Burdened by the Burden of Proof: From Eve to Marissa Alexander

How in the world did Marissa Alexander get sentenced to twenty years in prison for firing a gun in the air in self-defense against her husband whom she claimed violently attacked her and threatened to kill her? She didn’t even hurt him, and yet she ended up getting severely hurt by the whole ordeal.

How did Eve get blamed for everything in the garden of Eden in many circles for much of church history, when she wasn’t the only one eating forbidden fruit?

Is there a connection between the two stories? Why is it that both women have born unduly the burden of proof?

I am glad that a Florida appellate court ruled recently that the jury instructions in Marissa Alexander’s case were unfair: they made Alexander “prove ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that she was acting in self-defense…” Many have protested that the Florida courts are unfair in how they apply the Stand Your Ground law in view of the recent decision that awarded George Zimmerman a not-guilty verdict in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. While the law and handling of it have faced increasing scrutiny, what needs to face even more scrutiny is how women so often bear the burden of proof in various legal defenses over self-defense and rape, for example.

What is often forgotten regarding the biblical account is that Genesis 3:16’s verdict on Eve’s judgment is post-fall: “To the woman” God said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Regardless of whether or not one believes male headship is a creation reality, the husband’s rule over his wife is not something that God applauds; rather, such rule is the consequence of their fallen state as man and woman. Given what transpires as a result of Genesis 3:15, where Eve’s seed (namely, the Christ) will crush the head of the serpent who strikes his heel for taking the burden for sin and its consequences, a new order has been established in and through Christ’s church and in the world. Christ bears the burden of proof, not woman.

What bearing might Christ’s own trial and atoning work have on women’s undue burden in many court hearings to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are innocent? What bearing might Christ’s trial and atoning work have on proceedings, when the men whom they claim are guilty are only convicted—if they ever are—when the women first experience the conviction of shame in such cases as rape? At least in the Genesis account, the serpent and the man also experience outright shame and blame.

This piece is cross-posted at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and at The Christian Post.

About Paul Louis Metzger

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including "Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths" and "Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church." These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.

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