In the final chapter of the book of Judges, the ancient Israelites — bereft of leadership and devoid of faith — come up with a sickening solution to an unexpected problem.
The problem? Not enough women of child bearing age in the tribe of Benjamin.
The solution? You have to read it for yourself:
17 The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. 18 We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’ 19 But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”
20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.’”
23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.
Wait wait wait. WAIT WAIT WAIT!! You know what that is? Kidnapping! Rape! Human trafficking! The very kind of abducting women for pleasure and profit that GSUMC has taken such incredible, generous stands against for the last decade or so. They twist and mold and make up the Scriptures & even their own tradition to justify/endorse doing this incredible act of wickedness! That’s what Crash Test Dumnies do with Scripture! They invent new meanings for it to justify what they are already doing or what they desperately want to do. You saw that in the slavery & Jim Crow era as people absurdly used the “curse of Ham” part of Genesis to justify racism & lynching; and you see it now as people invent all new kinds of Scriptural understanding to justify what they want to do in the realm of their own sexual practices.
So the Israelites disregard law, undermine tradition, dishonor & violate women, and in perversity of all perversities . . . Call. This. Good. No wonder the author of Judges has to follow this with “I got NOTHING. I’m spent. I’m done. When you’re in charge, you’re out of control. I’m just gonna end it here with that sentence I wrote first anyway: Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” What the people invent is perverted, sick, and predatory they have the nerve to call it good. To say it’s God’s will. Bet ya didn’t know this stuff was in the bible! They abandoned what they had inherited in favor of what they invented and disaster is the result. CTDs indeed.
And oh Lord, not much has changed. What we invent is immediate & easy & serves our self-interest. And what we invent is why throughout your life you believe your own lies. Did you know that? When you’re in charge of your life, you are so out of control that you will believe your own lives. “I love her.” “It felt right.” “I deserve it.” “It’s my money.” “But THEY deserved it (gossip or revenge).” My gosh, even our own Methodist movement is caught up in it. People are given freedom to invent their own truths – we even for a couple of generation peddled the claim “it doesn’t really matter WHAT you believe, just love people well & you can be UMC” – and the result is like this:
You see how that’s the opposite of GSUMC, I hope? Where all our energy is focused in one direction of inviting all people? Yeah, in your life, in my life, in the life of a denomination, in the life even of a nation . . . when you abandon what you’ve inherited in favor of what you invent (make up the rules as you go!) then there is no cohesion and only chaos.
Which is why, when it comes to morality, faith, what we teach, and maybe more than anything, how you make decisions, here’s is the truth: What you INVENT will let you down. What you INHERIT will free you up. Don’t do right in your own eyes. In most cases, you have already been told what is right and good and true. His revelation surpasses your intuition. Every time! The reason you feel like a Crash Test Dummy, the reason you keep beating your head against a wall, is that subconsciously you believe you are smarter than God. You know better. We never learn. So, today: learn the truth. Every time I get in trouble it’s because of what I invented. Every time I’m blessed it’s because I line up with what I’ve inherited.
It was so interesting. A few months ago, I was at a UM meeting and this young whipper snapper said w/ confidence, “we need to move beyond atonement theory.” Which is a way of saying, “we need to admit we’re a little TOO SMART to need the cross anymore.” Such. Baloney. (I could use another phrase starting with B and including an S & you’d know what I mean.) Anyway, three days later I attended a Charlotte event involving churches from all over the city. A few UMS (well, 2) & all kinds of independent & emerging churches. You know what we started with? “Nothing But The Blood” I was like YES! THIS IS WHAT WE INHERIT, THIS IS TRUE, GOD FORBID WE EVER BECOME TOO SOPHISTICATED TO TRUST IN THAT!!! And which gathering do you think had more spirit & spunk? The one of characterized by invention & doubt or the one with inheritance & faith. What you invent will let you down; what you inherit will free you up.
The blood still works. The cross still applies. The library still has authority. Really, at this modern church we are all about Old Time Religion.
The above is an excerpt from Crash Test Dummies, published by Abingdon Press and available for purchase here.