Jesus, John Wayne and #MeToo Warnings We Missed

The latest issue of the Journal of Urban Mission just went live. The theme is #ChurchToo, which was enough to get me interested.

I contributed two articles. One is a double review of Kristin Du Mez’s two booksher bestselling Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (J&JW) and her previous book, A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism. Katharine Bushnell’s story reveals the fact that #ChurchToo has a long history and sheds light on what, at least in part, motivated Du Mez to tackle J&JW.

Both books are eye-opening, painful to read at times, but exposing destructive realities we need to face both inside the church and beyond. Both deserve to be widely read.

My second article, entitled, “The Gospel versus Patriarchy: Ruth and Esther have Something to Say” features two biblical narratives where male power and female vulnerability collide with very different outcomes.

In Esther’s story corrupt male power leads to the sex trafficking of young girls (including Esther) that loved ones like Mordecai were helpless to prevent. In Ruth’s story we learn twice that she is risking her safety by venturing out alone (which she does) on Naomi’s behalf. Boaza very powerful man in Bethlehemdisplays a counter-cultural gospel brand of masculinity and employs his male power to empower Ruth. The Ruth/Boaz story points to Jesus, the true antidote to the #ChurchToo crisis. It is exactly what we need more of in the church today.

Check out these and other #MeToo related articles while you’re on the website.

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ARDEN UPDATE #22: Whiplash!

Arden is not having surgery this morning as planned. I can’t believe I just typed that. The surgeon postponed the procedure to run a couple more tests and make sure she’s in good shape for the surgery.

Arden’s birthday party was a grand success, even with the cloud overhead of the surgery scheduled for today. She, family, and so many family were bracing for the procedure. And then this news.

It feels like whiplash!

Already we’re hearing supportive messages from friends and family: “Better safe than sorry.” “This is not a coincidence. God wants her super strong at the time of the surgery . . . this has to be for the better.”

So this morning, Arden and Avery are back in school; family members from out-of-state are changing flights and heading home; and I’ll be leaving Wednesday morning.

Thank you for praying. I’m grateful that the heavens are already hearing her name as so many of you are praying. Please don’t stop. God’s hand is on her and in this sudden shift in plans.

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ARDEN UPDATE #21: Another Milestone . . . Actually Two

Our Arden is turning seven next week. It’s an important milestone. She was four when doctors discovered she had severe hip dysplasia. Two surgeries later, at least three spica casts, lots of physical therapy, and a determination to ride her bike and her scooter, and run around with her sister Avery and other children, Arden has been a champ throughout.

[Search this website for “ARDEN UPDATES” to retrace her story.]

We couldn’t be more proud of her or more grateful for praying friends and so many who helped her GoFundMe succeed.

Tuesday, May 18, is another important milestone. Arden will have surgery at Akron Children’s Hospital to remove the metal on her femur that enabled her to heal and get back on her feet. As hard as it is to face another surgeryfor her, her mommy, and the rest of the familythis procedure signals hard earned progress.

Please join us in praying for a smooth and successful procedure and a speedy recovery.

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No more Cinderella. We need hope!

“. . . this harmless looking little story . . . will awaken us to a whole new way of being human that will reconfigure our lives and leave us longing for more. . . . and will inject rich hope, purpose, and significance into the veins of the most God-forsaken, hollowed-out human soul.”
—————————————————Finding God in the Margins

It doesn’t require any arm twisting to get me to talk about the book of Ruth. I’m always ready to liberate Ruth from the traditional Cinderella damsel in distress just “waiting for her Boaz” and to get to the heart of the story. The book of Ruth is a paradigm changer.

So I certainly didn’t need time to “think about it” when The Revd Bruce Thompson of Lincolnshire Methodist Church UK invited me to participate in a webinar April 28 on the book of Ruth with author Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism UK and Rabbi of New North London Synagogue.

Revd Bruce had recently hosted a webinar on the coronavirus pandemic back in November 2020, inviting me to be a presenter with Rabbi Jonathan and Professor Ted Fuller of the University of Lincoln, UK and UNESCO Chair on Responsible Foresight for Sustainable Development.

It was a huge honor to participate and unforgettable to hear from these two men. I will never forget hearing Rabbi Jonathan talk about ministry to those suffering and losing loved-ones from Covid-19. Learning about UNESCO’s efforts was truly heartening as well.

