What the Duggars can teach the Church about Islam

June 1st, 2015

Last Friday, I was part of a roundtable on HuffPost Live.

My 15 minutes of not-even-close-to-fame on almost TV were fun, even though I was cut off from finishing a thought by another panelist who I actually agreed with and … well … it doesn’t matter.

During the segment, the host asked me if as a Christian — and particularly as an ordained minister — I felt compelled to publicly differentiate myself from the Duggars and make the point that not all Christians are like them. “Absolutely!” I said. Or something like that. You’ll have to check the transcript.

Eh, who am I kidding? There’s no transcript for almost TV.

Anyway, I did and still do feel compelled to declare the differences between myself and others like the Duggars or Pat Robertson or whatever Christian celebrity is in the news on any given day for saying something egregious or doing something heinous.

“We’re not all like that!” I shout to the heavens.

I’m guessing you do the same.

Lately, it feels like I’m shouting more and more every day. Whether it’s Ken Ham saying something ridiculous about science or Westboro Baptist protesting the LGBT community for existing or some Christian politician demonizing immigrants and the poor for not being white, middle class Americans or yet another story of sexual assault in the Church, I find myself shouting, “Not all Christians are like that!”

Last Friday, as I once again found myself defending my faith against others who have tarnished it, I couldn’t help but think this must be how my Muslim neighbors feel every day as they have to listen to yet another talking head on cable news or fear-mongering preacher or hateful troll on the Internet explain what Islam really is: an evil breading ground for sanctified terrorism.

As Christians, we like to think that we’re above such gross caricature. After all, we’ve got the Bible, not the Quran, and most of us aren’t involved in unspeakable acts of terrorism.

Maybe Christians today aren’t making headlines alongside ISIS for acts of religious violence, but we are routinely making headlines for something just as despicable, something that occurs across denominational lines and with such increasing frequency that we really shouldn’t be surprised to hear those outside the Church lump all Christians together as guilty of the same sin, while blaming the Church for fostering an environment ripe for such evil to persist and condemning the Bible for sanctifying both deed and response.

I’m talking about sexual violence and the cover-up that so often ensues.

From the pedophile priest scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church to the recent revelations involving Josh Duggar to almost daily news reports of yet another pastor being arrested for child porn and/or sexually assaulting a Church member, whether we want to admit it or not, in the eyes of many outside the Church, we Christians have built up the same sort of unfair reputation for sexual violence (and cover-up) that Muslims have for terrorism.

But, you say, the Quran calls Muslims to kill the infidel. The Bible doesn’t sanction sexual violence and cover-up!

Well, actually….

We all know about the story of Lot offering his daughters up as potential victims of gang rape in Genesis 19. And you may also be familiar with the law in Deuteronomy that offers instructions for the sanctified coverup of rape: 50 shekels of silver and a quickie marriage.

But there’s a story in 2 Samuel 13 that you’re probably less familiar with, and its similarities to the Duggar scandal are, well, see for yourself ….

David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar; and David’s son Amnon fell in love with her. Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah; and Jonadab was a very crafty man. He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed, and pretend to be ill; and when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me something to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, so that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” So Amnon lay down, and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.”

Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.” So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. Then she took the pan and set them out before him, but he refused to eat. Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, so that I may eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” She answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile! As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the scoundrels in Israel. Now therefore, I beg you, speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.

Then Amnon was seized with a very great loathing for her; indeed, his loathing was even greater than the lust he had felt for her. Amnon said to her, “Get out!” But she said to him, “No, my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence, and bolt the door after her.” (Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves; for this is how the virgin daughters of the king were clothed in earlier times.) So his servant put her out, and bolted the door after her. But Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore the long robe that she was wearing; she put her hand on her head, and went away, crying aloud as she went.

Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar remained, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house. When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.

To summarize: a sexually frustrated brother sexually assaulted his sister, but his family covered it up and refused to punish him for his grievous crime because they (or at least his father) loved him.

Sound familiar?

Well, what if we treated this text like so many people treat the Quran, ignoring the role of interpretation and what most Muslims themselves have to say about the passage and instead declare on our own what it really means?

What would that look like?

Probably something like this: Look! Here’s proof that Christianity is evil! The Bible sanctifies sexual violence, and every time we hear about another Christian sexually assaulting someone and the Church covering it up, they’re just living out true Christianity. They’re just doing what the Bible tells them to do. Christianity is evil and real Christians are a danger to society, especially our children!

If, as a Christian, that sort of caricature of the faith leaves you feeling appalled, consider how your Muslim neighbors must feel, listening everyday as talking heads on cable news and self-proclaimed experts everywhere, from the pulpit to Facebook, trash Islam as an inherently evil faith that sanctifies terrorism and sexual violence against both women and children.

In other words, if you’re tired of defending Christianity every time another self-professed Christian makes the news for doing something evil, and yet you also find yourself denouncing Islam as an inherently evil religion based on what you see on TV and what little you’ve read of the Quran, I urge you to stop and consider that maybe, just maybe, your fears of Islam are misplaced and unfair to the countless millions who practice their faith in peace everyday around the world.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I’m not trying to argue that Islam and Christianity are essentially the same. They’re not. Nor am I trying to justify violence of any kind in the context of either religion. It doesn’t matter how many proof-texts you have, sexual assault and murdering innocent people is always, always, always wrong.

But when you combine a lack of scriptural interpretation with a inherently distrustful and hateful view of an entire group of people, then elevate the actions of a few as being the true exemplars of their faith, it’s just as easy to demonize Christianity as an evil religion that sanctifies sexual violence and cover-up as it is to demonize Islam as an evil religion that sanctifies terrorism.

And therein lies the tragic irony of the Duggars and Westboro Baptist and Pat Robertson and the never-ending parade of Christians we don’t want to be associated with:

They’ve got a lot to teach us about Islam.

This piece was originally published at ZackHunt.net. 

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