Tag Archives: King David

Intersectionality and Peacemaking: Gender And Naming Rape Culture #TheNewPacifism

King David, Russian icon from first quarter of...

King David, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For tonight’s post, I would like to start with a brief reflection on two different statutes in the Hebrew Bible:

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel”- Deuteronomy 17:14-20″

AND

“In you are those who dishonor their father’s bed; in you are those who violate women during their period, when they are ceremonially unclean. In you one man commits a detestable offense with his neighbor’s wife, another shamefully defiles his daughter-in-law, and another violates his sister, his own father’s daughter. In you are people who accept bribes to shed blood; you take interest and make a profit from the poor. You extort unjust gain from your neighbors. And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign Lord. “- Ezekiel 22:10-12

TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR RAPE CULTURE AND SEXISM

When we first meet the biblical heroine Bathsheba, she is a law-biding, faithful Israelite woman. According to the Law, in order to be a part of the religious assembly, women had to be ritually clean from that awful PMS (see passages such as Leviticus 12). Being in the presence of YHWH was a really big deal, so Bathsheba did what was required of her, and bathed. One night, a lawless man looked out from his rooftop and gazed upon Bathsheba’s body uncontrollably. He’s a man. He’s a visual creature, he could not help himself but to lust after her. She was being indecent, after all. David uses his position of authority over Bathsheba, they have sexual relations, and she gets preggers, and eventually loses the child as a consequence. David sins, the woman pays the consequence.

It has been my experience that when ever I am taught the story of King David in the variety of Christian contexts, his story is told rather uncritically. Bathsheba’s obedience to the law (her very agency) is ignored because our current USian hermeneutic would prefer to talk all about the Kings, and especially King David, so we can Jesus-juke our way out of the “Old” Testament. It is a male-centered and exclusive narrative being passed down, one that is not the whole story. Fortunately, we have the early Church Fathers those like Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, who recognized that we could not discuss the humanity of Jesus without talking about women, that there is no way we could get to the idea in Romans of Jesus as the Davidic King without the Ruth and Bathsheba parts of our story.

In this story of David and Bathsheba, we DO NOT have a scenario as we are often told of a seductress tempting “the man after God’s own heart.” Nopers, what we have is the king’s abuse of power over a woman who was just trying to meet social expectations as well as be in the presence of her Creator (the assembly). What we have in the way that Christians learn the story of David is that of Rape Mythology. We learn that men are “WIRED” as visual creatures, and that it is the BURDEN of women to dress modestly. Purity rings are for women, cuz, well, men are born with impure thoughts, #amirite????

Rape myths saturate our culture so much that even “progressive” theology professors resort to blaming the victim for their plight. Rape mythology is harmful to both women and men. When certain men of a darker skin tone tell their experience of rape,their stories are not believed because of white supremacist mythology+rape mythology that says that only men are visual creatures, aka/hint hint, ONLY MEN HAVE THE CAPACITY TO BE PREDATORS. Sexual violence, in other words, unless all men take Jesus’ words literally and make themselves physically incapable of seeing, is part of natural masculinity. Men bear no responsibility on their actions, that’s why it’s the womenfolk who get the blame for being victims of rape as was the case with cases like in Steubenville.

As a pacifist, and as part of The New Pacifist, any political movement that does not address Rape Culture fails to be non-violent. A number of pacifists in churches and in the academy like to talk about the ideal government being “Christarchy” or a Christianized brand of Anarchy where the Church governs society.

"CHRISTARCHY YA'LL! IT'S LIKE MANARCHY ONLY WITH JESUS!"- image from the manarchy ryan gosling tumblr

“CHRISTARCHY YA’LL! IT’S LIKE MANARCHY ONLY WITH JESUS!”- image from the manarchy ryan gosling tumblr

When I was in 7th grade, I wrote a poem about silver clouds, and how someday, I may even decide to become an anarchist. It was my mother who asked, what’s an anarchist, and when I told her, she rebuked me, and now today, I see why. Anarchy, Anarcho-capitalism, Christarcho-Capitalism, whatever you call it, is nothing but a return to a dystopian feudalism. Who will be the ones to rid our society of all the contracts currently in place? And what about the police and military? Who would protect the poor and oppressed with a safety net? Oh….yeah you’d probably need violence for that, huh??? So it’s no wonder that when one of the heroes of contemporary “Christ-archists, Ron Paul (cuz, liberty, YALL!), opposes sexual harassment laws in the workplace it’s in the name of being “non-violent” to good businessmen in power. Power like King David had.

Indeed, New Pacifists must be willing to question how USian Christian culture receives the story about this shepherd boy turned monarch as well as the heroine Bathsheba. This starts with taking Bathsheba’s and David’s Jewishness seriously, and their commitment and non-commitment (in David’s instance) to the Torah. New Pacifists must reject Rape Mythology completely, and that make men accountable and that they should take responsibility for stopping rape and rape culture. It is never God’s will for anyone to be raped or to experience domestic violence, and it is never is God’s plan to make people suffer through these experiences. I offer those readers who have experienced sexual violence these words:

rape is not god’s will. sexual assault and violence is not god’s intention for your life. sexual abuse is not a part of “god’s plan.” In fact, these are violations of God’s will. God does not enjoy sin. God does not endorse domestic violence. God is good. God is hope. God is life. God is love. If you or someone you know are in these situations, please seek help, it doesn’t have to be a religious institution; but a third party is mostly always a good choice.

