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A Theology of Sexuality and its Abuse: Creation, Evil, and the Relational Ecosystem, Part 2, by Andrew J. Schmutzer

The organic continuum of sin works with antecedent condition in its socio-religious environment as: cause → effect → further cause.152 Stories such as the rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13) show that, unless sin is checked, the continuum naturally “matures” into further results (Gen 15:16; Rom 1:18–32).153 Evil’s corrupting effects twist and pervert reality. Thus the dynamic of intergenerational transmission reflects: (1) children impacted by their parents’ sins, (2) creating conditions that negatively affect the options available to the children, (3) predispose the children toward certain choices, (4) that contribute destructively to their present identities.154 Sin is inherited not as legal guilt, but as the tendency to perpetuate parental behavior.155

In summary, while God is eager to forgive and heal, he does not alter the moral and physical principles that structure his creation. “Sin, as a continuum, twists reality and passes on this contorted system as an antecedent reality to those who come after, limiting their freedom to perceive reality properly and, thus, also their freedom to choose rightly.”156 From these factors, sexual violence can live on in families and social structures of society. Environment is not destiny, but environment is a predisposing factor.157 The complex actions of biblical characters validate precisely this. In several biblical stories one sees heinous sexual acts whose actions in turn reverberate far beyond their own lives to warp the realities in which others act. Again, “One sees sin lingering in the world, distorting perceptions, offering inauthentic possibilities, skewing the system, perpetuating itself … forgiveness granted the first sinner in the chain of causation is sometimes, sadly, unable to interrupt the sequence if the seeds sown in the environment have already taken root in the lives of others.”158 We can demonstrate this continuum of sin by noting significant similarities in four Old Testament narratives.

Escalating Violence in Old Testament Stories of Rape

Some familiar biblical stories of sexual violence illustrate how evil progressively shapes reality, colonizing itself through destructive social interactions that increasingly tear apart the relational ecosystem. In a stimulating study of Old Testament rape narratives, Frank M. Yamada uses a literary and rhetorical method to analyze the narratives of Genesis 34, Judges 19, and 2 Samuel 13, stories that reveal “explicit thematic or functional connections between them” when read alongside each other.159 He finds that these “stories betray similar elements, development, and outcome,” namely: (1) rape (2) that leads to excessive male violence (3) and culminates in social fragmentation (see table below).160

Yamada’s findings supply further biblical demonstration for the organic spread of sin within the relational ecosystem. In fact, I would argue that eight to ten elements are so consistent in biblical stories of sexual violence that they form a *type-scene, a programmatic sequence of familiar motifs.161 This literary observation is achieved by reading these stories collectively, not just as individual accounts. In the following table, I place Yamada’s three thematic observations within nine additional themes I’ve collected.162 Adding Genesis 19 as a fourth text only confirms the profile and intensification of these themes.163 Observe the table below [Editor’s note: please read the full digital edition of Pneuma Review Fall 2013 for the table, appearing on page 42].

Table: Sexual Violence and Thematic Connections within the Relational Ecosystem

Other chapters [of The Long Journey Home] explore these narratives; here, I merely collate the reoccurring themes and highlight their progressive profile that reverberates between these texts. It is not surprising that numbers 1–6 reveal some antecedent moral, domestic, and cultural patterns that lead up to the female rape, excessive male violence, and social fragmentation—Yamada’s core three (numbers 7, 8, 10). Collective shame and honor are very evident here. What begins with traveling strangers ends with people sexually violated, entire communities socially estranged or physically destroyed. I will comment briefly on themes 1, 6, 11, and 12, largely through the Lot narrative that Yamada does not address (Genesis 19).

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Category: Fall 2013, Ministry, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Andrew J. Schmutzer, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL). He regularly writes and speaks about sexual abuse from a theological perspective, to help equip churches to care for the abused in their midst. Andrew is the editor of the collaborative book, The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused (Wipf & Stock, 2011), a contributor to numerous books including Finding Our Way Through the Traffick: Exploring the Complexities of a Christian Response to Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking (Regnum Books, 2017), The Moody Handbook of Preaching (Moody, 2008), Naming Our Abuse: God's Pathways to Healing for Male Sexual Abuse Survivors (Kregel, 2016), Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering (Moody, 2016), and Genesis: See Our Story Begin (NLT Study Series). He is one of the editors of The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul (Moody, 2013), and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Crux of Thematic Repetition in Genesis 1-11 (Wipf & Stock, 2009). He can be reached at aschmutz@moody.edu.

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