Bathsheba & David Part 1 feat. Amber Richardson (2 Samuel)

Monday, June 20, 2022


Thank you for your work creating and editing this transcript Sarah! We appreciate you!

Channing: [00:00:00] Hi! I'm Channing.

Elise: And I'm Elise. 

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists Podcast. 

Elise: [00:00:12] We focus on feminist interpretations of scriptures and follow the LDS Come Follow Me manual as a guide for study. We understand scriptures can be a tricky endeavor for readers, but we also believe sacred texts contain compelling examples of loving and liberating relationships with The Divine, others, and ourselves. We hope you'll join us in exploring the problems and promises of sacred texts with imagination, critique, and celebration to reveal what we feel is the loving and liberating heart of scripture.

Channing: [00:00:41] While Mormonism, with its iconic floral foyer couches, is our background, we follow our faith and our God on the winding path of spirituality over institution, and connection over condemnation.

[00:00:56] We are fellow wanderers, weavers and doubters. If you’ve found yourself feeling a little too faithful for some and not enough for others: Welcome. We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs. This podcast is funded by our listeners’ generous donations. If you'd like to support our work, connect with us on Patreon or on our website at

[00:01:22] Hi friends. Welcome back to the podcast. Today we will be reading 2nd Samuel for the dates, June 20th, through the 26th. We are so super glad you're here and we're like extra, super glad you're here because we have a very special guest on our episode today. And her name is Amber Richardson. Amber Richardson is one of my friends and I'm so excited to have her on.

[00:01:49] You might remember from a couple of years ago, reading an article that she published titled Bathsheba Was Not On The Roof: And Here's Why That Is Important. We'll be sure to link it in our show notes so that you can check it out if you haven't already, but just a little background about Amber: she's a writer and storyteller, and is currently buried deep in her cave of solitude. She pokes her head out every once in a while, like today, to talk about Bathsheba, and many of the other women who appear in the biblical narrative covered in this week's Come Follow Me lesson. Amber is also the host of the On Sovereign Wings podcast and is very slowly unfolding, but it's about a topic that we're incredibly passionate about.

[00:02:33] On Sovereign Wings features Mormon survivors of sexual trauma. And it's a fantastic resource for anyone who is looking for connection and healing from sexual trauma. Amber's Instagram page for the project is still up and you can find it @OnSovereignWings. And we'll also be sure to link that in the show notes. You can find the links to the podcast there, or you can look her up on apple podcasts under On Sovereign Wings.

[00:02:58] Amber, hello, thank you for coming. 

Amber Richardson: [00:03:01] Hi, thank you for having me. 

Channing: [00:03:04] We're so excited. 

Amber Richardson: [00:03:05] I'm really excited too. We got to chat before you hit record and it feels special and comforting to me to be in your company and to have a chance to talk about something that matters very much to the three of us. 

Channing: [00:03:20] I think our listeners will also feel the same. So thank you for being willing to come on and share your passion with us. We're thrilled to have you. 

Elise: [00:03:28] I think before we jump into our conversation, we just wanted to offer a brief summary of what's going on in the book of 2ndSamuel. So in this book, we continue to follow David as the main character in his reign as king.

[00:03:41] There are lots of wars that take place throughout this book and there are also conflicting regimes, particularly between David's army and Abner's army. Abner is one of Saul's chief commanders. This book is filled with betrayal, reconciliation, severed heads, assault, and the rise and fall of power. We see some familiar characters like we discussed from last week, like Michal.

[00:04:06] We see Michal in this scene with her and David, where David is dancing really wildly in front of the arc of the covenant. And she's incredibly upset and embarrassed at his obscenity throughout the book of 2nd Samuel, we encounter some awful stories of rape, sexual assault, incest, and murder. So we'd of course, like to issue a content warning moving forward.