I can hardly wait for this next conversation. If you are interested in joining this ZOOM webinar, the welcome mat is out.

To attend and receive ZOOM info, contact Alison: 

Feel free to invite others.

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“A grounding and crucial read”

Sometimes a book finds you at just the right time in your life. 

I’d known of Carolyn Custis James’ book, Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Womensince it was first published 10 years ago. But it was one of those books that stayed on my ‘I should read that someday’ list. Maybe I wasn’t ‘ready’ to wrestle with the global issues I suspected it’d raise. Maybe I thought it’d demand too much of me in navigating the complicated world of women’s roles in a male-dominated world. So I put it off. 

Until now. And talk about timing. Five months ago, I started working for an Australian-founded, global relief and development organisation whose primary mission is to “be love and end poverty”. Every day I feel the enormous privilege it is to engage in discussions about how we can join God in the work He’s doing in places like Nepal, Bangladesh and Cambodia, where we partner with various Christian agencies on the ground. These agencies provide a range of opportunities to help women, children and men – regardless of status or religion – to emerge from poverty. To flourish. They organise workshops on gardening, hygiene, fish farming, education, savings clubs, etc, in impoverished rural areas. 

Most of us in the West can’t begin to appreciate the challenges these families face every day because of the complicated impact of poverty, made worse now because of COVID. Nor can we appreciate just how much of a lifeline humanitarian efforts such as these actually can be throughout the world. Yet even before the 2020 pandemic, our partners were on the ground teaching families daily hygiene to avoid disease and how to grow their own crops when food shortages took a plunge in already vulnerable cultures. They had a step up for what 2020 brought.

In other words, God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, whose heart is turned toward the poor and marginalised, has always been providing for His most perfect design – humans – through, well, other humans. 

Enter Half the Church – an inspiring breath of fresh air. Custis James’ compelling writing and solid theology bring these issues together. She begins each chapter with a story from the Majority World – child brides/widows, sex trafficking, horrific abuses imposed on girls and women daily all before 2010. Sadly, they hold true still in 2021 – and so her book remains a grounding and crucial read today.

Custis James cites frequently the impact of another ground-breaking book, Half the Sky, which clearly informed her thinking around these issues. Kristof and WuDunn’s book exposed the atrocities gender inequality brought in the new millennium – many of which continue today. That book was a confronting and personal wake up call for Custis James, giving the American author an opportunity to explore a deeper and more robust theological response to God’s global vision for women.

At its foundation, her book centres on what is often missing in daily ministry and global mission: creation theology.

“When God created human beings in his ‘image’ and ‘likeness’, he was designating us as his representatives on the earth” Custis James writes.

“Instead of running things directly himself, he chose us as his intermediaries to run things here in this world. As his image bearers, we speak and act on his behalf. This is not only about Christians. Every human being is God’s image bearer – granted the highest possible rank of all of God’s creatures. Every human being has a strategic role in God’s purposes in the world. Every human being possesses a derived significance – grounded in God himself. And every human being is summoned to the highest of all possible aspirations – not to be God, but ‘to be like’ God himself. God is the standard for who we are and what our mission is in this world. By pursuing this loftiest of all goals, we move toward true flourishing as human beings.”

In eight well-researched and thoughtful chapters (though with some obviously American perspectives), Custis James provides a meaty and inviting theology for Kingdom work, regardless of gender: That leadership is about bending down to serve. That women and men were always meant to minister together in what she calls a “Blessed Alliance”. That from the creation theology put forth in Genesis, we find a blueprint for understanding our identity as women and men. That women are (as the Hebrew called Eve and also refers to God throughout Scripture) ezers, a word most often used in a military context throughout Scripture as warriors. God is a shield, a defense, a watch over his people, an ezer. For Eve to have been called the same is to see God’s identity reflected in – and for – her.

“He deploys the ezer to break the man’s aloneness by soldiering with him wholeheartedly and at full strength for God’s gracious kingdom. The man needs everything she brings to their global mission.”

