A friend asks, “If last Sunday’s stories of bereaved mothers compelled us to lift up the grief caused by gun violence in the wake of #WearOrange day, do this Sunday’s stories demand that we address rape culture, privilege, and power in the wake of the Stanford case?”
Well, yes, wise friend, I think that they do. As it is, my church is celebrating its Sunday School this week, with readings and songs by the children, and as much as I feel that we need to teach our baptismal covenant promise of respect for the dignity of all early and often, we both know that effective education is age-appropriate. So I will not be preaching that sermon this Sunday.
Which leaves me free in the meantime to think aloud some meandering thoughts…
Let’s start with the obvious: I have a lot of privilege. I also share with #yesALLwomen the experience of sexual harassment and worse at one level or another. I am bewildered that the commission of a crime of sexual violence could be seen as something that victimized its perpetrator and his high hopes of a gilded life. Those are just a few of my filters for reading this week’s lessons.
When the people of Israel first began clamouring for a king, the prophet told them it was a bad idea. But they persisted, and got their way. It could be argued, I suppose, that David, became the victim of that system with its inbuilt inequality and the dangers of the deluded ego that went therewith. If that’s your bent.
I am not sure what justice would even look like at the end of the biblical story of David’s regal rape of Bathsheba. Certainly, there is no justice for Uriah, nor for the baby, both of whom lose their lives to David’s act of lust.David is allegedly punished by the death of his son; whom David only acknowledged because Uriah could not be fooled into thinking it was his own. David would just as soon have washed his hands of Bathsheba, baby and all, as soon as he had done what he wanted with her.
As to Bathsheba, she is still deprived of her voice and her vote on where to live and with whom to share her body. And what of Bathsheba’s loss? We hear nothing of the mother’s grief this week, only of the father’s hand-wrung guilt. We hear nothing of her confusion and fear and outrage at her treatment at the whim of the king; only of his machinations to cover up his crime, and the sweet, ironic loyalty of her husband. Bathsheba, like the baby, barely counts in the economy of this system. Her pain does not weigh on the tally of good and evil in this story. She is consumed by the greedy king.
God! This story makes me angry.
There is no justice at the end of this story. Suffering is not the same as justice; and how, anyway, is the suffering imposed upon David to be compared to that of Uriah, or of the short-lived, suffering infant, or of Bathsheba, who will live with the progenitor of that pain for the rest of her life?
As it stands, David will continue as king. His crown, barely tarnished, still shines through generations, even unto Jesus.
It may be that he should weep at her feet, and kiss them, the Son of David begging forgiveness, belatedly, of the daughter of Bathsheba.
But instead, systems being what they are, and he being free anyway of inherited sin, unlike most of us, he forgives her the shame that she carries in an alabaster jar, and we expect her to be grateful.
… It may be a good thing that I am not preaching on these stories this Sunday.