[00:04:25] We see this happen between David and Bathsheba and also David's son Amnon and his half sister Tamar. These will be the stories that we focus our attention on today, during this episode. So please be sure to take good care of yourselves in the midst of this content warning. As the book closes, there is conflict between David and his son, Absalom, who plots to overthrow David.

[00:04:49] However Absalom is killed and David rebuilds his kingdom as this, the holy harp boy abuser that God continues to spare. And if you're anything like us, you've got some really big feelings and some big questions about the book of 2nd Samuel, which is why we're so grateful again, to have Amber here who has been studying for over four years about the story of David and Bathsheba. Is that right, Amber? 

Amber Richardson: [00:05:16] Yeah, it would be over four years at this point. Crazy. 

Elise: [00:05:19] Yeah. So now that we have a bit of summary and context for this story of 2nd Samuel, I think we'd love to hear from you, Amber, if you wanna dive in and kind of set the context for the stories of David and Bathsheba today. 

Amber Richardson: [00:05:31] Okay, so before I begin setting the scene for what we're gonna be looking at in our podcast today, I want to mention that my connection to this material is quite personal. Bathsheba came into my life a few weeks after I had a repressed memory of childhood rape come back. And I actually published the article that you mentioned, Bathsheba Was Not On The Roof And Here's Why That's Important within two months of that memory coming back.

[00:06:11] And so in my work I've had to sort of softly step back from intersectionality and other really purposeful and important frameworks simply because in order for me to interact with this particular story, I have to touch base with my own trauma. And that happens over and over again as I work on this story.

[00:06:44] I think that that loans some credibility to what I have to say, because, I mean, perhaps, you'll decide as the listener. Yeah. But it also is a challenge in the work. Yeah, because this particular trauma is very, very heavy, even all of these years into it for me, it's very delicate, very raw. And so I'll be speaking about these chapters from my own experience and yeah, I'd like you to bear that in mind. If your experience is different from mine, your story is completely welcome here, and don't let my experience prevent you from having a dialogue inside of yourself, if that makes sense.

[00:07:34] Okay. So David and Bathsheba, these are names that we're pretty familiar with even if we haven't spent a lot of time in 2nd Samuel, they're pretty baked into Western consciousness. I would say, even outside of Christendom, that very popular song by Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah, which Rufus Wainwright covers, dramatizes the story.

[00:08:06] I think Bathsheba, the name is especially sticky because she was out taking a bath. So we tend to remember, we remember the name, but there are a lot of misconceptions swirling around the story that have been baking in Western society for the last several hundred years. And I think from the onset, it's interesting to note that most of these misconceptions started coming about in the age of the enlightenment. The rabbinical tradition surrounding Bathsheba is not very focused on the sexual nature of her interaction with David. Instead the rabbis, the writers of the Midrash, and even the writers of the text itself, I would argue are much more interested in her role as Gebirah, which is the Hebrew word for queen mother. Many Mormon readers of the text, if they've, you know, grown up attending Sunday School hearing about this woman, they don't even know that she became a queen, or that part of her story is represented in the text and, and it is, and it's very much represented in the rabbinical tradition.

[00:09:26] So. For me, it's important to establish this at the onset because so many stories that appear in the Bible that feature violence against women, so many of these stories, there's no resolution. We just see them in the moment of the assault and then they disappear from the text. And I think in many ways, this contributes to a sort of truncation that happens in our minds surrounding sexual trauma. There's so little conversation about it. So few spaces where it can be aired out that I think for many people it's easy to assume that sexual trauma is a sort of life sentence, that there is no healing, that you're going to stay stuck in it forever.

[00:10:21] And when there are so few visible models in our community for what it looks like to come out of this experience on the other side, I think, again, it's easy to fall prey to the idea that you might just never make progress or change. Obviously there's very little in the text itself to, you know, prove that, either that Bathsheba was sexually assaulted or that she recovered. But I think on an archetypal level, there's material there to draw that interpretation, which is what I've done. So before we get into the particulars of this story, which can be very heavy and very sorrowful, I'd like to sort of orient us towards where we're going to end today, which is looking at Bathsheba as Gebirah and as an archetype for the healing that is possible.

