to consent to sexual acts then the act they’re experiencing without consent IS rape. It matters not whether the writers of the day understood it that way or whether they used that word in their writing because they will be accountable to G_d at the judgment day.
Israel has always been supposed to be set apart unto G_d, supposed to be unlike the gentiles, but you and I both know that Israel has also struggled to be set apart since the beginning. And there is no judgment in that statement because we are all human. Millennia ago, things were accepted that we would never accept now, however G_d is unchanging, therefore what we know definitely is unacceptable and sinful today was also definitely unacceptable and sinful then… Even though they didn’t know it then.
When a person does not have the ability to chose to consent to a sexual act, the act they experience is rape. Period.
I was hoping you could direct me to any sources that support your claim. I understand the difficulty with googling the word rape in the bible; its usage likely differs from our moder usage anyway.
I just wanted to understand the specific instances where a consumption of marriage was actually an act of rape in euphemistic language.
The examples provided don’t do that, but since the Tanakh is full of that, I’m sure you can point to a clearer context.
I say this because there isn’t enough information to say Leah was raped. And I don’t think the power dynamic automatically connotes sexual coercion or rape. The rest of what you mentioned, while abhorrent, does support your narrative.
So let us see if we can agree on the fact that G_d is unchanging, because I doubt you will disagree with me on that. To disagree would be heretic and make you an apostate.
G_d is unchanging, therefore the events and behaviors that people exhibited in biblical times are either acceptable to an unchanging god or not acceptable to an unchanging god, ergo the events and behaviors that led to Jacob having vaginal sex with Leah either ARE G_dly and just and acceptable for all time… Or they ARE NOT G_dly and just and acceptable for all time.
Is it acceptable for a father to sell his daughter to a man without her having any right or ability to consent? According to you, because you don’t think there is enough evidence to support it being unacceptable in the instance of Jacob and Leah, it must be. In the time that the events took place, it was a societal norm and cultural rule that if a penis went into a vagina, the woman belonged to the man from that moment on regardless of how she or her family felt about it, however, according to modern law, that is human trafficking and slavery.
Is it acceptable for a man to vaginally penetrate a woman’s body without her giving consent? According to you, because you don’t think there is enough evidence to support it being unacceptable for Jacob to penetrate Leah without her consent, it must be acceptable. It was the law at the time, after all; Dinah was given against her father’s and brother’s will to Shechem because he had raped her. According to modern law, sexual intercourse without consent is rape.
Go back and read every instance in the text to find whether intercourse is categorized as acceptable or not. It is always categorized as unacceptable when the man or men who previously held a woman as theirs felt it was unacceptable, as in Dinah, and it is always categorized as acceptable when he man or men who previously held a woman as theirs felt it was acceptable. In every instance, the feelings of the men are what drives the dialogue and the way it is presented in the word and in modern teachings. Never the woman. Why? Because patriarchal societies have always based history, law, theology, and societal norms on the male perspective and what men desire regardless of the impact on women.
This has been seen as recently as the 1980’s in psychology texts and in modern “Christian counseling” in the way rape is presented as purely from the male perspective. In psychology, it was being taught that it was actually beneficial for girls and women to be molested and used sexually assaulted by the men in their families and that it does no harm to them but actually is helpful for their growth and development. It is rape but it was taught as something that is beneficial for girls and women. In “Christian counseling” today, students at John MacArthur’s school are taught to examine not the man who rapes his daughter but the daughter to find out how she enticed him and why she consented to his rape, as if a small child whose brain has not developed has any concept of sexuality and body autonomy and rights and consent and seduction, rather than looking at the man who chose to defy all morality, modern law, and human decency in order to force a young child to fulfill his sexually deviant desires. It is rape but it is being taught as the sin of the daughter forcing the father to sin rather than the sin of the father violating the body and soul and spirit of the daughter by sinning against her and against G_d. There are churches and modern laws on the books today that say that when a woman says “I do” at the alter, it means that they must turn over their body to their husband any time he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants to do it, with whomever he wants her to do it, regardless of her emotional, spiritual, physical, and psychological wellbeing and regardless of whether she is in the mood or feels safe or is satisfied — which means he can force her to have anal sex if he wants, and then put his fecal matter covered penis in her mouth demanding oral sex, and give her to his friends to watch them enjoy her, and force her to have sex without any regard for whether she is in the mood, enjoying herself, and able to orgasm from the event. That is rape too.
