Baylor is a Baptist school, and I’m a licensed Baptist minister, so I’d like to offer the Baylor Board of Regents a short, unsolicited devotional here. You see, the regents are, according to multiple reports, slated to take a big vote Monday night related to the sexual assaults and cover-ups that have wracked the school’s football program. The board will reportedly decide tonight whether to reduce hugely successful head coach Art Briles’ penalty from a suspension “with intent to terminate” to simply a one-year suspension. In other words, Briles would return as Baylor’s head coach in the 2017 season.
UPDATE: It was announced by the Baylor Board of Regents on June 24 that the university and Art Briles had come to a settlement, ending his time as head coach of the school football team.
Thou art the man!
That phrase makes little sense to most of our 21st-century ears. Used in the context of this column, it sounds like either an archaic version of “You the man!” or a play on words using Art Briles’ name. Trust me, it is neither.
But the phrase will make sense, a lot of sense, to Baylor’s leaders, steeped as they are in years of Baptist preaching and teaching, going all the way back to their childhoods, when they no doubt used the King James Version of the Bible. And because some of the leaders in the Baylor community, including powerful donors, apparently still don’t see how horrific the school’s football scandal is, we should encourage them to go back to the book on which they say they base their lives, the Bible. In the King James Version:
Thou art the man!
That phrase will sound familiar to these Baylor leaders. It comes from the Old Testament account of the prophet Nathan’s confrontation of King David, who had raped a woman named Bathsheba and then attempted to cover up her subsequent pregnancy by having her husband killed (2 Samuel 11-12).
Bathsheba is often portrayed in modern film as being a temptress who seduced David. Nothing could be further from the truth. She was bathing where she would have normally bathed in her culture. David, however, was not where he was supposed to be, according to the passage. He should have been with his soldiers, at the front, instead of leading from afar. From his high vantage point above the hilly city of Jerusalem, David sees Bathsheba bathing. The Hebrew phrase that is then used in 2 Samuel 11 to describe his actions toward Bathsheba is chilling. Translated, it is literally, “he took her.”
He took her.
Bathsheba was no temptress. He was the king. She was his subject. He took her. That does not describe consent at all.
After sending for her and having sex with her, he then went to great lengths to cover up the subsequent pregnancy. He first summoned Bathsheba’s husband Uriah back from the war front and encouraged him to take a break by going home to his wife for a conjugal visit. The loyal Uriah refused, not wishing for special privileges that his fellow soldiers didn’t have. David then plied him with alcohol to get him drunk, hoping that Uriah would then go home and have sex with his wife. Though intoxicated, Uriah still refused. Finally, David had Uriah sent back to the battlefield with secret instructions for the general in charge: put Uriah in the nastiest part of the fighting, and then retreat from him, leaving him without support or cover, so he dies.
David’s sins of rape and murder-by-proxy are stunning. But then he goes about his business, not seeming to feel a bit of guilt, not recognizing just how horrific his actions have been. His sense of entitlement is on full display as he then brings Bathsheba into his palace and makes her another one of his wives. Months later, the baby from Bathsheba’s pregnancy is born – a son.
Let’s let the Bible speak for itself here (2 Samuel 12:1-4):
So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.
David, the account says, was infuriated. Full of self-righteousness, he responded, “As surely as the Lord lives … any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”
Surely Nathan’s old, steely eyes glared right into David’s as he declared, “You are that man!” Or in the language of the King James Version:
Thou art the man.
Let’s apply this passage to the matter at hand. Baylor University, as a whole, as a unit, is the man, the equivalent of King David, in Nathan’s parable. The school, through high-level employees, enabled sexual crimes against women and covered them up. In the interest of maintaining its huge success on the field and its new-found national adulation, and awash in dollars pouring in from enthusiastic donors, Baylor acted like the rich man in the parable. It took something from vulnerable people. The rich man stole from the poor man; Baylor stole from women who trusted the school to protect them. And Art Briles and other yet-to-be-named football staffers are the most responsible. Like Catholic bishops who gave second and third chances to pedophilic priests as they transferred them from one parish to another, Briles and other coaches committed grievous wrongs. They abused their leadership positions, and would be fired from any Baptist church or school.
Except for Baylor, that is, if the Board of Regents does anything other than terminate the employment of Briles and the other football coaches involved in the scandal.
Thou art the man.
It was only after hearing these words that David understood. With Baylor’s witness for Jesus in tatters, and its name synonymous with hypocrisy among non-Baptists, will the board show that it understands?
Eugene Hung writes this blog, Raising Asian Daughters. He holds a four-year Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and served as a full-time pastor for evangelical Christian churches for more than twelve years. Connect with him via Twitter or the Raising Asian Daughters Google Plus page.