Letter to a Confused Young Christian

OR WOW, I AM GETTING OLD!
The following is an e-mail forwarded by my brother Ryan to me late last night; he was unable to answer it because he is on a church retreat right now, so I decided to take the time to answer this morning.

The email:

Subject: European History and Faith

Hey Ryan,
I know you’re busy on a retreat so if I don’t get a response soon I’m not too worried. In European History we learned that the plagues happened over the course of a century or two, also, the Israelites had political control in Egypt thereby making Exodus a lie. Also, Pope Benedict 17th made concessions to evolution and the Big Bang thereby making Genesis a lie. There has also been no documentation of King David whatsoever and that would make the guidelines for Jesus Christ (and thereby his messiah-ness) false. As you can imagine this shakes my ENTIRE Christian foundation. With the Pope making concessions which would falsify Genesis and the archaelogical and historical evidence making Exodus and King David false. Just wondering if you learned anything in your theological studies at TCU that would help restore this because I’m just shook up right now over this.
Thank you,
Confused Young Christian
My re:
Greetings Confused Young Christian,
This is Ryan’s brother, Rodney. We both had similar education experiences but since he is on retreat right now, and since I had a course on the Exodus story, I think it would be appropriate for me to respond.

1. First,  I would like to address the book of Genesis. Genesis, chapters 1-11 are not histories of how the world was created. I repeat: they are NOT histories. In fact, Job is the oldest book in the Bible, and even in Job, funny thing is, God asks Job at one point, were you there when the earth was created? Of course, the answer is no. So, Genesis is a story, more likely an allegory, much like other creation stories which existed with the peoples surrounding the Israelites. Genesis 1-11 cannot be proven or disproven to be “true” to the modern scientific mind. Genesis 1-11 is about THEOLOGY and not historical events. It is to tell us what our purpose is, why God created us, not how. Creation is a mystery, and if we want to know creation the way God wants us to, then we must first love the One true God. That is what separates Genesis from other creation stories in every other religion. It is not about what humanity discovers or what is revealed to them but who God reveals God to be.  Now,  while evolution can be reconciled with the Bible’s story and not contradict it, evolutionary scientists are unable to tell all of God’s story.  Evolution can only go so far to tell nature and humanity, but it cannot tell the whole story and nor can it complete the story: only Jesus can. For the record, I lean on the side of affirming Adam and Eve as historical persons, but at the same time, I believe that other people were on earth (but not the garden) with them. Its complicated, but you know how the priests work in the sanctuary of the temple in the Old Testament? Well, that is how Genesis 1-3 works. There are people outside the Garden (the temple) and then there are 2 priests, Adam and Eve who work for God, and once the two priests fall, well, all of the rest of humanity falls with them. From my readings, the language of Genesis 1-3 and texts about priests point in this direction. Again, Genesis is about theology, not history (well not in the way we understand history). I think this is the importance of why ALL Christians should learn the original languages of the bible, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Also,Christian leaders should take the time to teach laypersons important elements of Ancient Near Eastern history. The ANE is the context that the Hebrew Bible refers to, and without it, one cannot begin to comprehend the Jewish Scriptures.

2. Second, Let me address the book of Exodus question. I do not know what it is meant by “political control of Egypt” but that assumption or idea I have never come across. Maybe they had political agency in some form or another, but archaeological evidence does point toward an Israelite flight from Egypt.  There are written accounts from the reign of Ramses II, and also, like a few other stories in the ANE context, like King Sargon of Akkad, (2300 BC), there are elements that the ancient Near Eastern mind would know better than the 21st century Western on.  I would hesitate to say that the Egyptian enslavement of the Israelites was the same as the white enslavement of African Americans.  I believe that the Israelites were oppressed by the Egyptians, but perhaps on a smaller scale. But like Genesis, Exodus is much more about theology than history (history, the way we see it, that is).  It is an interpretation of the central event in the Israelites’ history and how God intervened. Some people say it was written and recorded by Moses, others do not, but the authorship is NOT important. The important thing is the message: God saved God’s people from Egypt, and God’s people should always remember that, and when God’s people forget that fact, they will pay a price. It’s a theme throughout the writings of the Prophets, especially Jeremiah.

3. Thirdly, on the king David issue, first let me say, it is a mistake to say that Jesus’s messianship is grounded in his relationship to the Israelite monarchy. With a close reading of Judges and 1st Samuel, one realizes that the monarchy was NOT God’s perfect will. YHWH God alone desired to be Israel’s king. To make the Israelite monarchy the foundation of Christ Jesus as Messiah I think is erroneous. Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah because God chose him (Christ means annointed one in Greek). Historical evidence does not disprove the existence of King David. What scholarship says is that the Israelite kingdom was not as powerful as Christians imagine it to be.  That, much like the Exodus, it was happened on a much smaller scale.  The Dead Sea scrolls have the first 2 books of Samuel but other than that, there is not enough suffice archaeology to deny David’s reign. In the Christian imagination, we like to think of the time of the Israelite kings as this big great classic empire, and when text and the facts tell us differently, we may have trouble with that.  As believers, I think we should be relieved that Israel was NOT like Babylon or Egypt or Rome or Greece.

Thank you for your questions. I know that there are many other young Christians such as yourself that go through similar situations and do not know if they should ask these questions, but it is okay to ask.  I hope this helps.

Truth and Peace,

Rodney A. Thomas Jr.

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What they are looking for?

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