Yet make no mistake: This is not a feminist’s handbook any more than it is an enemy of men. Custis James’ chapters on the ‘Blessed Alliance’ of (men and women working together) and the Bride of Christ are riveting stuff, anchored deep in the Biblical narrative, giving juicy Scriptural illustrations, and calling all Christ-followers to dig deep into the mutual power of God’s blessing beyond gender, especially if we want to care and advocate for those fellow ‘image-bearers’ living on the margins. Their justice, after all, is ours; their hope one we all share, because both are rooted in Christ’s crucifixion and raised again for the opportunity of new life available to all throughout the world. 

And while Custis James sneaks close to ‘the issue’ (of ordination), she respectfully explores both sides of the ‘Great Debate’ about women’s roles within the church. But she goes way beyond taking a stand – her vision is much bigger than narrow-minded certainties that too many denominations hold about gender roles. 

Rather, Custis James offers a much-needed Kingdom strategy in which all are called to participate – a perspective I didn’t know how much I needed until I finally devoured her book.  And because she majors on the majors, not the minors, of Scripture, we see the ‘indisputable’ truths in the lives of role models like Eve, Naomi, Boaz, Ruth, Esther, Mordecai, Mary, Joseph, and others, that reaffirm their identity as ‘image-bearers’ and vessels of God’s work. Together they point to Christ the King. In other words, the whole body of Christ is to do the whole work of the Kingdom to serve all of God’s image bearers around the globe, especially those in poverty. 

As Custis James put it 10 years ago, in a challenge that rings just as true in 2021:

“There is much work to be done. Earth is emitting a distress signal we cannot ignore. Suffering and injustice are rampant, and they are our business. God has called us. We are ready.”

Review by Jo Kadlecek. Author, reporter and teacher for many years, Jo Kadlecek is now the communication manager for Baptist World Aid Australia. She and her husband and their dog Clark Kent live in Sydney, Australia. Former Gordon College students may remember her as a Journalism Professor at their alma mater.

This review is republished with Jo Kadlecek’s permission. The original article was published by Sight Magazine in Victoria, Australia.

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Even more reason to dismantle patriarchy!

You will need to sit down to watch this video.

Please know, I am well aware that both Médine Keener‘s presentation above titled “Abuse of Women in Africa” and mine, “Dismantling Patriarchy and Recovering the Blessed Alliance,” are each 40 minutes, and you are super busy. That said, the issues we are raising are impacting the lives of women and girls both globally and here at home, and undoubtedly someone you know.

At the Society for Pentecostal Studies Conference last weekend, Médine‘s presentation preceded mine. She couldn’t have raised the widespread harm of patriarchy more clearly. It’s a battle she faced personally and continues to fight on behalf of others, although, by God’s grace, she is free and flourishing. You will love her heart!

It’s also a good reminder that if #MeToo and #ChurchToo have taught us anything, violence and abuse of women is at epidemic levels in the United States. As Christians, we have work to do.

So watch in segments, but please watch both presentations!

Médine Moussounga Keener, Ph.D. (University of Paris 7) spent eighteen months as a war refugee in Congo Brazzaville. She has firsthand experience of violence against women and the plight of African women. Médine serves as Pastoral Care Coordinator at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. She writes and speaks on the issues of racism, ethnicity, and reconciliation in Africa and the U.S.

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Dismantling Patriarchy and Recovering the Blessed Alliance

Just as Covid won’t go away without effective vaccines . . . . As Christians, we cannot in good conscience adequately address this global crisis of Violence Against Women without exploring causative factors that increase female vulnerability and allow violence against women to occur within our ranks.————————Carolyn Custis James

This past weekend the Society of Pentecostal Studies held their 50th Annual Meeting at The King’s University in Southlake, Texas. It was the SPS’s second attempt to hold this conference. SPS’s 2020 conference location was Southern California, which at the exact same time became the USA’s biggest Coronavirus hotspot. The conference had to be cancelled. But the conference theme lived on.

Conference planners stuck to their original theme and moved it into 2021: This is My Body: Violence Against Women. Only, with the Covid-19 pandemic still with us, the 2021 conference would be hybrid.

In explaining the urgency of the crisis of Violence Against Women, Program Chair, Professor Melissa Archer, Assoc Professor of Biblical Studies at Southeastern University, referenced a 2006 Study of the United Nations Secretary-General, “Ending Violence Against Women: From Words to Actions.” The report declared that

“eliminating violence against women remains one of the most serious challenges of our time. Global statistics show that 7 out of 10 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. In the United States, more than 600 are raped or sexually assaulted every day. . . . The pervasiveness of violence against women across the boundaries of nation, culture, race, class and religion points to its roots in patriarchy the systemic domination of women by men.

