Transforming God-language : the metaphor of God as abusive spouse (Ezekiel 16) in conversation with the portrayal of God in 'The color purple'

Claassens, L. Juliana M. (2014)

Please cite as follows:

Claassens, L.J.M. 2014. Transforming God-language: the metaphor of God as abusive spouse (Ezekiel 16) in conversation with the portrayal of God in 'The color purple'. Scriptura, 113(1): 1-11, doi:10.7833/113-0-105.

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In probably one of the most disturbing texts in the Hebrew Bible, God is imaged in Ezekiel 16 (and 23) in terms of the metaphor of an Abusive Spouse (cf. also Hosea 1-2 and Jeremiah 2-3). In view of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians’ concern regarding the impact of violent (sacred) texts in a context of violence against women and children, I propose that Ezekiel 16 in all of its shock value offers a powerful teaching opportunity to raise awareness regarding a number of important issues such as the nature of God-language, the reality of sexual violence, and the impact of gender and race when it comes to interpreting the biblical witness. From experience, though, this text is not the easiest to teach. When teaching on difficult topics such as exemplified by this text from Ezekiel, I have found that it helps students to enter the topic by means of a creative interjection coming from the world of popular culture. This essay will bring into conversation the God-language in Ezekiel 16 with the portrayal of God in Alice Walker’s novel ‘The Color Purple’ (1982), which tells, in the form of letters to God, the story of a young African-American woman, Celie, who is the victim of rape by her abusive, domineering father. A creative engagement between Ezekiel 16 and ‘The Color Purple' that asks critical questions about the nature of God-language and how it relates to a situation of physical and sexual abuse may offer some intriguing possibilities for teaching on this difficult topic – in particular raising awareness about the multi-faceted phenomenon of violence against women.

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