Monday, December 31, 2018

The Bible Lied About Lot's Daughters

Artwork that shows Lot and his two daughters fleeing Sodom (which is in the background on fire). Behind them, Lot's wife is looking back at Sodom and waving her arms. Image source.
[content note: child sexual abuse]

Here's a post with a bit of bible interpretation that blew my mind: The Lot of the Abused: How We Shift the Blame Onto Victims. (It's from 2016 but was recently shared on Love, Joy, Feminism.)

The writer, Ryan Stollar, says that the biblical story about Lot's daughters just doesn't add up. According to the bible, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot lived in a cave with his two daughters, and the daughters decided they needed to get pregnant by their father because supposedly there were no other men in the world. They got him drunk and then the older daughter had sex with him. The next day they got him drunk again and the younger daughter had sex with him. Both got pregnant. And Lot was so drunk that he wasn't even aware of what was happening during sex- "he did not know when she lay down or when she arose." In other words, the two daughters raped their father.

Yeah, Stollar says he doesn't buy it. Remember the part (before they lived in the cave) where Lot lived in Sodom and an angry mob came to his door and he offered to let them rape his two virgin daughters? Stollar asks:
How did these marginalized young girls, who were just moments prior about to be thrown out to be sexually assaulted themselves, become—seemingly overnight—active and machinating sexual criminals?
Instead, he sees it this way:
This causes me to have a different take. Reading the text with an eye towards child liberation and child protection means I place the children at the center of the story. When I do that, here is what I read: two young girls are offered up for gang rape by their father—a father prone to drinking, who cares little about his daughters’ protection, and has no qualms with sexual violation provided it is girls who are violated. The poor children are dragged from one city to another until they are forced to live in isolation with their drunken father in a cave. Shortly thereafter both children are pregnant. A child liberative and protective lens would color this story as child sexual abuse.
In other words, what really happened is that Lot raped his two daughters, but Christians traditionally teach it the other way around. Yep, I can confirm, that's how I always understood this story, look how Lot's daughters were such bad people, right? Wow that whole family was messed-up, right? Maybe I even told myself not to feel that bad for them, when Lot was going to send them out to the angry mob, because look, they are dirty and bad people anyway. They must have learned that in Sodom, such a bad and sinful place.

Wow, very not cool how Christians have always blamed these two children for their sexual abuse. Stollar says:
That is how child abuse and sexual abuse stories work in our world.

The adult claims the child wanted it—or the child deserved it—or the child masterminded it—or the child needed it—or the child was sinful. Abusers constantly are trying to shift blame for abuse onto the victims they abused.
Seriously, go read the whole thing.

When I was reading Stollar's article, I noticed something was missing. Or, maybe not, maybe he knew his readers already knew and it wasn't necessary for him to mention it. He never explicitly stated that just because the bible says something doesn't mean it's true. If I had read this article when I was an evangelical, I would have assumed it was coming from a biblical-inerrancy perspective, because I didn't know there were people who would put so much effort into analyzing a bible passage if they didn't believe in inerrancy. ("Inerrancy" is the belief that everything in the bible is true and without error.)

I can imagine myself as an evangelical, being quite interested in Stollar's interpretation, and then going back to Genesis 19 to see if the text could in fact be read that way. I can imagine myself getting quite stuck when the older daughter says, "Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father." Trying to imagine how BOTH could be true- that the daughters are victims that Lot sexually abused, AND ALSO the older daughter said these words.

It seems to me that Stollar believes the older daughter did NOT say these words. The bible is just plain wrong, here in this verse. But personally I found it odd that he didn't say so in his article. If I was reading this and I believed in inerrancy, I would have completely missed his point. It would be unimaginable to me that the writer of such an article would not believe in inerrancy. It would never have occurred to me that the writer is saying the bible is just plain wrong about what happened with Lot's daughters. I would have been so confused, trying to imagine a scenario where the two girls were victims of sexual abuse, but where it's still possible to write the account we get in Genesis 19 and have every part of it be *technically* true but wildly taken out of context.

It's so important that Christians read the bible the way that Stollar presents in his article. Noticing when things don't add up. Hypothesizing about the ways the biblical writers may have added some "facts" that weren't true, the reasons they could have had for doing so, and what that tells us about the passage.

It's interesting to me to think about how, back when I was evangelical, I knew how to be skeptical about things people said, how to think about what biases they may have that would lead them to lie- but I didn't apply that to the bible at all. Of course not! Something that, in any other context, would be highly suspicious, I would accept without question if the bible said it. Like "God told us to kill all these people and take their land." Instead of asking, "What might have motivated the writer of 'Joshua' to claim that God told them to kill the people and take their land," I just... believed it. And now I'm realizing how my study of the bible could have been so much richer and so much deeper if I had been allowed to see the layers, see how the writers changed and adapted stories for their own purposes, how they were motivated by politics, how they embellished with completely-made-up "facts" that showed their own biases. Instead I just read the bible like "here's what it says, therefore that's what happened and that's all there is to it." (Plus a lot of research into fan theories- uh, I mean, apologetics- to explain the contradictions.)

Anyway, to sum up: The biblical account of Lot's daughters raping their father is NOT how it happened. The story itself doesn't make sense. It sounds like the story an abuser would tell to cover up the abuse and blame the victims.


Reading US History Inerrantly
Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "Josh and the Big Wall" (1997) 
The Bible's Contradictions Matter, And It's Not a Logic Problem

My favorite genre of bible fan fiction is about taking characters the bible portrays as "bad" and reimagining their stories. Here are 2 fics I've written along those lines:
Noah's Evangelism
Achan's Sin

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