Thursday, December 29, 2011

Biblical Condemnation of Rape and other Acts of Misogyny

I recently posted a link to a video playlist by Mariano Grinbank regarding Atheism and Rape (the link is at the end of this post). A reader, named Mark, began asking some interesting questions but he is more concerned with how Christians understand how the Bible condemns misogyny and rape. He has been very cordial and respectful so I think his  latest comment deserves a post of it's own since it's not really on topic with the original post. I've taken his last comment and will respond. My words are in red and his are in black. And quoted scriptures will be bolded black font.

I'm going to break my response into two parts; one to examin the notion that the Bible provides a workable moral system that prohibits rape and FGM, and a second to examine wether secular haumanism provides a system.

Fair enough. 

I've challenged many apologists to provide a biblical basis for why rape/FGM should be considered wrong, and so far none have done so. The most common replies have been evasive responses like yours, i.e the "biblical-silence-equals-prohibition" response or the "against-the-vibe-of-the-bible" response.

I'm going to just assume that Mark has simply not been exposed to such evidence for how we know that the Bible condemns and does not condone rape and just provide some helpful resources. I wrote a summary post of resources called Does the Bible Condone Rape? and one of the links on it that I must point out is Mariano Grinbank's parsed essay, Atheism, the Bible, Rape, and Dan Barker. Mark has brought up specific scriptures and although Mariano addresses these, I will address them here too. 

Firstly the "no passages saying it is a good idea" defence. I agree nowhere does the bible state a position on FGM (although, as seen below, in many verses the bible gives a thumbs-up to rape). However, neither does the bible say that it's a good idea to shave, drive a car, exercise, get an education or wash your hands after defecating. Because there are no passages saying it's a bad idea, would you say they are wrong.

Pointing out that God does not mention Female Genital Mutilation does not equate with saying it is right. The Bible also doesn't say "Don't stand underneath a tree when it falls", but I am confident that we shouldn't. Instead of looking at what the Bible does not say about FGM or what the Bible records what happened to women, why not look at what it says about how women should be treated!

Ultimately, you are making a claim that Christianity provides a framework for superior objective values. To back that up, you need to show that show that the bible provides unambiguous guidance in cases of rape/FGM, otherwise you are just using your subjective moral opinion. Where do you get these subjective opinions from. From secular hyumanism, which is informed by principles of the Enlightenment.

Before Mark goes as far as saying that the Bible does not provide a framework for  repudiating rape, Female Genital Mutilation,  or misogyny, let's look at the scriptures he uses and I will later give the reasons why I know the Bible is against such behavior and attitudes.

Secondly, it is not at all obvious from biblical teachings on the treatment of women that rape is wrong. To put it mildly, the bible is a cesspit of nauseating misogyny.

 Actually, I think that was quite blunt..

Briefly, the bible describes women as unclean (Lev 15:19),

Does it really? In context?

19 “‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.- Lev 15:19

"Unclean" in this context is talking about ceremonial uncleanness - not worthless or bad.

haughty (Isiah 3:16)

Is Mark, thinking that Isaiah is saying that all women are haughty?

 16 The LORD says,
   “The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
   flirting with their eyes,
strutting along with swaying hips,
   with ornaments jingling on their ankles. - Isaiah 3:16

Nope. Not all women - he is referring to the women contemporaneous to him  who live in Jerusalem.

and untrustworthy (Numbers 30:1),

 1 Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the LORD commands: 2 When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.
 3 “When a young woman still living in her father’s household makes a vow to the LORD or obligates herself by a pledge 4 and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand. 5 But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the LORD will release her because her father has forbidden her.
 6 “If she marries after she makes a vow or after her lips utter a rash promise by which she obligates herself 7 and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her, then her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. 8 But if her husband forbids her when he hears about it, he nullifies the vow that obligates her or the rash promise by which she obligates herself, and the LORD will release her.
 9 “Any vow or obligation taken by a widow or divorced woman will be binding on her.
 10 “If a woman living with her husband makes a vow or obligates herself by a pledge under oath 11 and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. 12 But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the LORD will release her. 13 Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself. 14 But if her husband says nothing to her about it from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or the pledges binding on her. He confirms them by saying nothing to her when he hears about them. 15 If, however, he nullifies them some time after he hears about them, then he must bear the consequences of her wrongdoing.”
 16 These are the regulations the LORD gave Moses concerning relationships between a man and his wife, and between a father and his young daughter still living at home.- Numbers 30
So is there anything in the text that says  women can't make a vow or an oath because women can't be trusted? No - not one word. So why is it possible for a husband to nullify an oath made by his wife or for a father for her daughter? Simple. Because of verse 1. The man is responsible. His wife is his responsibility and his unmarried daughter living in his household is his responsibility..  This was how the society at the time - in theocratic Israel -  was set up. Most women did not have the economic resources or means to fulfill the type of vows in view here - it was up to the man who was responsible for her. This had nothing to do with her moral purity nor cognitive powers.