When there is not an ability to deny consent because a woman is not granted the right to have autonomy over her body, every act is rape. If a woman cannot deny consent, neither can she grant it. A girl or woman who is assaulted by a man who she lacks the physical ability to overpower, whether in a modern context or an ancient one, does not have the ability to deny consent if she wants to. When society, religion, and law support the case that a girl or woman does not have the right to deny consent, she does not have the ability to grant it either. When society, religion, law, and belief systems deny the immediate and long term impacts of the traumas that come with dehumanization, psychological control, abuse, assault, and lack of rights over anything even as simple as body autonomy on a woman or girl, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that any of the women in the bible had a choice in the matter and that they wanted it. Leah had no choice in whether she would be contractually tied to Jacob because the choice was made by her father and she was given no right to grant or deny consent to Jacob. Because Leah’s father tricked Jacob and encouraged him to just have sex with her without even a word or a look, Jacob was also denied the right of consent and in that sense, he too was a victim of rape but not rape by Leah but rape as the result of the deception of her father. His having lost his right to consent because of that deception does not excuse Leah’s lack of the right to consent, however. Yet you and I both know that when this story is told, the rape of Leah is not mentioned, her lack of free will is not mentioned, but the deception of her father is the focus. It is not the wrong done to her that is taught but the wrong done to Jacob that is taught.
To say that it was acceptable in that time period therefore it was not rape is also a fallacy. It doesn’t matter what time period the rape took place in, it is still rape. The earth wasn’t flat up until Galileo theorized it was a sphere; it was always a sphere even though humanity largely was incapable of recognizing or understanding it; it is still a sphere even though people will argue that it is flat; recognizing that it is a sphere doesn’t disprove G_d by virtue of the fact that it is not flat. Viruses and bacteria didn’t start causing disease when they were discovered; they were always a source of disease and death even though humanity lacked the ability to see them and understand them; there is a reason there are laws about clean and unclean food and about cleanliness. Incest might have been acceptable in different times and places in history but it has never been safe genetically and has always been a cause of human suffering and physical unhealthiness even though people didn’t recognize it; it is why G_d made it a part of the law. The societal culture of ancient times allowed for slavery and for the barbaric slaughter of babies and sacrifice of children, rape of women, and murder of entire nations, yet we know these things are wrong and globally we push back against the monsters who perpetuate such sin against their fellow man; the acceptability of those behaviors thousands of years ago because it was the norm does not make them acceptable now.
I understand that it is a hard pill to swallow that the big names you’ve been raised to recognize lived a flawed existence and at times did things that would land them in prison to participate in them today. A lot of people think that looking honestly and critically at the texts to find where things have been glossed over is wrong and is somehow threatening to faith or to G_d, but that is not the case.
G_d saw evil in the world and destroyed almost all of humanity except for Noah and his family as the result but then promised never to do that again. G_d did not bend humanity to his will by force, he has courted humanity with love. The sinfulness of this world is what it is and what it always has been, but that is why G_d asked for sacrifices of blood to atone for the sin that we still live in regardless of how hard we may try. It doesn’t matter if you believe Jesus is the Messiah or not, because either way, the belief is that the blood is shed to atone for sin, and that is G_d’s gift to us not only in the season of Pesach and Easter but always.
Through time, human beings have grown to understand things differently and have learned to reject wrong behaviors and wrong thinking. We are not all the way there yet but we are always moving in that direction (hopefully) but G_d remains unchanging. Just because something was a tradition and a societal norm in the past that we would now reject doesn’t mean that it was not sinful and inherently wrong then, it was always sinful and wrong but the blood of sacrifice was shed for it. However, it being covered over and forgiven because of that sacrifice does not erase the impact of it or the impact of choosing to misunderstand the horror of that event and the impact on the very real human beings there.
