Friday, February 19, 2010

Sensitive nature

**Note -- I had hesitations in making this commentary, given the subject nature of rape. I believe I would have refrained, had it not been for the idea presented of wanting everyone to come to know and believe in the God who had not abandoned the victim.

I read a story recently about a woman who was raped, and later explained the situation, thanking God for providing her with grace. She also thanked for giving her a sort of protection against feeling rage or bitterness about what happened, and part of this protection included a sense of God sheltering her unmarred soul despite the rape on her body.

Now -- I truly do find that incredible, because if I was in that situation, I don't think I'd be able to stop myself from descending into that rage and bitterness. I'd want justice -- lots and lots of justice, and I'd definitely my definition of justice twisting to include vengeance.

However, in reading commentary on the story, one of the things that I'm getting confused over is the idea people want other people to know of this same God who loves and never abandoned the woman who was raped.

And I don't know what "never abandoned" means in this case. That's the part that I'm tripping over. If this woman's ability to resist bitterness and respond with grace is tied to her belief in God, I'm happy for her. As it sounds like her belief in God and His grace will aid in her healing, I'm happy that she has something to rely on and help her.

But basically, how this is read is that "Before the rape, during the rape, and after the rape, God will not abandon you." The only way for the word "abandon" to still function as a "to leave completely and finally; forsake utterly; desert; to give up; withdraw;" in this context is for the "you" to be defined as something other than a body. Something apart from your body. For the lack of abandonment is now directly associated with the feeling the woman had with God protecting her soul, and how it felt undamaged, compared to the attack on her body.

Yet, if this were reversed, and for some reason the guy had been about to rape her and then suddenly stopped, saying that God had convinced him of the error of his ways, and in fact the would-be rapist had now converted to Christianity ... wouldn't this also be seen as God not abandoning the woman? Only this time, the lack of abandonment would include a prevention of rape on her body?

And, if there is this clear line between the body and the soul, and we extend that definition of a person into other cases ... then when someone's murdered, they aren't really murdered, it's just the body that's killed. When someone's starving to death, they aren't really starving, it's just the body that's denied food.

Which we clearly don't see. Not in our sense of justice, not in our laws, and not even in good outcomes that are attributed to God. Those outcomes where believers thank God for preventing a plane crash, or thanking God for sparing a loved one in a war.

There's also the issue that "never abandoned" also means that a person is not abandoned even though there's an entity fully aware of the rape and does nothing to stop it.

17 comments:

Jon said...

Why does God allow suffering and evil? Subject of your last two posts, not too mention thousands of years of inconclusive theological speculation. In terms of people's faith this is the biggie really isn't it, and no answer I've heard really makes sense of it. Option 1 - God is perfectly good but not all powerful, so he's unable to intervene. Option 2 - he's all-powerful but not wholly good so he allows evil to exist. Option 3 - there's a lot of stuff we don't understand which makes the world the way it is. Personally I go for option 3 but not with any great confidence.

Xander said...

Your looking for a physical response from God when a tragedy happens? In your mind, the spiritual presence and comfort that might be there is not enough, right?

Bruce said...

I real problems with this whole line of thinking. God always seems to show up in the subjective realm and not the objective realm.

There is no way to prove God helped her. IF she thinks God did, all well and good. Whatever it takes to get through the day. I talk to myself...it works. :)

God never seems to show up in the objective realm, that which can be seen an verified. I guess that is what faith is all about but for the faithless among us, we want to "see". Even then it might be impossible to prove it is God. Suppose a policeman showed up and stopped the rapist. Would that be God? How could we know? Perhaps it was luck. Happenstance.

My sister-in-law died five years ago as a result of a motorcycle accident. She was in her early 40's. She left behind a husband and three kids.

After the Baptist, Revival service oriented funeral....a family member said....if one person gets saved because of Kathy's death it is worth it all!

I blew up. I let them know that they were making Kathy's life meaningless. I told them very clearly that if I had to choose between Kathy and someone going to hell......the person could go straight to hell.

It seems the body is meaningless. The spiritual dimension is all that matters.

Bruce

OneSmallStep said...

Jon,

If I were allowed to pick, I'd prefer Option 1. God is all good, but not completely all-powerful. Otherwise, I'm stuck with someone who can stop evil, but doesn't.

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

I'm looking for a way to see how "God didn't stop the rape" and "God didn't abandon me/God protected me" can be reconciled. Because right now, I'm stuck with someone telling me that God is a protector, but not if one is raped.

The only way I can see is if the person's body gets completely divorced from the equation. Which opens up a whole new set of problems.

OneSmallStep said...

