Thursday, April 20, 2023

Batman, the Righteous Prostitute

Suggested Reading: Genesis 38

One of the compelling elements of superhero stories is the contradiction inherent in a person who illegally acts as a vigilante in order to fight crime and seek justice. Batman is a great example. Often chased by the police for his vigilante activity, Batman is also the only means of defeating many of the super-villains who attack Gotham City. In some tellings, Batman works with the police but it is often a secret relationship because Batman's work is technically illegal. Technically, Batman is breaking the law but he is trying to do the best he can in a desperate world.

In Genesis 38, Judah, one of the twelve sons of Israel, has three sons. His oldest marries a woman named Tamar but then dies. In accordance with the Old Testament laws of levirite marriage, Judah's second son also marries Tamar. But when the second son dies, Judah puts off giving his youngest son to Tamar, afraid the woman is a jinx. When Tamar realizes Judah is not going to follow through with his obligations of providing his youngest son as her husband, she dresses up as a prostitute and positions herself where she knows Judah will pass. Judah encounters her, propositions her, seals the deal, and then goes on his way, never realizing that he slept with his daughter-in-law. When Tamar shows up pregnant, Judah is furious and wants to have her executed for adultery. But when she provides evidence that she is pregnant with Judah's child, he changes his tone. He proclaims, "She is more righteous than I am, because I didn't arrange for her to marry my son Shelah" (Genesis 38:26, NLT).

At times, we see people in their sin and we want to pass judgment on them. A man leaves his wife and we want to judge him for infidelity or for giving up on his marriage. We see a young woman get pregnant out of wedlock and we want to label her as easy or promiscuous. Our child comes home from school with a note about the disturbance they created in P.E. and we want to jump all over them for being a problem child. And while the things these people have done are wrong, we rarely know when they are only doing something wrong because they don't know how to make a bad situation any better otherwise. Maybe that man is leaving because his wife is abusive. Maybe that young woman was trying to avoid losing the only man who ever showed her any positive attention. Maybe that child was defending himself from kids who know how to strike when the teacher isn't looking. Maybe they're all just being selfish. But maybe they have reasons.

The point is that we never know why people make the decisions they do. We never know if we would do the same thing - or something worse - if we were put in their place. So we should avoid judging people just because they do something wrong. Maybe they are just making bad choices. But maybe they are just desperate and need our help and prayers more than our condemnation. Their reasons never make the actions right but we should take a look at their circumstances before we start bringing the hammer down on people who mess up. After all, we can all wind up desperate.

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