To deconstruct means being honest about all these events, not trying to defend teachings and theology, and seeing the truth of them. It is also to recognize that the heroes we have looked up to were also deeply flawed human beings, just like us, who screwed up big time, just like us, and who made horrible choices that we would never like to recreate in our own lives. David is called a man after G_d’s own heart yet we know he raped Bathsheba and had her husband killed; the fact that he is called a man after G_d’s own heart is a testament to the fact that even when we are sinful and make terrible mistakes, that G_d loves us and still sees our best even though we do not deserve it. We can take the example of their faith, we can also relate to the example of their sinfulness, and we can see that despite their sin, G_d still found a way to make a place for us in him despite our unworthiness.
You would like to gloss over the ugly truth found in the texts because you are threatened by the ugliness of that truth. At the time those actions were acceptable and the authors of the texts see nothing wrong with those actions and events because at the time those actions were acceptable, but that doesn’t make it right. If a mob of people showed up to your door, you would not throw your virgin daughters out into the street to be gang raped. We grew up going to the synagogue and church where we were taught to look up to these examples of people called by G_d to do great and miraculous things and their stories, but what was the greatest missed opportunity was to tell those stories in all their ugly truth in order to shine a light on G_d’s great love for us…
That those people could rape, and murder, and do terrible things but G_d still loved them enough to accept the sacrificial blood so that they could commune with him.
If you are actually interested in reading about this and studying to learn and grow rather than to just try to disprove, I would refer you to “The Making of Biblical Womanhood” by Beth Allison Barr and the works by Peter Enns. While they are written from the Christian perspective, these authors are historians and scholars who go into great detail in breaking down translations and teachings to the original text, using historical context to understand the event, and to find the nature of G_d in it all.
You could have opened this with what you wrote in the last paragraph instead of assuming my intentions.
Don’t put words in my mouth and pretend that you’re the one being honest. There’s something you keep glossing over: we don’t know if Leah was coerced ino being in that tent. You then claim I said it’s acceptable to vaginally penetrate a woman without her consent; an honest reading of what I wrote doesn’t fit your perverse misunderstanding.
At the very least, you’ve exposed your flawed logic and inability to tolerate questioning of your assumptions.
I’m still open to reading what you suggested, and I will look into it.
Guy… You read only the deconstruction part of this blog and completely bypassed the fact that the writers here are all trauma informed in the fields of psychology and social work. The deconstruction present here is as the direct result of the same kind of toxic thinking you’re spouting that we found in our places of worship, thinking that justified men raping their wives and children, thinking that told women to stay in abuse.
You don’t get it at all:
When a woman doesn’t have the choice to say no, she has no choice.
That’s it. That’s the end of the discussion.
No choice in the matter means no choice.
You can dislike it all you want because it makes you uncomfortable to realize that those stories are about rape but attacking GwenAnn won’t change the facts.
And that is part of the point of deconstructing:
Finding the deeply uncomfortable truth that you don’t like and dealing with it to see if you can still find the pearl at the heart of it and get past the ugliness of past times and past crimes and past thinking that was ungodly and wrong to find faith still.
I guess the problem for me I’d that I believe Leah had the power to consent. Condescending if you want, buy neither of you actually understood what I wrote.
If I accept your premises, which I don’t, and your conclusions, which I don’t, then I would have to reject the Tanakh entirely; there is no redemption for rapists. Period.
“I don’t think the power dynamic automatically connotes sexual coercion or rape.”
No words were put in your mouth. I took your words and overlaid it with facts you want to ignore:
•Women were chattel and were owned by men. Ownership was transferred at the will of men.
•When a man had sex with a woman it required her ownership to be transferred to him and to become his wife. (Dinah’s story)
•When a man rapes another man’s wife, the crime was viewed as being against the other man, not against the woman. (David and Bathsheba)
•When a person has no right to deny consent, they cannot consent either. Consent requires choice, which biblical women did not have. The fact of how life was in ancient times for women and the fact that when a person has no choice at all lead to only one conclusion: the resulting intercourse is always rape.
