I haven’t had a heap of work lately so I did a binge watch of the Handmaids Tale over the last few days, a novel I had never got around to reading, but a very good mini series and chilling in its implications.
If you haven’t read / seen then it’s the story of a dystopian future where the vast majority of women are infertile and those who are able to bear children get rounded up against their will, to be ‘handmaids’ to the elite class, so that the species will survive.
How could this happen?
A conversation between three of the senior leaders explains it. Just use biblical justification (Rachel and Leah) and while the women (and wives even) might not like it, once the Bible is involved who can argue?
So ‘handmaids’ are assigned to various homes and the ‘ceremony’ is performed after the reading of a passage of scripture which allows these (apparently) deeply religious people find a way to reconcile their own inner desires with what they know to be wrong and evil.
I’m reminded of that other movie, The Book of Eli, where Denzel Washington protects an unknown book with his life. Eventually the nature of the book is revealed – a KJV Bible – because whoever gets the book gets the power. More correctly would be whoever gets to interpret the book gets the power.
Thankfully that will never happen in real life…
I’m no fan of 60 Minutes as quality journalism, but Sunday night’s show exposing the sexual abuse within a particular independent Baptist Church, (thankfully it was mentioned several times that this is not our mob) was a contemporary example of the Bible being used to justify a man’s own sexual desires and subsequent evil actions. The abuse suffered by the wife was tolerated for so long because she was caught in a system of belief that validated her husband’s evil behaviour. ‘It was in the Bible’ that she needed to submit and obey so she really had no choice… So she felt.
The recent ABC studies released on domestic violence in Christian families seems to have touched a nerve in two ways. Some of those suffering have finally been given a hearing and an opportunity to break free of ‘biblically justified abuse’ (an oxymoron) while others within the church have gone on the defensive, hitting back at the research methodology and the clarity of the findings. This is completely disingenuous at a time when we need to repent rather than justify. If all that is heard by those willing to tell their stories is that they are ‘invalid on a technicality’ then we have simply become modern day Pharisees.
The Handmaids Tale is no far fetched sci-fi fable. It is an all too real possibility if we continue to allow men to get away with using the Bible / or any other religious text – as a justification for evil behaviour.
To be clear, I’m talking about using the Bible to manipulate your wife into doing something she does not want to do, or using the Bible to justify behaviour that would otherwise be considered wrong and liable to prosecution, even using the Bible to justify any self centred, self serving actions that hurt another. Of course you can step back from the line of ‘abuse’ and still be emotionally abusive and psychologically destructive, which is just as much of a problem.
As men the cards are usually stacked in our favour and the dominant readings of scripture for many years, giving men control and power, have allowed for the possibility of destructive outworkings of those interpretations.
I don’t think its as simple as ‘complementarians are bad and egalitarians are good’. It’s possible to be an egalitarian arsehole and a complementarian gentleman.
Its more to do with how we see Jesus and submit to him in our own lives. Because he isn’t cool with this stuff.