Can I get an amen? A response to faith-based tyranny over rape survivors

I am so grateful for this post on the Faith, Grace and Hope blog by Pastor Julia of Eagle River, Alaska. In it, she takes to task a certain Pastor Ron Hamman (of Wasilla, Alaska — yes, my home town and that of someone… I just can’t remember the name of right now… you know the one) for his opinion piece published in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.

Hamman uses his newspaper column to essentially use the Bible to refute or debunk the idea of marital rape. For Hamman, marital rape is not only a work of fiction, but to allege such a crime is an act against God because women should not speak out against men. Well, I’ll let him explain:

But even if these accusations are as vast as alleged, there are major problems with them from a Biblical standpoint. For instance, there is the problem of truth. That is, this kind of allegation becomes her word against his word. And while I understand that in Alaska the lone female is able to convict her alleged perpetrator, this goes contrary to the Bible. In the book of Deuteronomy we find the following: “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.”

And then this:

The next question we need to ask is to whom does the body belong? While in our day of feminism it is asserted that a woman’s body is her own. Biblically speaking, this is only true prior to marriage, for in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians we read:

“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”

The truth is that God has given to us physical needs we commonly refer to as a “sex drive,” and he has designed for these to be met within the bounds of marriage. The trouble comes when one spouse or the other decides to exact retaliation against the other because of some offense and withholds him or herself from his or her mate. This is wickedness, and such is a violation of the spirit of marriage on the part of the withholder.

Thus, if these allegations of spousal rape are due to the wife withholding herself in attempt to control or punish her husband, she is out of line with God. And it doesn’t matter how many laws are passed, it will just be another reason why God will not bless America.

Oh no. Oh noooooo. This is exactly the kind of “logic” that turns some survivors of sexual violence away from their faith. Or causes them to condemn Christianity all together. This is the kind of warping of religion that leads sexual violence survivors to build a wall between themselves and their faith in something higher than themselves (whatever form that may take, because this kind of thing does not just happen in Christianity).

But just when it feels like, yet again, someone has not just vilified women in the name of Christianity but actually taken away a woman’s subjectivity and autonomy to boot — a faith leader like Pastor Julia comes in with her blog post:

Ron argues, even if there was forced sex (rape) in a marriage, you need witnesses to prove it according to the biblical standard. Well, Ron, most Christians I know stopped bringing in witnesses to prove the existence (and tearing) of the hymen on the wedding night a while ago. If I don’t have witnesses to that incident, I can continue to claim my virginity, yes? (The existence of my son would, technically, refute it.)

And:

[T]here is NO point where Jesus says you should continue to endure humiliation, bodily harm and subjugation. There is no point where Jesus says turn the other cheek so that your other eye may be blackened. There is no point where Jesus says the God-given gift of sexuality and sexual practice should be torn from you because someone else knows what is best for you. To return to where you are being hurt and demeaned is not forgiveness, but to give up on the promise of new life that God has for all. Freedom in Christ does not mean slavery to someone who claims to love you, but whose actions are otherwise.

Brother Ron, with the witnesses of the readership of this blog, I condemn your use of Scripture to manipulate women- half of God’s human creation. I stand against your argument to allow rape within marriage. I damn your twisting of the freeing word of God to hold people to an idea of marriage that does not promote faith, service or growth in the love of the Lord. Shame on you for putting women down, attempting to remove their joy in their bodies and for condoning violence in marriage.

Have you turned away from your sister in faith when you saw bruises, the origin of which you could guess, because that was “between her and her husband”? Have you sent back a quaking daughter to her father because he was her “covering”? Have you refused to intercede between a woman and her adult son because he had the “equipment” that made him right in God’s eyes and, thus, in yours?

Brother Ron, faith without works is dead and the fruit of your faith is rotten to the core. When you demean women, you dismiss God’s work in them and through them. You destroy their power to raise up strong daughters and sons. You fail completely to follow Jesus’ example of love to all whom he encounters, including those with vaginas.

Hallelujah! This is so powerful to me!

It is so powerful for a leader in the community to stand up for survivors of sexual assault in all forms. And it feels even more meaningful when that leader is a faith leader. Being a survivor of sexual violence is an experience that can cause a lot of emotions, including shame, fear, anger, vulnerability and more. Having faith in a higher power can be a healing experience. It is one way, out of many, that a survivor can find solace, strength, courage and hope. I am not saying it is the only place to find those things, but to have that avenue cut off — in the name of the Bible, no less — is hurtful and deeply shaming to those survivors who would seek that path. And to publish such an opinion in a newspaper only serves to allow a multitude of others to condemn sexual violence survivors and to deny the truth of their stories. This hurts everyone, regardless of their affiliation with religion or faith!

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