Esther as “Bachelor” contestant who was “In it to win it”

This past Sunday, I visited a Converge church, a denomination formerly known as the Baptist General Conference.  This denomination hosts a rather diverse group of pastors, from fundamentalist, complementarian John Piper to “heretic” Greg Boyd from Woodland Hills Church, of which I am a faithful “podrishoner.”  In addition, our beloved former church in Maine is a part of Converge.

The pastor at this church I visited is a Dallas Theological Seminary graduate and an obvious complementarian, whose demeanor and style struck me right off as being NeoCalvinist and of the Piper-persuasion.  He was opening a series on Esther and I was blown away with his take.  I don’t think it is over-stating to say that I was appalled.

He began with a description of the wicked king, whose wife Vashti did a good thing refusing to strip tease for a room of drunks, but this made the king look bad for not having control of his household, which he oddly publicized all over the kingdom when he threw his “Miss Persia” contest.  We’ve all seen “The Bachelor” and may credit Hollywood with this brilliant idea, but Ancient Persia was ahead of their time!  He described Esther’s year of beauty treatments under the care of eunuchs – “We all know what a eunuch is, right?  Good, I don’t have to explain it.”  Then this young pastor went on to say it is difficult to say who the heroes of this story really are, as Mordecai and Esther stayed in Persia rather than return to their own land with Nehemiah to rebuild, and they hid their Jewish identity, so they weren’t living according to covenant laws.  And Esther was “in it to win it” in a contest with a “sexual component.”  So her character is questionable but God was able to work all things for good in this story (Romans 8:28).

Viewing the context of Esther like this is very similar to Mark Driscoll’s perspective.  He wrote about Esther,

She grows up in a very lukewarm religious home as an orphan raised by her cousin. Beautiful, she allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions. Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women. She performs so well that he chooses her as his favorite. Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed. She’s simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line, and then we see her rise up to save the life of her people when she is converted to a real faith in God.

This is a really detestable way to paint the life of a teenage girl who was probably around 12-14 years old and was “sought,” “gathered” and “taken” by the king’s soldiers and placed in custody of Hegai, the eunuch (castrated man) in charge of the harem.  Saying that Esther was competing in a “Miss Persia Pageant” is like saying blacks “immigrated”
to Southern cotton farms.  This was sex slavery.  Esther could not refuse the king without risk of execution.  And after her one night with the king, had she not been crowned queen, she would have been discarded/imprisoned in a harem for the remainder of her life.  Calling Esther’s character into question is preposterous.  Would we question the character of Jews in Nazi Germany for hiding their ethnicity?  Would we question a child who was raped at knife-point?

Esther had NO CONTROL over her imprisonment and rape.  She was a child.  She was a victim.  She was a minority.  She was a young girl in a patriarchal world that only valued women as property.  She had no power or agency in the context of this story.

And she is the HERO!!  Do not minimize Esther because she is a female heroine in the Bible!  Stop minimizing the amazing women of the Bible that God used to do amazing things for His Kingdom!  Jews celebrating Purim know exactly who the hero is – they cheer every time the reader says Esther’s name, and boo whenever Haman’s name is read.

It is not difficult at all for us to condemn Sharia law for child marriage.  But when it comes to Roy Moore and Kentucky’s ‘child bride’ bill, Evangelicals can be painfully hypocritical.  And with the on-going conversation about the hashtags #metoo, #churchtoo and #silenceisnotspiritual, the book of Esther is a beautifully relevant story to tell in addressing sex abuse and the church’s historic culpability in covering it up.  Sex abuse among Protestant denominations is a sadly prevalent reality.  The church I was visiting had around 600 people in attendance.  If the statistics bear out, there were probably around 100 people there who have been sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.

The Whartburg Watch gave this analysis of Driscoll’s contemptible statement above:

1.”Beautiful, she allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions.”
Driscoll shows an abysmal lack of understanding about the role of women in this culture. She did not “allow” men to make decisions for her; she was forced to do so.  She would be forced to do so if she was beautiful or ugly.

2. “She spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women.”
Let’s get something straight.  Being taken to a harem by a bunch of the kings’ men is not a day at the spa. This was about one thing for everyone involved and that was making the king happy. If the king wasn’t happy, everyone involved would die.   She had ZERO right of refusal unless she wanted a straight ticket to eternity.

3.”She performs so well that he chooses her as his favorite.”
Once again, Driscoll demonstrates his unremitting fixation with sex. He assumes that she was some sort of sex machine that serviced the king in such a way that he made her his queen. How does he know that? Could Esther have been kind, thoughtful, smart, or humorous? I guess it doesn’t matter because, in Driscoll’s world, it all boils down to sex. So that was, is and ever more shall be, his final answer.

4. “Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor.”
Driscoll’s attempt to bring this into a modern context shows a bizarre reinterpretation of the historical nature of that culture. Did he ever take a history course?  If he did, I want the name of his professor. Today’s reality shows are based on freedom of choice. One does not have to be Kim Kardashian, although Deb comes pretty close. (Let’s see if she is reading this). But,  from what I have read about Driscoll’s needs, his wife better be on her “A” game or another book will be forthcoming, bless her heart.

5. “She’s simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line, and then we see her rise up to save the life of her people when she is converted to a real faith in God.”
How does he know that she lacks character? Character is revealed, not when things are going well, but when things are going dreadfully wrong.  In fact, from my observations of Driscoll, he needs to spend some time in study and prayer on the issue of character. Mark Driscoll is certainly no Esther when it comes to this virtue.

Secondly, did anyone read any verses in Esther about her conversion? How does he know she didn’t have a real faith in God? When it came time to save her people, she requested that the Jews fast for three days. Fasting is one of those biblical things, last time I checked. So, did she just get lucky and guess that they should fast or was she just a quick study?

A Bit of Humor

One of the funnier comments I found on this sad example of Driscoll’s Biblical exposition is the following. The author at Kludt said that he had some points of agreement with Driscoll. Here is how he presented it.

[Esther] grows up in a very lukewarm religious home as an orphan raised by her uncle. Beautiful, she allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions. Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women. She performs so well that he chooses her as his favorite. Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed. She’s simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line, and then we see her rise up to save the life of her people when she is converted to a real faith in God.

In this article, Marg Mowzcko talks about Mark Driscoll’s preference for Karen Jobe’s commentary on Esther, and the interesting irony that complementarians will read women theologians but will not allow that same woman to publicly teach her wisdom and scholarship on that same topic.  

I just had to log in today for this special rant.  Even though I grew up complementarian, I have been attending egalitarian churches for nearly eight years now, so hearing complementarian exposition first-hand again was jarring.  I believe the patriarchy is the evil result of the Fallen relationship between men and women and is not at all God’s vision for humankind.  We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.  For there is now no more male or female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, for we are all one in Christ (Galatians 8:28).


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One response to “Esther as “Bachelor” contestant who was “In it to win it”

  1. What a disgusting interpretation of God’s story. Yes, thst man needs to take some time to study the Word and it’s historical context, and be slow to speak and quick to listen.

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