There are times, writing this blog, when I think I should leave a topic alone. After all, others have already said what I want to and said it better. Mandy Marshall’s post ‘The Silent Screaming of Tamar’ is one of those cases – it’s a powerful, important piece. You should read it.
All the same, I’m still writing this post, because Tamar requires those of us with a voice to use it. This is a story characterised by the silence of those with power; to participate in that silence isn’t an option. And I’m writing it because, only this morning, there are new reports of yet another sexual abuse cover-up by the church.
So, 2 Samuel 13: Tamar, daughter of King David, is raped by her brother and nothing is done about it.
Her father does nothing, beyond expressing an empty fury.
Her other brother does nothing, at least not for two years. When he does, it leads to civil war, although this seems driven more by his dynastic ambitions that an innate sense of justice.
Their servants do nothing, because it’s more than their jobs are worth.
And Tamar disappears from the narrative; her story becomes that of her brothers and we never learn of her ultimate fate. We never hear about her tears, her bruises, her sleepless nights and her nightmares. She survives, but we don’t hear anything about it; when the story switches to rebellion and war, “what happened to Tamar?” is a question conspicuous by its absence.
In recent months the UK has been rocked by a series of scandals and investigations involving sex crimes carried out by prominent members of society. The Catholic Church has been scarred by revelations of child abuse for decades. There have been scandalous, high profile stories of sexual assault in the US and India. And somewhere along the line power structures were prioritised over the innocent, failing countless Tamars. The organisation becomes more important than people.
The minute that happens, any pretence of supporting those who need it most has been sacrificed, pretty much deliberately. The survivors of abuse are written off as unreliable, untrustworthy, troublemakers. The Church ceases to be a safe place while justifying itself with theology. It seeks to save its own life, which is a sure fire way of losing; we sit around bemoaning our declining influence while moral crimes like this are revealed on a weekly basis. Go figure.
Meanwhile Tamar sits in a corner, ignored and inconveniently weeping.
The fact is, this post shouldn’t have to be written. There shouldn’t have to be debates over ‘legitimate rape’. There shouldn’t be a ‘rape culture‘. It’s wrong and disgusting and the involvement of some branches of the church in covering it up and brushing it under the carpet is obscene.
“Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me,” Jesus once said. He still weeps with Tamar, with all the Tamars. The tragedy is that he does this while his church is still too willing to draw the curtain, to look the other way.