King David and the Challenges of Identity, part 3

By Jacob Toman

“A game is a series of interesting choices” - Sid Meier

In current discussions within the larger culture of gaming, both issues of choice and people groups have arisen. These discussions surround two particularly emotionally charged topics - homosexuality and ethnicity. On the one hand gaming culture has mostly embraced “outsiders” as much of the last 40 years of gaming history has been one of outsiders coming together to play, interact, and collaborate on projects that non-gamers don’t understand. On the other hand, since the rise of the internet and multiplayer interactions through communities, gaming has been a welcome spot for all sorts of hate-filled speech spewed behind the ever protective veil of anonymity.

In this piece, we’ll examine some of the potholes and problems surrounding the contemporary issues within gaming of homosexuality and ethnicity through the perspective of one of King David’s followers - Uriah the Hittite.

Decisions, decisions...

Inside the Homosexual community there has been an argument that I call the “origin” argument. This argument forwards the idea that because an individual doesn’t make a conscious decision in their sexual orientation or attraction, they should not be held accountable for acting on those desires. This argument attempts to circumvent a person’s responsibility in their choices of sexual activity. By arguing that a person has no control over their own biology the conclusion of the argument is absolution from responsibility for sexual activity. The blame is shifted from the individual taking certain actions, and placed upon someone else, either nature, god, or some cruel joke of the universe.

I’ve had countless conversations with gamers who identify as homosexual who consistently refer to this origin argument as the basis for their sexual choices. Statements such as “This is who I am” and “It wasn’t my decision to be gay” are often made during such conversations.

This is the “Origin” argument.

Inside the African American community there has been tension concerning the level of membership a person holds within the community. This type of tension I refer to as the “authenticity” attack.  The attack “are you black enough” is rooted in the deep recesses of what it means to definitively be a member of the African American community; that if someone makes choices that do not accurately reflect their identity as a member of the African American community the individual is then subject to the ridicule that they are not authentic in their membership of the people group. The choices that people make as individuals reflects their position and membership within a particular people group. When an individual makes a decision that another individual who shares the same people group disagrees with, the “authenticity” attack strikes at the very heart of what it means to hold memberships in the particular people group. The person attacked is then put into a position where they must either renounce their authentic membership in the people group, or forsake their position or actions.

This is the “Authenticity” attack.

Both the “origin” argument or “authenticity” attack can learn from the life and choices of Uriah the Hittite and King David.

Uriah’s choice...

Uriah the Hittite was one of the mighty men of David who is mentioned among the top 37 fighters of David’s kingdom (2 Samuel 23:8-39 & 1 Chronicles 11:10-47). We’re not told exactly when Uriah began his service to David, but his nationality as a Hittite reveals that he had to make a choice to serve the King of Israel as Uriah was not a native or insider in David’s Kingdom.

In 2 Samuel 11 the tragic story of David’s betrayal of his loyal warrior is detailed in the adulterous actions of the king.

1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.”

Authentic Membership

At this point Uriah had a choice. He could go back home and spend time with his wife, or he could disobey his king. The subtext of David’s command is for Uriah to go home and sleep with his wife, so that David’s sexual actions would be hidden. In this example, David and Uriah’s choices are the basis for each man’s moral standing. The attraction David felt toward Uriah’s wife led to a choice that was made - his choice being the sin. David’s attraction towards Bathsheba led to an action of moral failure. In this regard, the argument put forward by the homosexual community that the “Origin” of attraction absolves someone from responsibility is downright silly. In fact, a level of attraction may actually reveal a tendency or a predisposition towards a particular sin - in David’s case, lust and adultery. Claiming “I only did what came naturally” doesn’t absolve someone of responsibility if the actions that come naturally are wrong!

Uriah was undoubtedly attracted to his wife, something that David was counting on in his attempted coverup. Yet it is not Uriah's or David’s attraction that is up for debate - something that the “Origin” argument of homosexuals neglects to acknowledge. The problem is not the attraction these men experienced or even in the temptations they experienced. The problem of sin and evil arises when one of these men acquiesces to his temptations in his actions. In other words, temptation isn’t sin itself. Jesus himself was tempted - yet he did not sin or break relationship with God the Father (Hebrews 4:15). This didn’t mean Jesus was absent of temptation, but rather was subjected to temptation and rejected the evil options placed before him!

