Poisoned Bible Project Episode 5: Called to Bear Witness
Sodom, the Unnamed Woman, and Terror
I don’t watch the news. It’s loud and depressing, seemingly hyper-focused on talking gravely about tragedies but with an undercurrent of excitement for the big story they’re telling. The 24-hour news routine makes people working in news organizations hardpressed to get big juicy stories out, often without all the facts or understanding, and certainly all too often without nuance. If I look around the circle of people I know or am loosely acquainted with online, there’s plenty of tragedy to be had, but that is balanced out by all the wonderful things in life. For every love lost, there’s love found. For every job lost, a new passion is discovered. I much prefer the ups and downs of real life to the constant danger, death, and terror of 24 hour news.
Sometimes though, tragedy strikes. It can be on a large scale or a small scale, whether it’s a friend going through a loss or maybe a cancer diagnosis, or maybe it’s on a large scale like say a world-wide pandemic that touched the lives of every single person on the planet.
I was joking with a friend of mine because dark humor is one of the ways we cope, and we were comparing “loss bingo cards,” that is, all the terrible things people say to you when you’ve experienced a loss. Without exception, we humans say these things to each other as a distancing technique. We don’t want to stand too close to someone’s pain, so we spout platitudes to create some space for ourselves.
In contrast, as Christians we are called to stand in the pain and grief with others. We are called to stand in the difficult times with our friends, and we are sometimes called to bear witness on a larger scale to tragedy we’d rather walk away from. Whether it’s on the scale of the pandemic or police violence motivated by racial or other differences or refugees being separated from their children at our borders, we cannot turn away from the pain because to stop the suffering we have to stand in the pain with those being oppressed.
And sometimes, we hear an outcry across history of injustice and pain so great that we are obligated to bear witness across time. That is what I believe we are called to do here today.
Thousands of years ago, a woman died a horrific death. She was raped and abused until she died of her ordeal. Almost none of her words are remembered in the story, told and likely written by men. She isn’t even remembered by her name. She was used and abused in her life, probably in more ways than we even know about since we know she fled her husband and returned to her father’s house. She was used after her death to justify a mass murder and a war. But while we may not ever recover her name, we can bear witness to her life and death, and in doing so stand in solidarity with her.
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