“I don’t think the power dynamic automatically connotes sexual coercion or rape.”
She. Did. Not. Have. A. Choice.
Leah never had the choice on whether she was in that tent in the first place. Her existence as a woman in that time is as at the will of her father (or brother in a fathers absence). She could not have chosen not to be in that tent, ergo neither could she ever be argued to have chosen to be.
Leah had no free will to make any choices. She was raised to exist and live at the will of men, to obediently do what the men who had control over her life told her to do.
When a person is powerless, they may desire an escape from one hell to another, but that is not the same as free will — that is trying to escape oppression and being willing to trade one hell with another. That is not LOVE.
When a person is powerless and is given some small amount of affection or attention, they may become trauma bonded to the captor or abuser and they may develop an affection for that person because they are unable to separate the acts of abuse and trauma from what little love they get. This is also the root of Stockholm Syndrome.
I also find it completely fascinating that you also glossed over the fact that in the instance of Jacob and Leah, Jacob was also robbed of his free will and was raped as the result of the deception of Leah’s father. Because he was.
I really did come here with the intention of learning an alternative viewpoint. I simply don’t agree with you premises or conclusions. I still believe rape is unequivocally wrong, but obviously we disagree on what constitutes rape as well as how much agency women had in the Tanakh.
I’m going to end this by saying I honestly didn’t mean to upset you, if I did, or get upset myself. I ordered a book by Peter Enns on Genesis, as per your suggestion. The book on Biblical Womanhood has a lot of references to the NT, which isn’t relevant to me (also, I just am not a fan of Yoshke).
The amount of agency women had in ancient times is not based on what modern translations of the words says. Nor is it based on what modern teachers inside a religious construct say. It is based on historical fact about societal norms and law that has been verified by sources outside of any religion or belief system. It is also based on a modern understanding of abusive relationships, sexual assault, and the impact of trauma on the human being.
When a human has no agency, they have no agency. If you do not know what it is to have no agency and to have no power to control the choices being made about your life, your body, your everything, then every conclusion you have is based on what you believe a lack of agency is or feels like. IF you really want to understand a different viewpoint and to understand why I am so adamant that Leah had no choice, start volunteering your time at a domestic violence shelter. Listen to the stories of girls who were raped and abused by the men in their families. Talk to the women who were sexually assaulted in their places of worship by men in leadership. Sit down with a behavioral psychologist or a social worker who works with survivors of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, childhood abuse and sexual exploitation, and learn about the impacts of trauma and how the victims will actively defend their abuser because if the abuser isn’t thrown in jail they may be abused more violently or murdered for speaking out. Learn about how victims will choose a soft rape over a violent one. Learn about how victims learn to deal in small transactions of feeling alive and carrying that with them through days or weeks or months or years of continuous trauma. Read “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessell Van Der Kolk to understand the long term impact of this kind of lack of agency and trauma. Read “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker to begin to understand how women have to think and cogitate going into the world in order to be able to be safe and in order to be able to maintain agency over their bodies.
You are probably a man. You sound like a man. And you sound like a person who has always lived in the luxury of having the agency over your own body and your own life to make choices for yourself without living in fear. You want to understand another perspective? Stop trying to quiet women who are telling you that you don’t understand what it is like to have no agency and instead listen to them. You want to understand another perspective? Stop being so defensive of dead people at the expense of doing harm to the living. You want to understand another perspective? Stop trying to force that perspective into silence because you disagree. You lack the life experience and background study/knowledge to discuss these things but rather than stopping yourself to try to hear and understand what is being said, you’re adamant that we must be wrong because if we are right than there is an incredibly ugly truth in front of us that we haven’t dealt with either in the Synagogue or the church.
