Enraged Pastors Defending David, Attack Sex Abuse Survivors Online

When, in the name of Bathsheba, will it end?

Sarah Stankorb


Bathsheba mourns her husband, James Tissot

The internet has offered many things: memes, stupid cat videos… a perennial debate over whether Bathsheba enticed King David into sex or if she was raped.

Your standard social media blend may be slightly different than mine. Crap, I need some more cat vids right now, because it’s the David Defense everywhere I look right now.

Every year or so, often once a separate controversy grows too intolerable on Christian Twitter (or a woman of note is receiving too much positive attention), this debate seems to bubble up to overwhelm it for attention, and then two factions rapidly split. For those of you who don’t frequently reread the Bible, I’ll include the pertinent passage concerning David and Bathsheba below.

2 Samuel 11:2–5, NRSV

In recent years, one of the important points from this story that gets highlighted is that King David was just that, the king, when he sent his messengers for Bathsheba. He saw a woman he wanted and sent his staff to fetch her for him. His power was absolute, and as such, there was no opportunity for consent. (Recall Bathsheba was married within this story.) David learns this, doesn’t care, and claims her body. She is not asked. She is delivered.

Many survivors, themselves also victim to people in positions of power who wielded that power to force them into sex acts they otherwise would never have engaged in see themselves in this story. They call it as they see it: Bathsheba was raped.

Then as they voice such in online spaces, many pastors (i.e., men in roles of similar positions of authority) deny this interpretation and for good measure, put abuse survivors on blast.

It’s alarming how discussion of abuse of power so often provokes verbal abuse from a small but loud segment of clergy.

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Sarah Stankorb

Sarah Stankorb has published with The Washington Post, Marie Claire, Glamour, O, and The Atlantic (among others). @sarahstankorb www.sarahstankorb.com