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July 29, 2018

“Breaking Silence”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Psalm 14

2 Samuel 1.1-15

July 29, 2018

David was an important king, and is perhaps one of the most well-known kings in biblical times. If you were to ask someone to name five kings in the Bible, he is guaranteed to be one listed. He slayed Goliath, the giant, he wrote the psalms, and Jesus’ lineage is traced back to David.

Yet – today we read about one of the weakest points in his life. Everyone makes mistakes, but his was written down for all to see and to be remembered forever. He is still imagined to be a great king, but also did this terrible act.

In the rise of the #metoo movement, where women are coming forward and breaking their silence about abuse and harassment, men’s sins are coming to light even more. Now, men are not always the abusers, and women are not always the abused, but the majority of people to come forward within the #metoo movement have been women, so that will be the language I use today.

Now, it isn’t that abuse and harassment wasn’t going on in years before – it is that the stories are being told. This scripture passage is an example of how these realities have been around for much longer than the idea of a hashtag, and even that Bathsheba was one of these women – but even her story isn’t told here. We hear about David. We hear about Uriah. We only hear Bathsheba’s voice when she tells David she is pregnant. I would even argue that because her voice is left out of the narrative, this story has been misinterpreted.

We don’t know that this relationship was consensual because we never hear her side of the story, but we also know that he is the king. He has the power. He saw her bathing and called for her. What else was she supposed to do? He was too powerful for here to just ignore. It is easy for outsiders to say she could have walked away, but it would not have been so simple.

Then, David finds himself in a conundrum. He has abused Bathsheba and now she is with child. He has made a huge mistake – but he also has a moment to be honest about what he did by admitting to Uriah what he has done, but he tries to cover it up and “trick” Uriah into sleeping with Bathsheba. It doesn’t work, and so David has this man killed.

At so many points David could have come clean about what he did but instead digs the hole deeper. We can look at this passage and immediately point blame at David. I think we do need to name this sin because for so long it has gone unnamed in our society. Yet, only shunning and pointing fingers does nothing to heal society – both the accused and the accuser.

As I read this I can list in my head many of the men who have been accused of abuse in the past year. I’ve had many conversations with people about how we move forward as a society. What happens to these men? Do we still value their work and talent as an artist or actor or whatever their job was at the time?

In college I remember reading something by a theologian in one of my religion classes. I cannot remember the name, but I remember someone in the class bringing up that he was a womanizer and had no respect for females. The professor suggested that the way he treated women made no changes to what he said about religion, because his personal life was different than his work life. One of my friends calls it the “Bill Clinton factor” – should we separate how Bill Clinton treated women from how he ran the country? Are we able to still watch Harvey Weinstein movies after knowing his actions toward actresses? Was David still a good leader after raping Bathsheba?

Maybe we’re focusing in the wrong place. No one is the sum total of their mistakes. Yet, as I said before, we have to find healing in our world. David never should have done that to Bathsheba – but what do we learn from it? What do we learn about power? About women? If this passage hadn’t been written down, if women weren’t telling their stories, where would we be then?

Forgiveness is a difficult subject when it comes to abuse. To forgive does not mean to forget. To forgive does not mean to allow something to continue to happen. Yet, I’m not sure forgiveness is always something we can do – but we can give it over to God so that it doesn’t churn within us. This week I spoke with a colleague of mine about this passage and she once worked in a domestic violence shelter, so I was interested to hear her perspective. She said that she would tell women “Sometimes we just have to learn not to hold on so tightly that we get hurt, too.” We have to learn to loosen our grip and forgive in pieces, and just not to let it control us.

I believe a piece of moving forward after this passage and after the #metoo movement is education. I’ve heard many women talk about how they were taught to walk at night with keys between their fingers, because women have to be prepared. Women are taught to protect themselves and be cautious, but men also have to be educated. I think there is the education that this is the reality for many women, which comes as a surprise for many men, but also the education that men can make a difference. There are men out there who advocate for women’s rights and who treat women with respect – and I think those men are the ones who should be teaching other men how to act. We have to make safe places for women and men to come when they are hurting – and, of course, the church should be one of those safe places. So it means talking about abuse and harassment and educating people on what that means.

The Psalm passage today talks about the “fool.” This psalm reflects Proverbs in many ways, which often talks about wisdom and those who act as fools. The fool here is defined as someone who doesn’t believe in God. We might jump to the word “atheist” but that is not quite what the author is talking about here. The “fool” is someone who “acts as if God does not exist.”[1] So, these people pretend God isn’t watching and they do what they want without repenting. The psalm is not talking about atheists, but about everyone. In fact, the psalmist is appalled because it appears that everywhere one looks there are people acting as if God isn’t paying attention. Maybe we can relate at times. When I turn on the news or pick up a newspaper I can see where people are acting as if God isn’t paying attention – I see where people who proclaim Christianity, and even use God as their reasoning behind their actions – are using that power to corrupt and harm other people.

We have to seek the wise. We have to be the wise. God gives us the wisdom to use the power we have to heal our communities and to be the church in a broken world. God gives us wisdom to see the harm that is being done and to open our doors and say, “You are welcome here, and we are listening.” God gives us courage to say to the world, “God has called us to be different – to be set apart from the awful things happening in the world – to stop abuse, to stop environmental racism, to stop hunger and poverty and war and all the things that are hurting people – and to be a healing presence in the world.”

So, we do that. We learn from scripture, from prayer, and from listening to one another, and we seek healing from God. Amen.


[1] C. S. Rodd, “Psalms” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, eds. John Barton and John Muddiman (Oxford: University Press, 2001), 371.