(This months synchroblog is part of a synchroblog/synchrosermon on International Women’s Day. The focus of the synchroblog/synchrosermon is on Biblical women.)
When I read In Cold Blood , I found myself stunned by Truman Capote‘s writing style. It wasn’t just that he was a superb writer (which he was) but that he wrote in such a non-manipulative way. Instead of expressing his own shock and outrage at the unprovoked murder of an entire family, he told the story as he understood it, leaving the reader’s humanity to determine his/her response.
I thought it a very adult way to write, a way of encouraging the reader’s development of character, the development of his/her soul, if you will, in the reading of such horror. My response to the story told me something about myself, rather than how I “ought” to feel about the distant event that the story described.
I contrast my praise of Capote with the overwhelming indignation I feel every time I read the story of The Unnamed Concubine in Judges 19:1-30. I can’t read it without my blood running cold. I am left weak and shaking at the end of what scholar Phyllis Trible described as a “tortuous and torturous path“, wondering after reading this “text of terror” why its author fails to offer a disapproving word.
In fact, I have often wondered why God didn’t see fit to offer a disapproving word on the subject of a woman who leaves, and then is persuaded to return to a man whose cowardice is equaled only by his astonishing hubris. A man who hands her over to a rape-gang and then chops her into parts to demonstrate his indignation at that same rape-gang.
And so I stew. Reading the story and getting angrier at God and the writer for not offering redemption by writing my indignation for me. Re-reading the story and looking for a hint of “the God who sees”: The God who rescued Hagar from the desert.
There is none.
The writer told a story.
The writer didn’t tell me how I, or anyone else, should feel about it. Instead, we are left to pay attention to our own reactions to the tale. If we dare.
Some commentators, like John Wesley, seemed to believe that the concubine got what she deserved for leaving her “protector” at the beginning of the story.
Other commentators rush to defend the concubine by pointing out that she wasn’t “at fault” for the original quarrel.
When we read this story, each of us is presented with an opportunity to examine our own responses to this tale: A woman leaves a man and is persuaded to return to him. Her reward for doing so is to be fed to a pack of rapists, cut into twelve pieces and scattered among strangers.
What is our reaction to this story?
Do we seek to explain it? If so, how?
Do we want to place blame? If so, where?
Do we want to justify the actions of the woman’s “protector”? If so, why?
Do we want to make someone other than the woman the focus of this story? If so, who?
Do we want to place God or “God’s will” somewhere in the story? If so, when?
And what do our reactions to this story tell us about how we feel, or how we feel we should feel, about women?
Visit the other synchrobloggers below:
Julie Clawson on the God who sees
Steve Hayes on St. Theodora the Iconodule
Sonja Andrews on Aunt Jemima
Sensuous Wife on a single mom in the Bible
Minnowspeaks on celebrating women
Michelle Van Loon on the persistant widow
Lyn Hallewell on women who walked with God
Heather on the strength of biblical women
Shawna Atteberry on the Daughter of Mary Magdalene
Christine Sine on women who impacted her life
Susan Barnes on Tamar, Ruth, and Mary
Kathy Escobar on standing up for nameless and voiceless women
Ellen Haroutunian on out from under the veil
Liz Dyer on Mary and Martha
Bethany Stedman on Shiphrah and Puah
Dan Brennan on Mary Magdalene
Jessica Schafer on Bathsheba
Eugene Cho on Lydia
Laura sorts through what she knows about women in the Bible
Miz Melly preached on the woman at the well
AJ Schwanz on women’s work
Pam Hogeweide on teenage girls changing the world
Teresa on the women Paul didn’t hate
Helen on Esther
Happy on Abigail
Mark Baker-Wright on telling stories
Robin M. on Eve
Alan Knox is thankful for the women who served God
Lainie Petersen on the unnamed concubine
Mike Clawson on cultural norms in the early church
Krista on serving God
Bob Carlton on Barbie as Icon
Jan Edmiston preached on the unnamed concubine
Deb on her namesake – Deborah
Makeesha on empowering women
Kate on Esther
Doreen Mannion on Deborah
Patrick Oden on Rahab
Scot McKnight on Junia
Jonathan Stegall on Eve
InHo Kim on Sarah
Mimi Haddad on deception