Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Christian Responds To Rape

Friends and others,

I am very close to finishing and publishing the remaining three parts of my debate with Daniel Wells, a Reformed Theological Seminary student, on the subject, “Is Christianity True?” For the last three posts I chose to focus on three individual topics that I think bear out the question of Christianity’s truth quite well. They are:

1. The reliability of the Bible.
2. Evidence for a Personal God in the Natural World.
3. The Moral Argument.

Before I publish those three parts in their entirety, I wanted to devote some attention to a specific issue that arose in our debate about morality. It seems clear to me that the Christian is in a difficult spot when it comes to the claim that all absolute morality comes from the Christian god and the Bible. How can this collection of books be the source of ALL objective morality when it never repudiates slavery, the subjugation of women, or child abuse? Not only does the Bible never repudiate these awful things, it even commands them in certain areas. Consider these verses:

Children who disobey their parents shall be put to death.

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. - Deuteronomy 21:18-21

He that smiteth/curseth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. - Exodus 21:15-17


God will make some EAT their children.

And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend. - Jeremiah 19:9

And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. - Leviticus 26:29


Owning slaves.

Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen forever. - Leviticus 25:44-46

Beating a slave to death.

And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continues a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money. Exodus 21:20-21

Raping captive virgins.

And Moses said unto them, have ye saved all the women alive? ... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. - Numbers 31:15-18

Rape victims must marry their rapist.

If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her. - Deuteronomy 22:28-29

As I’m sure you can imagine, Daniel has been trained well on how to present the illusion of squaring a circle when it comes to these matters. However, I was born with a built in bullshit detector and unfortunately for Daniel, it works extremely well. Here is Daniel’s response to the Deuteronomy 22:28-29 verse that quite clearly states that a rape victim must marry her rapist. Consider his words:

“This is actually making the rapist the one being punished (he must marry the woman, and even pay money for his crime!). Plus, it protects an Ancient Near Eastern woman. Women in the ANE who were raped were usually not eligible for marriage. Yet, God gives this woman into marriage and secures her financial future in that the man cannot divorce her. This is a case where Israelite law was supreme to surrounding nations."

There are two things I want to say in response to this disgusting viewpoint.

1. This is objective, transcendent morality? This is god’s great idea for PROTECTING the rape victim? What an embarrassing, ridiculous suggestion. It can be improved upon in a millisecond by any secular humanist. How about, “Do not rape women, ever.” How about instead of forcing her into marriage, you send her as far away from her rapist as possible? The truth is that at best women were treated as property in Biblical times, and usually they were treated as garbage. This is not morality. This is evil.

2. What kind of psychological dualism must be happening in the brain of the 21st century, civilized human being to propose in any way that a woman was protected by marrying her rapist? My only conclusion is that such a person has never, for one single second, considered the actual horror of rape. Next to abusing children it is the worst individual crime imaginable. Let’s look at some facts from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network):

In 2007, there were 248,300 victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. These figures do not include victims 12 years old or younger. This means that at least one sexual assault occurs every 127 seconds, or about 1 every 2 minutes. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. Consider your mothers, your sisters, your wives and your daughters.

Even if you are stupid enough to take your moral cues from something as outdated as the Bible, the facts about how common sexual abuse isshould make you A LITTLE more sensitive about your awful beliefs on rape. I have zero tolerance for this disgusting bullshit.

Daniel posted a comment on my facebook page several days ago. I confronted him about his views on rape in the Bible and he accused me of misunderstanding him. I then posted the exact verse and his exact response for all to see. What was his response? He deleted the whole thread. So I am now posting it here, where he must stand accountable for what he claims to believe. As earlier stated, the full transcript of our debate is coming, but I found this to be an important and telling caveat to the whole thing. This is what holding to the bible will do to the mind of a human being. This is the evil that one will stoop to justify their beliefs. This is why Steve Weinberg says,

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

Yours in reason,

Clint Wells

17 comments:

Robert said...

Clint,

So far I have enjoyed the discussion you've had with Daniel. However, the tone of the latest topic seems to be tainted with emotional rhetoric. For the sake of responsible, rational, intellectual honesty and open mindedness that atheists so proudly parade around on their chests, I would challenge you to consider what rape is, what it means and what motivates people to engage in it, in its various contexts.

Hopefully you'd agree this is a very general term that is applied to many different things. For example, a m/m prison rape is a very different thing than a single mother would seduces her teenage son.

