April 29, 2004

Disregarded Scripture of the Day

"Now Dinah, daughter of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the girls of the place.

And when Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he seized her, lay with her, and humbled, defiled, and disgraced her.

But his soul longed for her and clung to Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke comfortingly to her young heart's wishes.

And Shechem said to his father Hamor, get this girl to be my wife."

-Genesis 34:1-4

So, I few things before I get to the point.

I'm struck by the really sick pathology on display in this story. This guy violated this woman, and then decided to whisper some sweet nothings in her ear so he can keep her because he'd had just such a good time.

Of course, never let it be said that the Bible lacks irony. Since Dinah was a daughter of Israel, her father insisted that Shechem and every other man in his kingdom be circumcised before he would even consider letting this marriage take place. And then, three days after every man in the town was trying to recover from a radical penile adjustment, Dinah's brothers snuck into the town and killed EVERY male.

AND they took all their land and livestock.

AND they enslaved all the women and children.

Like most men, Dinah's siblings do better with wrath than with empathy.

Now, while you're all pondering the full meaning of the term "payback of biblical proportions", consider this: poor Dinah, who had been held captive, presumably as a sex slave, in Shechem's house this entire time (why does this sound more and more like a prehistoric episode of "Special Victims Unit"?), is rescued, but never mentioned again. Cast aside and forgotten in the sweep of Judeo-Christian history.

Why I'm I spinning this little told yarn from the Old Testament?

One of my very favorite people in the world, Dr. Monica A. Coleman of Bennett College, is releasing her very first book, The Dinah Project, named after the program she created in her church in Nashville to support victims of sexual assault and informed by her own experiences as a survivor of sexual violence. Given the fact that churches are notoriously bad for providing substantive help to their parishoners who are victims of incest, molestation, rape or any other manner of sexual assault, the book is intended as a guide for church leaders on how they can organize more effective programs for their own congregation.

Yes, gentle reader, I know that I can count on one hand those of you who are clergy or some sort of church leader. I know that a lot of you aren't involved in any sort of organized religion.

But I also know for a fact that each and every one of you knows AT LEAST one woman who's been raped, if not more, and probably at least one man who's been raped or molested.

Or perhaps the pain touches a little closer.

And I'll leave it at that.

Check out the book.

The Dinah Project

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