Bruce,

**I guess that is what faith is all about but for the faithless among us, we want to "see". **

Yes. For me, it's because I'd like to know what I'm putting -- or supposed to -- put my faith in.

**It seems the body is meaningless. The spiritual dimension is all that matters.**

And anything that happens to the body becomes meaningless -- which is part of what troubles me in this post, because it's like the only thing that matters is the woman's spiritual aspect. But then if that's case, there's no reason to get upset about starvation, murder, torture ... it's all body-focused.

Xander said...

"And anything that happens to the body becomes meaningless -- which is part of what troubles me in this post, because it's like the only thing that matters is the woman's spiritual aspect. But then if that's case, there's no reason to get upset about starvation, murder, torture ... it's all body-focused."

Which part is more important, the physical or spiritual side of a person? I believe your agnostic, so you haven't fully embraced the atheist idea that when you die your dead and that is it. If that is the case, do you imagine that the physical trauma that happened with you goes on to the next life / realm of being?

Lorena said...

She also thanked for giving her a sort of protection against feeling rage or bitterness about what happened,

What's sad is that god didn't protect her of anything, but the teaching sent her into denial.

That denial will wreak havoc with her mind. She will go on to abuse others and to demand that they, in turn, forgive her, as she forgave her debtor. She may also raise "abusable" children. People with no boundaries who are an easy target for bullies (trust me, I know).

Xander said...

"That denial will wreak havoc with her mind"

Maybe not. From what OSS put, she doesn’t feel rage now, but I don’t see any mention of therapy to deal with the trauma she felt. If she actually confronted her feelings and then came to a place where she can forgive, why would there be mental havoc. That havoc usually comes from avoiding the issues.

societyvs said...

Great post - touching on a subject that has deep questions - what then is spirituality and the realm of physicality in that process?

Lorena nailed this one about the denial aspect...I thought that was a great point.

The truth is God did not stop the person who raped this girl (fact). Nor should He.

God has given us each the ability to choose and control our desires - and this is our personal responsibility in life. In this case the guy made a choice that over-stepped someone else's freedoms and hurt them deeply. No one likes this, but with humanity, this is a possible outcome of our actions also.

We can ask 'where was God when we needed Him most' - I agree 100%...we'll have to wrestle with that one. But I always figure God created us with 'choice' - and this is a 2 way street in many ways...just happens this idiot took a path that forsook common decency for his own internal, and selfish, impulses. What the hell was he thinking is my question?

If God is to intervene - where do we draw the line? I am losing a bet - should God intervene? I am struggling with an addiction - should God intervene? Rwanda went through some hell - should God intervene in politics in the aftermath? At what point is the standard established for God to intervene?

I think the problem is we hate occurences like what happened to this woman (and many others). For some reason, God becomes a victim alongside the actual victim. I guess that how were hard-wired, to find the blame. I don't blame anyone for thinking like that - it's honest at least.

I think what the woman is trying to convey is that forgiveness is the only real path to her own healing. She cannot change the past or this incident - she can choose to hold onto the rage or try to move away from it. Now maybe she is doing some denial (no doubt there)...but I also think she is seeking to find wholeness in a life that was robbed of some of that.

Crime never makes sense when it happens to us, nor does it to the people who committ such actions. It's quite the ambigious arena of life where we are left to contemplate destruction and loss in the limited frail shells we are. Our fallback is something bigger than us usually.

OneSmallStep said...

Xander,

**Which part is more important, the physical or spiritual side of a person?**

I'm having difficulties with this question, because it's leading right back to the area I have problems with, and the idea that Bruce touched upon -- the body doesn't matter. What happens to the body doesn't matter, because it's less important. What matters is the spiritual side, and that line of thought really bothers me, because I often see it used as almost an excuse of why not to help suffering people. The whole idea of what matters is saving souls, not getting them fed, sheltered, educated.

Because again -- if the spiritual side is more important, if there is an afterlife that doesn't include the physical aspects ... why would it matter if people are raped? Tortured? Starving? All of that happens to a physical construct.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena/Xander,

The article I read mentioned that the rape was a recent occurrence, and that the woman who was attacked was actually a therapist who does counsel rape victims, and she's certain she'll feel the emotions of rage and bitterness over what occurred to her.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**But I always figure God created us with 'choice' - and this is a 2 way street in many ways**

But this created with 'choice' aspect is limited, and is thus designed to favor the strong. Those who make the choice to rape have their choice "respected," so to speak -- the victims would choose not to be raped, and yet their choice is not respected.

