Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Misogyny, Murder, and Accountability

Our small town has been shocked and saddened by the kidnapping and murder of a young woman, the mother of three small children. Charges of kidnapping have been lodged against her estranged husband, William Inman, Jr., and his parents, William, Sr. and Sandra. Since Sandra was the one who told authorities where the young woman's body could be found, it's widely expected that murder charges will be brought against at least the two men. Sandra, it's expected, will face a lesser charge as part of a plea bargain.

The body of Summer Inman, who was kidnapped on March 22 outside of a local bank where she worked as a janitor, was found little more than a week later in the septic tank of the church building where her husband's parents were married in 2004. She had been strangled.

Evil is real.

The evil that led to Summer Inman's murder was of a particular kind and it grew for a particular reason.

A story from WBNS TV in Columbus presented these facts about the family with which Summer had lived before moving out and filing for divorce:
Neighbors said Sandra and Summer Inman were rarely seen outside of the home, and when they were, they were both dressed entirely in black.

A close friend said it became clear to her "that the men had taken over the women" in the family.

Those who knew them said William A. Inman considered himself a religious leader and conducted church services in an outbuilding at their home.

Neighbors said he would often go door-to-door, soliciting donations for what he called "Mercy Ranch," a plan to turn his home into a place for the wayward and homeless.
It appears that the older William Inman had set himself up as a religious dictator overseeing his own misogynist kingdom.

Two particular forms of evil seem to have caused the years of hellish living and horrible end to which Summer Inman was subjected.

First, there is the evil represented by the presumption of anyone announcing on they have a call from God. This is what William (Bill) Inman did.

Nobody is authorized to hang up a holy shingle on their own initiative. An individual can swear up and down that she or he has a call from God to pastoral ministry, or any other ministry, but swearing won't make it so.

Recently, the members of our congregation, Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio, have begun a venture of reading the Bible in the course of a year. We have daily readings and once a week, folks get together to discuss the readings. During the week after the discovery of Summer Inman's body, we read portions of the Old Testament book of Exodus in which God calls Moses to act as intermediary between God and the people and then, the people call Moses to act to this same role. The will of God about Moses' role was confirmed by believing people. The will of God as to whether a person is to be a leader among His people will always be reflected among His people.

Lutherans have always believed in this "dual nature" of the call. A potential pastor's sense of call must be affirmed by the Church. Otherwise, it's just a feeling on the part of a would-be pastor and feelings are never a sufficient basis for Christian decision-making.

There's a lot of authority associated with being a pastor. It's not like the authority of a political or military leader or a business executive. It's the authority associated with God's Word and God's Sacraments and no one should dare to enter this ministry unless the call from God is confirmed by the Church. That never happened with Bill Inman. He simply took what wasn't his to take.

That in itself is a flashing light signaling possible trouble. If someone is that presumptuous with God, it's hardly a stretch to think that he will be at least that presumptuous in claiming authority over people that is not theirs.

The second evil in this case is the utterly un-Biblical and un-Christian male domination practiced by the two Inman men.

From the beginning, Scripture makes clear the utter equality of women and men. When Genesis recounts the creation of humanity, it says:
So God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them, male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Both the man and the woman were created in God's image, each in equal relationship with their Creator.

Later, in the New Testament, Paul, often wrongly accused himself of being a sexist, says plainly that, "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27-28).

When Paul first came to faith in Christ, a woman was among those who "catechized" him in the faith. Where the culture allowed it, women served as leaders in churches founded by Paul.

Even passages in the New Testament sometimes trotted out by those who try use Christianity to justify sexism backfire in their faces. For example, Ephesians 5:21-33, which some claim commands husbands to be lords over their wives, actually, on a close reading, can be seen to command husbands and wives to live in mutual submission. Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, which, is a clear call for the husband to give himself utterly and sacrificially to their wives. After all, Christ went to a cross for His Church.

People who fail to maintain their connection to Christ's Church, who are accountable to nobody, can rationalize anything: misogyny and kidnapping and, if the hints and allegations prove true, even murder. 

It's evil and you can be sure that, barring some uncharacteristic repentance (and, at the prompting of God's Holy Spirit, such miracles can happen), there will be a horrible reckoning because the God revealed first to ancient Israel and ultimately, in Jesus Christ, is a consuming fire.* To trifle with Him, to claim His authority without His permission, is a fearful thing.

*See here.

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