In this year’s series of Sexual Assault Awareness Month let us continue to look at the matter of abuse of women mostly as shown in the bible. There are some texts known as ‘texts of terror’ that are sometimes rarely used in the liturgy as they are too controversial save and except Genesis 19 and the Sodom Story or Apostle Paul’s condemnation of male and female homosexuality. Given recent events of pastors accused and found guilty of sexual assault and internationally the whole ugly mess of clerical abuse the timing of this could not have been more opportune. First let us take a look at excerpts of the text in question from 2 Samuel 13 into 14:
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.2 And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her.3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.4 And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.5 And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand.
6 So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon’s house, and dress him meat.8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes.9 And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him.10 And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.11 And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister.12 And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.13 And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.14 Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.
15 Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.16 And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her.17 Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her.18 And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her.
19 And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying.20 And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.
21 But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth.22 And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.
23 And it came to pass after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal- hazor, which is beside Ephraim: and Absalom invited all the king’s sons.24 And Absalom came to the king, and said, Behold now, thy servant hath sheepshearers; let the king, I beseech thee, and his servants go with thy servant.25 And the king said to Absalom, Nay, my son, let us not all now go, lest we be chargeable unto thee. And he pressed him: howbeit he would not go, but blessed him.26 Then said Absalom, If not, I pray thee, let my brother Amnon go with us. And the king said unto him, Why should he go with thee?27 But Absalom pressed him, that he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him.
28 Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous and be valiant.29 And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled.
30 And it came to pass, while they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king’s sons, and there is not one of them left.31 Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent.32 And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king’s sons; for Amnon only is dead: for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar.33 Now therefore let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king’s sons are dead: for Amnon only is dead.34 But Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him.35 And Jonadab said unto the king, Behold, the king’s sons come: as thy servant said, so it is.36 And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of speaking, that, behold, the king’s sons came, and lifted up their voice and wept: and the king also and all his servants wept very sore.
37 But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.38 So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years.39 And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.
The matter was reported to David Tamar’s father although getting angry but he did nothing but then again he too had his own case to contend with Bathsheeba where he David had her and then arranged to have her husband killed. Bring it to present reality death threats are a tool to control abused persons or even exacted; a certain sexual slavery case here in Jamaica comes to mind where a teen was living in a house under duress. Then there is the business of the cover up or victim blaming comes into play similarly to present day challenges, women or abused persons are forced into silence or psychologically intimidated at the behest of the abuser, they are told to keep it quiet as in this case Tamar’s own brother Absalom when he learnt of the matter told her not to say a thing; he did eventually had Amnon murdered but what a gruesome way to end it. The recently concluded matter of the Pentecostal pastor who was taken to court after he was accused of raping a young girl with the girl’s brother as the eyewitness, the brother reported the abuse to the mother and she in turn did the right thing and had the man arrested, he got twenty years for the crime yet the mother of the children who was a member of the church has been blasted by other congregants that she is wicked and should have left it alone. The silence in the church is telling and the selectivity on issues is clear, since the recent back to back abuse matters involving pastors is glossed over or placed in a generalised context. Marches and public protests on gender based violence are admirable yet hypocritical, hardly any discourse at least publicly comes forth on a call to seek, find (not to abuse but public shame) and move towards some healing; there seems to be hardly any genuine and truthful introspection as it is just to embarrassing and the fear is the church will lose face when they already have by their self inflicted wounds hence control of people’s lives as the sex police, yet at this time when such policing is needed they dance around same.
The mother has since had to relocate and find another church community just to get some peace. She was reported to have said that she was actually threatened by persons who were supposed to be Christians yet when pastors are found wanting they defend their privilege. The justification of the attack on the mother is that she has brought disgrace to the church and that the pastor is ‘lean’ no matter as if he is sinless. It is as if we are seeing a continuation of the aforementioned issues in present realities in gender based violence, incest, misuse power and many pastors do not touch such biblical texts as it diminishes the ‘fire’ element of the liturgy, similarly to the Lot & Sodom and Gomorrah story where the frame of reference ends with the destruction of the city supposedly for homosexuality yet the preachers hardly ever seem to go further about the incest allegedly blamed on his two daughters who took turns in ‘raping’ him and both got pregnant even as he was said to be drunk when it happened; evidently he was not too drunk to have an erection though only to be taken advantage by two young women being his own daughters.
The usefulness of this and other such ‘texts of terror’ is that the business of abuse is as old as time itself and that male privilege is often wrapped up cultural practices but if it is healing that is the main thrust then truth will have to prevail. Theological avoidance is simply clear deception and such texts must be brought to the open much more that simply antigay condemnation given rise to power by often times misguided fanatical church folks and leaders, other more sensible folks need to also speak up and point out and report said abuses. Too many board members of churches know what is happening yet sweep them under the carpet so as to not upset the applecart or lose face.
Peace & tolerance
Justified underage sexual abuse in lieu of homosexual sex!
On pastoral abuse, celibacy, cover-ups & passing the buck