**At what point is the standard established for God to intervene?**

Is this question meant to show the fine line of asking for intervention? Is it an all or nothing scenario? We live in a society that requires intervention from time-to-time. We require the police to intervene if they know a crime occurs. We require the state to intervene if a parent is neglecting or abusing a child. We require the courts to intervene if a wife asks for help against an abusive husband.

**For some reason, God becomes a victim alongside the actual victim.**

It's not a matter of assigning the blame here, though. It's a matter of trying to reconcile the idea of God not abandoning someone/protecting them, along with allowing a rape to occur. How are the two reconciled? How can someone be called a protector when they in fact did not protect someone from rape?

Xander said...

** Because again -- if the spiritual side is more important, if there is an afterlife that doesn't include the physical aspects ... why would it matter if people are raped? Tortured? Starving? All of that happens to a physical construct. **

I feel like the physical is tied to the spiritual. Our reaction towards the physical care of others is a direct reflection of our spiritual side. Likewise, the only way to do damage to the spiritual side is through physical attacks. How we handle those attacks help to determine if our spiritual side is damaged or recovers and becomes stronger. If the spirit is eternal, it is where we must focus our attention.

I agree that people carelessly cast away the suffering of others because it does not directly affect them or people they know. But I do feel like they will be held accountable for that at some point.

Temaskian said...

In this case, "you will never be abandoned" likely means that the believer (in this case, the rape victim) will never be in want of an imaginary friend. I.e. you can imagine that friend, before, during, and after the rape.

It's like imagining a soft toy with you no matter what happens or is happening to you. It's quite meaningless, and totally imaginary, but probably quite comforting.

societyvs said...

"But this created with 'choice' aspect is limited, and is thus designed to favor the strong. Those who make the choice to rape have their choice "respected," so to speak -- the victims would choose not to be raped, and yet their choice is not respected." (OSS)

Like I said, we don't like it - I don't think we should like it - but it's basic reality as far as I can tell from any and all observations I have had in life.

Choice is a blessing and a curse when you think about it...and this case really lets us know that. The man used his choice for 'evil' and through-out that whole incident and prior - he made choices of what he was going to do and not do. It's unfortunate this poor lady had to pay for that.

This woman also had her choice limited by this person's choice - but this does not mean she does not have choice...she was likely even making rushed choices during those whole horrific episode.

What does the amount of respect someone deserves have to do with the ability to choose?

"Is this question meant to show the fine line of asking for intervention? Is it an all or nothing scenario?" (OSS)

In some ways it is. If God helps here and then doesn't help another when the exact same scenario occurs - what of God? I would cry 'injustice' myself. Then we need to think there is some horrendous amount of rapes a year through-out America...God has to stop every single on of them now (since a precedent is set).

I think that is a groovy idea myself. However, at what point does God stop intervening in human affairs? Is every single crime that puts us out someway going to be policed by God now? What about spousal problems? What about work problems? At what point do we start handling our affairs again and let God 'go'.

"We live in a society that requires intervention from time-to-time." (OSS)

I agree, but it's human intervention. I see this as progress for humanity that we can work through these things and develop solutions to keep people safe...at some point...don't you think is what God wants? (our freedoms)

"How can someone be called a protector when they in fact did not protect someone from rape?" (OSS)

I will address this question with the life of Jesus as an example...where exactly did God intervene in this man's life? Yet Jesus calls God 'perfect'.

The question is not one of intervention - but of what we mean by God protecting us. Shouldn't faith be the thing that sharpens out wits and makes us aware of the good and bad in life...dealing with each avenue and growing from situation to situation? I would say 'yes'.

I would also say we cannot control someone's actions and make them do what we want...do we want to be robots now when something bad happens? Maybe it is better we did not have the ability to choose because of all the 'evil' that occurs around us and may eventually 'wipe us off this planet'. I see the attraction of this - just being honest.

But God created them...in creation is life...is choice. I guess we can blame God for making us 'this way'...we hurt, we remember, we cause pain, we hate, we decieve, we lie, we run, we deny, etc.

Maybe this is all out of God's control and that is the choice He has made?

Jon said...

I've been thinking about this on and off over the past few weeks and reading the responses. What really disturbs me (in myself as well as in others) is how we find it easy to dismiss this woman's experience. She has experienced a devastating trauma, and she has found that her knowledge of God and sense of his presence has helped her enormously to cope with that. It would hardly help her to say to her "that's just an illusion" or "you may as well be thinking about a fluffy toy". (I know we're not saying these things to her but this is a public forum.) For her this is a real support. It may not be the full answer, and in time she may need to deal with it in a different way, but the help she gets was certainly real and powerful to her. I'm sure there's something profund in that for us to learn, about faith, about what the presence of god means, about how to respond to suffering.