This will be another challenging week. Yet again, we will gather in the wake of a mass shooting. We are told once again that it is too soon to talk about gun control, too soon to talk about politics. We know that it is statistically likely that next week will witness another mass shooting and the clock will be reset and it will never be time to talk about it. We can only lament.
The lectionary would seem to be no help this week, but let’s see. It is the story of David and Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 11.1-15. According to painters and filmmakers, this a great love story of the ages. David sees her across the way and she is described much like David’s other great love, Jonathon – she is beautiful. He must have her. He sends for her, their passion leads where passion leads and she ends up pregnant. David sends her husband, Uriah the Hittite, to the front lines so that he will be killed, clearing the way for David and Bathsheba to marry. However, there are two things missing from this reading.
First, we never hear Bathsheba’s voice. She has been cast as a scheming temptress and the victim of an unhappy marriage, due to either abuse or her husband’s sterility or both. Yet, her consent is so unnecessary to David that he simply sends for her and so uninteresting to the author that it isn’t even mentioned. When David, the king of Israel, a man willing to murder to get what he wants, sends for her, are we really to believe that she can refuse? Does a woman’s consent even exist in this scenario? It doesn’t seem so.
Second, this story is often read as the story of David’s decline into sin, the reason for the failure of Israel, the exile and deportation, the eventual end of the Davidic dynasty. More immediately, it is the reason for the death of the child of this union. Through the prophet Nathan, God tells David precisely what he did wrong: he stole Bathsheba from Uriah the Hittite; he murdered Uriah; he showed no pity for the poor soldier with only one wife. Clearly, he has wronged Uriah. There is no mention of Bathsheba, no mention of rape. Perhaps there should be. Perhaps we should include that among David’s sins. To paraphrase our president speaking about Bill Cosby: if you have sex with someone without his or her consent, it is rape. Bathsheba’s consent is not recorded here.
So what does this have to do with the shooting in Lafayette? So far, another white shooter is being written off as a lone nut, a victim of mental illness. We will make nothing of the context of the shooting or his choice of victims. The star of the film is Amy Schumer, a comedian who keenly satirizes the reality of being a woman in contemporary America. The two people Rusty Houser killed were women. Houser had a long history of anti-woman sentiments, including during his appearances on “Rise and Shine,” a morning talk show in Columbus, Georgia, whose hosts recall that “Rusty had an issue with feminine rights. He was opposed to women having a say in anything.” They had him on regularly because his “controversial” positions lit up the switchboards. Apparently, his bi-polar disorder was entertaining when he was only talking about shutting women up. Now that he actually did it, we won’t talk about his misogyny. We certainly won’t talk about the support he found for it in the rest of society. We won’t play politics with the lives of the two women who he hated and murdered. We will respectfully ignore the content of Houser’s hatred and help him keep his victims silent.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we crack open the canon a little and see what Bathsheba might have to say to us.
Grace & Peace,