This week was the start of the international campaign of “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” (focussing on violence against women and children).
“Police statistics indicate that the murder rate of women in South Africa has increased by 16% in the past five years and the number of reported child rapes in the same period has gone up by about 3,000 from 15,000 to just over 18,000.” (EWN News)
According to research, intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most common form of gender-based violence (GBV). GBV includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by a current or former intimate partner or spouse.
As Christian people, we ought to be at the forefront of condemning any form of GBV.
We are commanded in the Bible to love our neighbours as ourselves and to especially care for the weak and vulnerable. Husbands are called to love their wives and be willing to die for them.
Our churches ought to be safe-spaces where victims of abuse receive help, care and support. We ought to assist in reporting any perpetrators of violence to the civil authorities.
I wonder, however, if some of our more conservative churches may unintentionally promote intimate partner violence in their teaching about marriage and divorce?
Leviticus ch. 11 is all about clean and unclean animals and what the Israelites in Old Testament times could and couldn’t eat.
Therefore, every time someone hunted, ate a meal, went to a petting zoo, or came across roadkill, they had to ask themselves, “Is this clean or unclean?”
Land animals. Sea animals. Insects. Clean or unclean?
You shall not make yourselves detestable with any swarming thing that swarms, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, and become unclean through them. For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:43-45)
Ch. 12 is all about childbirth and how that made one unclean.
Ch. 13 is all about skin diseases and mould on clothes and how that made one unclean.
Ch. 14 is all about skin diseases and mildew in houses and how that made one unclean.
Ch. 15 is all about different bodily discharges and how that made one unclean.
What was the point of all these rules?
The point of the rules was not personal hygiene, but a picture or symbol of sin.
The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa voted in 2015 to permit those in same-sex relationships to serve as ministers. The synod also voted to permit same-sex unions to be blessed in Dutch Reformed churches. That decision was then appealed in 2016.
At present the DRC is experiencing huge turmoil as the issue of sexuality continues to be debated.1
Many of those who were pleased with the synod’s original decision to permit same-sex marriage equate discrimination towards those who practice homosexuality as essentially the same as the discrimination towards black people under apartheid.
For them, the 2015 synod’s decision was a great moment of liberation to be celebrated.2