My plenary presentation (below) reflects my current focus on the root causes of the #MeToo/#ChurchToo pandemic and patriarchy in particular. I draw on what I learned while researching Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World and the conclusion I drew that ultimately went into that book:

Patriarchy is not the Bible’s message. Rather, it is the fallen cultural backdrop that sets off in the strongest relief the radical nature and potency of the Bible’s gospel message. We need to understand that world and patriarchy in particular—much better than we do—if we hope to grasp the radical countercultural message of the Bible.

Malestrom features the stories of men in the Bible we all too often overlook. These men put on display a whole new gospel brand of masculinity that is both freeing and empowering for men in ways that reflect Jesus, bless the lives of others, and give hard evidence that Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world.

Posted in #ChurchToo, #MeToo, Activism, Blessed Alliance, Books, Covid-19, Malestrom, Patriarchy, Violence against women | Tagged | 1 Comment

Pursuing the Pilgrim Principle

One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s A New Gospel for Women: Katherine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism.

Professor of History and Gender at Calvin College, Dr. Du Mez wrote this book before her latest Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (which I’ve also read).

Although these two books may seem to address very different subjects, they are profoundly related.

It actually makes perfect sense that a book about the long-lost Dr. Katherine Bushnell and her groundbreaking work as an activist, medical doctor, and biblical scholar on behalf of women’s rights would lead Du Mez to write her next book about patriarchy and John Wayne

In the U.S. and globally, Bushnell encountered the brutal oppression and sexual abuse of women and girls. According to Bushnell, far too often the men who perpetrated these crimes—even Christian men—often did so with impunity, continuing to be revered in their communities as respectable Christian gentlemen.(Sound familiar?) It launched her quest to probe more deeply into the Bible’s message for women. Questions she was asking inevitably raised the subject of patriarchy, which is the topic Du Mez tackles in Jesus and John Wayne. Both books are important, eye-opening, and profoundly relevant for American Christians at this particular moment in time. Do we wrestle enough with how our Christianity transforms how we think and live and treat other image bearers? Does it set us apart or do we just blend in? How truly do we embody the example and teachings of Jesus? 

Readers should read both books!

Don’t let the word feminism (patriarchy either, for that matter) put you off. Feminism isn’t a four-letter word. It’s time we had a long-overdue thoughtful conversation on the subject, especially given the fact that Christian women staunchly committed to Scripture were pioneers of feminism. Du Mez will doubtless surprise many readers as she delves into the Christian roots of that movement.

So be brave, buckle up, and read both!

I had only gotten to Chapter 2 of Bushnell’s story when the quote below stopped me in my tracks. That’s where Du Mez is interacting with well-known missiologist Professor Andrew Finlay Walls‘ book, The Missionary Movement in Christian History. She’s drawing specifically from his chapter titled Gospel as Prisoner and Liberator when she writes:

Drawing on Christian history and theology, Dr. Walls explains that within the Christian gospel itself reside opposing tendencies: an “indigenizing principle” and a “pilgrim principle.” The gospel is always incarnated, Walls argues, received in a particular time and place and “indigenized” in particular cultural settings. Yet at the same time, the gospel has a transformative element; followers of Christ are meant to be transformed, set apart from the culture in which they live. 

Then comes this quote from Professor Walls that I’ll be thinking about long after I finish the book:

“Along with the indigenizing principle which makes his faith a place to feel at home, . . . the Christian inherits the pilgrim principle, which whispers to him that he has no abiding city and warns him that to be faithful to Christ will put him out of step with his society; for that society never existed, in East or West, ancient time or modern, which could absorb the word of Christ painlessly into its system.”