Channing: [00:11:26] This practice, I know that you had mentioned earlier that there's not a whole lot in the text that really provides us with any type of like concrete evidence that Bathsheba was able to completely heal from the assault, but I think, in a lot of ways, that's really reflective of the work of feminist interpretation of the text. In our experience, what we found from, you know, feminist theologians who have been doing this way longer and way more in depth than we have, is that they use those spaces that lack that concrete evidence, the space of like, the unknown, or the possibility or maybe uncertainty, and recognizing that that's space where new interpretations can happen, where we can read between the lines. And we can come up with an interpretation that offers healing and resolution for stories that, just like you said, so rarely get any type of closure especially for the feminist readers who are going through the text.

[00:12:30] And so I just wanna remind our listeners that this practice of weaving in stories, pulling in from other sources, and using that white space or that in between space to allow us to imagine an alternative ending or maybe even not alternative, but like a more creative, filled and fleshed-out ending is a strong thread of feminist interpretation. And it's a huge part of the work that we do on the podcast. So I'm really excited about this. 

Amber Richardson: [00:13:02] Let's begin by talking about some of the common misconceptions that have built up around the story of David and Bathsheba. The first one: who was on the roof? The text itself says that David was upon his roof, that he was out on his roof walking. And strangely over the years, this has ballooned and we have stories around this that don't even appear in the text itself. Stories in which Bathsheba is out on her roof taking a bath. Why she's on a roof taking a bath, I don't know. Doesn't make a lot of sense. I suppose people imagine that because David is on a roof, he wouldn't be able to see anyone else who wasn't also on a roof.

[00:13:54] This misnomer wouldn't be too important, except for that where Bathsheba is positioned in the story has been historically used to blame her for what happened. I heard it suggested in Sunday School as a teenager that she was on the roof intentionally, that she was trying to catch the King's eye, trying to make a power play for the throne.

[00:14:21] That whole argument is pretty much baseless when you go back to the text and actually look at what's written there, again, that David was on his roof. Many theologians and scriptural experts will invoke a man named Josephus when they are trying to establish the historicity of a specific text.

[00:14:47] Josephus was a contemporary of Christ. He was a Jewish scribe and researcher who wrote a really extensive commentary on the Old Testament. And he placed Bathsheba in her yard, outside of her house. In the article, I wrote that no prophet or apostle in the LDS tradition has ever placed Bathsheba on the roof.

[00:15:12] And that's true. they haven't. However, what I didn't mention was that it's also true that every prophet and apostle who's ever done a treatment on the story has used the word adultery to describe the connection between David and Bathsheba. This is interesting because it's also not supported in the text.

[00:15:36] So as you'll remember, thou shall not commit adultery is one of the 10 Commandments, and the person or persons who wrote this story down originally in the Bible, make no mention of that commandment. They make no mention of adultery. In fact, Nathan, the prophet in the story, when he speaks about what happened, he puts the blame squarely and fully on David's shoulders.

[00:16:09] He analogizes the event by comparing David to a wealthy shepherd. Uriah to a impoverished shepherd and Bathsheba to the one little lamb who is owned by the poor shepherd. Nathan describes the fate of the little ewe lamb. It gets slaughtered by the wealthy shepherd and eaten, which I will mention, is not a metaphor about adultery, not at all.

[00:16:44] I mean, you guys would know as students of the Old Testament that the Old Testament in particular does not shy away from misogyny. And if a woman has done something wrong, the Old Testament is not gonna skirt around it, they're gonna make sure you know about it and that it's emphasized. 

