Casting Stones

by Preston Yancey on December 10, 2011

Today is the last day of the 16 days of action. This post is from Preston Yancey. I’m glad to welcome Preston back to Goannatree! He is a good friend, and a great writer. Allow this post to permeate your heart. Rest in it. Ponder it.

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“Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.”

It is a story we all know, the kind that spills slow like honey in Sunday School circles when something profound needs to be said but nothing new seems at hand. A group of men take hold of a woman and drag her to Jesus. They carry stones. They recite the Law of Moses. Jesus draws in the dust. They press Him. He speaks of sin, of innocence, and slowly they all walk away. The woman is left, Jesus does not condemn her, and she goes.

Yes, we know this story, but perhaps a little too well. We have spent so much time hearing it, waiting for the punch line of grace, that we stopped listening to the details that make the frame. Because were we to stop for a moment, to take a second to consider, would we not marvel at the line, “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery.” The movement of the Greek suggests that she had just been caught in the act, taken in the very moment.

How did they know? How did they know, unless one of them had been there?

Where was the man whom she had lain with? Where was the man, unless perhaps he was in the crowd, holding a stone?

It seems a funny way to talk about teaching purity to young Christians, but is this story not more familiar than we might first realize? Too often the rhetoric of the youth group is a purity language targeted at a man’s inability to keep it in his pants and the woman’s responsibility to therefore keep from tempting him. The logical conclusion, were we to bother to spell it all out, is that were he to stumble, she is to blame.

So many stones to pick up, so very quickly.

I have a close friend who serves as an RA. One evening, she was making rounds with her male counterpart when they came upon a young man and woman getting comfortable on a couch and starting to spoon. She was about to intercede when the male RA whispered to her, “That girl should really be more careful.”

My friend was taken aback. He proceeded to explain to her that guys can’t really help themselves, that they are naturally inclined toward sex, and that it is essentially the woman’s job to keep things pure. All this from a young man who earnestly believes that he is a good Christian and studies, so he claims, theology.

So many stones.

In our conversation about purity, have we done violence against women? Have he dragged them to the place before our lecterns and stoned them with accusations of impropriety, ignoring the illogic of it all?

How exactly is saying that a girl should be careful because a guy can’t help himself any different than muttering of a rape victim, “She was asking for it.”

To the latter we rally in arms, we cry foul, we note how evil and vile the whole idea and notion must surely be. But to the former, we tease the line, give a small shrug, consider that perhaps she shouldn’t be so available.

We throw stones.

It’s a funny thing, to act as if women have no sexual drive, when the principle mythos of pornography is that women are always available and always wanting. Like all perversion, there is the smallest truth in that, which is simply that women, like men, are sexual beings. But the Church did a disservice in swinging too far away from the myth that it landed somewhere just as destructive.

The Church dragged its daughters out into the courtyard and threw stones. It threw stones by the hands of the very men who participated in the sin, who knew no purity but cloaked themselves in fraudulent righteousness, and paid no attention to the wandering Rabbi and his finger in the sand.

I’m not advocating an “anything goes” policy toward purity, but suggesting there’s something more to focus on when it comes to it beyond a woman’s dress and a man’s control of masturbation. Perhaps something should be said about value, worth, that the Incarnation made mortal flesh holy, and that men and women are equally made in the image of God, who is profaned when that body is turned into an object of lust.

Perhaps it’s time we go back to the familiar story and slow down toward the beginning so as to truly understand the end.
May there be no one left to condemn, may there be only the Rabbi.

Preston Yancey  writes at SeePrestonBlog.com

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This post is part of the 16 Days of Action toward eliminating violence against women. The 16 Days of Action is a global campaign founded by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, I’m hosting posts across the 16 days, from 25 November to 10 December. You can help by sharing these posts on social media, by taking care of the women around you, & by standing against violence against women. The full list of posts in the series can be found here.

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  • http://twitter.com/mvahowe @mvahowe

    The point here is surely that men and women both make choices. It's unfair to women and frankly insulting to men to suggest that men "cannot help themselves". Men make decisions.

    But, in the context of the church youth group, it does generally take two to tango. Women make decisions too. It's wrong to suggest that sex is always the woman's fault. But, putting to one side cases involving coercion, it's equally wrong to suggest that it's uniquely the man's fault. That seems to me to buy into another sexist myth whereby young women have no sex drive.

    • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

      " But, putting to one side cases involving coercion, it's equally wrong to suggest that it's uniquely the man's fault. That seems to me to buy into another sexist myth whereby young women have no sex drive."

      Do you think Preston was suggesting any thing like this?

    • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston Yancey

      “It’s a funny thing, to act as if women have no sexual drive, when the principle mythos of pornography is that women are always available and always wanting. Like all perversion, there is the smallest truth in that, which is simply that women, like men, are sexual beings. But the Church did a disservice in swinging too far away from the myth that it landed somewhere just as destructive.”

      I agree that it takes two and, imperatively, that women do have a sex drive. That’s part of what I’m rebuffing, that in many cases the Church acted liked they didn’t, that they needed only to dress modestly for the sake of the men, not for the sake of themselves, which is just as destructive as the oversexualization of women in pornography.

  • Pingback: casting stones — my guest post for goannatree | see preston blog()

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    Excellent perspective, Preston.

  • kaitlinwehlmann

    I really enjoyed reading this. It definitely all comes down to choices. For both men and women. Beyond that, it comes to open communication with your girlfriend/boyfriend. Acknowledging that you both have sex drives and that you both will struggle with lust and that you have a mutual responsibility to neither tempt nor pressure the other. Now if only relationships were that simple, right? Again, great post! Lots of delightful food for thought.

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