Posted in #ChurchToo, #MeToo, abuse of power, Activism, Books, Patriarchy, Power and Privilege, Theology | 1 Comment

#MeToo Story 3: King David’s Daughter Tamar

Her Face in Her Hands:
Tamar’s Story as a Blessing during #MeToo/#ChurchToo

2 Samuel 13
Written by Amy Lineburg Knöttner

The Patriarchal Backdrop

As the first-born son, he held the the position of highest value in the family, and yet Amnon wanted more. His half-sister Tamar, by contrast, had no power. At most, she was a bargaining chip. As a virgin, she could be sold through marriage to benefit her family. Her only value came from her marriageability: her virginity. Nursing his lust for her, Amnon made himself sick. His unhealthy desire was to take the one thing of value from the most vulnerable person in his family.

Only one man in the story notices Amnon’s sickness and, probably seeking his favor, tries to find the cause. Jonadab is another member of Tamar’s family. He does more than enable Amnon; he methodically designs the rape of Tamar. For Jonadab, his desire to get brownie points with the prince rates far more important than a vulnerable person. His culture taught Jonadab that Tamar was of less value than his own needs.

King David acts blind to his son Amnon’s psychological state and is not too hard to manipulate. He approves a special request that should have raised red flags. Tamar is “asked” to wait on her brother, to prepare the food in front of him, and to feed him “with her own hands.” David doesn’t seem to think twice about making this happen for Amnon. Tamar, herself, must have known something was wrong with Amnon’s relationship with her. But, in her position, she would have had no choice but to do what her father asked.

Amnon takes advantage of his power over everyone in his house. Once Tamar prepares food for him, he manipulates the situation again. He refuses the food and orders the servants to leave. Amnon is now alone in his house with his sister, but that’s not enough. He calls her to his bedroom. There, Tamar is finally able to resist verbally and gives an impassioned plea for him to stop. She uses all the cultural arguments that could protect her, including even begging him to marry her. 

This moment seems to be the pinnacle of sickness in the patriarchal culture in which Tamar is mired: she finds marriage to her sexually sick brother more desirable (and appropriate) than being a survivor of rape. The latter would mean that her culture would see her as “damaged goods.” She would no longer be able to marry. She would no longer be considered a valuable commodity in her father’s home. 

Amnon wants instant gratification and is not interested in protecting her in any way. He not only rapes her, but throws her out of the house. This removes the one protection his powerful position could have afforded his victim.

King David’s reaction provides a foil for how Tamar herself responded to the abuse. David is angry, but does nothing, showing that his firstborn son is more important than his daughter (as some manuscripts explicitly state). Amnon must be protected at all cost. Most likely this was not just to preserve the reputation of the family, but for security and financial reasons as well. A break with Amnon could have even more repercussions than it did with another son, Absalom.

David chooses to protect the abuser and looks away. In stark contrast, Tamar looks directly at Amnon, calls him for who he is—a “wicked fool”—and, after his abuse of her, does nothing to hide it. In an act of courage that surely meant her reputation was even more quickly ruined, she tears her robes, puts ashes on her head, and walks away “with her face in her hands.”

At this moment in the text, we see the narrator’s perspective as clearly as a spotlight. The heart of the story is in focus. We linger respectfully with the abuse survivor. We are drawn into the details of this moment as if we are lamenting with Tamar. Instead of our gaze returning to the most powerful, the lens of the story focuses solely on the wronged.

The Genesis 1-2 Backdrop

Re-reading the story while searching for the design God lays out in Genesis 1-2 for male-female relationships is an exercise in heartbreak. We see each of the men denying their true natures as reflections of God. Instead they choose to enable and design evil, and follow their basest desires (even when it hurts other image-bearers). They turn a blind eye to sin, protect abuse instead of defending the victim, and commit murder in retribution. Amnon, Jonadab, David, and Absalom each deny their imago dei for a short-term benefit to themselves.

While the men turn from their God-given design, Tamar’s behavior stands out. She strives to support and empower healthy decisions by those in her family who have complete power over her. It’s astonishing to watch her interact with these men in a way designed to protect them from their worst selves. She tries to preserve as much of God’s goodness in their family as she can. What a great definition of an ezer-warrior! Tamar holds up her end of the bargain, but, through no fault of her own, she misses out on the joy of a Blessed Alliance with men living out their calling as well.

Tamar would have joined her voice with ours. She was abused by several men with power over her. She was denied the minimum protection from the repercussions of the abuse. A family member dreamed up the scheme to bring her to the most vulnerable place she could be: alone in a bedroom with a man who was sick with a twisted desire for her. Her brother, the first-born prince, raped her. Her father, the king, protected the abuser. 