The book on Biblical Womanhood does talk about the NT but it is not only NT and it is not NT in the absence of looking at the OT/Tanakh and what is said and what has been translated into it. If you really are interested in understanding, it is essential to try to understand from the perspective of women because every book, every word, in the Tanakh and the NT were written by men from the perspective of men. That book does not focus solely on the NT and if you’re really interested in understanding it, I think it would be a mistake to pass up the perspective that this author lends because the teachings that are mentioned from the NT are always given with the OT pairing whenever it is available. Gavin de Becker points out that men’s biggest fear going out into the world is to be laughed at and rejected by a woman but a woman’s greatest fear is to be murdered… And women will allow a great many things to be done to their bodies in order to escape being murdered… But that doesn’t mean they wanted it.
You can disagree with all of my conclusions if you like, but it doesn’t mean my conclusions are invalid. You are lacking the background knowledge and life experience that teaches about trauma, lack of agency, and free will.
Regarding Biblical womanhood, my concern is that too many references to NT represent a Christian view of the OT.
Most Christians view women as subordinate off the bat. That is, Christians have no understanding of ezer kenegdo, a Jewish concept that paints women as equal co-creators with men. That’s my issue with excessive NT references.
You do realize that the writers on this blog Christian, so everything that they have been taught it’s from that exact Christian perspective that you were objecting to. It is the exact perspective that is taught in churches. It is the exact perspective that has been used to make women subservient to men through their entire lives, second class to men in their existence, and a belief system that has them living, believing, and moving through all their relationships as though they are less.
If you want to understand our perspective, then read that book because that book outlined everything that we were taught growing up in church. That will give you the tools you need to be able to then combat every one of the thoughts that Christian women have about their role in the world and in God using the perspective that you have and they don’t.
For Christian women deconstructing from everything Christianity has taught them about themselves and about God, that book hits on all the major topics, and therefore if you really do want to have a discussion and understand our perspective, you need to understand that in order to be able to dialogue and tell us what the very different perspective is from your reading and understanding of those same books. You use Yiddish or Hebrew words that we don’t understand. You say things are not right but with everything we have read and understand because we don’t know what it is to be Jewish, we are lacking the understanding of that the way you are a lacking the understanding of a lack of agency and the experience of being owned by a man.
The idea that women are co-creators is so foreign to women in the Christian church and living and existing in Christianity today that there is a reason they leave the faith and a reason they deconstruct, but in their deconstructing they find no place to live and exist in a walk with God where their value is seen because they find no teaching that tells them that they are valued, truly, and equal to men.
I’m sorry. The way Gwen wrote G-d led me to believe that she was Jewish. This really has been eye opening to me.
I just got really offended when I thought I was being called a rape apologist.
I’ll get Biblical Womanhood as well.
No, she is not a convert to Judaism, but she is ethnically Ashkenazi and she recognized your Jewishness and respected you to speak to you in a way that would give honor to your beliefs and background. When she sits with Muslims, she uses the Arabic allah out of respect for them and their background.
She is leaning into that Jewishness and has begun wearing a tichel, and she is trying to understand her faith in god and belief in Christ as the messiah while also navigating a feeling that there is something she is missing that gets down to that Jewishness… But she can’t find it because she is shut down for being a Christian.
I am Jewish ethnically but it was never spoken of or acknowledged for fear because of where my family came from in Eastern Europe in the time they came between WWI and WWII to a country where they were trying to escape ridicule and live in peace. In my deconstruction, I’ve begun learning about Judaism and leaning into my Jewishness including making the choice (for multiple reasons including a few outside of faith) to wear a tichel, but like Liz said, it is hard because there isn’t a body of believers I can feel safe in.
As a Christian, I cannot be a part of the church that teaches oppression of women but claims it is freedom even though I have faith.
But neither would I be accepted at a synagogue because I do believe Jesus is the messiah, which means a whole world of understanding the texts from a perspective that might help me find peace in G_d is closed off to me.
Nevertheless, neither would I fit in a Messianic Christian church because they seem to take the most legalistic approach from both to create something new.
Deconstruction for me is a very intellectual approach to sussing out the truth of who G_d is and what they want from us by going to original texts and finding the meaning. If there’s a Jewish cultural perspective that is missed, it isn’t for lack of searching or a lack of desire, it’s because the Jewish people have worked so hard to survive in this world that even when someone who is Jewish comes from outside the synagogue seeking, they aren’t welcomed.
