Bathsheba’s Story and Implications for Ministry (Part 1)

In contemplating Bathsheba’s lack of responsibility, many current observations and applications call for attention. Practically speaking, some countries today have laws in place to protect minors from sexual abuse that go beyond what the Old Testament mandated.

For example, the organization RAINN stipulates boundaries concerning a person’s age, capacity to consent, and agreement to an act.[1] Bathsheba did not have the same legal recourse as many individuals have today. Yet, despite the increase in protective legislation, abuse and suppression still remain. Some Christian leaders abuse their power in sexual relationships. Others continue to put part of the blame on victims instead of the abuser, perhaps even more so in cases where the abuser is in a leadership position. What might be done to change this and give victims a greater voice? I want to share a portion from my Master’s thesis written for Dallas Theolgical Seminary on Rachel Marie Stone’s perspective.

Rachel Marie Stone’s Perspective

Rachel Marie Stone (blogger, author, and editor for Christianity Today) wrote an article for Prism Magazine referencing Bathsheba and discussing the damage done to victims by those in a position of power over them, particularly spiritual leaders. In the story of David and Bathsheba, few people would say that David did not sin, but many people also include Bathsheba as a sinner or even a seducer. In her research, Stone has discovered that all too often people similarly put the primary blame, at least in part, in the wrong place, namely the victims.[2]

Stone interviewed a representative of The Hope of Survivors, an organization dedicated to bringing support, hope, and healing to victims of pastoral sexual abuse. Samantha Nelson suggested to Stone that while seminaries warn pastors about the dangers of “predatory women,” few emphasize the danger of the abuse of power.[3]

Nelson also added, “We see a lot of predatory pastors. It’s more often the case than not that a pastor will have abused more than one person. Sometimes there’s a young, inexperienced pastor who crosses a line, but generally we see a lot of repeat offenders who pick out vulnerable people and groom them for abuse.”[4]

Survivors of pastoral abuse often find themselves angry with the church and suspicious of all spiritual leaders. This anger comes in part due to a lack of understanding and compassion from faith communities, as well as the misuse of biblical stories such as that of David and Bathsheba.[5]

The biblical narrative does not suggest that David was a predator who groomed Bathsheba for his own sexual appetite. Furthermore, neither the current day office of pastor nor the church existed yet. However, David still held a position of authority over a theocratic nation, and he used his power to victimize a person with far less social power.

Stone suggests, “It appears that what made David’s sin possible was secrecy, and what brought forth his confession of guilt was the threat of exposure. For the sake of justice—and for the sake of healing—faith communities must acknowledge that compassionate attention and full apologies are needed.”[6]

David repented when the prophet Nathan brought his sin to light. That’s what is called for today as well.

 

[1] RAINN, “Was I Raped?” accessed June 2, 2014 <http://www.rainn.org/get-information/types-of-sexual-assault/was-it-rape.

[2] Rachel Marie Stone, “Saving Bathsheba,” Prism Magazine, January/February 2013, acessed July 5, 2014, htttp://prismmagazine.org/saving-bathsheba/.

[3] Ibid., 27.

[4] Ibid., 27–8.

[5] Ibid., 29.

[6] Ibid.