Tamar’s #MeToo

I remember when I saw the #MeToo hashtag for the first time. It took about thirty seconds for me to sign on to Twitter, which I hadn’t used for months, and post my own #MeToo tweet. I didn’t think, I just reacted. It’s so rare to be asked about violation, to be asked if it’s happened to you, too. And even if it was anonymous, I wanted to speak up. Because, sometimes, all of our voices come together to make a sound that might be heard.

If it had happened today, Tamar’s story wouldn’t be just one more #MeToo tweet. The attack on the daughter of the king would be profiled by Ronan Farrow for the New Yorker. Retelling her story as if she were the daughter of the highest ruler in the USA hits almost too close to home. We all know the former “king” of our nation is himself credibly accused of rape and many other atrocities against the most vulnerable.

Overlooking Tamar

Tamar’s story often gets blended into the story of Absalom and the story of his feud with King David. Raised a white, evangelical, Protestant, fundamentalist Christian, my exposure to Tamar’s story was so limited, that I had her confused with another Tamar, who was also abused by multiple family members within a patriarchal system. I wish our ignorance of her story were just because the story of Absalom hanging from a tree by his hair is more memorable (and somehow less gruesome) to tell in Sunday School. 

But it’s more than that. Crimes against women have not been given their appropriate place in our teaching of the Bible. We brush aside stories like Tamar’s, telling ourselves that we couldn’t have much in common with Amnon, who lusted after a family member. We want to avoid noticing that we often reflect the imago of Amnon. We let ourselves be consumed and led by a desire for something other than what God had provided for us. 

Stories like Tamar’s need to be told in our churches and ministries. They help us develop a godly perspective on power and sexuality. They remind us of what our true calling looks like. We can learn to live out the Blessed Alliance, instead of going along with the patriarchal system which should be a foil against which our behavior stands out. 

Abuse of Power Resulting in the Abuse of Tamar

Sometimes knowing a story too well numbs us. It’s easy to show up with pre-formed opinions about characters like David and Absalom. Separating the actions from the actors shows us clearly what abuses of power happened in the story of Tamar: 

  • Manipulating situations and people for a personal (and destructive) purposes
  • Not questioning or paying attention to inappropriate behavior or requests that are unusual
  • After abuse, not using power to protect and restore the survivor
  • After abuse, not apologizing, being transparent, or getting help
  • Protecting the abuser (this could’ve been both David and Absalom’s sin, depending on how you read Absalom’s behavior and comment: “Keep quiet for now, since he’s your brother. Don’t you worry about it.”)

Blessing through Tamar’s Story

Tamar’s story echoes the ongoing tragic sound of God’s image being abandoned to fulfill desires in our own strength—desires including power, sexual fulfillment, protection, favor, honor, respect, and vengeance. It gives us a foil of destructive behavior, against which we can check ourselves and learn what not to do. 

The act of retelling the story in the #MeToo/#ChurchToo context gives us a chance to get uncomfortable with the truth that we are prone to abuse while we are called to be protectors. Tamar’s story calls imago dei-reflecting women and men to notice, preach, teach, and lead ourselves to protect and honor all, including the vulnerable. We can not promulgate the patriarchal paradigm that caused her story to be possible in the first place.

Tamar’s story trains us to listen for the cry of the vulnerable. Her words and actions model what survivors may look like in our midst. She shows us a way forward: to look for those crying out like she did, with their heads in their hands. We can watch for those who remain desolate, hiding in their family’s home, kept silent by an ongoing abuse of power. Let’s follow her example and counter with actions that provide hope and healing for the survivor, hope and healing for the abuser, hope and healing for families who have protected abusers, and hope and healing for power structures that don’t reflect God. 

In my own ministry context, this looks like sharing more resources with our ministry partners. I hope to add to our training a component on how to identify potential survivors among the pre-teen kids in our mentoring programs. I’m personally inspired by the way the biblical text focuses on Tamar and her lament. I intend to spend more time sitting with those, including myself, who have suffered abuse.

