Ezekiel Chapter 16 presents the analogy of a nymphomaniac harlot to contrast the unfaithful Israel with the magnanimous love of God. If the chapter were to be made into a movie the explicit and graphic descriptions would probably place the production under the category of a restricted film for adults only if not pornography!
Ezekiel as a narrative clearly shames the reader and then in the final verse 63 turns the shame into one that is an experience of the gratuitous love of God rather than the prerequisite for regaining love. The selection is a piece of art that leads the reader through a process of conversion. An analysis of the text allows us to explore the intention of the author, which is to shame the reader into repentance:
The chapter was presented to a group of 32 adults, 26 female and 6 male. The men either could not identify with the harlot, felt distant from the analogy, resisted the feeling of shame or simply understood the story as an analogy. Instead they identified themselves with God as the male figure and deemed that the harlot deserves her punishment.
The 21 women could identify with the harlot, and most of them could enter into the shame of the text. However, some were disgusted and felt insulted by the way the text imaged women. One woman turned the image of God into a nagging mother and another who is a homosexual could not experience the jealousy of God unless God is imaged as a female. The men and women who had neutralized themselves from the disgust of the harlotry and appreciated the text as an objective message of God’s love were less able to enter into the process of shame as well as the others.
The author concludes that it matters that the reader encounters the text as an embodied person who is in touch with his or her sexuality. The reader needs the freedom to image God according to his or her sexual orientation in order to fully enter into the proposed process of conversion. The reader needs to share the text in a faith community of persons with different gender identity in order to fully experience the love of God for humanity.
Julia Ong is Singaporean and a sister of Infant Jesus. She obtained an MA in Education major in ReligiousFormation from the De LaSalle University, Manila. She taught at secondary schools and at the Infant Jesus’ Centers for Children.