On September 14th, Drs. Jacober & Peacock took the stage as the first two speakers at FMx, a “Ted Talk” like experience for the Free Methodist Church in Southern California.
This two-day event featured speakers from Sonoran Theological Group, Fuller Theological Seminary, Biola University, and the Free Methodist’s own Bishop Matthew Thomas. Talks this year focused on diversity and inclusion, egalitarianism, and sexuality.
Below you will find a small excerpt from Dr. Cory Peacock’s talk on inclusion. Later this week, Dr. Amy Jacober will drop in to give a brief recount of her two talks.
Dr. Peacock began by recounting the biblical story of Judges 19, where a Levite and his concubine, traveling home, stop overnight in Gibeah. While there, the towns’ people gather outside the house in which the Levite is being hosted and demand that he be sent outside in order to be violated.
“So, the towns’ people are looking to do evil to this man. The Ephramite knows it. In order to save his guest, he sends out the pilegesh and, inexplicably, his own daughter to be violated by the crowd. And this they do.
In the morning when the Levite intends to resume his trek back home, he opened the door to the house to find the pilegesh fallen at the door’s entrance. Coldly and without affection, he says to the pilegesh, “get up, let’s go.” She didn’t answer. They text is not clear. Is she dead? Has she merely been beaten unconscious? We don’t know. So, the Levite takes the next logical step – puts her on his donkey, goes home, cuts her into 12 pieces and musters Israel to go punish Gibeah.
Does anyone else feel the need to take a shower after hearing that story?
Even though this story is clearly about the Levite, I’m sure there are several lessons from the story we can all learn about how not to treat a woman. First, if there’s a crowd of people outside your door asking to abuse you, don’t send your pilegesh or daughter out to them. Just keep the door locked. A second obvious lesson would seem to be, when one you love has been battered and abused don’t cut them up, even if it seems like it is for a very good purpose. But there are subtler lessons to learn, too.
The story never names the woman. She is merely the pilegesh throughout. She has been dehumanized, objectified. She becomes little more than a prop in the story – she is the story element that motivates the actions of the Levite. She goes away, he is motivated to follow. Their unnarrated reconciliation motivates his return home. Her brutal treatment motivates his muster of Israel against Gibeah. But what are her motivations? What does SHE want?
The woman’s only agency in this whole story is the thing for which she is frequently labelled, “whore.” The Hebrew word, zonah, means one who is unfaithful and can refer to sexual infidelity. Considering the cold-hearted calculating the Levite displays later in the story, I would be surprised if this were about sexual infidelity. He was well within his rights to dismiss her were she to blame. But she has left of her own accord. And yet, HE pursues HER. He goes to SPEAK TENDERLY to her. As we see later in the story, this is not the type of move this man would make. We know what he is capable of were he the one who was aggrieved.
Even in the reconciliation, the pilegesh has no voice. The Levite speaks to the father-in-law. She is disenfranchised. On the outside looking in.
As Susan Niditch rightly points out, “In a world in which men arrange the exhange of women, the woman’s (original) departure (leaving the Levite’s house), in accordacne with her own decision, could be regarded as an act of definance.”
For the woman to dare to act on her own, she was “unfaithful.” For her merely to leave his house… that was an act of infidelity in the eyes of those in power. And so she is labelled, “whore.”
For too long, diversity has been a buzzword. Speaking broadly for American culture, we have taken publicity photos with people from every race and nationality and slapped our branding upon them, as if this were a solution to the diversity problem. We have invited token women and African-Americans and Latinos to the table only to insist that they sound like white men.
We have insisted on DIVERSITY WITHOUT DIFFERENCE.
What do we want?
We want Diversity WITH Difference. We want the rich diversity of God’s Kingdom to be represented in His church, in ministry done in His name, in remembrance that God said, let US make humankind in OUR image. And God’s image is broader and richer and deeper than we have previously allowed. God is, by definition, both communal AND diverse.”