Moral Leadership


When our gracious host invited me to be a guest blogger on his site, I began pondering what I would want to post for my initial offering.

I thought I would take a stab at considering the topic of moral leadership, and the effect it has on the military.  I’ve written a more in-depth article on the subject over at my blog, but what I found interesting was that this subject has been discussed before, and was today a front page article in the Stars & Stripes newspaper.  It discusses what is known as “Bathsheba Syndrome” amongst senior officers – primarily “zipper failure” – and steps that the military is taking to deal with the underlying problems before they translate into actionable offenses.

For those of you who have neglected your bible reading, allow me to explain:

King David was Israel’s second king, after Saul.  The first “warrior/poet,” he is renowned for both slaying the giant Goliath as well as for penning most of what make up the book of Psalms in our bibles.  He was a man of great courage and strong convictions – refusing on several occasions to take the life of King Saul, even when the king was hunting him down and trying to kill him.  He led his men into battle time and time again, achieving great success.  He was held in high regard by his soldiers and his countrymen.

Then he met Bathsheba.

Well, he didn’t “meet” her, exactly.  What happened, according to 2 Samuel 11:1-5 is this:

“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.

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, 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.” 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. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

The first thing I notice about this passage is that David wasn’t where he was supposed to be.  At a time when kings go off to war…David remained in Jerusalem.  Why?  Maybe he had too much paperwork to take care of.  Maybe he was tired of life in the field and wanted to take some R&R.  Maybe he thought he could sit this one out and let his commanders do the heavy lifting on this campaign.  We don’t know the reasons – all we know is that he was neglecting his appointed place of duty.  That was his first mistake.

So what happens next?  He’s out taking in some fresh air up on the roof of the palace, maybe surveying his kingdom and thinking how great he is, and something catches his eye.  A beautiful woman bathing.  Ok, I may be a chaplain, but I confess that my eye would be drawn to that, too.  Judging from the popularity of the “Load Heat” posts every Friday, I think it’s safe to say that not many of us would’ve turned around immediately and gone back inside for a cold shower.  But what he does next is the key part of the story.  He has someone go find out who she is, and is told that she’s the wife of Uriah the Hittite.  One of David’s subordinates; in fact, he’s one of a short list of David’s “mighty men” – those who were renowned for their valor and courage in battle.  Knowing this, he sends for her and sleeps with her.

Why he does this is the center of the study of the Bathsheba Syndrome.  It’s the self-delusional, overarching sense of entitlement wherein men (for it mainly affects men) feel as though they can live by a different set of standards than everyone else.  It’s inherently selfish and narcissistic.  And once given free reign, it plunges the individual into an ever-deepening pool of deceit and lies.  Witness the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky episode.  Or Elliot Spitzer.  Or any number of military officials, public servants or political figures over the past few years whose sexual escapades have caused them to be impeached, unceremoniously relieved of command or forced into retirement or resignation.  In David’s case, his adultery led to a pregnant Bathsheba.  When he couldn’t trick Uriah into sleeping with his wife to cover up his infidelity, he deliberately had him murdered.

How are you doing with this?  Have you let your rank, power or position go to your head?  Has it created a sense of entitlement?  I would caution you to deal with it now.  Humble yourself before someone else has to come along and do it for you.

Thanks for listening.

Update-XBradTC: Padre is a very interesting fellow, and I encourage you to check out the link to his blog. And I do hope he’ll grace us with his bio sometime. It’s one of the more interesting tales of service I’ve ever come across.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Moral Leadership

  1. “Absolute power corrupts; Absolutely” Have a great weekend Chaplain.

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  2. Thanks, Padre, and welcome!

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  3. It’s nice to notice Padre Dave doesn’t pay that much attention to Load HEAT.

    Since it goes up on Mondays, not Fridays.

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  4. Ha! You got me there, Xbrad! I can’t say I ignore all of ‘em, either…
    Oh, and the link to my blog should be “Adonai” vice “Adonis” – although that would give an entirely new meaning to it…

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  5. MikeD

    Was this a sermon you’ve given? Because I think it’s brilliant, and it reminds me of homilies like we used to get from the family priest when I was growing up.

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  6. Grumpy

    Padre, you have an interesting piece, from 2 Samuel 11:1-5 on David’s relationship with Uriah’s wife, sexual relations. What does David do? He sends a courier to Joab, saying that David wants to speak to him before battle. David tells Joab to put Uriah in the place to be killed, verse 15. David moves Uriah’s wife into his home. Then in Chapter 12, the Lord brings Nathan into the picture, he rightfully speaks truth to power. David had figured he had done the perfect cover-up. But the Lord had seen everything and was not pleased.

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