I mean… You throw out words in Yiddish or Hebrew speaking where you understand and the only context we can make if it is what we would find on Google. So how welcoming and helpful is that if we have to rely on guessing Google result is the most accurate to even be able to respond to you about them?
If you want to change our belief on it, you must understand our understanding of it enough to be able to answer our questions and prove our thinking incorrect. We wouldn’t know where to begin to look at or understand any of this from a Jewish perspective. When we get down to trying to understand, we go to source material and scholars who can translate it. Yes, they translate from a Christian perspective because that is their background. And when we try to search it out from a Jewish perspective, we are shut out because we are not converts to Judaism, because we are not orthodox or Hasidic. And it doesn’t matter to them that my family is ashkenazi, what matters is that I don’t know Hebrew and I don’t know the traditions and I don’t celebrate all of the festivals so I cannot know what they do.
If you want to break down the viewpoint within Christianity of what that text means then you have to give the knowledge that is so carefully cloistered and hidden away that we can’t find it when we seek it.
I will do most of what you’ve said. But I can’t work with victims of abuse. I’m too empathetic for that; It would probably break me.
I just got so hurt when I read your interpretation of Jacob and Leah. If I ever thought my wife felt coerced, I don’t think I could live with myself.
I just don’t see how we can redeem Jacob if he’s a rapist, regardless of his own status as a victim (the case of David is definitely more questionable).
Like I told Liz, I’ll get the other book as well.
If you can’t work with many victims of abuse then you should at least listen to one person’s stories: Gwen’s. Because if you really want to understand the perspective of women who were abused and exploited within Christianity and within intimate partner relationships, if you really want to be able to tell them who the god is that you know and what you know he wants for women, you have to know the hell that they have gone through. It will also tell you WHY her passion is what it is and show you how powerful her faith is that despite what she went through, she is still seeking god and seeking faith.
It was clear you were hurt but for people living in Christianity deconstructing from it, the way these texts have been used to keep women and children in abusive relationships tells that same story. Look at the evangelical push in churches that has girls pledging their virginity to their father and their husband at young ages, pushing them into marriages where they are taught that their only purpose is to fulfill his desires, and blaming her if he does something inappropriate. The Christian church largely calls that “obedience and devotion” but the truth is that without being given a choice at all and when we are told we are less than and we must submit, it is rape.
You want to understand why I am so adamant in my belief that a lack of autonomy and the right to deny consent, ask me my story. I will tell you every horrifying detail of what I have suffered at the hands of men who should have protected me and cared for me. Every one. And I will tell you how things were justified using Old and New Testament text, using the Christian church’s best understanding of Judaism, using the words that are supposed to guide us to G_d to keep me trapped in hell for most of my life.
And then you will understand why it is such a big deal that I still believe in G_d at all and why it is such a big deal that I’m trying to find the truth of who G_d is from the original texts because if I believe what people have told me was meant, than god must be a cruel and unjust god who hates women and loves oppression. And then you will also understand why if I believe that Jesus is the messiah, the final sacrifice that G_d required, that I also have to believe there is redemption for sinners when they truly repent and why I don’t wish evil upon those who did me harm.
I’m sorry you went through all of that. No one deserves to be abused. I can only imagine what you’ve gone through to make it this far. I’m glad you were able to make it. Again, I apologize for talking over your trauma; I really should have handled this better.
I think what makes it challenging at times whether we are talking about deconstruction itself or about different sects of Christianity vs each other vs different sects of Judaism vs each other is that we are all looking at the same source material but how we were taught about what it means and what G_d intends for us from it is very different. My truth for what those texts meant is obviously incredibly different because of who interpreted it and what lesson was brought to us from it.
