Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
August 6th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Dinah and Hiroshima

“The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet..” – Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States of America, 6 August 1945.

This morning, our CTP class read Genesis 34 (along with Judges 19 and 2 Samuel 13). This is the story of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, who was raped (or abducted) and forced into marriage by Shechem, a local ruler. Jacob thought of doing nothing, but the sons of Jacob (specifically, Simeon and Levi) thought otherwise.

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After concocting a covenant with the Hivites that in exchange of Dinah and some asses and booty, the men of the area would get circumcised. After 3 days, when the pain was the most intense, Simeon and Levi went into the town and murdered the men. The other brothers followed afterwards, killing more and plundering the rest.

The question is this, is this an appropriate response?

In some of the commentaries presented, the fault is laid at the feet of Dinah, based on Genesis 34.1.

In this chapter, God is not mentioned. Indeed, in chapter 35 Jacob makes the conscious decision to go back and worship YHWH. This silence about the Almighty has left some to wonder if God is somehow approving of the actions.

In my view, God’s silence is the biggest question here, as well as the answer. God, normally the Almighty Judge, the Smiter of Sinners, has nothing to say on the rape, the massacre, or the fact that the brothers’ plan hinged on twisting one of Judaism’s most sacred mitzvot, the brit milah, to serve their own diabolical ends. In that silence I read tacit approval….I would like to posit another theory: by wreaking havoc on the Canaanites, Jacob’s sons were condemning rape culture that allowed their own sister’s assault. And, God is fine with this.

Another voice concurs that this is a condemnation against rape culture.

Yet, also the brothers stand in a rape-prone tradition. Although they sympathize deeply with their sister, they take women and children as their booty (verses 27-29). The story does not indicate whether the brothers rape the women in turn. However, they treat the women as objects like the captured animals and gold. Limited to the women of their own family, their sympathy does not extend to women and children of other men. Like the rapist and his town, the brothers perpetuate rape-prone behavior.

This is a troubling passage for those who take the time to consider it. Maybe the above commentators are correct, that is quiet and thus supports the sons over Jacob. Perhaps God just wanted to see what we’d do.

What would you do? Let’s first agree that it was rape. Was it Dinah’s “fault?” I am not of the persuasion that rape is ever the woman’s fault. So I’m going to say no.

Then justice had to be meted out. If Shechem, the only guilty party in all of this, was the only one killed, that would have brought hell down upon Jacob and his household. We know from the story that Jacob was a rather weak tribe at the time. He could not have withstood an attack by the Hivites.

So, if you attack the king, you first need to make sure you kill him and then second, make sure his army doesn’t make it out either.

And that is what they did. The brothers of Dinah followed their only course of action, both to seek justice (or revenge) for Dinah and to preserve human life.

Many suggest that the atomic bomb was dropped to prevent the needless loss of American life that surely would be extracted in a D-Day type invasion of Japan. This is possible. I am not of the opinion any one reason for dropping the bomb is the only reason. Rather, I see the preservation of American lives as a reason, revenge (or justice) as another, and still yet, there were fears the Soviet Union would in fact enter into the war in order to establish a Communist beachhead in that part of Asia. Image a divided Japan like we have in Korea or we had in Germany.

Regardless of the reasons, we dropped the bomb — the most devastating weapon in human history until that time. But, the reason Truman ascribes first is revenge.

Is Hiroshima, like the destruction of Shechem, an appropriate response? Was it the only course of action? If something, even something evil, saves more lives in the end, is it justified?

We are still asking this question decades later and must always ask ourselves the question.

 

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

12 Responses to “Dinah and Hiroshima”
  1. This to me is actually a moving post; it fills me with mixed emotions. Allow me, for the sake of not distracting anyone on my needless and unsolicited opinion about the war against Japan, to comment only on this KEY and IMPORTANT question from which I wish that not one Christian flees:
    “…if God is somehow approving of the actions.”
    There are at least a few Scriptures in which God appears “approving” an act, either by silence or relenting an act. Such are in the specific cases of lying, murder, slavery and divorce. There are things that God relents “…due to the hardness of our hearts…” (Mark 10:5 – as a general concept), but in no way God approves. Approval is one thing, relenting, tolerating, is another. Even our sin is deserving of judgment and death, but God punished in Jesus Christ and offered His own sacrifice as payment for our sins. But that is not approval of sin.
    God also causes situations so His justice can be implemented, but this also cannot be seen as “approval” of an act especially when the one used to the perpetrating of the act is already a condemned sinner, i.e., us humans. So, the word “approval” as we understand in our vocabulary is not applicable even in the case of God causing the “act of justice” when justice is repayment for evil.
    Issues as these remind me only one thing: I must place my confidence entirely in God who owns eternity and has it in His hands and it all works to His perfect plan. Otherwise I will have views of God that makes Him lesser than a Loving, Righteous, Holy and Redeeming God.
    Psalms 145:17

  2. One thing I heard today was that one of the purposes of exploding the atomic bomb was to demonstrate that it was so terrible it should never be used again. Outside of three days later at Nagasaki, that in fact HAS been the case for 70 years.

