Westar Institute Stands Against Biblical Appropriation Used in Defense of Sexual Assault

By Alexis Waggoner | 11.10.2017

In a culture that increasingly equates the voice of a few on the “religious right” with the voices of all American Christians, Westar Institute finds it necessary to state unequivocally that the misappropriation of Biblical stories to support and defend oppressors and predators with little or no regard of context or historical learning is counter to everything that these scriptures teach us.

Specifically, we stand against the scriptural defense of Alabama’s Judge Roy Moore’s alleged actions. Several women have come forward to accuse Moore of pursuing relationships with them when he was in his 30’s and they were in their teens. One woman, who was 14 at the time, tells a story of sexual assault by then-32-year-old Moore. In coming to his defense, colleagues and supporters are citing Biblical relationships where large age gaps existed between the women and men.

Understood in context the Westar Institute believes such stories speak of hope for the marginalized, not of support for the oppressor. Additionally, the examples cited by Moore’s supporters are faulty. Dr. Perry Kea, the Chair of Westar’s Board, points out that although it is reasonable to assume Mary was young when she married Joseph, “The comparison of Judge Moore's alleged interactions with under-age girls is completely off the mark. The allegations are about unwanted sexual advances on the part of Judge Moore. There is no suggestion in the Biblical texts that Elizabeth or Mary was sexually harassed by Zechariah or Joseph.”

Further, the Biblical age discrepancies raised by Moore’s supporters cannot be supported by scripture. Luke 1:7 states clearly that Elizabeth and Zechariah "had no children because Elizabeth was infertile, and both were well along in years". The idea that Joseph was an older man does not come from either Matthew or Luke, but from the Infancy Gospel of James.

While there is violence and sexual exploitation in the Bible, Executive Director Dr. David Galston points out that "understanding the cultural context, the historical dynamics, and the violence allows us to identify with the oppressed in the biblical stories and to resist exploitation in our world today.”

Westar clearly states that, in the words of Westar scholar Dr. Celene Lillie, “using the Bible—whether from an historical or religious perspective—to justify sexual violence, in this case statutory assault, is deplorable."

Signed by the Westar Institute

Perry Kea, Chairman of the Board

David Galston, Executive Director

Shelly Matthews, Westar Fellow
Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University

Jeffrey Robbins, Chair of the “God and the Human Future” Seminar
Lebanon Valley College

Marianne Sawicki, Westar Fellow
Civil rights attorney

Margaret E. Lee, Westar Fellow

Judith Perkins, Westar Fellow
Professor Emeritus, University of Saint Joseph

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Photo of Alexis Waggoner

As Marketing and Digital Education Director, Alexis Waggoner works closely with both Westar’s Marketing Committee and the Executive Director to advance the presence and value of Westar in our culture through social media and the use of digital media in public education. Alexis brings to Westar a unique blend of digital marketing and religious education experience. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary. 

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