Getting to Know Rizpah

Graham, Peter; Rizpah, Concubine of King Saul; Fife Council; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/rizpah-concubine-of-king-saul-124607

 

I spent Saturday morning writing the foreword to a new book by Sharon and Dan Buttry entitled Daughters of Rizpah.  I want to share it with you here as an encouragement to use this important work. Soon to be published by Wipf and Stock.

In the world of global peacemaking, Sharon A. and Dan L. Buttry are revered leaders.  They have given their lives to issues of justice, always working to promote gospel values while finding ways to work across ecclesial and faith tradition boundaries.  They recognize the work of God in the many pathways for seeking peace, as this book demonstrates. They have served as American Baptists’ letters of recommendation in the global community as they build relationships that bring healing and offer new initiatives from leaders they have mentored.

 

Revs. Dan and Sharon Buttry

 

Central Baptist Theological Seminary has drawn on the wisdom of these two transformative leaders.  We have seen the fruit of their labors, especially in their work to form a new generation of women and men who will extend their work in conflict resolution.  Indeed, to honor their life work, we have instituted the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence at our seminary.

Taking a rather obscure story from the Hebrew Bible, the story of Rizpah’s protest against the raw violence and indignity wreaked upon her sons, the Buttrys have used this text to illuminate how it is possible to recover from trauma.  Through the lens of 2 Samuel 21, a grisly narrative of inter-ethnic violence, revenge, and recompense, they examine the varied roles of victim/survivor, aggressor/offender, with an eye to construct a hopeful future story.

Aware of the significant new studies in Post Traumatic Growth (that moves beyond the normative analysis of PSTD), the authors outline what concrete steps are possible to move from the cycle of violence, which empower victims to take agency and nonviolent actions that ultimately have the power to challenge and change the oppressor.  This work aligns well with the service of those involved in “trauma informed practice” through psychotherapy, counseling and social work.

They do not shy away from hard theological questions such as: “Where is God in trauma?”  They wisely know that the problem of evil cannot be resolved with platitudes or simplistic answers; they have seen too much in the world, from Burma/Myanmar to Lebanon, from Naga to Liberia, from Bosnia to Argentina, and points beyond. They do recognize where God is at work, clearly.

This accessible text is far from simply theoretical. After a close and perceptive reading of the story of Rizpah, they offer stories of the daughters of Rizpah drawn from the discrete communities where they have borne witness to peacemaking. The steps from victimhood that seeks revenge to claiming agency that empowers a new story of hope are outlined in the stories of remarkable women who have turned their suffering and tragic loss into a horizon of hope.

The authors include varied resources that help the reader move from these pages to action in their communities.  A training toolbox; examples of sermons; poetry and art about Rizpah; and the work of biblical commentators on this text comprise the kind of material agents of peacemaking require. It is an aggregation of significant and pertinent information.

I am grateful for this curated wisdom that arises from the expansive practice of pursuing peace.  Using the biblical story of Rizpah offers a way of reading Scripture that allows both new insight and a pattern for transforming violence into a life-giving future.  The Buttrys have offered a wonderful portrait of what is possible.

Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping Church, and serving humanity and all creation.

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