John Piper tweeted, and then unceremoniously deleted, the following comment:
“The Bible says there are men who rape (Genesis 34:2) and women who seduce (Genesis 39:7). United in sin, distinct in form.”
Some old and new friends of mine on social media have asked variations of: “Why is this such a big deal? Potiphar’s wife did try to seduce Joseph, so unless Piper is some kind of rape apologist, or has a history of blaming the victim, I don’t really see what the problem is.”
It’s a valid question, and oooooh, do I hate having to answer it this way.
Unfortunately, the entire SBC denomination has a history of minimizing and denying rape, including, but not limited to:
1) Victim blaming. “What were you wearing? Why were you out so late? Why did you let yourself be alone with him? Did you seduce him?”
2) Sin-Leveling: “His sin AND yours both nailed Jesus to the cross—don’t forget that! If you refuse to forgive him, your sin is just as great as his.”
3) Magical Thinking: “Yes, he raped someone in the past, but his sins were washed away by Jesus, and he’s a new person, and he won’t do that anymore.”
I have personal experience with this, but not as a victim. I was fifteen when I found out my cousin had been raped by a deacon in our church. She was thirty-five. He’d been raping her since she was five years old. I had been a Christian for less than a year, and thought surely someone would do something about this! Did anyone else know? Why did I know?
I found out over time that my mother (that evil feminist) was the only person who thought he should be removed from church leadership. The reasoning was, “After all, everyone sins. He has been forgiven, you know.” No one would press any charges, because it would “break [my uncle’s] heart.” The pastor was sure that my cousin had had something to do with it—otherwise, how could it have gone on for so long?
(This never should have happened. The police should have been called. There’s no excuse for any church practices that silence victims of a crime. A pastor is not a policeman, or an investigator, or a rape examiner, and has no business determining how innocent or guilty any parties are in this process.)
After so much victim blaming, I remember the day my family drove up to my cousin’s home, and the deacon was driving out. He’d literally just raped her—allegedly, of course. I watched as my cousin was shaking, crying, begging my father to please not call the police, not to cause any more trouble, while my mother screamed obscenities at the deacon’s speeding car.
Back to John Piper—yes, there are men who rape. Yes, there are women who “seduce.” But let’s look a little bit closer at Genesis 39, and at some definitions.
attract (someone) to a belief or into a course of action that is inadvisable or foolhardy.
“they should not be seduced into thinking that their success ruled out the possibility of a relapse”
Potiphar’s wife certainly attempted to seduce Joseph, but what was his response?
Verse 8:“But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.
No seduction actually happened, because Joseph refused to give in to temptation. However, Potiphar’s wife later committed a series of acts that, in America, would be considered crimes: She assaulted him by grabbing him forcefully enough to keep his cloak. She falsely accused him to her husband and to her household servants, and she deprived him of his freedom by having her husband put him in jail.
I don’t know what planet John Piper is living on, but that is not seduction! If a man had done those things to a woman, seduction would not be a thought on anyone’s mind. (Attempted rape would be.) However, Piper reduced the crimes of Potiphar’s wife to a word that every rape victim I’ve spoken to in the SBC world has had thrown at them like darts: “I didn’t rape her; she seduced me.”
In using that language, John Piper completely ignores the real crimes of Potiphar’s wife—crimes that deprive people of their liberty and freedom—and instead uses words that imply eyeliner and cleavage. In using that language, Piper creates a male-female dichotomy that simply does not exist. Any person of any gender who attempted these acts is both a sinner and a criminal.
In using that language, Piper again practices “sin-leveling,” because anyone who attempts to seduce someone else is now just as bad as a rapist. Sin-leveling usually doesn’t make a sinner more aware of their own depravity and Christ’s forgiveness. Instead, it elevates minor offenses to the level of a crime, and minimizes actual crimes to the level of gossip. While I know that all sin condemns us, and only Christ’s sacrifice frees us, there are sins that are destructive to the body of Christ in this world that must be harshly dealt with by secular authorities as crimes. Seduction—batting your eyes and enticing with your tight shirt—is not one of those!
Paul said, “Expel the immoral brother from among you,” regarding the man who “had his father’s wife.” Yet, for Euodia and Syntyche, Paul “pleaded” with them to agree. Not all sins affect the body of Christ equally, and sin-leveling is not Biblical. Sins must be dealt with differently by the church, as part of pastoral care. Crimes must be dealt with by the proper authorities.