I mean, look at this weekend. Yesterday was the first day of Pesach for Jews and Good Friday for Christians. I was making my last yeasty bread earlier in the week with a niece and she was asking questions about what Passover is all about. I told the story beginning with Joseph and his dreams, because that tells why Israel was in Egypt to be enslaved. I told of Moses. And when I got to where G_d delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, I spoke of the parallels to the time that Jesus came, how his sacrifice was made, and the significance of the timeframe, because if I believe he is the messiah, I see the parallels of the lamb of sacrifice in the Pesach. Other Christian’s in the room took issue with me not focusing on Miriam’s part of the Moses story and didn’t understand the parallels in the Seder and Pesach to Jesus. When some Christian’s speak of Easter they focus on Jesus death and sin, when others speak of Easter they focus on resurrection and atonement. We all have the same source material, but it was how it was brought to us that makes us look at its meaning differently.
You said something about ezer kenegdo. I’m familiar with that phrase but what I was taught about it was very complimentarian and Darwinist, not something powerful and enlightening and empowering for women but something that (again) was used to control women.
You were offended by the understanding we have had about those stories of women from the OT because you had no concept of what those texts have been weaponized to do against us. When we hear of Esther, we have been told that when a woman is being raped and abused she is like Esther and it is G_d’s will for her to stay there being raped and abused even unto her own death. When we are taught of Leah and Rachel, it is that women should have no agency in their choice but rely on the men in her life to choose and they also can never deny their husband any of his sexual desires or fantasies ever. When we are taught of Eve it is that she is the source of all sin and poor Adam was duped and ruined by her sinfulness, not that the original text has a plural you as the serpent speaks to both of them, not that Adam blamed G_d for the sin (the woman you gave me made me do it) but when men have sinned against us we are always blamed the same way: somehow something we did made them do it and it isn’t their fault.
Imagine how grieved G_d must be that these stories and words that are supposed to give us guidance on how to live and how to believe can be so weaponized and understood so differently in how they are used to uplift or tear down? Because you and I are looking at the same stories. Because even our understanding of ezer kenegdo is so different.
I would welcome the opportunity to understand things from your point of view and what you were taught, but there isn’t a place here that is welcoming of me.
My understanding of ezer kenegdo comes from my Rabbi.
That’s the difficulty with a Christian worldview. Even though the source text doesn’t support Christian misogyny, Christians still find a way to project it onto the text.
The irony is that traditionalists reject Rabbinical authority when the most popular translation, KJV, is strongly influenced by the Rambam’s commentary.
I asked you to explain what your understanding of everything kenegdo means and you said nothing about what it means. Nothing. I, with full vulnerability and openness, invited you to show me a different worldview and you said your rabbi taught you, without sharing any source information at all or actual beliefs about it, and then you made a really inflammatory response instead, and I’ve really struggled with how to respond to you.
“Even though the source text doesn’t support Christian misogyny, Christian’s still find a way to project it into the text.”
Define Christian misogyny and where it exists in the Bible; you won’t be able to without locating it in the Old Testament. The source text, when translated accurately, supports patriarchal belief systems and practices across the Old Testament. It supports it because when the text is read literally in full view of the historical time period, translated without Jewish or Christian biases, without Jewish traditional beliefs and rabbinical teachings and without Christian traditional beliefs and teachings, it says that a man fucked a woman and ergo the woman became the property of the man. That’s not “a Christian reading misogyny into it,” that’s a translation that is accurate to what the text says. It has nothing to do with Christian beliefs to see the translation from the original text. The only irony is that you cannot see how the Christian translations into English that were softened to fit the Rambam’s commentary still contain the inaccuracies that are at the root of Christian patriarchy. The beliefs and translations that are inaccurate were influenced by the Rambam’s commentary.
My objection to the teachings I met in my upbringing now extends to whatever teachings you received because they’re based on the same source text that has been repeatedly translated according to the belief systems of whomever happens to be translating them, meaning based on the story the translator wishes to tell. You haven’t said or proven anything to dispel my understanding of source texts OR to provide a different worldview that might bring comfort in an understanding of who god is. If anything, you’ve only done exactly what every Christian misogynist has ever done:
Get really mad, yell, make a fuss about how I must be wrong, I’m just reading it wrong, I’m just trying to find an issue instead of listening to and trusting that what you, a man, says is accurate… But in no way whatsoever providing any sources or proof for your arguments beyond saying that your rabbi, another man, says so, that the KJV relied on rabbinical teaching (as if that is a proof when the ultimate source of these lies written in English is there and relied on rabbinical teachings), more men, and being insulting by saying that the problem is Christians reading of the text because we make it bad.
