Monday, October 16, 2017

#MeToo: Bathsheba & The Culture Of Assault & Rape

It has been heartbreaking, though not unexpected to see all of the posts of #MeToo all over social media as women come forward to say that they, too, have been sexually harassed or assaulted. The actress Alyssa Milano is credited with starting this campaign when she Tweeted, "If all the women and men who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or abused wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. #metoo." She posted this on Sunday and, by Monday Morning, over 200,000 people had responded on Twitter and 80,000 on Facebook. This is bigger than Harvey Weinstein, though his gross, vile and despicable behavior is shining a light on a problem that is more than a Hollywood issue, but one that has plagued all socities and cultures for centuries because we have allowed the patriarchal system to remain in tact for so very, very long.

Weinstein is watching his illustrious career deservedly go down in flames, but just months prior, we saw a man get elected to the highest office in the United States who had done the same things and had bragged openly of  being able to "Grab 'em by the pussy" (By the way, if you are more offended that I posted his words but weren't enough to not vote for him, then you need to reevaluate your sense of morality) and who said he could get away with assaulting women because he was famous and when one is famous, then women just let you do those kinds of things to them. Neither of these men were just boys being boys nor was it mere locker room talk or from growing up in a different time. At no time in history is this kind of treatment of women acceptable or normal. It is aberrant, degenerate and depraved behavior.

One cannot read the Bible and not find instance after instance of men assaulting and raping women. For this post, I am going to focus solely on one because it is the one that most resembles what we are watching played out in our media right now.

In 2nd Samuel 11, the story of David and Bathesheba plays out in a manner that is horrifying and depraved. David, who is King of Israel, who is described as a man after God's own heart, reveals what is truly in his sinful heart: a lust that leads him to raping a married woman.

This story begins with: In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. 

Essentially, during a time when he is supposed to be off to war (a strange seasonal custom, I might add, David wasn't. While his army is off fighting to protect their nation, David is neglecting his royal duties and chilling at the palace. While his men do battle, he is a man of leisure and comfort: a man centered on self and his own wants and desires, which we will see unfold in a disturbing abuse of power. As most people know this story even if they've never read it: One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roofof the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. 

David gets up from his bed, goes to the roof of his palace and watches a woman bathing. The Hebrew word for "watched" means to "keep watching," "intent on doing" and that what one is watching "keeps one awake." This means David had done this more than just this solitary night, but that having seen this woman bathing, it awakened to do so again each night. Like someone who sneaked out of bed to turn on their computer and look at pornography on the Internet, David was hooked.  David was getting his nightly fix. But simply watching this "beautiful" woman wasn't enough for him; instead, he sent someone to find out about her. Now he has moved beyond merely watching and lusting in his heart to actively seeking out who this woman is. His lust can no longer be quenched with simply leering at her bathing anymore. His flesh cries out for more to satisfy its lusts.

When his servant returns, he informs King David, "She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite." I love that this servant made sure to let his sovereign know not only the woman's name but that this was not just some beautiful woman for the king to lust after but that she was someones daughter and someones wife. She has identity.  Her very name, Bathsheba, means "daughter of the oath" or when one breaks the word down in Hebrew it is made up of bat (daughter) and ben (son). Ben is a noun that shows how important family is and also connects the relationship of God and mankind as that of Father and son or daughter. Ben  also has a connection to the Hebrew word bana (build or rebuild). This is another reference to a house, or family. Bathsheba's name is meant to remind anyone who reads this story that she is a daughter of Eliam and a wife of Uriah. She has family. Everything this servant is telling David is essentially a warning. But does David hear what his servant is telling him? No, he is listening only to his flesh, to his lusts, to his corrupt and wicked wants. 

As scriptures tell us: Then David sent messengers to get her. 

"To get" is better translated as the messengers "took" her. Taking someone is more by force and than simply going to get someone. These are not men who are inviting or offering Bathsheba a choice. There is no choice for her. David, the king, used his power to send these men to take this woman and make her come back to the palace. He is not courting, wooing, romancing or in any way acting in any other way than a powerful man abusing his power to first assault a woman by taking (dragging) her from her own home and making her come to the palace for one reason only: he was going to satisfy himself with her. He would have her kidnapped and now he would rape her.

When 2nd Samuel 11:7 states that, "She came to him," do not believe that for even a second that she desired this, wanted this, or had any choice in this. David knew he had all of the authority and he abused this by raping her. The translation for "and he slept with her" comes from the Hebrew word vaiyishkav, which, like all Hebrew words, has multiple meanings. One of them is "to lie down" but there are darker meanings to it, such as "to bury" or "to grasp" or "to be underneath." None of those definitions show this as a willing act on her part. It reveals the darkness and violence that David committed in that shameless abuse of power and privilege that he had as a king. He understood that Bathsheba had no choice, had no other option and that she was powerless to resist or reject him. He also knew that she probably would not tell anyone for fear of the shame it would bring to her as a married woman. Did she fear that, should this get out, she would be stoned to death? 

Bathsheba was raped. David was a perverted and vile rapist. 

What he did was not an "indiscretion," it was not simply "misbehavior" or an "encounter." This wasn't simply "adultery." This was an act of sexual violence. He violated and raped a woman who had no power to stop him. This was her king. He could have her killed for whatever whim or reason he wanted to give. There was no choice.  

The question for those in the Church to ask is, "Why are we still allowing this to go on? Why aren't our voices speaking loudest against those inside and outside of the Church who would commit such heinous, violent and unspeakable acts against women and men?" 

We cannot hold tightly to the patriarchal system any longer. It is destructive and an affront to a God who created both man and woman in Imago Dei. When we say that women are some how less than or inferior to men, then we are saying that there is a part of God that is inferior or less than. When we do not see all people as created in the very image of our Maker, then we are practicing heresy and it's a dangerous one that allows pastors to counsel wives to have sex with their husbands whenever their husbands want it because, as men, they could just go out and get it somewhere else. And a good wife wouldn't want her husband to sin, would she? 

It is the same heresy that asks the victim: What were you wearing? Where were you when this happened? What were you drinking? (All questions that imply: This is somehow your fault). It shouldn't matter what a woman was wearing or if she had anything to drink. None of these things give any male the right or reason to assault or rape her. The Church must not be part of a culture that blames victims while victimizing the assailants. It cannot be protecting those in power, whether that be behind the pulpit or in the Oval Office. 

The Church must stand up and speak out on behalf of those who are oppressed, victimized, assaulted, raped, or attacked whether that be by a stranger, a friend, family member or a spouse. The Church can no longer turn a blind eye to what is going on within its pews or its communities. The Church must be the ones to listen and believe all of those who are crying out, "ME TOO!" We need to come alongside them, love them, believe them, counsel them and fight for their justice in the court system. If the Church is not willing to do so, then it cannot claim to be the Church.

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