On a broader note. Who is the open minded person here? Do you really think our society would be worse off if we practiced Deut 21:18-21? Assuming, of course, that the "voice of the Father" is in accordance with Gods law, would we surely have fewer freedoms or liberties?

isbelle said...

If somehow God DID exist, and he told me to eat my children, I'd tell him to shove it up his own ass... even if they were the children from the rapist who god made me marry.

Matt Williamson said...

Good post. Looking forward to reading the entire debate.

The simple fact of the matter is that God did not write the bible, man did. And there is an almost infinite wealth of data to support the idea that man (as a species) is corruptible, contemptible, and evil.

That said, I can't believe anyone would make the claim that forced marriage to the man that raped you is protection.

I also love that the verse specifies that you must be caught raping a women to face the penalty. That just encourages cautious rape, in my opinion.

Clint Wells said...

Robert - Yes, I quite obviously take the issue of rape extremely seriously. One tends to do that when people they love have actually been raped.

Are you really saying that the Bible is somehow describing a more ACCEPTABLE form of rape? If so, then I regard you the same as Daniel: Disgusting.

And yes, I think that society would be worse off if people stoned their children for disobedience. Being open-minded does not mean that one literally contemplates the social viability of everything. Some things we rightly and vehemently reject outright. These things include raping people and murdering childern.

Only someone who believes in god can blur those lines. Not me, sir. No way.

Amy Jo said...

Robert,

I applaud Clint for taking the stance against rape as he has. As a man, you will never fully understand the pain and terror of being held down, told to shut up, and being violated - the fear as a man far stronger than you tells you you're worthless and that he should kill you. Rape not only violates a woman physically, but also strips her completely naked emotionally. It festers and haunts her for the rest of her life.

But Clint is right in that you can come close in knowing that it happened to someone you love.

The bible does NOT offer a valid punishment for such a disgusting crime. I would rather die than be forced to marry the man who violated me, regardless of his motivations.

Robert said...

Clint,

Righteous anger toward rape is legit.

Don't misunderstand me. Claiming that something is biblically less evil doesn't make it more acceptable (Mt. 5:21-30). The bible clearly teaches degree to sin and that God judges individuals, communities and nations that engage in it, in accordance with said degree.

The most vile would be murder (Ex. 20:13), adultery (Ex. 20:14), rape (Deut. 22:25-28), kidnapping (Deut. 24:7), significant witchcraft and divination (Deut. 18:10-14, Lev. 20:27).

Additionally, the bible teaches that rape is a covenantal form of murder and adultery a covenantal form of suicide.

I make these points b/c we debated them in the past when you were still contemplating the faith. I claimed then, that your position was in error. (specifically the popular evangelical position regarding "equality" of sin, absence of modern judgment etc). Today, you are essentially pointing at that error's fallibility (which I agree) as proof of total biblical fallibility. And that is where the straw man of your critique lies.

So far, all you've proven is that pop evangelical theology is full of holes and contradiction. To that I say, "preach on!".

Robert said...

Amy Jo,

The bible explicitly indicates rape is punishable by death. Clint's quotation of Deuteronomy 22:28-29 uses the word "seize" (hebrew "taphas"). The word is most often translated "to take hold of". This IN NO WAY implies that the woman wasn't willing in this exchange. It's actually in there to prevent the man or woman from becoming an adulterer should they marry later on.

Clint Wells said...

Robert - Witchcraft is on par with murder and rape? Witches? Witches do not exist, Robert. And that awful teaching of "not suffering a witch to live" has been the source of immense suffering, torture and murder for a thousand years.

I am constantly happy that we are not
alike.

Anonymous said...

I think, and I'm not a biblical scholar, that the verse in Jeremiah is in the context of the Jews who were participating in the worship of Molech that involved child-sacrifice.

I'm not sure how that affects your argument, Clint.

susan.

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Clint,

(I'm going to have to split this comment in two, so consider this part one.)

Interesting discussion – although I don’t expect it to reap conclusive results, because it somewhat lacks focus; you’re covering too many subjects to really go in-depth about any single subject and any specific passage.

Regarding one specific passage – Mark 16:9-20 -- about which you both seem to have been somewhat misinformed, or seriously underinformed, by Bart Ehrman and/or a footnote in some Bible translation: the early editions of the NIV have the sub-heading before Mark 16:9 that says, as you mentioned, “The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not contain Mark 16: 9-20.” However, that sub-heading is not very accurate. As far as Greek manuscripts are concerned, exactly two manuscripts end the Gospel of Mark at the end of verse 8. The rest – over 1,600 -- include the disputed 12 verses (except in the case of damaged copies).

