Trafficking and abuse Conference: Theology of Justice and violence to women

Over the next few posts I plan to highlight some good points from the trafficking and abuse conference. For those who didn’t make it, you can order the DVDs for only $9.95 total! Here is the form and here is the website where they are described. The website also advertises our next event in this lecture series (Dec 1-3, 2011).

Bethany Hoang of IJM opened the conference on Thursday night by reminding us that justice is at the heart of worship. It is not merely a social matter. Proverbs 14:31 pairs justice with worship and honor of God:

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

And Jesus tells us in Matt 23:23b that the “weightier matters” of the Christian life have to do with justice and mercy:

But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy, and faithfulness

(Later in the conference, Diane Langberg reminded us that complacency is complicity with those who are committing these crimes.)

Bethany went on to describe the historical rift between social action and conservative views of Scripture. The fundamentalism/liberalism debate of the early 20th century caused many to equate justice ministries with liberalism and is only now becoming more prominent in evangelical circles. Justice, said Bethany, must be grounded in Christ or else we will burn out.

So, we look to Christ. Where does he call us to join him? In dying to self. Bethany quoted Karl Barth here: Jesus calls us to live in the neighborhood of Golgotha, the neighborhood of death. Let us remember that our tangible efforts toward justice are to point to Christ and ought to reveal the character of God.

Diane Langberg spoke to the audience about violence to women. There are some very consistent facts:

  • 1:3 women experience sexual violence in their lifetime (1:6 men); 1:5 women experience rape
  • 5 million women suffer domestic violence every year in the US. It is the number one cause of injury in women 15-44.

The definition of genocide (from Rwanda) actually fits the data on how women are treated. When you consider gender-based violence (from abortion to murder, to rape, etc. ), more women have been killed in the last fifty years than people died in all of the battles of the 20th century put together. Approximately 100 million women are missing from the planet (per the Economist). In addition, the crime of genocide can be levied on those who are complicit, who do not act to stop this violence. Thus, are we complicit in the church for failing to adequately protect our girls and women. When we fail to identify and name evil for what it is, we are accomplices to a crime.

One of the most powerful parts of her talk was her review of how Jesus exhibited counter-cultural care for women. For example he,

  • had a woman traveling with him
  • allowed a woman of ill-repute to touch him
  • engaged in conversation with the woman at the well, another woman of sketchy background
  • completed his first miracle to bless the marriage of a woman
  • Did not condemn the woman caught in adultery
  • Had compassion on a gentile woman wanting some “crumbs” of healing
  • Provided for his mother with his final breaths
  • Had a woman be the first reporter of his resurrection

We fight in church about the role of women in ministry and about headship/submission. Maybe it is time to start addressing the matter of the dignity of all women and how men honor their head, Jesus Christ, when they act in ways that acknowledge this inherent dignity.


Filed under Abuse, Biblical Seminary, Christianity, Diane Langberg, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Trafficking and abuse Conference: Theology of Justice and violence to women

  1. D. Stevenson

    I had a short conversation this week regarding a passage in Judges that persists in bothering me. (Judges 19) — Here is a cut and paste of my question and the response I received. —-

    A different portion of that story remains one of the most horrific, disturbing, and troubling portions of Scripture for me. HOW could a husband put his wife out the door to be raped while he continues to eat and drink with his host and then sleep the night, all while she is being raped just outside? How could they sit with the screams and laughter no doubt sounding into the dwelling? Why were he and his host not judged? I know the answer, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” BUT. It seems to me that it portrays that the rapists were wrong but the husband was not wrong. Does God not care about women? — Yeah, yeah, I know the theology. Nevertheless, this story troubles me and there remains doubt that I am as equally valuable in the eyes of God as a man.

    First, in that culture, to let a guest man die was unthinkable. To let a woman die was thinkable because culturally as you know the woman was not considered as valuable. It is interesting in the Torah that God set through Moses differing values on men and women. The wife was also a concubine who was both unfaithful to him and left him–this probably factored in his giving her up without a fight. At any case, I’m with you. How could a husband just give up his wife to be “used” and not fight for her? Undoubtedly the stakes were hopeless but for crying outloud, he was a Levite. Why didn’t he call on God for help? (Another clue to how bad things were all around).

    The good news is we can easily see from Jesus that God views men and women with equal love. Significantly, the first person to see Him on His resurrection as you know was Mary. Your value in God’s eyes is not a lesser than proposition. There are lots of questions I have for God about why OT standards are different than NT standards–why was that necessary?

    —– Even so, my questions remain. Why didn’t God protect that woman! Why doesn’t He protect women now? (I suppose this is a “why do the wicked prosper” question) And I still wonder, am I, as female, of lesser value in the economy of God?

    That women are lesser is a subtle message in much of the church. Perhaps complacency isn’t the problem as much as the reasons for that complacency.

    • Deb, these are good questions. There are certainly many things in the bible that are not commented on but are there for God’s ultimate purposes. Think about Abraham and his willingness to hand over HIS wife who he did love. Not punished. Think about God using the Babylonians to do his judging on Israel for lack of faithfulness.

      I do think the man in Judges 19 would not have been seen as a hero in the eyes of his contemporaries. He did a number of things wrong for his day and cutting her up and being all offended and wanting revenge wouldn’t have covered him. God chooses not to comment on it…but do not think he won’t judge all rightly and correct injustice where it happened.

      Now, why doesn’t God intervene and stop human sin? Again, good question. He does more than we know but we still wish he would do more.

      I do like your last line. Maybe the reasons for complacency need more light of day shone on them.

      ********* Philip G. Monroe, PsyD Professor of Counseling & Psychology Director, MA Counseling Program Biblical Seminary 200 N. Main Street Hatfield, PA 19440 Following Jesus into the world

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