John Piper, Rape, Seduction, and Sin-Leveling.

John Piper tweeted, and then unceremoniously deleted, the following comment:

JohnFreakingPiper

“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.

se·duce

səˈd(y)o͞os/

verb

  1. 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”

synonyms:

attract, allure, lure, tempt, entice, beguile, inveigle, maneuver

“she was seduced by the smell of coffee”

    • entice into sexual activity.

      synonyms:

      persuade to have sex; More

      euphemistichave one’s way with, take advantage of;

      dateddebauch

      “he took her to his hotel room and tried to seduce her”

    • attract powerfully.

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.

20 thoughts on “John Piper, Rape, Seduction, and Sin-Leveling.

  1. “She was enticed into sexual activity by the smell of coffee.”

    It’s like you know me!

    On top of the great points you made, seducing someone doesn’t force them to do anything. Seducing someone doesn’t hold them down and have sex with them. Seduction makes someone want something but it doesn’t take away their choice. Rape, on the other hand, DOES force someone into having sex and take away their choice.

    Trying to draw an equivalency between all types of sin is completely ridiculous.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay I think I get it now. He falsely renamed an attempted rape in the Bible a “seduction”. By doing that he put sexual seduction on level with the horrible evil act of rape, which minimizes how wicked rape is. Makes so much more sense now, I can see now why people reacted the way they did.

    As an aside, I am familiar with the tactics used to minimize rape but I did not really grow up the SBC (it seems like you did?), it was on the peripheral of what I was in. I therefore don’t make the connections that people who have more experience in it do because I don’t know as much about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok, my friend The Super Theologian has made a few remarks, and I’d like to address them.

    “@XianJaneway I hear where you are coming from but you certainly read a whole lot more into Piper’s tweet than was present…A whole lot more”

    “@XianJaneway Seems to be, maybe because of your own personal history, you are assuming a whole system of thought into Piper rather than”

    “@XianJaneway dealing with what he said on its own terms. Article doesn’t seem very fair/balanced in my view. Love you tho!!! 😀”

    Love you too. 🙂

    First of all, this post set Piper’s tweet in the larger context of how the SBC has *acted* regarding rape allegations/accusations in the church. Did you see the links I put in the comments? (They didn’t show up well in the blog text.) There were dozens, if not *hundreds* of people that the SBC has retained on ministry staff, despite credible, and often repeated, accusations of sexual assault. That’s not me “reading in to Piper’s tweet,” and that has nothing to do with “my own personal history.” That’s a sad, sad mark on the SBC’s **behavior**.

    What I believe Piper did in that tweet was commit the fallacy of “sin-leveling,” which SBC ministers have been doing for years. That fallacy is what has allowed these predators to stay active in ministry, despite clear Biblical standards for leaders. (And honestly, “don’t rape” really shouldn’t have to be in guidelines!) Piper clearly equated “seduction” and “rape” as both being sins. And they are!!! The problem is that this attitude has unintended consequences——->it makes the SBC leaders take rape less seriously than they should.

    Did you ever read the SGM survivors blog? This is still happening in the Evangelical church, TODAY. People are told to forgive their rapist/abuser, and when they don’t, they’re told that *not* doing so is JUST as much of a sin as the rapist committed.

    What Piper did in that tweet was show all of us in the Spiritual Abuse survivor community that the concept of “sin-leveling” is alive and well, and can be articulated in 140 characters or less. And hey, if the guy shouldn’t be using Twitter, tell some of the awesome guys you recently had fellowship with!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t want to be unfair to Piper and assume he said what he said maliciously and with evil intent. So let’s give him the benefit of the doubt there. Now that we’ve done that though I think there’s still a problem. The problem is: I think his tweet shows he’s at least been influenced by the attitudes of other SBC ministers in this area. He might not be aware of it but he has. That’s scary.

      We do need to be careful to not overanalyze what people say on Twitter in general. I’m sure Piper wrote his tweet in the space of a minute and did not give it all the thought we have given it, lol! On the other hand, even 140 characters can reveal a person’s mindset/influences and sometimes those can be subtle and it does take time and analyzing to draw them out. So let’s be careful to point out the issues but acknowledge that Twitter can be a hard platform to state an opinion on.