Channing: [00:17:05] Well, yeah, like we even saw that in the story of Rahab who the authors of the text go to great lengths to show how righteous and beloved she is. And they do that by doing a “compare and contrast” of her old life with her new life. And they're like, hey, this lady started out as a total whore and now look where she's at. And so, yeah, you're absolutely right. Like, time and time again, we see examples in the text where they're like, even back in, oh, shoot, now I'm forgetting, I think it's in Leviticus, it's Leviticus or Numbers, but back in those books, like if a woman was even suspected of committing adultery, then she got like, she got the privilege of drinking some poison to prove whether or not she really committed adultery. And so absolutely, we would know as readers, if there was any kind of shared participation in this, you know, what we would consider adultery to be- a consensual act between two adults, but I do think that the text would have no qualms about letting us know that. 

Amber Richardson: [00:18:15] Agreed. Yeah. Not to mention that the analogy that Nathan has created, he compares Bathsheba to a little ewe lamb, which is an almost universal symbol for innocence, and certainly was a symbol of innocence and purity among the Jews at that time. Lambs were what were offered in ritual sacrifice, for purification and for repentance, for realigning oneself with God. So I said at the onset that like, the text is not definitive. We can't prove that David raped Bathsheba, but I would say that the available evidence in the text is much more stacked towards indicating that this was an event in which Bathsheba bore no responsibility.

[00:19:16] So that's where things start to get tricky, right? The word rape is something that for many people is loaded and extremely political. And only within the last like 10 or 15 years, I would guess, is that starting to shift and for some people, the technical definition of rape currently in the United States of America (by technical, I should say legal) is the forced penetration of any orifice, that's what rape is. However, in Old Testament times, in the book of Leviticus, they actually spell out what the definition of rape, according to the law of Moses, and it is that rape is only rape if the victim is a virgin, if she is forced down and if she vocally protests.

[00:20:15] So you can see where many of our present day ideas about rape have their roots. It's right there. Yeah. And so the Old Testament definition of rape wasn't looking at trauma. That wasn't part of the worldview. It wasn't looking at the victim, her experience, her needs, how the event impacted her.

[00:20:49] But for some reason, this law of Moses attitude, this law of Moses perspectives have continued into modernity. I think that reason summed up would be: patriarchy. So, we call this Rape Culture. This term refers to a culture that is formed and created around the psychology of the perpetrator. I recently have made a certain number of strides in my healing. And I don't have as much of an axe to grind on this topic as I have over the last few years. And so I'm starting to kind of soften in my view of perpetrators, which is crazy and totally unexpected. But when I think about the psychology of a perpetrator, I think that like most people, they have many parts, they're very complex and there are parts of them that feel deep shame and deep guilt for what they've done.

[00:21:55] And then there are other parts of them that want to protect themselves from the turmoil and the pain of the consequences of their own actions. And so when a perpetrator gaslights a victim you can guarantee that that perpetrator is also gaslighting themselves. It's a poorly executed effort to spare themselves the excruciating pain of recognizing the person that they allowed themselves to become and what they allowed themselves to do. The problem though, is that for so much of human history, perpetrators, and in this sense, males, have had the most political power and the most ability to set forth their values in the society and not just set them forth, but dictate them and lock them in.

[00:22:56] And this has created a culture that has progressed to such a point that we can look at a text like 2nd Samuel, and we're so completely inundated in the psychology of the perpetrator that we project onto the story, things that don't actually exist in the text and that projection stream is so heavy and so dense that we can go like years and years and years without even actually seeing ourselves and what we're doing. So prophets and apostles have not been immune to that. 

Elise: [00:23:39] I appreciate you laying out the definition of rape and kind of what formally or, like, legally or technically counts and what counted during Old Testament times. And it's so interesting too, because we see the rape of Tamar happen in chapter 13.

[00:23:56] And it's explicitly clear that this was, she was forced down and she has this whole, like she's speaking back and fighting back in a really vocal and explicit way in 2nd Samuel chapter 13. And I think that can make it really difficult to then pair that story alongside the rape of Bathsheba, because one seems to air quotes, fit the true definition, and the other feels a little bit unformed.

