Rape and Moral Purity
Monday of Pentecost 2
19 June 2017
Much grief ensues when a person is raped. This person endures a palpable and physical violation at the hands of another. The reaction of revulsion arises from a primeval sense of uncleanness that is at the root of all sexual prohibitions. Even the terms identifying moral filth smack of an external pollution. For example, the very term "filth" has its root in physical dirt. A hog is said to be filthy, but when we speak of moral filth we are referring to a dirt that besmirches the soul. Inevitably, people who have been violated this way bear the burden of self-blame. They feel the suffering of an enforced complicity in the violator's act. They feel at fault for the fault of another because of their sense of pollution.
This is hardly a new problem. People have ever suffered the violation of foreign armies famous for rapine behavior. Such was the concern of Augustine for the women of Rome so violated by the Goths who sacked Rome in A.D. 410. So great was the fear among the Christian women that they could permit no physical violation of their persons, that some committed suicide rather than submit to rape. While Augustine gently counseled forgiveness for those who took that fateful step under such horrible circumstances, he still warned that committing one sin to escape another was unwise at best.
The gentle bishop of Hippo taught that suffering rape did not steal purity from the person violated. For purity is not a thing of the body, but a virtue of the soul. Those who battled their attackers and sought to flee from the violation could not be said to have lost their virginal purity, for it is a thing of the heart and soul. Purity is not a bodily good, but a spiritual one. A woman who is still a virgin but has determined to commit adultery with her lover, has long before the sexual act become impure. So it is that those who are raped do not lose their purity to the rapist. Such a one is still accounted continent, and all the more through the restorative of God's gracious mercy. The rapist cannot take what he cannot reach. Much has been lost as a result of rape, but not moral purity in the City of God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo
"Is there a fear that even another's lust may pollute the violated? It will not pollute, if it be another's. If it pollutes, it is not another's, but is shared also by the polluted. But since purity is a virtue of the soul, and has for its companion virtue, the fortitude which will rather endure all ills than consent to evil; and since no one, however magnanimous and pure, has always the disposal of his own body, but can control only the consent and refusal of his will, what sane man can suppose that, if his body be seized and forcibly made use of to satisfy the lust of another, he thereby loses his purity? For if purity can be thus destroyed, then assuredly purity is no virtue of the soul; nor can it be numbered among those good things by which the life is made good, but among the good things of the body, in the same category as strength, beauty, sound and unbroken health, and, in short, all such good things as may be diminished without at all diminishing the goodness and rectitude of our life. But if purity be nothing better than these, why should the body be risked that purity may be preserved? If, on the other hand, it belongs to the soul, then not even when the body is violated is it lost. Nay more, the virtue of holy continence, when it resists the uncleanness of carnal lust, sanctifies even the body, and therefore when this continence remains unsubdued, even the sanctity of the body is preserved, because the will to use it holily remains, and, so far as lies in the body itself, the power also.
"For the sanctity of the body does not consist in the integrity of its members, nor in their exemption from all touch. And thus, so long as the soul keeps this firmness of purpose which sanctifies even the body, the violence done by another's lust makes no impression on this bodily sanctity, which is preserved intact by one's own persistent continence.
"Suppose a virgin violates the oath she has sworn to God, and goes to meet her seducer with the intention of yielding to him, shall we say that as she goes she is possessed even of bodily sanctity, when already she has lost and destroyed that sanctity of soul which sanctifies the body? Far be it from us to so misapply words. Let us rather draw this conclusion, that while the sanctity of the soul remains even when the body is violated, the sanctity of the body is not lost; and that, in like manner, the sanctity of the body is lost when the sanctity of the soul is violated, though the body itself remains intact. And therefore a woman who has been violated by the sin of another, and without any consent of her own, has no cause to put herself to death; much less has she cause to commit suicide in order to avoid such violation, for in that case she commits certain homicide to prevent a crime which is uncertain as yet, and not her own." 

The City of God, 1.18

Zechariah 14:1-11

Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king's winepresses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.  (ESV)
Lord Christ, You are our sure defense in times of trouble and disaster. No temporal power or calamity could ever snatch You from us. Watch over us in good times and in bad. Help us to set our hearts upon You, our true joy. Amen.
For all those who are oppressed by slavery to the things of this world, that they might be rescued to the freedom for which Christ has freed them
For all those who are traveling during the summer, that they might be kept safe and that their homecomings would be joyful
For President Lawrence Rast and the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, that God the Lord would strengthen them in their holy calling to be teachers of the church
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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