Today, a manic frenzy is sweeping America to denigrate many of
our former heroes, to tear down statues of these early American icons, to erase from mortal
memory the names and fetes of these historical figures and even to expunge any trace of them
from our national history and heritage. To those who are rushing in their rage to “sanitize”
American history, a word of advice: men are not God-like saints – we are all human and even
those we revere and eulogize have skeletons in their closets. Those who deserve to be
honored should be so revered, in spite of some past real or imagined sins. We need not
erase their memories nor whitewash their historical records. We can respect their
accomplishments while noting what we today consider their past transgressions. Nothing
in life is all black or white – life is mostly shades of gray. Let’s remember that:
America’s Patriots and Heroes Were Not Saints!
King David is remembered in the Jewish tradition as a great hero,
psalmist, and a revered leader and builder of the Israelite nation. But, with all his
accomplishments, King David was definitely not a saint. In spite of his many grievous faults,
King David is still honored and held in esteem by the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.
Today, we here in America should take note of this fact and we should do the same with those
heroes and patriots that have created the best and greatest nation in the history of the
The biblical narrative of the second king of Israel, King David,
relates his accomplishments, as well as his sinful transgressions. We should carefully note
that the Old Testament tells us of his great deeds, but does not shirk from exposing his
human weaknesses and the vile acts that he committed. As readers of the bible, we are
expected to accept the facts as they are. We are expected to accept the truth, unpleasant
as it may be. We are expected to pass moral judgement on the deeds, but, we are not
allowed to erase the facts. We are expected to learn from the truth and not ignore
the misdeeds that were committed. But, perhaps the most important lesson that we can take
away from the story of King David is that of forgiveness. Instead of
ignoring, or erasing the facts of David’s transgressions, the bible teaches us to
remember and forgive. Indeed, the Old Testament teaches us
“Never forget! ”. Unfortunately, the false message being spread today
is “forget and never forgive!”
So here, amid the calls to: tear down statues, remove historical
facts from our collective memories, delete/change the names of places honoring former heroes
and icons, rename holidays and invent meaningless new ones – in other words, throw out the
baby with the bath water – let’s look back on what the bible tells us about King David.
Let’s see if we can learn from what the bible tells us about King David.
“King David was a man of contrasts. At times he was single-mindedly
devoted to God, yet at other times he failed miserably, committing some of the most serious
sins recorded in the Old Testament.
“David lived a frustrating life, first in the shadow of his brothers,
then constantly on the run from vengeful King Saul. Even after he became king of Israel, David
was engaged in almost constant warfare to defend the kingdom. King David was a great military
conqueror, but he could not conquer himself. He allowed one night of lust with Bathsheba,
and it had disastrous consequences in his life.
“Although King David fathered Solomon, one of Israel's greatest
kings, he was also the father of Absalom, whose rebellion brought bloodshed and grief.
His life was a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. He left us an example of the
passionate love of God and dozens of psalms, some of the most touching, beautiful poetry
- - -
“David was courageous and strong in battle, trusting in God for
protection. He remained loyal to King Saul, despite Saul's crazed pursuit. Throughout his
entire life, David loved God deeply and passionately.
“King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. He then tried to
cover up her pregnancy, and when he failed with that, he had her husband Uriah the Hittite
killed. That was perhaps the greatest transgression of David's life.”
“Whether as the brave youth striding forward to face the giant
Goliath, the wise older king composing the immortal Psalms, or the ancestor and model for
the messiah, the legend of David has been recited and burnished for nearly three thousand
years. Politically, ethnically, religiously—David is central to the story Jews and
Christians tell about themselves.
“This is, after all, the king against which all other kings
were measured, the ancestor of Jesus, the person described by God as ‘a man after my
own heart.’ Even in his failings — the affair with Bathsheba, most famously — David has
become the prototype of repentance and divine forgiveness.
- - -
“David did a lot of the things he’s famous for: he did rise
from humble beginnings to become king; he did create a new nation; he did inaugurate
Jerusalem as a religious center. But to achieve these results, he had to sacrifice
virtually all of the values that we want to imagine that our heroes embody.
- - -
“But how does someone become king when he’s a complete nobody,
from a backwater town in a backwater province, and when, most importantly, he’s not even
remotely part of the royal line? The Bible wants us to believe that all the most
unlikely things happen to kids from Bethlehem.
- - -
“David made Jerusalem into a national and religious center,
as tradition holds. But he didn’t build it from the ground up; he took it, displacing
its ancient native inhabitants. If we feel ambivalence about the legacy of Christopher
Columbus—David is in the same boat. And David didn’t found a completely new religious
site; he brought his army and took the ark of the covenant from its local sanctuary.
Imagine George Washington forcibly taking the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia when he
moved the capital to the District of Columbia; now imagine that people thought the
Liberty Bell was the throne of God, and you’ve got the idea.
- - -
“What does it mean for us to ascribe legendary status to a man
who falls into the categories of murderer, traitor, and usurper? We have invested so much
cultural capital in David over the last three millennia. What do we do when our idealized
founding figures — against whom we measure ourselves and who help define us, their
descendants — turn out to be far less than ideal?
“Maybe—among other things—discovering the truth about David can
be a reminder that there is potential danger in blindly valorizing the world of the Bible,
in longing for a return to supposedly purer times, and in creating legends out of mere
mortals.” (Ref. 2)
Today in America, it appears that the lessons of the Old
Testament, and the story of King David in particular, are being ignored and discarded.
What a Shame! Our “former” American heroes and our founding fathers
lived in a different era than today. Socially acceptable norms were not the same. Our
men of fame and renown were mere mortals, and like King David, they were not saints.
They need to be remembered and honored for the good they accomplished. Has America
forgotten the meaning of the word “forgiveness”? Has America, like
lambs being driven to slaughter, given into those who would distort and erase history
and who would create, in its place, their own politically correct and distorted
- Meet King David: A Man After God's Own Heart, Jack Zavada,
The Learn Religions,
12 December 2018.
- The King David You Never Knew, Joel Baden, The Daily Beast,
11 July 2017.