[00:24:28] And then what do we do with stories that either, there's not explicit evidence by the text, but how do we not skip over those stories and downplay them simply because they don't look like someone else's story of assault. 

Amber Richardson: [00:24:43] That's a great question. And the answer in real life outside of exegesis is that every story deserves to be heard and sat with in its specificities and peculiarities. That's, I mean, my understanding is that's why this podcast even exists. We're trying to practice skills with the text that most importantly we should be able to use in real life outside of the text. Yeah. So regarding your thoughts on Tamar and the question that you posed, if we're looking at incidents of abusive power, trauma caused by patriarchy or rape that appear in sacred text more generally, I think that every story deserves to be sat with and to be given some time if that's your profession and like your calling in life. And I think it's also important that these stories are understood in their proper context, which is, you know, the story of Bathsheba, if it indeed happened historically, happened in the Iron Age, a time in human history in which women had no legal rights or protections really whatsoever.

[00:25:57] And so the power was almost always in the hands of the men, which meant, I think that most of these stories, if they're understood in that context, they would most definitely have been traumatizing for the victim involved and likely would meet our definitions of rape or sexual assault today. As it applies to Bathsheba’s story, the juxtaposition of Tamar's story in the text, it follows Bathsheba’s story almost immediately you get, I think it's chapter 11 that details to the extent it does about David's meeting with Bathsheba and then the murder of Uriah. Chapter 12 is Nathan's visit to court and his prophecy. And then 13 is the story of Tamar. We have sliced and diced these stories up so much, and we skip over such large chunks of text that we don't realize that these were written together, that they're all part of the same narrative and yes, Elise, you hit the nail on the head: 2nd Samuel 13 takes great pains to evidence that what happened to Tamar was rape by the standards of the ancient Israelites. It meets all of the qualifications. The text tells us outright that she was a virgin, that she was forced down and that she vocally protests.

[00:27:34] She's got a couple paragraphs of speech trying to convince her half brother not to go through with what he’s intending. From my perspective, I think that these things are all connected and that what the writer is trying to show us is the consequences of David's actions and how far reaching they are.

[00:27:57] And that's another one of the misconceptions that we run up against with this story about David. Channing when you and I were, and Elise, when we were talking about this chapter ahead of our recording, you used the phrase, the term, “cherry picking.” Yeah. So, in the LDS tradition, the Bible passes through a lot of hands and one of them presumably is the committee that writes our Sunday School curriculum manuals.

[00:28:28] So this committee decides which stories are valuable to the audience and which ones aren't. And a lot of what this committee does is sanitization. They sanitize a lot of things, which makes sense, because we don't really differentiate in our teachings between children and adults, we don't have adult curriculum, so there's a lot of sanitization that happens. But the other thing that often happens is the issues of morality that are important to that body of people, and obviously that body, they have to reflect what's important to the governing body of the church. So the Q 12 and things. So the issues of morality that are important for them, the axes that they're grinding, if you will, that's where we're gonna traverse through the text. If we find a story that can possibly create space, we're talking about something that the church is concerned about. We're gonna stop there in the case of David and Bathsheba. That means that for the last, oh, I don't know, eight years or so, we talk about pornography. We compare David's trip out to the roof that summer night with a boy in front of a computer screen. Yeah, so as someone, you know, in my personal life, who's very interested in the topic of sexual assault. Who's interested in intergenerational trauma. Who's interested in how something like rape can perpetuate itself for generations before the Me Too movement, and obviously it's still going, but the Me Too movement was a moment of pivot. So given that these are my interests, I come to this section of text and I see conversations that I think need to be had. One of them being that what happened between David and Bathsheba, is often presented as his tragic downfall.

