The following guest post is written by Ryan Ashton. I really appreciate Ryan’s clarity here on why it matters that we call what David did to Bathsheba “rape.”
In recent days, Christians have been debating whether King David raped Bathsheba or if she seduced him. For those who aren’t Christian or don’t know, this matters because the attitudes and beliefs Christians have about sex crimes, abuse, and abuse of power trace back to how Christians read particular passages—and King David has largely enjoyed centuries of rationalizations and excuses while an innocent woman is defamed.
Early on in my Christian experience, even I believed Bathsheba seduced David because that was what I was taught. It disgusts me that this erroneous teaching is so widespread—and we see the results today when Christians downplay sexual abuse in their churches, argue rape victims are “asking for it,” or say if a victim isn’t dead it must mean they went along with their abuse willingly.
However, according to several clues in the Bible, Bathsheba is innocent. Bathsheba was cleansing herself from ritual impurity—following the Law—and, according to the ancient language, this occurred in the evening. It was David’s guards who took her from her home. There was no opportunity to argue because David was the king, and the power imbalance cannot be more obvious or stark. Bathsheba is likened to a completely innocent ewe lamb that is slaughtered when David is confronted by the prophet, Nathan.
Yet still, there are those—mostly conservative—Christians who labor to find fault in the victim. This perspective carries over to every discussion of abuse and crime committed by Christians in the present day. It’s abhorrent, and I’m tired and disappointed from seeing it. Here are some examples:
The things that test my faith are times such as these—witnessing conservative, fundamentalist Christians stressing words like “biblical” every other sentence but who exhibit none of the compassion, love, and empathy for those who have been harmed. I am repulsed by Christianity and the “God” of fundamentalists when “biblical” people mock those who suffer while claiming to “honor God’s Word.” The “Jesus” these “biblical” people follow condones their actions according to them. Lately, I have privately mused that I much prefer “hell” than spending an eternity with conservative fundamentalists who defame victims.
Perhaps that is extreme, but that is exactly what I want. I do not want to be associated with a faith that gleefully hurts others.
How we treat women matters.
How we treat victims matters.
How we read the Scriptures matters.
Because there are people around you right now who are silently suffering, and they are watching what you say, how you live, and how you respond to evil.
For additional academic reading on this subject, please see this essay.
About Ryan Ashton: