#OccupytheBible in the “War on Women”

An Indian woman holds a placard during a prayer meeting in memory of a gang-rape victim in New Delhi, India, 05 January 2013. (STR – EPA)

When we #OccupytheBible on violence against women, sometimes the biblical text must be seen as a “text of terror.” Sometimes the Bible itself needs to be “occupied” to confront violence against women and to expose the religious, political and social supports for such violence.

Phyllis Trible’s ground-breaking work, Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives, documents this point from a biblical perspective. Her chapter, “Tamar: The Royal Rape of Wisdom,” is especially relevant when we #OccupytheBible on violence against women.

According to Trible, the biblical narrative in 2nd Samuel that surrounds the rape of Tamar reveals a power struggle where women’s voicelessness and powerlessness in a society makes them vulnerable to male violence. Tamar is the voice of wisdom in this text, but ultimately it makes no difference. She is not heard. This is why the rape of Tamar is a text of terror.

In these verses, Trible points out, the “violence against Tamar discloses hatred” (p. 46) p. 47 (13:15) of women who are victimized. Those who blame the victim and not the perpetrator of violence against women are fools according to Tamar. (13:13b) Unfortunately, as Trible points out, in this biblical story, “victory belongs to the fools.” (p. 46)

Not anymore.

In 2012, and now in 2013, women (and their male allies) are using social media to be sure the “fools” don’t keep winning. This is imperative as can be seen from the failure of the GOP-dominated House of Representatives, at the end of the abysmal 112th Congress, to reauthorize the comprehensive Violence Against Women Act or in the brutal gang-rape on a moving bus in New Delhi of a 23-year-old medical student, who died on Dec. 29 from her injuries, and the often callous, victim-blaming responses in India.

Women will no longer be silenced in the face of such violence and complicity with violence against them.

To do this, we need to #OccupytheBible on violence against women, and #Occupy our social and political discourse as well through the effective use of social media.

See the original column here at On Faith at the Washington Post.

About Susan Thistlethwaite

I am President Emerita and Professor Emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary; I write for the public here and in local papers. I am interested in what I call "public theology," or how deeper meaning is made and contested in the public square.
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