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Biblical Reflections

The following reflections were compiled in 1997 for a class at Eden Theological Seminary, "Feminist Womanist Theology". For the inspiration and encouragement I am deeply indebted to Dr. Deborah Krause. Copyright Katherine Hawker.


I. leaving the fold

 

Bible

Holy Bible

Scripture

Canon.

big words

and loaded,

cannons have balls

that fire and kill.

I've been killed.

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II. loose leaf bible

 

she accused me of having

a loose leaf bible

and i nodded.

i do not find life in

the stories of unabashed violence;

i do not read guidance

in the mildly chiding letters to slave holders;

i discard the pages

stained with the blood of my sisters

and weep with every tear.

until one day

i realize

that there are no pages

left to tear.

and no tears left to weep.

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III. returning to find the fabric stained

 

jephthah's daughter is a story new to me.

all these years

i have escaped the hearing

of the nightmare.

 

so I'm reading along

becoming oblivious to the litany of women

possessed and disposed.

i read about assertive achsah

who dared to claim her promise;

the strange violence of deborah and jael

and the implicit challenge to holy motherhood;

by now the hour is late

my eyes are heavy

and skimming is more accurate than reading.

but I'm struck by a hint of sympathy

for jephthah

the child of scorn

who grows up to scorn.

and in that moment of hesitant sympathy

i re-engage in the story

only to have my heart ripped

as another innocent

is burned.

literally.

burned.

 

why is there no ninth hour deliverance?

 

the litany of possessed and dispossessed continues...

from Manoah to Micahís mother to the Leviteís wife to Hannah

all merged into a single

sinking

feeling.

the blood of my sisters

runs

from page

to page.

 

can sacrifice

of the other

ever

ever

ever be noble?

 

the tragedy

the challenge

the pain

of a story like jephthah's daughter

is that no amount of exegetical two-step

can change the horror.

 

stories like this

need to be shared by the sisters

with the sisters

alone.

 

an abiding challenge

offered by my sister colleagues

is the challenge to read jephthah's story.

to hear the pain

then

and now.

to be in solidarity

so that i

you

we

can call the mourning women

 

so that the horror

is not

in isolation.

 

jephthahís story is no longer new to me.

for the sake of my daughter

my sisters

my friends

i must

i will

listen to jephthahís story.

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IV. who is my sister?

 

elizabeth cady stanton

and sojourner truth

women

struggling to define their faith

to name their experience of god

against the grain

against the misogyny

against the text

against the culture

against each other.

 

stanton and truth

contemporaries

would be, should be, allies

and yet

like sarah and hagar

worlds apart

tearing apart.

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V. bathsheba, my sister

 

bathsheba.

david and bathsheba

were as one word.

i remember the stories from childhood

about the beautiful woman,

so beautiful

that she attracted a king's attention.

oh, that i would be so beautiful!

of course, he shouldnít have

she shouldnít have

and there was the dreadful scene with the unnecessary husband,

but, all in all,

a romeo and juliet

ill-fated but captivating love affair.

if i

as a child in sunday school

or young adult leading campus bible studies

ever wondered about her willingness

to be sexually involved with david

if i wondered

(which i don't think i did)

i likely would have settled upon the

honor;

the honor of being invited to the king's bed.

 

like a painful memory returning

a slow awareness emerged

somewhere between my graduation from seminary

and the third anniversary of my ordination

that non-consensual sex

no matter what lace is added

is

rape.

and bathsheba

voiceless bathsheba

was raped by the mighty king.

one daresn't stay long on the details,

wondering what happened

to that young beautiful woman

in his tent.

 

because this dreadful story comes complete with judgment

from nathan

the inherent misogyny of the text is often missed.

yes,

nathan named david's action as sin.

and in so naming

nathan uncovers a human penchant

for blindness.

but nathan named david's sinful action

as that of stealing property....

uriah's property.

nathan didn't get it.

neither have centuries

of well intended

male

scholars.

more troubling for me

than the rape itself

is the utter blindness of nathan

and subsequently centuries of scholars

to recognize the wrong done

to bathsheba.

 

to rob someone of voice

to make non-consensual physical advances

with the implicit blessing of the scripture

is wrenching.

 

the so-called neutral study of the text

even given the cultural historical context

leaves me cold.

 

with eyes of suspicion

i know that nathan's culture

was one of patriarchy

without eyes to see or eyes to hear

the mourning cries.

with eyes of suspicion

i must now say

and say clearly

that i hear bathsheba's cry.

 

we live in a time when we could/would/should

be aware

of not only our own painful histories

but those of our mothers, our daughters, our sisters.

we live in the wake of anita hill and paula jones.

we have been blessed

in the wake of our sisters' pain

with a language to name

our choice

and our right to choice

about our bodies.

 

we come to this story

with a presumption of personhood

womanhood

for bathsheba

that neither she nor nathan nor david

could have had.

we come with questions

and demands

from our social-political environment.

 

we are not content to study

bathsheba's lot;

we are not comforted to recognize

that at least her name is remembered;

we come as women

and men, i hope

demanding a new reading.

demanding that the church

in nathan's silence

speak out

on behalf of the countless bathsheba's

summoned even today

to beds not of their choosing.

 

this story is life giving

not in the resolution or solutions offered by the text

but merely as it allows us to see and name

a wrenching problem

which plagues my sisters even today.

this story is life giving

as we react with bathsheba

against the tradition...

against the story.

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