and should aim to be submissive (1 Tim 2:12)

 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.- 1 Timothy 2:12

I find it amazing that Mark would use this verse to discuss women and the command to submit. If you look up the other passages about women submitting you would find that it is in context to submitting to her husband and that male and female children should submit their mother and father (such as Ephesians 5:21-33). As for 1 Timothy 2:12 it is context of a church organizational structure - not on a job or in all interaction. I've written quite a bit on this at An "Evil of Christianity.

and hate sex (Ezekiel 23).


 What scares me the most is that such an accusation is really seriously leveled against God! I mean the whole chapter is about Israel and Judah, personified as a parallel. Oholah, and her sister was Oholibah are showing  that living as prostitutes is just like how Israel and Judah turned their backs on YHWH and began worshiping idols. We might as well put our name in there instead of theirs because when we follow anything else other than God we are like the prostitute who cheats on her husband - who adores her and does all she needs. The book of Hosea makes the same point. Besides anyone who thinks the Bible condemns sex and enjoying sex within a monogamous, heterosexual marriage must have never read Song of Songs (aka Song of Solomon) or is reading it wrong.

Most rapists share these views of women. Incidentally, I felt like I needed a showed after fact-checking those referecnes.

I agree that many rapist think that women as unclean , haughty  and untrustworthy, and should aim to be submissive and hate sex. Fortunately, the Bible disagrees.[See the picture on the right because it shows the stupidity of some people regardless to what their religion is]

So, once again I'm going to ask you to provide bible-based reasoning on why rape and FGM is wrong.

 Mark provides a hypothetical example in a few lines and I will answer there - specific to the hypothetical conversation. .

In return, I'll provide secular-based reasoning on why rape/FGM is wrong. Keeping in mind that I've provided detailed multi-paragraph reasoning on why stance, perhaps you could provide more than the cursory two lines above.

Fair enough. I look forward to Mark providing a secular-based reasoning for why rape and Female Gentile Mutilation (FMG) is wrong. 

A suggestion: Perhaps you could provide the answer as a response to the following hypothetical:

You have two new co-workers, called Bob and Cindy. Over lunchbreak, you find that you are all christians, and start to bond. then Bob offhandedly mentions that he raped his promiscious neighbour the night before.
"Bob, that's terrible" you say. What a wrong, immoral thing to do!"
Bob replies "Mr. McElhaney, you have no right to say such a thing. I am a godly man, and as such am following his laws. If god wanted women to have a say in sex, then he would not have let righteous men rape the women dancers of Shiloh (Judges 21:10), or given Midianite virgins to Moses soldiers, given Oholah to the Syrians or given David's wifes to his neighbours for sex (2 Samuel 12:11)"

Challenge 1: Use bible-based reasoning to show Bob why his actions are immoral.

"Bob, where does the Bible say that the Benjamites in  Judges 21 are "righteous" men? Hint: It doesn't. Oholah being given to the Syrians in  Ezekiel 23 mirrors the way God allowed Israel and Judah to fall to their enemies. Oholah deserved punishment for her prostitution and so did Israel and Judah. We deserve hell for our sins. The Midianite virgins does not apply to what you did. Were you in a war? No. You just said she wasn't a virgin. And no where does the text say they were raped and forced to do anything. As for David, his wives were not given to his son in public not his neighbors. And why did this come on David - because he committed adultery and tried to cover it up by murdering her husband. What you have done is no better than what David did or any of the reference to rape you mentioned. It also does not matter what evils and sins the woman you raped was guilty of. Not only were you wrong to rape her but even if she wanted it - that makes you a fornicator. Remember what  1 Corinthians 6:18 says. Brother, you need to beg God for mercy and forgiveness and repent of this horrible sin. You can start with the police. I'll call them for you. . You are being just like the people described in Judges 21:25

25In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

And you are supposed to be saved and not living for yourself. We are supposed to be doing what is right in God's eyes.

