As some of you know, I’ve been putting the lectionary passages from Genesis into a series for the past few weeks. I’ve been going pretty heavy on the angle of “Look, these are human beings, in a very different culture but with a lot of the same basic needs and wants and problems we have.” My congregation is very strong on social justice, so I haven’t been talking as much about the justice/injustice aspects of these stories; instead I’ve been emphasizing how we find God in the gritty, messy, seemingly secular details of our lives.
BUT. This week and this passage have me in a frothing rage. The Senate has opened up the possibility of stripping millions of Americans of their health care, and removing protections for people who have pre-existing conditions (like me, and like basically everyone I know, because mortal life is a pre-existing condition). This morning, Trump arbitrarily declared a ban on trans people in the military, never mind the thousands who already serve. Here in Cincinnati, we still wait for justice for the murder of Sam DuBose. The death penalty is about to be administered not far from here despite much protest of the method in particular and the death penalty more broadly. Yet another seminary that claims to affirm women has invited an anti-woman lecturer onto their campus, clearly having learned nothing from the Princeton debacle, and supposedly egalitarian men are busy telling women that this is not a problem, that we need to hear all points of view. Perhaps they need to hear one more time that women have no business in pulpits, but I have heard it more than enough. These events are not equal in their egregiousness, but they’re all on my list of things that are filling me with fury.
On a related note: please stop telling people they need to sit back and listen to the perspectives that say they are inferior, intolerable, or abominable. Those who are categorized as “less than” already know the perspective well.
What does this have to do with Jacob and Leah and Rachel (and Zilpah, slipped in there for good measure), you ask?
Well, take a gander at Jacob and Rachel’s first encounter. Does anything about this seem odd to you? Familiar, perhaps? A man comes upon a woman he thinks is beautiful, and just runs up and kisses her. Sound like anyone else whose name and ongoing atrocities we can’t escape?
This passage is just full of men making decisions about women’s relationships and bodies. Everything is seen from the male gaze: Rachel is SO BEAUTIFUL. Did you catch that she’s really really beautiful? And Leah is…not. Not at all. She’s super ugly. Oh, and Zilpah, who just gets shuffled along as an accessory, but none of them really have any choice in this situation. They are objects for the pleasure and benefit of men, and my rage about this cannot be contained, because this still happens every day. Not just with women, but with all kinds of people, who are made objects for the use of someone with more power. Americans with limited resources are objects for a government that plays us like pawns in their game to one-up each other. Trans people are objects waved around to keep a certain part of the population convinced that Trump cares about “family values.” Sam DuBose was an object; the value of his life could be weighed and discarded in a moment by Ray Tensing for nothing. Prisoners are objects whose crimes make it acceptable to abuse and even kill them. Women are objects who are allowed by men to preach, maybe, as long as we don’t inconvenience the men by asking them to choose speakers who don’t tell us we are a lesser class of human. Oh, and by the way, be pretty like Rachel, so you get the love story with Jacob instead of being snuck into the deal, because ugly women aren’t worthy of love.
By Sunday, all of this will turn into some kind of sermon. In the meantime, I have some other Scripture to quote: “Arise, O Lord, in anger! Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice!”