Nothing. There’s nothing wrong with it. As I recall, it was a slightly tongue-in-cheek feminist takedown of a meme and the typical ways in which a particular Bible story is read divorced of historical context and through the lens of modern romance.
You know what is wrong, though? The fact that people keep commenting on a blog post that’s over four years old and acting 1) as if it’s brand new or 2) as if somebody else wrote it or 3) passive-agressively as if my read on Ruth is completely and incredibly wrong. I’m sick and tired of it. Y’all clearly are finding this post somehow, because even though it was written in APRIL 2014, it’s still getting more views than any of my other posts on a regular [daily] basis.
Should I begrudge the people who are only interested in Ruth? No. Glancing back through the comments that I approved in 2016 and 2017, several people said that they’d been encouraged in their faith or inspired to read Ruth in a new light through that post. That’s cool; that’s fine, and that’s honestly why I’ve left the post up and active for so long. But what you can’t see are the comments I’ve deleted over the years.
I seriously have to wonder who jumps onto a four-year-old blog post and proceeds to leave multi-paragraph long passive-aggressive comments that are so far off the mark from what the original post even says. Like, in addition to ignoring the tone and context of the book of Ruth, they’ve gone out of their way to ignore the tone and context of the post.
I did some digging last year about why people kept finding and commenting on this stupid post, and I found out that someone had reblogged it without permission and without crediting me as the writer. It turned out that most of the comments coming into my post and being screened by me were from people who weren’t coming to my blog at all, but a third-party site. You can see them on my blog as well, which is lucky for you all because when I went looking again just now it seems the site has gone down. But for a while there, I was fielding a sudden increase of hateful commentary because someone had essentially stolen my writing. The increase in page hits thanks to this has led to a permanent rise in the frequency with which people stumble across this 2014 post and decide to comment on it.
This comment came in today:
This person’s big issue is with the idea of a marriage of convenience, and okay sure, if you want to talk about that, it’s a valid critique. In my post from 2014 (did I mention it was from 2014 yet?), I allege that the union between Ruth and Boaz is a marriage of convenience for both parties in order to ensure economic stability for Ruth and Naomi. Historically speaking, this is accurate. And guess what — there is nothing wrong with that. The commenter seems to believe that God would never allow a marriage of convenience because God created everything and therefore…well, you can read it again, if you want to. On a theological level, as well as a historical and sociopolitical level, I disagree with this assertion. It’s rooted in the idea that romantic love and romance/marital heterosexual sex are the ultimate expressions of God’s love, and that this marriage between Ruth and Boaz is a direct allegory to the marriage of the Church and Christ, so of course God would have protected them both from something as awful as a marriage of convenience.
Don’t fool yourselves just because most marriages in the West are now formed with romantic love as the center (Mark Manson, The Observer) which brings two people together; marriage has always and will always be a socioeconomic contract for the purposes of legally binding assets and ensuring inheritance/succession/species repopulation (JR Thorpe, Bustle). Most marriages have been, historically (Peggy Fletcher Stack, Huffington Post), marriages of convenience on one level or another. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that fact, especially in the context of Ruth.
The commenter goes on to talk about how God is love, as if this alone proves that there was more going on between Ruth and Boaz than convenience. They write as if marriages of convenience are by necessity sexless, and since God “delights in every detail” (no reference, and I have no idea what the citation is, thanks commenter) of our lives, R&B were clearly banging. After all, God created that, too!
But that’s not my issue with the comment. My issue with the comment is the way it opens. They say “Saying it was a marriage of convenience makes it sound like you lack and [sic] understanding of God’s character. One of the most important reasons to study the Word is that we may understand God’s character.”
Here’s the thing about Ruth and God’s character: It’s not about Boaz. Boaz is set up as the kinsman-redeemer, which in a post-Christ world reads heavily as allegory for Christ on the cross, therefore Boaz equals love of God, etc….that’s the type of reading of Ruth that my original post was arguing against. Ruth is the center of her own narrative; Boaz doesn’t even appear until chapter two.
Do you want to talk about God’s character and how God is love and how God delights in the details of our lives and knows our desires and “gives us ‘all things richly to enjoy'” (again, no citation in the comment)? Then read the book of Ruth and for maybe fifteen minutes of your life, imagine that God is revealing God’s character through her and not through a man. Ruth suffers loss and pain in the death of her husband Mahlon. She chooses Naomi as her family and stays with her, supports her, carries her burdens. She sacrifices her home, her blood relatives, her culture, all to care for Naomi. She loves Naomi, and her actions are all done in order to achieve stability for Naomi (including marrying Boaz). God reveals the character of love through Ruth, not through Boaz. Boaz is insignificant to the understanding of God’s character. God works in Ruth and through Ruth for Ruth and Naomi and the future of humanity. God works in women and through women for people. God is love, and God loves women. THAT is the character of God at work in the book of Ruth. Not a weak, misread romance which places the importance of marriage at the center.
So, if you’re reading this in 2018 or 2028 or 2097, stop telling me that I lack understanding of the character of God just because I don’t value romantic love and marriage between men and women over the personhood and volition of women in non-romantic relationships with other women, just because I’m willing to see God revealed through more than just a worn-out allegory that makes no historical sense. Overvaluing romantic love and marriage as your way to interpret God and the Bible is toxic, because let’s face it:
Marriage isn’t love. God is.
Cite your fucking sources.