Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 103; 150, 2 Samuel 13:1-22, Romans 15:1-13, John 3:22-36
The story of David’s sister Tamar is a tragic one. Her half-brother Amnon, who perversely lusted for her, pretended to be ill and tricked her into his bedchamber, supposedly to care for him. When Tamar realized his intentions, she begged him not to force himself upon her, calling it a vile act and asking, “where could I carry my shame?”
Her shame? Tamar was victimized twice.
Amnon’s guilt immediately caused him to loathe and discard her. Her brother Absalom meant well and took her in but even his words robbed her of dignity: “Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart.” While she remained a “desolate woman” in Absalom’s home, Amnon remained unpunished because David loved him.
The real shame is not hearing Tamar’s point of view. It’s her story, but she’s little more than a prop.
If only this tale was an example of barbarism relegated to the past; victim-blaming is all-too-real and all-too-current. Defense attorneys try to discredit sexual assault victims by shaming them for common behaviors and dress. Cherished institutions offer (and beleaguered families accept) settlements which teach abused children the fair market value of their souls. In families, the abused are taught the family’s “good” name is more important than their truth. When groups who have been oppressed for centuries gain a legal toehold and dare to point out the ongoing need for justice work, they are dismissed for playing the “victim card.”
The lack of consequences for Amnon’s sin had devastating, long-lasting repercussions within the family. When the powerful – or their enablers – silence those they abuse in the name of “keeping the peace” all they’re really keeping is power. Others pay the price. For a while.
When we ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” the right answer is never “sweep it under the rug.” People like Tamar should be able to carry their shame right into the midst of Christ’s disciples and exchange it for love and solace. The greater good is not built from the top down, but ground up … one mended soul at a time.
Comfort: Everyone’s story matters to God.
Challenge: When you encounter examples of victim-blaming, speak up.
Prayer: Read all of Psalm 139.
Discussion: When have you been unjustly silenced?
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