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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Slut Shaming the Samaritan Woman


I don’t’ know what it was that I was listening to the other night – some Christian program trying to sound hip, trying to sound cool (but only sounding like a cheap imitation of Rob Bell’s NOOMA series…) talking about the woman at the well (John 4: 1 – 42).  In his talk he (whoever he was) described her as a woman of low reputation, a base and debased sensual creature running from man to man hoping to fill the lonely void of her life. He supplied some inner dialogue for her, “Maybe this one will love me. Maybe this one will stay.”  He called her a whore.  Flat out, used that word: “Whore.”[i]

She was a whore.  You can see that, right?  Because she was at the well at about noon- instead of going in the cool of the morning or the evening like everyone else…. She must have been a social pariah – a whore. She was a whore. You can see that, right?  Because Jesus knew she’d had five husbands and because the man she had at that moment was not her husband. 

The assumption is that she’d been married five times – and divorced five times because she’d been unfaithful. It’s obvious that she’s a whore, right?  But there were plenty of other reasons that a husband might divorce his wife - in fact the bible is pretty vague:  “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her…” Deuteronomy 24:1  The school of Sahmmai said that this “indecent thing”  meant some sort of “unlawful sexual behavior,” while the school of Hillel argued for a much broader definition which included cultic offenses, failure to complete household tasks, and childlessness (Wall, 218).[ii]

According to Raphael Patai, barrenness was and is one of the most common reasons for divorce (if not the most common reason) in the Middle East – even if it’s not mentioned explicitly as such in the Bible (Patai, 120).[iii]  What if she had been divorced by five husbands, not because she was such a slut, but because she was unable to bear children?

And all this ignores the fact that women could also divorce their husbands.  Perhaps this was the case.  Perhaps she divorced them because they were unfaithful, unable to provide for her, because they were abusive.

So where does this slut shaming come from?

No matter what choices she’d made up to that point(good, bad, or otherwise), no matter how she’d been treated, there’s no word of shame in this chapter.  No condemnation. Jesus does not say to her “go and sin no more…” Jesus does not shame her.  Why should we?
 





[i] And it isn’t just this particular program that I was listening to.  See also this sermon by John Piper-  http://www.soundofgrace.com/piper84/040884m.htm - John Piper
[ii] Wall, Robert W. “Divorce” The Anchor Bible Dictionary Ed. David Noel Freedman Vol. 2 Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1992.
[iii] Patai, Raphael, Sex and Family in the Bible and the Middle East, Doubleday & Company Inc, Garden City, NY, 1959. 

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