Okay, so this one is going to require a stretch of one’s imagination. This morning I was working through Genesis 1:1-2:3 out of the Common English Bible as a part of today’s reading with our church’s DISCIPLE Bible Study group. In my reading of this passage from the Common English Bible today I found the text to be replete with words of plenty. We noted in our study this week that the mindset of the reader, the context where the text is read, and other variables affect the way we approach scripture. Today I must be feeling very open hearted and expansive as the words that I read were filled with expansive imagery.
As an example I would point out how in Genesis 1:14-15 God speaks expansively of the lights in the dome of the sky. These lights are signals and signposts of the passage of time, the coming of seasons, and invite creation into sacred times. Keeping in mind that I take these portions of the scriptures as sharing truth born of wisdom rather than concrete facts born of the scientific method, I was the heavens brimming with lights pouring forth after the divine word. Letters from divine words arcing out from the divine mouth before shifting into stars, moons, and the special star known as our sun. In such ways, God speaks and the world and universe are transformed from chaos into creation.
When God speaks of humanity, even the Common English Bible uses words of mastery, but I did not read words of domination into the creation account today. Humanity masters the world not for domineering or destructive purposes but for the cause of caretaking. Humanity takes charge of the fish, the birds, the animals, the plants, and all of the wandering and stationary lifeforms that cover the globe for the purpose of creative caretaking. God spoke into the world words of life and humanity is invested with the divine image in order to continue to work in the divine image as caretakers and agents of blessing to help keep the world from slipping back into chaos.
The story is quite beautiful when read with an expansive and generous mindset. What does any of this have to do with Domestic Violence or Domestic Violence Awareness? In the end, the connection I made in my mind is a very delicate one.
If we are called to treat creation with such care and respect, how can we live lives where we exert our will violently on each other? If we are called to be caretakers and agents of blessing, how can we decide to turn our backs on this divine call to love in order to strike out at the people in our homes? If the very core of our creation narrative revolves around humanity existing for the purpose of blessing, how can we curse the people we live with day by day in such abominable ways?
To be certain, if I were to read this text as a text inviting domination, a case could be made, but the whole of scripture is wildly biased against such views. While there are certainly stories of domination in our scripture, the whole of the Bible is thrown from such ways of thought by the person of Jesus.
In John 8, Jesus was offered an opportunity to dominate another person and to stone to death a woman who committed adultery (in the context of a society where that was legal, which was a different context than our society where such punitive behavior is illegal, immoral, and labeled as absolutely wrong by both church and state). Even though it was permissible, legal, and in accordance with the religious rules of Jesus’ day, Jesus refused to engage in such brutal acts. This is just one example of many where Christ taught love in situations that invited brutality.
I cannot see Jesus approving of domestic violence taking place in our homes. Even if we could read words of domination into scriptures like those found in Genesis 1:28, I cannot see Jesus approving of such behavior. Passages like those in Genesis can be read with different eyes than those of a person seeking to dominate or subjugate others. If we can read such words with grace and plenty in our minds, then we can consider the idea that we were never meant to dominate, demean, or subjugate the people who share our slice of the garden in this life.
October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.