Historical and societal context matters. You haven’t shown or proven anything. You’ve only attacked what you object to in what is presented by arguing that we must be wrong in our beliefs because you say so because rabbis and rabbinical teaching… You could as easily have said because of little green space men for the information you shared. Because you’ve said nothing of substance with any evidence.
You lean on rabbinical teaching and your rabbi’s beliefs, but you’re not telling what they are. You’re not sharing where they come from. You’re only making finger pointing, inflammatory, and judgmental remarks about Christian beliefs and the rejection of rabbinical authority. The rejection of rabbinical authority by Christians is the direct result of the fact that the rabbinical authority does not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah, and it was under the influence of rabbinical authority that Jesus was crucified in the first place. Jesus said that the old law, the law that tied people to atonement for sin through blood sacrifices and that exclusively was for Jews, was accomplished in his death and that the new law was Love. If the Messiah said the old is finished and the new is love, it would be a faithless believer who turn to the rabbinical authority to be tied to the old laws that his death ended. And logically, why would Christians submit to an authority and understanding that couldn’t even recognize the Messiah when they were looking at him and still don’t 2000 years later?
FYI, when I wrote about projected misogyny I was referring to traditionalists, not you.
If you have to FYI on who you’re referring to in projecting misogyny, it should be incredibly clear to you that you were NOT clear in your previous comment that GwenAnn responded to and while it could be seen as saying that about others, it can also be read as being about her or about us, which is obviously how she understood it. That isn’t because of a lack of intelligence on her part but a lack of clarity in yours. Your bad. Not hers.
She said in her reply to you that you refer to sources that she has no access to or knowledge of because you mention sources but never offer them. You’re very quick to attack her for using the only source she has to understand it outside of the pure historical context because you somehow expect her to know of and be able to find the obviously Jewish texts you refer to when (1) those aren’t a part of Christianity and therefore are never brought into anything we have ever encountered and (2) she has also already explained to you that she has been shut down by the Jewish community for not being Jewish enough because of her upbringing.
She told you she wants to know and understand more while being honest about her background and asking for resources. You’re response was to seem to call her reading of the only texts she has misogynist, calling a victim of misogyny misogynistic, referring to information she doesn’t have and you haven’t offered to share, and then attacking her again for her frustration that you have NO problem telling her she’s wrong but you aren’t actually sharing any information, just attacking.
You really don’t get how toxic and abusive that is and that you are knowingly directing it at a survivor of heinous abuse is appalling. I’m not approving your other responses. You may not claim to be a part of a conversation and sharing understanding while failing to share anything for anyone else to understand and simply demanding you are believed while you verbally assault someone who pointed out that you haven’t shared any information and why it is toxic for you, a man, to demand that she just believes you when you have not provided a single source or reference that can be explored, but instead have thrown out unknown words and fallen back on “my rabbi tells me so.”
You should check in with that rabbi of yours. Maybe she can set you straight on how to not be abusive because apparently that hasn’t been learned yet.
Did my other comment go to spam? Or was it just not approved? I wasn’t trying to be antagonistic; I’m legitimately not familiar with that kind of gloss in the Tanakh.
Doing tidbits maybe more our speed anyway. I’m delighted at the fast number of comments. It is a cleansing for most people on top of that. It could be as slow as 2-3 sentences a month. Your background and ability to cut to the quick counts you in if your are willing. 🌹🌹❤️🌹🌹
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Maybe that’s how I’ll do it then: bite sized tidbits so that everyone can absorb and digest without being overwhelmed.
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You will always be a teacher.
The problem with being Jewish and being treated with much more respect and even listened to is simple. The man who raped me 67 years ago was not Jewish. He may have even considered himself a G_d fearing man that went to church every Sunday. He may even have had a family. Being Jewish doesn’t keep you from the horrors that happen.
Nail on the head, Gwen’s Aunt Joan.