Along with almost every other “mainstream media” outlet, the Chicago Sun-Times wreaks with attacks on Mel Gibson…and has printed the diatribe of the proud atheist Christopher Hitchens (who on television assailed Mother Teresa during broadcast of her funeral). Hitchens has his own psychological problems but what about Gibson who went on a mad tear, picked up a girlfriend although he was married and the father of seven children, got his concubine pregnant, then split with her and exploded into a series of disgusting taped rages that slurred Jews and blacks? This is the same guy who produced the masterpiece The Passion of the Christ which in film genre equals Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci at their finest? How could this guy produce a masterpiece and yet behave not just rudely but like a horse’s patoot?
To me, though not giving a pass to Gibson for his outrageous excesses, a comparison can be made between this raging near-beast and the Old Testament David. David, son of Jesse, was the second king of Israel and generally is regarded by scholars and theologians as the second most important character in the pre-Christian Bible, the first being Moses. We must note that the Gospels carefully trace and ancestry of Jesus Christ back to David. David was many things…king of Israel who reigned 40 years from the end of the 11th century to the early part of the 10th century B.C. He was powerful and popular but fell into grievous sin, not once but many times.
The worst was his lust for Bathsheba. Not just the fact that he was stirred with passion watching the young Bathsheba bathe…that although married to Michal, Saul’s daughter, he seduced Bathsheba and impregnated her, that he called her soldier husband Uriah back from the wars so he could have relations with his wife and claim paternity to the unborn child. Uriah, wise to the game, refused to sleep with his wife…in return for which David sent him to the front lines of the wars where he was killed—David intent on having Bathsheba for himself. He sends him to Joab his commander with the instruction that Joab should abandon Uriah on the battlefield so “that he may be struck down and die.”
That’s about as rotten a case as history has ever recorded…and indeed the Old Testament makes no effort to whitewash David. You will remember that following Uriah’s death…murder by David, really…he marries Bathsheba and she bears their child.
The prophet Nathan confronts David and says scornfully: “Why have you despised the word of God to do what is evil in His sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife!”
Their child is born but dies seven days later as punishment by God. So what does David do? He stops weeping, dresses himself and eats a hearty breakfast. When his servants ask why since he wept when the child was struggling for life but has neglected the sorrow now, this wretched man says:
“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. For I said `who knows whether Yahweh will be gracious to me that the child may live.
But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?”
That kind of insolent answer…cynicism to the extreme…should have scared David to fear he would be struck dead. But it didn’t. Paradoxically he is remembered as the best king Israel ever had…bringing prosperity and unity to the country, enlarging its territory and defeating its enemies…his character even apart from the adultery and murder he perpetrated was pock-marked and scarred.
For a time he served his people’s enemies, the Philistines…he was an extortionist and accomplice to murder (Nabal and Abigail)…he fought bitterly with his family…he was slow to punish crimes perpetrated by his supporters…he instructed his son Solomon to take ruthless revenge on his enemies despite having made promises to the contrary.
But in the end, David not only repented of his sins but wrote 73 of the Psalms which will live forever in spirituality and indeed in literature. To me the greatest is Psalm 51 where he confesses his horrible sins. I’ll reproduce the King James version because it is a masterpiece of literature.
Have mercy on me, 0 God/ according to thy loving-kindness/ according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity/ and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned/ and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold I was shapen in inquity/ and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken will rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit away from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips/ and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion/ build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
You know what? As beautiful as this is, I still don’t like the guy and thinking of the slain Uriah have trouble forgiving.
But then I am not God but a sinner with vengeance in my heart. We are instructed that God forgave.
Now, you ask about Mel with his adulterous behavior, drinking to excess, his rages. Remember his masterpiece, The Passion of the Christ and before you condemn him to hell, think of David and God’s tender mercies…mercies that all of us must count on at the very end.
There’s enough blame to go all around: the panicky reaction of the Obama administration that demanded her resignation…in fact, it asked her to pull over by the side of the road as she was driving and resign via cellphone to a USDA official…this despite the fact that she had been talking about her conduct not as a USDA employee but a non-governmental employee 24 years ago…that her speech was merely a description of how unenlightened she was that long ago and how she came to her senses on the issue of race and poverty…
But let’s remember it all started with a terrible…maybe willful…editing job of tape by a conservative media outlet—Breitbart. We just can’t continue criticizing the legitimate excesses of the liberal media if we don’t say…ala King David…mea culpa. As I haven’t really heard it yet from our side, I’ll say it…Mea Culpa.
*: St. Mary Magdalen Fittingly as I discussed the sins of King David and his 51st psalm and the fault of an agent of conservative media that caused a furor and the unjust firing of an innocent woman by the hair-trigger Obama administration, the feast today honors a great repentant sinner, Mary Magdalen. In a sense she represents all of us who are sinners. She was from Galilee and her surname probably came from her hometown of Magdala. Jesus drove seven devils out of her and her gratitude was everlasting. According to tradition she had been a harlot. But her fidelity to Christ was seen in that she was one of the very few on Calvary at the crucifixion. She watched Jesus as he was buried and was one of three women who came to the tomb on Resurrection morning, discovering that He had risen. Indeed, the first one to whom He appeared that morning was Mary Magdalen.