After a week of reading about the Stanford rape case, I was stunned to see that David and Bathsheba as the subjects of this morning's Old Testament lectionary reading.
I listened to the lector read about Bathsheba mourning her husband (Uriah), David called to account (for theft of Uriah's property and for murder-- not for rape), and I listened to the words of the prophet Nathan: "Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die."
And then we all very peacefully said, "Thanks be to God," and moved on. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got.
Before I go any further, I want to say: sexual violence is a raw and personal subject for an enormous number of people, and springing it on a congregation from the pulpit is probably not a wise idea.
We have to talk about it somewhere, though, because when we gloss over violence, when we hear it a thousand times in the same scripture stories, it becomes normalized. We the Church develop an attitude that minimizes assault, minimizes abuse of power, and entirely shuts out the story and perspective of the survivor. We the Church are participants in rape culture when we read the stories of violence and abuse in scripture without questioning where God really is in the story.
If we were willing to be uncomfortable, willing to tolerate the cognitive dissonance that comes from seeing David our Beloved Patriarch at the same time as we truly see the horror of David's sexual assault, we would have a powerful foundation for dealing with violence and abuse in our midst. We could recognize the truth that abusers look just like the people we respect-- because they *are* the people we respect. We could see our part in protecting abusers and rejecting survivors. We might reach forgiveness by going through the overwhelming fury and pain, instead of leaping to a false forgiveness where nothing changes. If we spoke openly about how the violence of our forefathers afflicted their families and communities, then we could look at what we've inherited from our spiritual family, and begin to heal.
And perhaps Bathsheba, like the glorious Stanford survivor, could become a full character in the story, and not a prop.
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