As brought out in other posts under the Rape category, Jehovah’s Witnesses shun rape victims for “fornication” or “adultery” if these women do not scream and fight their attackers enough to satisfy elders of that religion. This shunning, called disfellowshipping, is all-encompassing and even includes members of a person’s own family who literally will not speak to them.
Jehovah’s Witnesses base this screaming requirement on scriptures in Deuteronomy 22:23-27, which say in part:
If a virgin is engaged to a man, and another man happens to meet her in the city and lies down with her, you should bring them both out to the gate of that city and stone them to death, the girl because she did not scream … If, however, the man happened to meet the engaged girl in the ﬁeld and the man overpowered her and lay down with her, the man who lay down with her is to die by himself, and you must do nothing to the girl. … For he happened to meet her in the ﬁeld, and the engaged girl screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.
Note it says that if an engaged woman is attacked she should scream, which would be evidence of the fact that she was not consenting to this act. This is all well and good and innocent enough, but there are two things wrong with Jehovah’s Witnesses threatening rape victims with shunning based on these scriptures:
1. Christians today are not obligated to follow this law.
2. Jehovah’s Witnesses have gone above and beyond that law by requiring a woman to “resist” her attacker, despite this instruction not being in the bible. They also take it upon themselves to “discern” if a story of rape is really rape, based on a woman’s “mental disposition,” the circumstances leading up to the event, and any “delay” in reporting it, as I bring out in this post.
Understanding the Mosaic Law Code
Jehovah’s Witnesses might immediately understand the term “Mosaic law code” and may realize what I mean by Christians not being obligated to follow that law. For others, let me give you a quick crash course on early portions of the bible. Most people know the story of how the Israelites were slaves in Egypt until Moses came, brought on the ten plagues, and led the people out of the country.
Because Israel had been under Egyptian rule for so many decades, their own culture and laws were lost to them. God didn’t want them to live by Egyptian law so he gave them his own, starting with the ten commandments. After that, they were given over 600 other laws that covered such topics as whom they could and could not marry (it wasn’t unusual for Egyptians, especially royalty, to marry their own siblings), what foods they could and could not eat, instructions about their way of worship such as sacrificing animals and observing certain festivals, etc. They also covered personal matters such as not allowing tattoos and requiring that men be circumcised. Because Moses was the one to communicate these laws, they are together called “the Mosaic law code.”
When Jesus came to earth he made the statement that he had “fulfilled” the law, and scriptures written after his death showed that Christians were no longer under obligation to keep them. When the issue of requiring circumcision came up in the early Christian congregation, a meeting was held and it was decided that this would defeat the entire purpose of Jesus fulfilling the law; if they required Christians to keep this one law, they would be required to keep all those laws. Christians therefore were not under any obligation to circumcise the boys, keep the Sabbath, sacrifice animals, avoid pork, and so on. (See Acts 15:1-29)
The point is, this requirement that Jehovah’s Witnesses have when it comes to screaming during an attempted rape is also based on those laws, which are no longer applicable to Christians today. Telling women that they face disfellowshipping and retribution of any sort for not screaming is the same as telling Christians they could be disfellowshipped for not circumcising their boys, for having a job on a Sunday, mixing the materials on their garments, shaving their beards, eating bacon, and for anything else spelled out in that law. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t require any of these, except this one part of the law about screaming during an attempted rape.
Going Beyond This Law
This picking and choosing of a law that is no longer obligatory upon Christians is bad enough, but Jehovah’s Witnesses have even gone above and beyond this requirement when it comes to their threats of disfellowshipping for rape victims. The January 15, 1964, Watchtower said:
Thus if a Christian woman does not cry out and does not put forth every effort to flee, she would be viewed as consenting to the violation… A Christian woman is entitled to fight for her virginity or marital fidelity to the death.
The June 1, 1968, Watchtower:
As a Christian you are under obligation to resist. This resistance includes screaming and creating as much disturbance as possible to try to frighten off the attacker and attract help. … Resistance is imperative, because the rapist is after, not just money, but your virtue.
The term “obligated to resist” or a similar phrase also appears in the October 15, 1980, Watchtower, the February 22, 1984, Awake, the August 22, 1989, Awake, the September 22, 1986, Awake, and the February 1, 2003, Watchtower.
They mention this requirement in all these places yet nowhere in the scriptures does it say that a woman was obligated to resist and try to flee! These scriptures, which Christians no longer need to follow in the first place, say nothing about a woman resisting in any way, but only mention screaming.
The last verse there in Deuteronomy even says, “…there was no one to rescue her.” It doesn’t say anything about how she needed to rescue herself, by resisting or “creating a disturbance” or trying to “frighten off” the attacker or doing anything else that Jehovah’s Witnesses demand. Screaming was the only obligation given to a woman.
Recommendations Versus Obligations
Giving women recommendations as to what to do when faced with rape is one thing; I personally have no problem with a woman fighting, kicking, stabbing, shoving a lit candle in the man’s eye, or going all “Walking Dead” on her attacker. If the incident somehow ends up with the man’s penis being detached from his body, more power to her.
However, we are not talking about recommendations, but a woman’s obligations during this horrific, traumatizing attack. As said, if a woman doesn’t just scream but also fight and resist enough to satisfy the elders of the religion, she faces disfellowshipping and shunning because of this.
I brought out in a previous post that the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Israel, were known for making up their own rules, above and beyond this Mosaic law code. The May 15, 2012, Watchtower said about this practice:
“The Pharisees’ rules and traditions made the application of the Law burdensome for the common people. … The Mosaic Law furnished the overall structure for Israel’s worship of Jehovah. However, minute details were not provided. … The Pharisees sought to fill in such supposed gaps by means of their laws, definitions, and traditions.“
This Watchtower article also went on to say, “…Jesus ignored the arbitrary rules of the Pharisees…” Yet, despite this condemnation of the Pharisees for going above and beyond the law, Jehovah’s Witnesses do the same, and for laws that are not even obligatory on Christians today in the first place.
If Jesus ignored the arbitrary rules of the Pharisees, why shouldn’t I do the same? If their man-made “laws, definitions and traditions” proved that these Pharisees had no favor with god and were now serving themselves rather than scripture, what does it say about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their leaders who do the same?
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