Now, those two that end Mark at the end of 16:8 are two very important early copies: Codex Vaticanus (from c. 325) and Codex Sinaiticus (from c. 350). But in this case they do not carry their usual force. In the case of Vaticanus, the copyist left blank space after 16:8, as if he recollected the missing verses but either did not have an exemplar that included them, or was unsure how to treat them and decided to leave it up to the eventual owner of the manuscript. In the case of Codex Sinaiticus, the pages made by the main copyist are not extant from Mark 14:54 to Luke 1:56. These pages were made by someone else – probably the copyist’s supervisor, who seems to have also been one of the copyists who helped produce Codex Vaticanus.

Meanwhile, the oldest copy of Mark, Papyrus 45, is so mutilated that it does not have any pages at all from Mark 16, so we can’t really say confidently that the oldest copy did or did not contain 16:9-20. But our oldest manuscripts are not the earliest *evidence.*

Justin Martyr, a Christian writer in the mid-100’s, tended to cite Gospels-materials by blending together the contents of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in his composition First Apology, chapter 45, he blends together part of Mark 16:20 with part of Luke 24:52-53, alluding to the events in those verses as a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy in Psalm 110:1-2.

Tatian, who was, for a while, a student of Justin, put together a composition called the Diatessaron, weaving together the contents of all four Gospels into one continuous, more or less non-repetitive account, around 172. Tatian’s Diatessaron includes the contents of Mark 16:9-20.

Ireneaus, who served as bishop of Lyons, and who visited Rome c. 177, explicitly cited Mark 16:19 as part of the Gospel of Mark in his composition Against Heresies, Book III:10:5-6.

And when we look over the patristic writers of the 200’s, 300’s, and 400’s, we see widespread use of Mark 16:9-20. Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 325 – note that he was stationed in the same place where Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were produced) is the notable exception; in a letter to someone named Marinus, Eusebius claimed that Mark 16:9-20 is missing in the “accurate copies,” by which Eusebius probably meant copies descended from earlier copies that had been brought to Caesarea by the scholar Origen c. 230, from Egypt. Outside of Egypt, though, Mark 16:9-20 was widely used – in the Gothic version, in the Vulgate, in several Old Latin copies, in several ancient lectionaries, etc.

All of which is difficult to convey in a concise footnote. And this isn’t even touching the significant internal evidence involved. But I hope you can see the point: there is much more to this question than a mere reference to a footnote in a popular English translation can settle.

For example:

(continued in part two)

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

(continued)

For example:

(1) the objection to the numbers in the Hebrew censuses and other passages can be effectively answered via text-critical analysis. This approach is not new, and research about it is available online, along with materials about other subjects you covered. A few sites worth naming: ApologeticsPress, Stand To Reason, Reasons To Believe, and IBRI. (The online materials are a mixed bag; eat the corn and leave the cob.) My own contribution on this subject is at
http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2006/05/jim-snapp-on-census-numbers.html

(2) You implied that because Josephus “wrote the history of King Herod in minute detail,” we should expect him to mention the Bethlehem massacre. However that expectation leans on some assumptions, including (a) there were so many male children under two years old in Bethlehem that their slaughter was considered memorable to Josephus at the time when he wrote, (b) records of the massacre attributing it to Herod were available to Josephus, and (c) Josephus, having adequately illustrated Herod’s character with other anecdotes, would not consider this one superfluous.

(3) The claim that Isaiah 40:22 claims that “the Earth is a flat disc” doesn't take into account the limitations of ancient Hebrew. Plus, it’s in a poetic passage. One might as well criticize Isaiah for saying, a few verses later, that those who hope in the Lord will literally fly like eagles, or literally run without ever getting tired.

(4) In the midst of a list of miraculous events recorded in the Bible, you mentioned “raining frogs.” There are no raining frogs in the Bible.

(5) In the same list, you mentioned "fitting all living creatures onto an impractically small boat." That’s not an accurate description of Noah's actions.

(6) You rejected Biblical descriptions of “stars falling from the sky” on the grounds that it’s unscientific, but these falling stars are pictured in visions, and/or they are described via phenomenological language, describing scenes from what would be the perspective of an observer, rather than from a detached off-stage perspective.