[00:30:37] We see him as a little boy, kind of a spiritual prodigy, a very faithful, magical child who slays a giant, just powered on faith. We see him there. And then we see him again, in this moment with Bathsheba and understandably, we have to load this moment with a lot of, I wanna say, context, that doesn't actually exist because if he is a golden boy, a magical child, a faithful prophet boy, and then suddenly he's a murderer, it's little wonder that we would cast Bathsheba the way that we do, because we've skipped over years and years and chapters and chapters of context where we can see David evolving and where we can see David's attitudes towards women showing themselves in the text. And then on the other side of this conversation, this incident with Bathsheba perpetuates itself pretty far into the text. We get into a sort of Game of Thrones thing, where Solomon, Bathsheba’s son, ends up competing for the throne with like three of his half brothers and their wars and murders and rapes and incest. And, the funny thing about this is, in 2nd Samuel 12, Nathan prophesies that this is going to happen.

[00:32:17] In fact, he says, let's see. He says, “thus saith if the Lord behold, I will raise up evil against the out of thy own house. And I will take thy wives before thy eyes and give them unto thy neighbor. And he shall lie with thy wives in the side of the sun for thou didst it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.”

[00:32:42] So obviously there are some tricky problems there with the Lord being personified as someone who's very wrathful. And, yeah, he's like playing this game of chess where he punishes David by giving his wives to another man- that doesn't sound like the God I worship, but if we can pass over that problem for the moment and continue forward, what we're seeing here is Nathan prophesying and indicating that David's action here with Bathsheba, this thing that he's done, is the first domino in a chain, and these dominoes are going to fall as a result of what he's done. And so I don't think it's unintentional that the very next chapter starts to bring forward for the reader the next domino, which is the rape of Tamar by Amnon, her half brother.

[00:33:42] It's not an isolated incident. It's an incident in a chain of incidents. And again, when speaking about, okay, so if we look at these chapters and we're trying to answer the question, was Bathsheba raped, strictly based on what's available in the text, this is another indication that yes, she was. Nathan says “Thou did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.” 

Channing: [00:34:13] One thing that's kind of just been sitting with me is we've been discussing, especially the prophecy by Nathan and the comparison of Bathsheba with the lamb. I'm remembering some of the work that we've drawn on before on the podcast from author Carol J. Adams, who focuses really heavily on the intersection of feminism and animal rights and eco feminism. And one of the books that she's written is titled The Sexual Politics of Meat and in this work and in her work, there's been explicit links between sexual assault and the sexualization of women's bodies and linking it directly with the consumption of meat and how there are direct ties between the way that we portray women's bodies, almost piecemeal, and the way that we portray women's bodies as objects and things to be consumed. And so I find it especially interesting just from that perspective, to hear Nathan's prophecy almost in the echoes of Carol J Adams’ work. And just this idea that like David has consumed Bathsheba in some way.

[00:35:30] And so I think just like you said, Amber, there's no like explicit evidence in the same way that we see explicit biblical evidence in Tamar’s story, but reading it with more background information and reading in between the lines, it's a lot, like, the implications of rape become a lot more clearer.

Amber Richardson: [00:35:52] And I'll also mention that building up to Bathsheba, we've got several incidents in the Bible, touching on what you were saying, Elise, where we start to see David's adult character reveal itself. As you were talking about in the introduction, there's a story that's actually in this block of Come Follow Me chapters where Michal, David's first wife is upset and offended by his obscenity and his rudeness during his celebration, his dance before the women. And in response to her asserting this, David shuts her down and then declares that he's never going to have sex with her, that she's never gonna have any children. And as his first wife, that's quite a punishment because were she ever to attain to any power, it would happen through one of her sons. What's really interesting about this is there's actually a verse right there in that chapter, this is 1st Samuel 18, Michal has just called David out on his behavior, said that that wasn't appropriate or becoming for the king of Israel.

[00:37:08] And he, this is how he responds. He says “I will yet be more vile than thus and will be base in my own sight. And of the maidservants, which thou has spoken of, of them shall I be had in honor.” What a verse, right? He's like, oh, you thought that was bad. Just wait. And he can get away with it, right, because he's the ultimate patriarch. And so he's got so many women at his disposal who are not going to stand up to him. So many maidservants, which he can be, you know, adored by, and so many maidservants that he can consume. So if he's got one bitchy wife, it doesn't really matter. Sad. 

