Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rome: Day 3, Morning Bible Study . . . on Ruth 3:1-18

Fulata opened our day with a Liberation Bible Study on Ruth 3:1-18 looking at the question of whether Naomi was a trafficker. The purpose behind this Bible Study was to make us aware that contextual issues must be addressed in the care of survivors and that transformation is possible. The five C’s of the approach are Community—read the Bible in an interactive group rather than being told; Context—the context of the rear is always in dialogue with the context of the biblical author; Critically—make use of hermeneutical tools (exegetical and interpretative-which looks at feelings and experiences of the community); raise awareness about communal concerns; change — community transformation as outcome
What is the story about?
What possible themes can you attribute to this story?
What are the main characters and what do we learn about each of them?
Whose choice was better between Orpah’s and Ruth’s (1:14; 16-17) Why?
What could have prompted Ruth to go with Naomi to a foreign land? (6-7)
Why was it necessary for Ruth to glean in Boaz’s field?
Did Naomi possess and use Ruth as her labor commodity? (4:3-6)
Uncovering the feet, was Naomi asking Ruth to behave like a prostitute?
By Ruth marrying Boaz, who was probably Naomi’s age, what benefit was there for Naomi? For Ruth? What would have been at stake if this did not happen?
Do we have women like Ruth and Naomi in our own communities? What are their stories? How does the experience of Ruth and Naomi compare to the stories of vulnerable women, young and old in the context of Modern Slavery?
What community based resources do we have that can help us respond to the plight of our Ruths? What would be the best way for us to deal with the Naomi’s of our lives, whose desperation causes them to commoditize those of succeeding generations?
What two issues has this bible study made us aware of? What recommendation can we make to the church regarding such issues and this Bible study process?

While I do not think the passage tells the story of human trafficking, it certainly allows us to use the biblical narrative to inform our understanding/treatment of some survivors and traffickers. In this sense, the passage is certainly alive and in dialogue with modern contexts. We can speak to momasans or even those prostituted and demonstrate that God cares enough for them, knows their situation so intimately, and is yet more than willing to bind Himself to them as kinsman-redeemer. I think in a strict sense, some of our discussions along these lines do violence to the text. I think in a gracious sense, though, Scripture allows us to speak into the life and experiences of those whom we are trying to serve.

A good example was the raped woman in a shelter. To Fulata, she appeared like a dead woman walking. The shelter was very much concerned with “right” doctrine about God. The girl was keeping the baby and being taught it was a gift from God. Had anyone thought to ask her? Was she making the choice conscious of God’s love for her and her baby, or was she making the decision to avoid being cast out and losing support? She was 14 and unsure which of three men who raped her was the father. Such liberation theology based approaches to Scripture, I think, allows others to see themselves in God’s plan of salvation, even if a strict reading of the text does not seem, at first, to apply to such situations. While not “orthodox” in its approach, I think it brings out the living Word way in which we rightly perceive Scripture. I disagree with Fulata’s assertion that Ruth is a trafficked woman. I do give thanks, however, that her engagement in the text with her background, has made her a powerful advocate for those who suffer gender violence and/or from human trafficking. For those interested in Fulata’s paper, shoot me an e-mail.

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