What do you do with stories that call your hero into question? I have not seen The Dark Night Rises, but when last we left Batman in The Dark Night, his light had been broken and his image tarnished. Dejected he rode off into the darkness pursued by dogs.
I have yet to see the new Spiderman movie. I did see someone comment that the story of Spiderman is really the story about Peter Parker. Insightful. Maybe all comic book heroes are about their human alter egos.
What of your Bible heroes?
This morning I met with one of the men in our church. We meet most Tuesday mornings. We talk about a variety of subjects. He often brings up a point about the Sunday sermon in the course of our conversations. We then pray in light of our shared convictions. We talk to God about what is on our hearts and minds, as well as for family, church, and friends.
Sunday our Old Testament text, the Lectionary Text that drove the sermon, pointed out how our heroes become villains. We read of many notorious falls in the Scriptures. It is hard to find a more disappointing figure than King David in 2 Samuel 11. David comes onto the scene a shepherd caring for his father’s sheep. Once he becomes king the story turns decidedly south. He who once cared for his father’s sheep becomes the predator of his God’s sheep.
After his rape by power of Bathsheba, there is little to redeem David save a couple of songs of lament and repentance. No matter how lyrically they are sung it really does not overcome the story that continues to spiral out of control. God remains faithful to David even when David proves faithless. Jesus is the promise that comes from Israel’s stump, that ruddy David who all but killed future hope.
Not the sort of ending we expected for the man after God’s own heart. I won’t rehash the sermon here. We will have it posted at the Snow Hill website later this week.
My friend asked me about a note in his study Bible. He noticed the comment as we read the text together Sunday. The writer of the note suggested that Bathsheba did not protest enough. What? Yes, sometimes we need to hold on to our heroes in such a way we will cast suspicion on the innocent. The ESV translates David’s actions as, “he took her.” To ignore the context of ancient customs seems an egregious oversight.
Danielle Shroyer points out how the narrator tells the story as if the only affected party is David. His son dies. No mention of Bathsheba’s son dying, only David’s. We talk of David’s lament, his repentant songs. We leave Bathsheba alone. We want to keep our hero. So, we put notes in our Bible that helps keep David in his place and treat Bathsheba’s memory as David did her while she was alive.
We need to let the story speak even if it troubles us. In fact, maybe the story functions so that we will be troubled. Every great leader becomes the new instantiation of our former hero. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and on we go. When we claim the new leader inevitably we are faced with stories that call our hero into question – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and on we go. But, maybe these stories also call us into question.
How many times do we re-tell The Story or any story where it fits what we want it to say? Conservatives shout down Liberals for such a practice. Conservatives are just as guilty, Fundamentalists more so. There is a recent illustration.
In the course of bearing sad news, a Fundamentalist Southern Baptists blogger took the time in his closing arguments to cast suspicion on Jonathan Merritt for not being so forthcoming about his experience of sexual abuse. Said blogger suggested Merritt could have easily told the story in his most recent book. The suggestion misses the point and impact of abuse. I contend it is abusing the abused again. It is the same as suggesting Bathsheba did not protest enough.
Interpreting another person’s story according to our framework is sure way to dishonor their tragedies as well as their victories. It exposes the way we often read the Bible and elevate our heroes. We hold onto what we want other people to have said or done in the same way we hold on to our heroes lest we have to face what the story says about us. Maybe we need to read the Bible and these stories with a view to how they call us into question long before we call someone else to account.