Channing: [00:37:55] I have a question that feels very big to me. So one of the things that we talked about in last week's episode, when we covered the book of 1st Samuel, which covers, you know, the whole entire story arc of Saul, I'm almost looking at 1st Samuel and 2nd Samuel and comparing the two kings together, right? Like the kingship of Saul and the kingship of David. And one of the things that Elise and I didn't have a whole ton of time to talk about in the episode, but was definitely happening behind the scenes was really struggling with what exactly was it that Saul did, that was so bad that God himself, God decided like, no, sorry, Saul's just trash, we're just gonna throw him out. And as I'm comparing Saul with David, one thing that just seems to stick out and, you know, elicits quite strong emotions for me, is almost like an empathy for Saul, because when I'm seeing these two things side by side, what really came out in the text last week was God was angry with Saul because Saul didn't worship perfectly and didn't do things perfectly.

[00:39:08] And so essentially betrayed and discarded Saul, at least from my reading of the text. And then we kind of see Saul's gradual decline, whether we can attribute that to a mental health struggle or whether, you know, it was just the narrative and the story arc or bitterness and pride, whatever we wanna name it, we see Saul's gradual decline to his death because he didn't follow the law perfectly. And then we move into 2nd Samuel. And even if we follow David's story arc from 1st Samuel, we see this constant misuse of the women in his life and the mistreatment of the women in his life, again and again, from starting with the example of Michal, he never gives her any children. Of all of his, like, I don't wanna say that, but like, she is treated very poorly. And I wish that I could say most of his wives are treated better, but that doesn't even that doesn't stand up to the text either. And so what I'm noticing from this compare and contrast between David and Saul is like almost this subtle argument that's coming out from the text that says, it is better to mistreat women than it is to mistreat God.

[00:40:26] And as if those two things are in opposition of each other, because at that point, just like you said, women were property. And so I think for me, that's something that's just coming up out of the text for me and I feel quite interested and also quite confused, like, why Saul lost his kingship?

[00:40:48] When in the text, we don't have examples of continual rape. We don't have examples of incest and we don't have what we have in David's story. And yet Saul loses the favor of God. And yet David keeps the favor of God the whole entire time. And so I just feel so conflicted with these stories, especially when we've held up David as this icon of complete righteousness and, oh, he did this one bad thing, but everything else is fine when it's really just a pattern that we see forming throughout the narrative.

[00:41:25] So it's not a question that I think has any answers, but it's one that I am like, that's really coming up strongly for me, as we're talking about these stories. 

Amber Richardson: [00:41:36] I mean, you presented a lot of new thoughts there for me because I haven't really given Saul a lot of thought. I mean, I can connect in with what you're saying more broadly because the Old Testament is such a minefield.

[00:41:56] It just, it passed through so many hands and I get the sense that many times people are or were kind of manipulating the story and manipulating God's presence or perceived presence in the story by way of justifying behaviors that they didn't want to reconcile themselves with. For me, the Old Testament has been actually very redemptive because it contextualizes and puts language to so many of the maladies that I see in myself and in my ancestors.

[00:42:35] And it does give me the chance on a chapter by chapter basis sometimes to ask, who is God? So I wrote this article about Bathsheba four years ago, and I sent it to a contact over at LDS Living beforehand, asking if they'd be interested in publishing it. And my contact there indicated that they didn't feel like it was a good fit for their audience.