      I’m not saying this because I think that’s what you’ve done, CJ. I’ve been impressed with how you’ve handled the whole thing: pointing out errors without flying off the deep end. Just feel like it’s something we need to keep in mind in general.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The topic of rape, in my opinion, does not lend itself well to sound bites and tweets. I have no idea if this tweet of John Piper had any sort of context or if it just appeared willy-nilly out of thin air — but that is the very problem of Twitter in general. John Piper spends far more time there than I do, and one would think a pastor/teacher of his reputation would know better than that. Well, I keep thinking that and getting disappointed, and maybe someday I’ll wake up, smell the coffee, and simply say, whether it’s him or others of his ilk, “That wasn’t surprising—he often says things like that. That’s just the way he is.”

    In the meantime, since I am not fully conversant with Piper-speak, only tending to run across him when he’s spread some other doozy all over the Internet, I am left trying to stay charitable while puzzling out his meaning. It seems to me as if he is saying, with the words “united in sin” and “two distinct forms”, that rape is the male version and seduction the female version of the same sin. Perhaps he refuses to believe that women can rape since there is no such thing recorded in Scripture. But the Bible does describe men seducing women AND it makes a clear distinction between rape and seduction.

    I am tempted to say something disparaging about celebrity preachers and their lack of scholarship. (I’m a preacher’s kid whose father set the bar very high in that regard, and it has taken me years to stop getting dismayed and annoyed that few people take Scripture as seriously as he does.) But instead, I think I’ll make this observation: when it comes to the topic of rape, most men simply don’t get it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. An addendum: Coffee is extremely seductive to me. When I am at my weakest, it sometimes seeks me out, like a smooth-talking cad, luring me in sensuously, promising me unspeakable pleasures and delight. Were coffee-drinking a sin, I could try to avoid its siren calls and delicious scent. If forced to be around it, I could pray for strength to avoid its enticements. I could apply the Biblical admonitions regarding how to resist temptation. It would be silly for me to frequent coffee houses and surround myself with cups of coffee.

    The Bible contains advice on how to avoid falling for seducers. That’s because, no matter how overwhelming seduction might feel, we always make a choice to allow ourselves to be seduced. We don’t say no. Instead, we say yes. The Bible does not tell us how to avoid falling for rapists. There is a definite distinction.

    I drink coffee willingly. Yes, I was enticed, but I am not a victim of coffee. Coffee has never forced itself on me against my will.

    For a seduction to succeed, it requires two willing participants, both of whom have sinned. Rape, by definition, has only one willing participant (unless there is more than one rapist) and he is the only one who has sinned.

    Very different sins.

    If John Piper is a man of integrity with a high view of Scripture, we can expect, very soon, a profound apology and correction.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Sin-leveling makes it impossible to hold people accountable for heinous acts. When we’re all “guilty”, no one is guilty.

    I’m glad you called out John Piper for his vile tweet and vile theology.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I pastor in a conservative denomination. I’ve heard comments like Piper’s tweet and I’m becoming more sickened by how we attempt to level violent, destructive sins as almost garden variety. I wonder if Piper has ever say and listened to a rape victim tell her story, both the event and traumatic aftermath? I wonder if he’s ever walked alongside a victim who has nightmare, flashbacks, loss of bodily control due to the trauma? I lost respect for Piper many years ago; his theology regarding gender is a significant reason why. I will pray for cousin and family

    Liked by 2 people

    • David, WELCOME to the discussion, and thank you so much for your comment and your prayers. Wow. 🙂 I honestly think that people like you, who see the FRUIT of this type of thinking, will be the ones who enact much change in conservative hearts. They want so much to follow Jesus–they just honestly don’t see the consequences of many of their ideas. THANK YOU again for commenting, and please come back often!

      Like

  8. I love this post. I don’t understand why it’s not self-explanatory that while all sin is sin in God’s eyes, the consequences vary. You can be forgiven for rape but still not be allowed around kids. You can be a changed person but denied a position in leadership because no one is sure they can trust you after such a deep betrayal. I’d love to believe that everyone has an equal chance to be redeemed, but some crimes are harder to fully repent of than others. Rapists can be hardcore narcissists, and that’s not something a prison sentence can easily fix.

    Liked by 2 people

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