So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”

11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents,[a] and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

David again tries to persuade Uriah to go to his wife. Uriah denies his king a second time. Uriah in this action denies much of his own identity in refusing to obey the king. He was able to see that his actions as someone who chose to enter into the people group of David meant thinking on a larger scale than even the king himself sometimes. David was the gatekeeper to his own people group; he had the ability to accept or reject those who sought to join his kingdom as subjects. He had at one point accepted Uriah, but now because Uriah was making choices that reflected something other than what David wanted, David rejected Uriah as a member of his people.

Uriah made a good choice in rejecting the comforts of home as a husband and stood firm as a genuine member of king David’s army. Had David not committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, this act would have been praiseworthy from David’s perspective. It was David’s own sinful version of the “Authenticity” attack that would be the doom of Uriah. From David’s warped sinful perspective he saw membership in his service as total obedience. David placed his own definition of kingly authority above God’s. He lost sight of where he was as an individual among the people of God - a servant to rule God’s people by faithfully upholding and submitting to God’s will. Instead, David had abused his authority in having sex with Bathsheba, and was willing to murder a member of his people group to maintain his authority. This is a hallmark of the “Authenticity” attack - the person accused must either relinquish their membership in the people group, or forsake the action in question.

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.

Uriah ended up giving his life as a loyal member of a people group. He was hated to the point of death by a leader within his chosen people group, and murdered by the plot of that same leader. Uriah denied himself something that was rightfully his own, for the sake of the people group he had joined - servants of king David. This loyal service and truthful membership ended up getting him killed.

There are at least two ways this particular study applies to gaming culture:

First: The “Origin” argument attempting to absolve responsibility

Gamers frequently excuse hateful, sinful speech online because it is a way of life, or an accepted part of culture. This hearkens back to the “Origin” argument made by the homosexual community. While the toxic behavior of online interactions may be accepted by and large, the level of acceptance of toxicity does not excuse or exempt the behavior from responsibility or consequences. I submit that one of the major contributing factors to the current marginalization of gamers is at least partly due to the toxic and unhealthy human interactions that are accepted by the blanket argument for “anonymous online behavior”. Yes, it may be “only natural” for people behind the veil of anonymity to engage in all sorts of sinful, unhealthy, and hurtful behavior, but the natural nature of the behavior does not leave it exempt from consequences.

The motivation for the “Origin” argument always comes back to a fear of accepting responsibility, and a hard heart that refuses personal accountability.

Second: The “Authenticity” argument attempting to establish self importance

Gamers frequently seek to create a hierarchy of self importance through distinguishing who is a “gamer” and who is not a “gamer”. This goes beyond sociological attempts to differentiate hallmarks of the people group. This hearkens back to the “Authenticity” argument that exists within the African American community. It is observable that there is a wide spectrum of gamers within the gaming community, but this does not excuse or allow for members of the people group to segregate or separate certain members of the gaming community based on a distaste or dislike of certain traits. Some gamers are hardcore RP (role-players) gamers, some are casual mobile gamers, some play card games like Magic the Gathering, some play electronic card games like Hearthstone, some play grand strategy wargames like Here I Stand, and some play Candy Crush. I’ve heard on many occasions over the last three years in gaming the same hate-inspired speech that stirs up racism within and against the African American community. The motivation for the “Authenticity” attack always comes back to an assertion of self-importance, and the fear that admittance to the people group or the equality of a segment of a people group will diminish the power, influence and importance of others in the people group.

As you’ve read these three studies on king David and challenges of identity, you’re a member of many people groups. Some groups you’ve chosen to become a member of, and other groups through the course of nature you’ve been placed into. The challenges of identity abound in the broken world we live in, and at every corner sin lurks to tempt us to doubt the “Origin” of our membership, and attack the “Authenticity” of our membership. Yet there is a hope for sorting out the mess that is self-identity and group identity.

There is no magical solution to the “Isms” of sin that beset us as fallen creatures in a fallen world. The only hope any of us have in acting kind, faithful, and fair towards one another and the people groups we exist among, is found in Jesus’ words from Luke 6:27-31:

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.