[00:43:02] So I sent it to Rosemary Card and she blasted it from her various social media profiles and it caught on, I think on my website, it got about 80,000 hits, but it was also published by Meridian Magazine, and I don't know how many people saw it there, but for a hot second, it was Mormonviral, which was unexpected and a lot for me to deal with given, as I had mentioned, my own repressed memory of childhood rape had come back like six weeks beforehand. But when it hit about 50,000 hits, I heard back from that contact at LDS Living and she said, Hey, we changed our minds, we love the article and we love what you're doing with Bathsheba, we love how you are emphasizing her innocence and how she becomes a queen, and we'd like to publish the article. We just need you to make a little change to it for our audience. And so I said, oh, that's interesting. Like, what change do you have in mind? And she said, again, we love everything about Bathsheba being innocent. Like, keep that. We just don't like what you said about David being to blame. Like, we don't really like that you're calling him a rapist and we just kind of need you to take that part out. As you can imagine, this was triggering AF for me. But I handled it pretty well. And we ended up on a phone call and I told her, Hey, maybe you don't understand what rape is, but rape is what happens when people have sex and one party is innocent. So if you want me to emphasize Bathsheba's innocence, it’s implicit, nay, explicit that David is guilty because if he's not guilty, then sex never happened. I was pretty firm with her. She was a little like, oh, um, oh, okay, well, thanks for telling me that, and then, like, got off the phone. 

[00:45:13] But it was interesting and it's still a point of interest for me because I've gone and looked at the Come Follow Me manual and noticed that they no longer use the word adultery in the manual copy. And I think they more clearly put the blame on David's shoulders, while still of course, shying away from using and technical terminology to describe sexual assault and then a couple of the talks that they reference in the chapter, or in the Come Follow Me section also obviously do use the word adultery. So I've been thinking about this obsessively, as I tend to do. And, I think that there's something here, and I think we were talking about it earlier on in the podcast, this fixation on this story, our focus is still on David, on his guilt, on his shame, primarily on his shame. And I think that could maybe sum up what's going on with Mormonism obsession with pornography, shame, it's maybe just that. And instead of venturing into the dark, instead of sitting with the shadow, looking at it, mourning it, taking accountability for it or for what your fathers have done, if you yourself have never crossed this line, just, and, and then by extension feeling the grief of the women that you are surrounded by. Feeling the terror and the sorrow and feeling their anger and making peace with that. Instead of doing all of these things, we continue to chain ourselves to a whipping post and whip ourselves with shame, over our human tendencies, but also over those tendencies that have become very warped, so that a man is no longer seeking intimacy and seeking love, but a man is seeking the temporary feeling of power that comes with subjugating and raping a woman. These shadows, believe it or not, can actually be healed. [00:48:01] And that is in my mind what lives at the heart of the Christian story. That's the promise of Christianity, that we can become more whole, more healed human beings than we have seen on the earth before. And the way this is done is in the pattern of the Christ. The way we heal, the way we rebirth ourselves is we venture into the dark night. We descend all the way to the bottom and we feel every piece of shit that our ancestors and ourselves have denied and repressed and we choose to feel it willingly and when the time comes, we choose to let it go and we choose to be reborn and we choose to become new people. This is not happening in the Mormon church. It's not. If it were happening, you would see the presentation of this story change. We are much more invested in whipping ourselves with shame than we are in transforming and becoming more healed and whole men and women, which according to my own very fervently held belief is not only possible, but involves making peace with the parts of ourselves that are not perfect. If we can make peace with these parts of ourselves and stop feeding them with this frenzied, obsessive shame, that's when they release, that's when they let go. That's when they come back into the whole.

[00:49:46] And we're not doing that. We're not doing that. And the treatment of this story of David and Bathsheba, I think is as much evidence of that as anything else I can conjure up. 

Elise: [00:49:57] Friends, thanks so much for joining us for part one of this episode about Bathsheba and David and 2nd Samuel with our amazing friend and expert Amber Richardson. Please stay tuned this week for part two.

[00:50:15] Friends, thank you so much for joining us today for another episode of The Faithful Feminists podcast. We know your time and space is sacred and we are so grateful to have spent ours with you. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be so happy if you left us a loving rating on iTunes and Spotify so other seekers can find us. 

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