Pornography is not free speech. Pornography is pernicious. So why do so many men look at pornography? I would like to suggest to you that the reason so many men look at pornography is not only lust, but boredom. Brothers, if you struggle with pornography, it’s time to ask yourself a question: What would Uriah do?
[Note: this essay was first published by Catholic Exchange or the Catholic Gentleman and is reprinted with permission.]
The Story of David and Uriah
The story of David and Uriah is the story of two men and one woman. Even more, it’s the story of two men and one battle—and every man is called to fight a battle. In my book, Mud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred, I zoom in on King David as an example of how the listlessness and dissatisfaction that come from not fighting the battles we’re called to fight lead us into sexual snares. It was not lust but boredom that led David down the same path that so many men today have trod. It was a couch. It was a lazy springtime day and too much free time. Listen:
“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, when David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at home in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1).
Springtime is when crops are sown, new wells are dug, and “kings go out to battle.” All the vitality of David’s masculinity pounds within him, all the springtime energy to fight battles and defend his kingdom stirs in his heart, and yet…he stays at home. The story continues:
“It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of his house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful” (2 Samuel 11:2).
All the energy, the energy of a lion, the springtime energy that no man can cage without killing, only harness, all this energy piles upon itself in the springtime heat, and David is…just lounging around. While his men fight in the fields, David lies on his couch, restless and bored. And look at what happens next:
“So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her” (2 Samuel 11:4).
The woman’s name is Bathsheba, and she is Uriah’s wife. After David “lays with her,” Bathsheba conceives. Backpedaling, David sends for her husband, Uriah, who is out fighting David’s war for him. David asks Uriah how his friends are doing, how the war is going, and then tells him to go down to his house and “wash his feet,” which is an old way of saying, “make love to your wife.” David hopes to cover his tracks.
But Uriah doesn’t go home and sleep his wife! Instead, he sleeps at the door of the king’s house with the servants. David is shocked that a soldier on leave wouldn’t go home to his own wife. But listen to passion and conviction in Uriah’s reply:
“The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths, and…the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing” (2 Samuel 11:11).
Desperate, David gets him drunk. But even then Uriah will not go home. He is committed to king David and to Israel, focused on the task before him. Finally, David secretly has Uriah murdered, and then marries Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, who bears him a son. “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:1).
Made for Pillows?
The tale of David and Uriah is the tale of two men and one battle—and every man is called to fight a battle. But while Uriah wages war, David sits on a couch all day and ends up sleeping with Uriah’s wife—and ends up murdering a righteous man to cover his tracks.
What we learn from the story of David and Uriah is that men were not made for pillows. We need battles to fight. We need causes and righteousness and vocation and work. Sin begets sin. The monster you feed is the monster that grows. It was not only lust that led King David down the path that so many men today have trod on their computers. It wasboredom. It was a couch and all the time in the world.
David’s sloth reminds me of a few lines from Marcus Aurelius’ The Meditations. When you do not want to get off your couch, he says you should have this thought in mind:
“I rise to do a man’s work. Was I born for pleasure, to feel things, and not to do them? Was I made for pillows?”
King David slept with Uriah’s wife because he was gawking at her from his rooftop. He was gawking at her from his rooftop because he was hot and bored and tired of sitting on his couch. And he was tired of sitting on his couch because it was springtime and while his men were out fighting for the kingdom he was immured in pillows. David was not living like a man but a baby. He had surrendered fierceness for a small gain in yardage. He had traded in a life of spiritual abundance for a life of spiritual scarcity.
And today so many men have followed David’s example with abundant free time and a strong internet connection. They’ve preferred pillows to the battle plains, and have put down their swords and shields and tiptoed away from spiritual combat. They have forgotten the battle cry of Uriah.
Made for More?
I own a small, torn paperback of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Steinbeck’s words on fierceness and old age in the first chapter remind me of David’s plight:
“I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage. My wife married a man; I saw no reason why she should inherit a baby.”
Steinbeck was fifty-eight when he wrote those lines, and he sought adventure, not a television. Steinbeck wanted life, and life to the full—and this is exactly what Jesus says he will give us, “Life, and life abundantly.”
God’s Kingdom is not sleeping. There is no room in the Church for timid, safe nesting. Righteousness is won in spiritual combat, in writing poetry, in serving the poor, in cruciform fatherhood and husbandry, in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. God’s Kingdom and righteousness will not be found in pillows. So “seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Charge the field. Consider the sluggard and do not imitate his ways.
Pornography is not free speech. Pornography is pernicious. So why do so many men settle for pornography? I would like to suggest to you that the reason so many men settle for pornography is because they surrender themselves to spiritual sloth. Like David, they forget they are called to be spiritual warriors on the battlefield of the human heart. Brothers, if you find yourself restless or bored, lonely or listless, for the sake of the Kingdom it’s time to ask yourself a question: What would Uriah do? If you are struggling with pornography, for the sake of your soul it’s time to join Uriah’s battle cry: “I will not do such a thing!”