No More Excuses for 1872

“A man enters the dark bedroom of an unmarried woman after seeing her boyfriend leave late at night, and has sexual intercourse with the woman while pretending to be the boyfriend. Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.” —the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal said in Wednesday’s ruling,

Recently the Los Angeles Times, and many other news sources, have reported on the case. In 2009 an eighteen year old woman was raped by a man pretending to be her boyfriend. Because of legislation from the 1800s the rapist’s conviction was just voided. According to this law, if the woman had been married and the rapist pretending to be her husband, there would have been no question of his conviction. The LA Times said that in 1872 a criminal report defined rape as “sexual intercourse ‘with a female not the wife of the perpetrator.’ ”

There are questions. How could the single women being raped be ignored? What about married women who found themselves with sexually abusive husbands? Of course, there is also enough in this case for hours of discussion directed toward current issues and life today. Still, I can’t help thinking about the past. We’ve made a lot of excuses.

You’ve probably heard someone say, “So-and-so is a little racist…but you know, that’s how it was in their day.”
You may have interacted with a woman or man who rigidly expected you to act a certain way because of your gender.
Maybe someone treated you with distaste because of your socio-economic status,  but their attitude was excused because of their culture or age.

The past is relevant. History means more than we give it credit for. Today’s Western culture is drenched with the influence of the former Roman Empire. God’s great work of the past encourages us for the great work He does now, and what He will do in the future. But the culture humanity has built does not deserve an excuse.

Let’s be honest. Let’s stop with the excuses.
Considering another human being worthless because of their skin color? That’s deplorable.
Ignoring another human being because of their anatomy? That’s appalling.
Defining rape in such a way that would have overlooked hundreds, maybe thousands, of victims? That is unjust.

When I have the privilege of speaking to churches or individuals about HOPE61, I’m often asked how something like human trafficking could happen today. How could millions be trapped in something as archaic as slavery? How could anyone own another human being? We’re educated. People today own iPods, computers, and sometimes make friends with people from other cultures.
I tell them the truth. One thing added to another makes something larger. Excusing one sin makes way for that sin plus another. You, me, our parents, our cousins, our grandparents – we all made way for this giant injustice when we allowed smaller ones. We still do it today when we let someone get away with racism because that’s how it was back then, or we’re rude to the attendant at the gas station because he looks like trailer trash. We do it when we laugh at a sitcom flippantly discussing pornography, or say Boys will be boys when our sons and brothers cheat on their girlfriends.

I’m not immune to contributing to the problem. But I cannot make excuses anymore. I will not and cannot let them carry on.

Can you?

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