Then Cindy says that she is taking her 12 year old daughter back to Africa next week for genital circumcision. You reply "Cindy, how immoral! You can't do that to a young girl!"
"But Mr. McElhaney, such is our custom. And the bible does not say it is immoral, so who are you to say it is immoral?"

Challenge 2 : Use Bible based reasoning to show Cindy why FGM is wrong.

Cindy, I know western culture has labeled such practices as  Female Genital Mutilation, but I am aware that many cultures that practice it refer to it as "female circumcision". There is not a single case or example of God requiring a woman to be circumcised. For what God glorifying purpose would you circumcise a female? Set aside for a moment the cultural reasons - like discouraging adultery,  and  the medical risks, and even the fact that it must have been horrible and painful for you personally and let's look at why God  commanded circumcision in the first place. Here, get your Bible. When God gave Abraham the sign of circumcison he said:

9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”- Genesis 17:9-14

Do you see anything even resembling female circumcision? No. Only males. And it is to be sign between God and Abraham (and his descendants). And before you start thinking that I am arguing that only the circumcised can be righteous, you need to remember what Paul wrote in Romans. 

 9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
 13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.- Romans 4:9-15

So make sure you daughter is circumcised in her heart and not in her flesh.

I look forward to Mark providing his secular-based reasons to the same challenges. And while he's at it, I'd like to know how does he account the fact that no one has to be taught how to lie. How to steal? How to dislike others? How to mock others? How to be arrogant?

What had happen' was.....: Atheism and Rape - YouTube
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  1. I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into your answer, even though I disagree with much. Like an Eskimo meeting a Zulu, it may be hard to appreciate each other’s position, but hey, a culture clash is always mutually educational.

    I think that in order to say that FGM is objectively immoral (as opposed to subjectively immoral), you have to unambiguously show that God prohibits it. Other wise you’re just saying that if God is silent on an issue that I disapprove of, then he forbids it, and if he is silent on an issue that I approve of, then he approves it. In other words; subjective morality!. Like you say pointing out that God does not mention FGM does not equate with saying it is right - it just means that you have no objective basis for saying that is wrong.

    The background is this: Apologist William Lane Craig stated that atheists don’t have objective morals, which is quite a ballsy claim. He reasons that “objective morals are morals that are valid and binding independent of human opinion” and “god’s moral nature is expressed in relation to us in form of divine commandments which constitute moral duties”. So in other words, there is no role at all for human interpretation of the bible, because then it is not “independent of human opinion”.

    So, like me, you may feel strongly that FGM should be immoral. However, by WLC’s reasoning, you need “a divine commandment” that is “independent of human opinion” to say that FGM is immoral, and the bible doesn’t give you that. By WLC’s definition, nothing that is not explicitly permitted or forbidden in the bible has an objective moral basis. So your reasoning that FGM is immoral becomes as subjective as an atheist’s, no matter how strongly you feel it. And it’s not just FGM that has no “biblical” objective basis, but also environmental protection, organ transplantation, IVF and age of sexual consent.

    In my opinion, the value of a moral system is determined by its aim. The aim of biblical objective morality is to maximize obedience. However, the aim of secular humanism’s morality is to maximize community health and happiness. Now that’s a moral system that is useful!

  2. Just to go through the examples of misogyny that I quoted, I think you are using special pleading to avoid their nasty implications. I feel like the guy in that Monty Python skit trying to return a dead parrot – what’s in plain view is not being recognized.

    1) Calling a woman unclean for a normal bodily function is certainly misogynistic. Did the men have to be kept isolated if they cut themselves and bled? There’s a vicious double standard at work. Telling women that their periods make them impure and unclean, and ostracizing them for weeks would damage anyone’s self-esteem. Have a moment’s pity for the poor girls with menorrhagia, whose periods can last up to three weeks. They would have spent almost all their adult life alone

    2) I’m sure that Isaiah 3:16 doesn’t refer to all women – just the ones whose spirit hasn’t been beaten down. A woman with self-confidence? Who, God forbid, dares to flirt? Or wear accessories? Burn her, I say!! (In this case God was merciful, and gave them scalp lesions. He must have been in a good mood that day).