  3. Know More Than I Should says

    The case of Dinah was a matter of family honor. Only instead of going after Shechem and his henchmen, Simeon and Levi went after his whole tribe.

    Likewise, the Pacific theater was a matter of national honor after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. By the same token, instead of only going after the Japanese military, “Bombs Away” LeMay went after the Japanese civilian population as well.

    The road to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was paved by both the Allied fire bombing of Dresden, Germany as well as by LaMay’s incendiary raids on Japanese cities.

    (Parenthetically it also began with both Sherman’s march to the sea during the War Between the States and military operations against Native American tribes. Both involved the United States Army’s targeting of civilian populations.)

    Poorly appreciated radioactive considerations of the day aside, a singular nuclear device packaged an incendiary raid into the bomb bay of one aircraft and deliver it in, from the American point of view, in the most economically means possible.

    It must also be remembered that, at the time, the only viable alternative to the nuclear option was a Normandy-like invasion of Japan. After the losses Marines suffered on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, it was becoming obvious that the Japanese on their home island might literally fight to the last man, woman, and child!

    Meanwhile, as technology expanded mankind’s capacity to wage war and combatants began dressing like civilians, the concept of front lines has been obliterated. If it ever existed, notions of chivalry and gallantry most certainly disappeared during the Great War.

    War is not an occupation of gentlemen. Thus, the old saying: “All is fair in love and war.” It is especially true of war Only fools, lunatics, and those who’ve never experienced it relish even thinking about it. Yet, the history of war is largely the history of mankind.

  4. I remember reading this as a kid. Worth the time to read. When you think Trinity, think of this. My Trinity as a kid was not biblical.

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1946/08/31/hiroshima

    Made Duck and Cover popular for us.

    • “We are still asking this question decades later and must always ask ourselves the question.”…

      Bigger, unanswered question: (no weasel words allowed)

      “Miss Sasaki herself brought it up the second time he dropped in on her. Evidently she had had some talks with a Catholic. She asked bluntly, “If your God is so good and kind, how can he let people suffer like this?” She made a gesture which took in her shrunken leg, the other patients in her room, and Hiroshima as a whole.”

  5. For those of us associated with families of WWII vets, my knee-jerk response to the bigger unanswered question from Miss Sasaki is (of course)–the same question back to her–just four years earlier, as it relates to Pearl Harbor families. But that doesn’t help much…and it surely doesn’t answer one of the all-time great questions about our world, suffering, and God. Fewer people ask: “if your God is so good and kind, how can he let his own son suffer and die like that?” — but that is worthy of consideration also–in the context of God’s own response/explanation of 1 John 4:10; 3:16.

    When I consider ‘that question’–as I have this week when my granddaughter was born prematurely at 26 weeks (and accompanying complications), I try not to simply rely on glib–or even more thoughtful–responses to the suffering issue. But I do find some sense of perspective on all this when I again read the story of Job–and stand at the foot of the whirlwind, realizing I am just too small to comprehend such large issues. My role is to learn to trust, and not make my civil life like it is during times of war. Perhaps a great King’s humble musings undoubtedly toward the end of his life present the best posture: “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.” (Ps 131)

    • Funny thing is, she became Catholic.
      “For those of us associated with families of WWII vets, my knee-jerk response”…
      I had an uncle who was captured on Corregidor, and spent the rest of the war working in a coal mine in Japan. But can’t help to compare Pearl Harbor (2000-3000 killed) and Hiroshima and Nagasaki (maybe 200,000 killed, mostly civilians).

      • Although I must say, I wonder what happened to this character…a true hero…(actual comes off more devoted than the Jesuits, I think, but that’s just my opinion)…

        Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church.

  6. The notion that there is some sort of “nice” or “civilized” or “honorable” way to conduct war is a big lie we tell ourselves when one starts.

  7. Concerning the Shechem story, it is another example of couplets. Gen 33:18-20 is E (North, Kingdom of Israel). How did Israel acquire Shechem? Jacob just simply bought the land.

    Gen 34:1-31 is J (South, Judah). How did Israel acquire Shechem? They massacred it. Source -Friedman.

    Kind of like, Japanese version of Hiroshima, versus U.S. Version. War crime versus heroic saving of lives. Both sides wrong, but what the heck, that’s war and human nature.

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