“life doesn’t follow the rules and when it doesn’t, we scramble to make sense of it… “
Unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape is an impossibly complex reality and even more painful than it is complex. How could something so precious and innocent and wonderful as a new baby come from an act of violence so horrific? It seems to deny the very laws of nature that we rely on every day:
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16
How can rape produce a precious baby? We may not understand it, but it happens.
Sometimes life doesn’t follow the rules and when it doesn’t, we scramble to make sense of it… sometimes valuing our simplistic solutions over truth so that we become caught in another layer of tragedy by telling lies and blaming victims.
I became really, really angry this week at the careless remarks of Rep. Todd Akin. In case you haven’t heard:
“The controversy erupted after Akin told a television interview Sunday that a woman’s body is capable of preventing pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” He later apologized, explaining he meant to say “forcible rape” and acknowledged that women “do become pregnant” during such instances.”
Such ignorance makes me want to go crying into the streets with Like Lady wisdom:
“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?” Proverbs 1
Rep. Akin’s remarks were ignorant and mistaken and simple minded. They implied that there is something called “legitimate” and thus also “illegitimate” rape. They suggest that if a woman becomes pregnant, somehow her rape was really not a rape? On some biological level somehow she consented? Such is the foolishness of the simple minded, the stance of those who cannot hold the pain and complexity of such a tragedy and are looking for a way out. The easiest and most cowardly resolution of such cognitive dissonance is to blame the victim.
It makes me think of Tamar’s story. If you remember, two of Tamar’s husbands, brothers, had been killed by God (what?) for being evil and so their father, Judah, blamed Tamar. Here’s how I write about it in My Own Worst Enemy:
Blaming the Victim
Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” (Genesis 38:11)
As is true of many women who suffer injustice, the victim ends up being blamed for the sin of another. I spoke with a woman the other day who was being told that her husband’s alcohol addiction was her fault. And another whose husband yelled at her when she caught him secretly studying a Victoria’s Secret catalogue (and not for purposes of ordering her lingerie). He told her she shouldn’t have left it in the kitchen trash where he would be tempted; that it was her responsibility to take it all the way out to the outside garbage. What?!
Women are often all too quick to accept the blame for the wrongdoing of others. Though it seems counterintuitive, we actually prefer to be to blame. Think about it: when we are at fault, we are still in control. We would love to believe that we can whip ourselves into shape and therefore guarantee that this kind of disappointment, pain, and betrayal will never happen again. Sadly, our strategy simply doesn’t work. In fact, our acceptance of blame can sabotage or forestall real repentance and change on the part of another, continuing the cycle of sin or abuse. Sometimes we, like Tamar, are truly victims. That, my friends, is a hard but true truth.
Tragically, Judah did not seem to question the behavior of his evil sons at all; he had decided that the problem was Tamar. On top of such an unjust conclusion, he was also not forthright about his plan to protect his third, only remaining, son. Perhaps he knew his position was indefensible.
Tamar fought back with some trickery of her own and, interestingly, is one of four women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.
The events of this week have left me wishing for a shrewd Tamar to expose the harm of simplistic thinking.
Maybe this time it’s up to us all. Let your voice be heard before the new stories shift to the next juicy sound bite.