Tamar’s story, like every survivor’s story, is honored by God through the tears that He collects, through the death and resurrection of His Son, and through His justice that will one day roll down like a river (Amos 5:24). In the meantime, we can use what didn’t happen in Tamar’s story to inspire us to provide justice to other survivors and to fight against the very thing that causes abuse to happen in the first place: trying to fulfill for ourselves what should only come from God.

Published here with permission.

Amy’s article is the third of three student papers exploring a #MeToo biblical narrative. See my introduction to these papers, “Confronting the Bible’s #MeToo Stories” CJ

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#MeToo Story 2: Bathsheba

Image by Jeff Juit from Pixabay

Bathsheba’s #MeToo Story and King David’s Crimes

2 Samuel 11:1—12:14; Psalm 51
Written by Yeohan Ko

People can see various kinds of sexual abuse in the Bible, but I think that the most horrible case is what happened to Bathsheba.

She is the wife of Uriah, who is a faithful officer of King David. However, David watched her bathing, and he fell in love with her. He had to give up her because she was already married, but he forced her to have a sexual relationship with him. She could not reject David because he was the king of the nation. She received sexual abuse by her husband’s boss, but she could not say anything because she was afraid of the king’s authority and the destruction of the relationship between her husband and her. She could not disclose the horrible affair to her husband or any other people, so she kept it secret. Unfortunately, she was pregnant because of the affair by David. She disclosed her pregnant to David but not to Uriah. Surprisingly, David decided to hide his scandal by various schemes. However, his faithful subordinate was not caught in his traps. Finally, David conspired with General Joab and made Uriah die on the battlefield. By killing Uriah, David could hide his horrible sin from people in the kingdom. Bathsheba could not stop David’s evil deed and the death of her husband. She knew David’s sinful mind. On the contrary, people knew David’s merciful mind because he was to take care of the widow and the baby. By Bathsheba’s silence, David was able to obtain praise from people and hide his sin. Because she did not say anything, David, the kingdom, and Bathsheba herself could live in the kingdom peacefully.

#MeToo story today

Is it true peace? Is it just an ancient story? No, it is a false peace, and it is happening in the current churches. She received sexual abuse, but she could not claim anything. The victim had no power and no helper, whereas the assailant had the biggest authority in the kingdom and a lot of supporters. Also, she had known that the culprit was loved by God. This meant that God could be her enemy if she became the opponent of David. She had no chance of winning against the criminal, so she had to keep silence.

This affair is not unusual in the current society and church. Likewise, by the abuse of power, many women cannot say anything against the authorities. Many pastors and priests who have to lead and encourage people are killing many women spiritually. Unfortunately, they are protected by their associations even though the victims are individuals. The corrupted churches are protected by strong protectors just as David was. Therefore, the victims also have to gather to be against the evil group and disclose the hidden evils. I hope that the movement of #MeToo stories can defeat the evil people.

#MeToo story biblically

To make the world peaceful truly, people need to understand the Bible correctly. People can see the patriarchal cultural background and polygamy (which is based on the discrimination of women) in the Bible. So they tend to think that it is good before God, but that is incorrect. God permitted these cultural habits, but it is not what God wanted the people to do. Women could not refute the male-dominant society because they knew that women could not live without their husbands in a harsh society. However, men should recognize the fair relationship between men and women by knowing the right interpretation of the Bible.

According to Genesis Chapter 1-2, first of all, both a man and a woman are the image of God. Thus, the female status is at the same level as a male. Secondarily, “ezer” means a warrior rather than a helper. This means that a woman is not a supporter of a man but a soldier of the same level as a man. It is a very interesting interpretation for me. Although I still believe that God made women as a helper of men, I understand that the Bible does not disgrace women, and men must not disgrace women. For example, “ezer” is also used for God in the Old Testament. If men disgrace women due to the word “ezer,” they must disgrace God, too. I believe that women are respectable, and they have different roles from men. Above all, I realized that I have to fight against the Christians who discriminate against women by using the Bible verse or church authority. Just as Jesus defeated the Pharisees, who used badly the Bible verses, the movement of the biblical #MeToo stories can defeat the corrupted churches and bring true peace. 

