The Horror Of The Real

When I was at preteen camp, there was a bit of a setup that happened with many of the girls’ dorms, who came to the Bible Explorer class I taught with the idea in mind to talk about biblical stories involving female heroines. Much to the shock and horror by some of the teachers, who found some of the subject matter in these biblical stories to be deeply inappropriate, it has been hard for me to think of stories about female heroines in the Bible that do not end up involving some sort of potentially very unpleasant subject. I do not now why this is the case, it is only the fact that even a mere reading of biblical stories about heroic women tend to lead into some delicate and uncomfortable territory and I do not consider this to be accidental.

It is worthwhile to ponder the sorts of subjects that come up when one thinks about and reads about biblical heroines in the Bible. A great many stories show women dealing with a great deal that is unpleasant in life. In the story of Sarah and Hagar, for example, we have the sort of oppression that young women have had to face in servitude throughout history, the torment of barrenness, and other difficulties. These problems continue throughout the stories of Isaac and Rebekkah as well as Jacob and his wives. The story of Judah and Tamar brings us face to face with the problem of a godly woman being viewed as a black widow and the issues of prostitution and its punishment. Moses’ mother is a heroic figure, as are the midwives who refused to kill Israelite boys, but their behavior invites some uncomfortable questions about obedience and abandonment of children. Stories about Dinah, Bathsheba, and David’s daughter Tamar, as well as Esther, deal with the issue of rape and sexual assault. Ruth and many other women in the Bible were poor widows. The story of Deborah and Jael as well as Priscilla and Aquila invite questions about the appropriateness of women’s roles in the church and in society, and in Jael’s case the bloodthirstiness of killing an enemy of God’s people in a particularly gruesome fashion. The story of Abigail in the Bible brings up the discussion of abusive marriages where the wisdom of a godly woman is ignored and disregarded when the family is ruled by a catastrophically foolish man. The story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, reminds us of the problem of illegitimacy and reputation, something that occurs often as a side element in stories about women like Rehab, Bathsheba, and others.

Why is it that when we look at women who are foregrounded as godly and excellent women in the Bible that we are forced to deal with unpleasant and uncomfortable issues that come along in the text as it deals with those women? I submit that there is a very good reason for this, and that this reason is the fact that the Bible deals with reality and not the ideal. We see this in the way that the Bible deals with the imperfections of those men who are written about as being generally praiseworthy. When we read the Bible we are always brought to face with the shadow of sin on even the most praiseworthy and godly human lives. We cannot help but wrestle with questions about justice and morality, cannot help but ponder the dangers that godly women have to face, and have to examine the distance that exists between character and reputation. These concerns are all matters of real interest for women (and men) and have been so throughout history, the result of imperfect people living imperfect lives.

How is it that we respond to the horror of the real? Do we acknowledge it, summon our courage and faith to deal with it, wrestle with its implications in our live, and do our best to minimize the horrors that we inflict on other people, or do we get angry at people who remind us of it? Do we shoot the messenger or do we heed the message? That is the choice that human beings are always faced with. We live in a world that is full of horrors, horrors regularly faced by ordinary people, and no amount of burying our heads in the sand will remove those horrors from existence, but only alienate us from reality and remove our ability to successfully deal with it. Yet we are all given the choice on how we are to deal with that horror for ourselves, for to deny others the freedom to respond to such horrors is to inflict still more horrors on them. We cannot help but wrestle with the darkness of our existence, and with the darkness that lies inside of us all of us. The Bible does us a favor by making that horror an essential aspect of its history, by reminding us that the darkness is never far away or never too far beneath the surface, and that the struggle of the light against that darkness is continual and universal.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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