The ancient precedent for endangering and protecting children
Content Warning — This piece includes references to rape, child death, child abuse, and pandemic trauma.
I’ve been thinking about a story.
My seminary professor, Phyllis Trible, who wrote the prophetic work “Texts of Terror” told us a very compelling story on the first day of class. She shared that she had given a lecture on her interpretation of the book of Judges. Judges is an extremely violent book of the Bible that includes rape, dismemberment, prostitution, and much more. After giving the lecture, Dr. Trible was approached by a woman, weeping and shaking. Dr. Trible told us that this woman said one very sobering thing to her. She looked at Dr. Trible with tears flowing down her face and declared, “this is my story and now I can love the Bible again because now I know it tells my story.”
In these lingering days of pandemic, I’ve been thinking about another story: the story of Passover (Exodus 12:1–29).
The Passover story is God’s final consequence inflicted on the enslavers of the Israelites in ancient Egypt. The story goes that God told Moses that all first born sons would die and then gave Moses instructions for how to protect the Israelite children from this death. On a certain evening, they were to take a lamb and, amongst several other tasks, paint their doorways with the blood of the lamb. Upon seeing the blood-smeared doorway, God would “pass over” that home and spare the child.
God’s process for Passover was a multi-step set of instructions that included options and the opportunity for collaboration. God presented a process of working together, in community, which was intended for saving the lives of children. Imagine.
The Bible tells our story. Indeed the Bible is not all good news — it is the messy, ugly, magical, and multi-layered experience of people as we relate to God. The Passover story is a traumatic account of something that seemingly God put upon the people. Why would God kill all those first born sons? And also, why would people willingly endanger their children? I’m not here to tell you that God gave us the coronavirus - but I do believe humans, as the divine image of God, have the tools to protect children from it and…