Talking back to Scripture: New book confronts sexual exploitation in the Bible

by | Oct 26, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — If Camille Hernandez hears one more sermon where a male pastor compares himself to Joseph resisting Potiphar’s wife, she might have to perform an exorcism. So she writes in her forthcoming book, “The Hero and the Whore: Reclaiming Healing and Liberation Through Stories of Sexual Exploitation in the Bible.”
A trauma-informed educator and ethicist, Hernandez is tired of the worn-out, cliché and white-centric approaches to stories of sexual exploitation in the Bible. Drawing on her own exit from evangelicalism and her perspective as a Black Filipina, Hernandez re-imagines these well-known but often glossed-over tales of woe. In doing so, she posits that violence is not holiness, conversion should never be prioritized over care, and holy texts are more about questions than answers. A few she ponders in the book:
What if Sarai was a victim of trafficking, given to Pharaoh by Abram, who in turn trafficked Hagar?
What if Potiphar’s wife was a military spouse pressured to produce an heir, even as she participated in rape culture?
What if Queen Vashti, in the Book of Esther, was an anti-patriarchal figure condemned for refusing to be objectified?
Religion News Service spoke to Hernandez about talking back to Scripture, why she thinks Jesus is a pleasure activist and what so many sermons get wrong about Potiphar’s wife. This story has been edited for length and clarity.
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