#MeToo story in Japan

In Japan, where I lived, the movement is not popular, and the discrimination against women remains strongly although the circumstances for women are beginning to improve recently. According to the World Economic Forum’s global gender equality rankings for 2018, Japan is 110th in 149 countries in the world.[1] For instance, people in Japan often hear the bad news of sexual harassment on TV, which especially happens in workplaces. Also, groping on a train is happening a lot in Japan, too. However, many Japanese women put up with the harassing without saying anything. In fact, some brave women who disclosed sexual harassment were labeled with bad reputations by other people.[2] It will take more time for Japanese to accept the #MeToo movement.

Overlooking sexual abuse caused by wrong thoughts is based on “male-dominated society,” which is derived from patriarchal culture and a Japanese traditional concept: “Kenka ryoseibai.” “Kenka ryoseibai” means that when people have a problem, both parties have bad causes. In other words, it means “In a quarrel, both parties are to blame,” and “It takes two to tango.” Thus, some people think that not only the male assailant but also the female victims have a problem. Similarly, the children of the bullying victims are scolded by teachers, and the victims involved in certain affairs by terrorists are also blamed by mass media. Therefore, in the case of sexual harassment, social recognition against harassment is still weak, and many men still cannot understand the severity of sexual harassment in Japan.

In the past, I did not understand the importance of the sexual abuse problem, either. To protect myself from any false charge related to sexual abuse as a man, I followed many helpful precautions I heard when I was a graduate student. For example, I must not take the elevator if only one woman takes the same elevator. Plus, I have to keep opening the door of the room if only one woman is in the same room. Additionally, when I take a crowded train, I ought to keep putting my hands up in order not to be suspected as a groper. Some people recommended me putting a gay men’s magazine in my bag to exhibit indifference toward women. Thus, I was interested in just how to protect myself from sexual abuse problems, but I was not interested in women who received sexual harassment.

Unfortunately, in Japan people treat women badly who suffer sexual abuse—they regard them as defiled and sinful. Few people protect them in Japanese society. For example, according to a certain woman who suffered sexual abuse, she had to explain in the details to a man in the hospital and the police station, although they were not cooperative. Moreover, she had to fight with the assailant in court, and her family and she were frightened against bad reputations and threats every day.[3] Some women were encouraged by the movement of #MeToo, but Japanese society did not accept it. Many women cannot disclose their #MeToo story because they do not want to be treated by others as a dirty woman. The reason for the underestimation of #MeToo is due to the patriarchal cultural background like many other countries, so the Japanese society is still based on the discrimination of women.

#MeToo story in my future ministry

The #MeToo movement should be expanded biblically. It is because humans are not worthy to trust. Unfortunately, even pastors and churches focus on protecting themselves rather than helping victims. It does not mean that all churches are doubtful, but it is difficult to discern the difference between a good church and a bad church. Consequently, secular people are not trustworthy to trust in, either. All men, including pastors, should know that every man has the possibility to be voluntarily or involuntarily the sexual abuser like David, so what people can depend on is only the Bible. Therefore, they ought to keep the Bathsheba story in their minds. Believers should not blindly trust a pastor because they should trust in the Bible rather than human pastors, as I mentioned above.

Finally, after I graduate from the seminary, I will come back to Japan as a pastor or missionary. When I preach the gospel at church, I would like to teach believers about sexual abuse problems in both the Bible and in current churches and society. I should not forget the importance of openness in ministry. I also have to be punished by God if I sin before God. Even if I have to quit my ministry, I would like to disclose everything because our God is the righteous God. I believe no one can hide anything before God, although they can hide the truth from people until the end. I would like to support the biblical movement of #MeToo so that people in Japan will believe in God through the movement. I hope that God uses the Bible’s #MeToo stories to have a big impact on people who underestimate sexual abuse, just as David realized the bigness of his sin and repented before God when confronted by the Prophet Nathan.

Published here with permission.

Yeohan’s article is the second of three student papers exploring a #MeToo biblical narrative. See my introduction to these papers, “Confronting the Bible’s #MeToo Stories” CJ

[1] JIJI, “Japan rises four places to lowly 110th in WEF’s global gender equality rankings,” The japan times NEWS, <> (November 11, 2019)

[2] Yuko Kato, “#MeToo Japan: What happened when women broke their silence,” BBC NEWS, <>(November 11, 2019)

[3] Alastair Himmer, “Japanese women confront grim taboo by saying ‘me too,’ ” The Jakarta Post, <> (November 11, 2019)

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