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.
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 God.
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 have 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. 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, the exact word used to refer to them was “booty” (namely the King James Version). 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 rape. 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 heinous 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?
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?
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.
*Sexual assault is a crime that impacts people of all ages, genders, and walks of life. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault and you’d like resources for support, here are links to two trusted, Delaware-based organizations through which you can seek help:
From their website: “ContactLifeline strives to provide the highest quality telephone counseling, crisis intervention, information and referral, education and prevention services for persons in crisis and for persons in need of listening services. Additionally, ContactLifeline provides comprehensive statewide services to victims of sexual assault and secondary victims of sexual assault. ContactLifeline crisis responder services are provided by professionally trained and supervised volunteers and professionals who respond anonymously and confidentially to human needs, state-wide, 24 hours a day.”
YWCA of Delaware:
From their website: “The Sexual Assault Response Center (SARC) provides comprehensive, free and confidential rape crisis services to sexual assault survivors aged 12 and older and their non-offending family members, friends and partners throughout the State of Delaware. SARC is committed to providing healing, hope and empowerment to individuals whose lives have been impacted by sexual violence whether the assault happened yesterday or many years ago. If you or someone you care about has been sexually assaulted, reaching out for help can be the first step toward recovery and healing.”
This article was originally published as an opinion piece on DelawareBlack.com. Click here to view it on the site and to explore news, entertainment, events and more in the lovely first state of Delaware:
(…And if it seems ironic that the Young Women’s Christian Association would be added to the list, it doesn’t have to. I commend anyone who’s trying to be part of the solution.)