    3) You seem fond of defending bible verses by saying that economical realities of the time made what seemed cruel an act of mercy. Let’s overlook the fact that economic realities could have easily been changing laws by say, giving women the right to work and to own their own property. Let’s also overlook the fact that even if it was a mercy, women were never given a choice or a say in the matter. No, my issue is that your claim that these were economic realities of the time is false.

    Let’s look at Egypt in the biblical times. Only several hundred kilometers away from Israel, but centuries ahead in terms of treatment of women. Things weren’t perfect, but women could own property, borrow and lend money, attend markets, ask for divorce and make wills. Some women became craftswomen, and received pay equal to men (the Western world still hasn’t caught up to this). They even created female teachers and philosophers (if you want to know what the early Christians thought of female Egyptian philosophers, Google Hypatia of Alexandria).

    So the fact that women could have their vows annulled by men had nothing to do with economic realities and everything to do with the fact that the bible was written by Galilean hillbillies. Even by the standards of their own time, they were rednecks.

  3. 4) On 1 Timothy 2:12, I’ll just point out that the Quiverfull movement today uses this verse to deny women education and the right to control their own destiny.

    5) I’m sure that the Bible approves of monogamous, heterosexual sex in a marriage, but that is only a small slice of the phenomenon that is human sexuality. Everyone’s sexuality is unique, and we all have differing sexual needs. If someone approved of vanilla ice cream, but banned all of the other 300 flavors, wouldn’t it be reasonable to say he was anti-ice-cream?

    I agree that Oholah is an allegory for Samaria, but it’s still a sexist allegory. There certainly were women who were like Oholah in biblical times. They achieved financial dependence without giving themselves in marriage, and controlled their own destinies. They had a healthy sexual appetite, and were liberated enough to follow it. They dared to enjoy material possessions. All without harming anyone else. They were the first feminists of biblical times. If Oholah really existed, I would have liked to her. I’m sure she would have been an amazing woman.

    And like what all patriarchal men would like to do to feminists, she was abandoned, humiliated, mutilated, raped and murdered. I imagine the crowds of men were cheering when they heard the end of that story. After all, if Ezekiel didn’t think he could rely on misogyny to make his point, why tell the story?

    You say Oholah deserved punishment for prostitution. But nowhere does Ezekiel suggest that money was her motivation. However, in several lines he says that she was motivated by lust “for mounted horsemen, all handsome young men….whose genitals were like donkeys and emissions were like horses(!)”. Fair enough, sounds like a confident girl with a healthy libido. I interpret Oholah to be a mistress of multiple men rather than a street-prostitute. Anyone, the reasons Ezekiel uses to demonize Oholah is that she dared to be lusty. Oh the horror! Solomon can have 1000 wives, but god forbid a woman enjoy sex with more than one man.

  4. Edit: If Oholah really existed, I would like to have met her.

  5. 1) You’re right; the Bible doesn’t suggest that the Benjamites were righteous men. But the plan to carry off the dancers of Shiloh wasn’t hatched by the Benjamites, but by the elders of all the tribes of Israel. I think the bible usually implies they were God’s favored.

    And when the fathers of the kidnapped girls came to the Israel tribal elders, the elders told them “Do us a kindness by helping the Benjamites out, so that all that pussy can be put to good use” (I may be paraphrasing that last line a bit).

    Of course, the Benjamites were never punished for taking the dancers of Shiloh, and all the men lived happily ever after.

    2) I think that by the time the Midianite virgins were rationed out like cattle, the war was already over.

    3) Perhaps your ‘re right, and David’s wives were given to his son rather than his neighbor. I’m sure that makes all the difference. It must have been all a big hoot for the lucky girls.

    The part that’s missing from that verse is where the women were asked their opinion or permission. Evidently the biblical authors didn’t think they should have a say in whom they slept with.

  6. To finally wrap up:

    Immoral behavior needs to be taught as much as moral behavior. If you don't think children need to be taught how to steal, just read Oliver Twist. Children develop their own personalities, with personal proclivities towards moral and immoral behavior varying from child to child.

    Once again, this variation provides a survival advantage for our species. A book called "Nothing To Envy" described life during the famine in North Korea. One haunting statement by a defector was:
    "the kind and generous, the ones that shared, the ones that wouldn't steal.......they were the first to die".
    Evolution has bequeathed impulses that we describe has right and wrong, but both give survival advantages in different situations. In times of plenty, like what we live in, stealing is considered wrong, and not needed for survival. In times of famine, only the thieves survived.