Sexual Assault is Never OK. Don’t Desecrate Your Bible to Try to Make it OK.

The sign at Wal-Mart says that we have 45 days left until Christmas. Christmas keeps popping up all over the place. Department stores aren’t the only ones invoking the Christmas story early these days.

Just yesterday, the familiar characters of the nativity made a surprise appearance in a political controversy in Alabama.

I am not one to enjoy wading into politics in the public sphere. Some readers may mistake this pastoral post for a political one. I hope you read carefully enough realize that I care very little about politics in Alabama.  I do, however, care very deeply about the way that we read the Bible and utilize it for ethical purposes.; I care very deeply about the pain that too many people carry. So, I choose to take this risk.

Judge Roy Moore, a candidate for the upcoming Alabama Senate election was recently accused of pursuing an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old girl (he was in his 30’s at the time) and of sexual assaulting her.

In the past few months, we have seen a new wave of women and men (of all ages) demonstrating the courage to name their tragic experiences of sexual assault at the hands of those who hold positions of social power. This is a courageous thing for them to do, especially because those they have named often still wield power that could silence or humiliate their accusers.

I fully support the courage that these women and men are demonstrating. To carry the pain and brokenness of being sexually assaulted and being forced into silence destroys the human heart. As a person of faith, I long to see everyone made whole in Christ who has come to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18).

Too many people in this world have been victims of horrific acts at the hands of people who refuse to recognize the humanity of others. Too many people have been victims of sexual assault. It is not okay. It is never okay.

Now, my goal here is not to act as judge and jury over these accusations, including the accusations against Judge Moore. I do, however, want to take a moment to discuss the nature of one particular defense that has been made on Moore’s behalf.

Yesterday, the Washington Examiner reported some comments made by Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler. In defending Moore in these accusations, he invoked the Bible, saying: 

“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist…. Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus…. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here….”

I hope and pray that Christian people see this for what it is: an egregious and sinful misappropriation of Holy Scripture to influence people of faith to turn a blind eye to people’s pain and these serious allegations. This is one more example of power seeking to silence the broken. We’ve seen powerful men use their position and wealth to silence their victims. These comments are an example of calling upon the power and authority of God in scripture to do the same thing. This is a sinful and disgusting use of the Bible.

A simple reading of these passages in Luke chapters 1 & 2 will make it abundantly clear that they nowhere seek to tell young girls that it’s ok for men to abuse them in any way. These passages in no way give men a mandate to turn others into objects for their own sexual gratification.

Church, listen carefully: the Holy Scriptures call us to speak up for the voiceless; honor one another’s bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit;  see one another as God’s very own creation;  seek justice at all costs;  offer healing for people; and so much more.

If you find a defense like this coming out of your mouth, please stop and consider that you are telling girls, women, boys, and men—all made in the image of God—that God says what happened to them is okay. God DOES NOT say it’s okay. It is not okay. Don’t soil God, your faith, your Bible, or your sisters and brothers in Christ by trying to say otherwise.

This is not who we are.

I pray that the people of God are creating safe places for victims of sexual abuse to name their pain, confront the horrors of their experiences, and find healing.

We should never, ever, use the Bible to hurt. It has been given to us to heal.