These are just a few of the bricks in the wall that you’ve built (perhaps with the help of some non-Christians). There are at least two remedies to your condition: one is that you decide to believe the good news about Jesus Christ on the basis of faith, leaping over that wall. The other option is that Christians help you dismantle that wall, reducing it to a surmountable level. (Or a bit of both.) The diminishment of that wall is not something that can be done speedily in one debate, like a wrecking-ball; a better way, I think, is via a careful dismantling and dissolving of the wall.

Finally, you wrote, "In religion when evidence contradicts a theory, the evidence is thrown out." That’s not true to my experience. The evidence is not thrown out. Other evidence – including the subjective evidence of the individual believer’s relationship with God – is kept in the equation, and the incompleteness of the evidence against God’s truthfulness (or character, or existence), are taken into consideration. It is sort of like when a wife, whose husband has been exceptionally loving and faithful, is given evidence which, according to the person presenting it, shows that her husband has cheated on her, or has lied to her, or is a figment of her imagination. There are lots of things to consider: the quality of the evidence, the different ways in which the evidence can be interpreted, the possibility of ulterior motives by the person presenting the evidence, and the motivations of the wife (for instance, she may have a carnal desire to use any excuse to leave her husband). You see the analogy. We can’t accurately gauge all these factors, but we can evaluate the quality of the evidence and its interpretation, and this is something that should be done brick by brick.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Clint Wells said...

James,

I think you meant to comment on my latest debate post.

I appreciate your informed and fascinating comments on textual criticism. They are a great help to what I have already conceded to be a murky debate. Both Daniel and I betray our infancy at formal debate several times throughout its duration. With such a large question spread over so many claims, it is hard to ignore the spectrum of topics for fear of overlooking an important issue, even at the cost of making the points as effective as possible.

I have no ultimate illusions of changing anyone’s mind. My only hope is to encourage my readers, who mostly come from an evangelical background, to think for themselves.

I have amended my comments about the Ark and the frogs to reflect your corrections. Your comments about Josephus are not convincing to me, but I do acknowledge both yours and Daniel’s points regarding poetic language in the Bible. Contrary to perception, I have no interest in propping up weak arguments.

I’m glad to hear that you have not experienced the disheartening event of blatant evidence denial. I don’t know who you are or where you are from but I live in a world where I’m constantly told that there is no evidence for evolution. A world where people believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. A world where people are indoctrinated to suspect science at every turn and where people are actually still debating the equality of gender and race.

Subjective evidence of a believer’s experience is worthless to me. I’m not saying it is worthless to you, but it is as useful to me as someone’s subjective experience with Mormonism, which you no doubt consider an apostasy. It is as ineffectual to me as a person enjoying the chemical effects of LSD and experiencing self-transcending “oneness” with a tree.

It is a great presumption on your part to suggest that the “wall of bricks” I am assembling needs remedying. I decidedly have no interest in accepting the “good news” of Christ by “leaping over the wall” into the mouth of groveling subjugation and mindlessness. You, of course, are welcome to any expression of faith you like, but you can keep your invitations to yourself, sir.

Yours in Clint,

Clint Wells

Clint Wells said...

Susan - it doesn't. I don't see how anyone could make a case it being a good thing that God made people eat their children.

Jawan said...

I'm a little scared to interject since I think that commenting on blogs that belong to people I don't know is somewhat worthless (notice I didn't say "completely worthless") - but, I do have a question that I hope doesn't come across accusative but rather one stated gently and with great curiosity:

"Has it been hard all these years to write, arrange, and sing hymns in the church or was it easy simply due to your creative musical abilities?"

Clint Wells said...

Jawan - Be not afraid! It wasn't hard at all because when I was doing that I was a Christian.

J. Kru said...

So we're not supposed to live according to the Bible. OK. We're supposed to live according to Clint instead? Clint found some people who agree with him. Now they have moral authority?

Where did Clint get this moral authority that he's throwing around? Why should we listen to Clint and not Moses or Mohammed?

Clint Wells said...

J. Kru -

1. Should you live according to the Bible? Well, that depends. Should you stone disobedient children? No. Should you follow the golden rule? Sure. What you shouldn't do, in my opinion (since you asked and all) is take all of the bible on faith as a perfect document of moral prescription. It's obviously flawed as a moral collection of books what with genocide, slavery, and bigotry, etc.

2. Are you supposed to live according to Clint? Of course not. Think for yourself. That is and has consistently been my message.

3. Does Clint have moral 'authority'? No. Have you read any of my blog?

Again, THINK FOR YOURSELF. And keep reading my blog. Perhaps we'll all learn something together.