Bringing Down Goliath

This past week we read the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Here are some excerpts from the reflection.

In the Globe and Mail, Guillermo Del Toro, describing the exhibition of his memorabilia recently on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario, said the horror genre is inherently political: “Much like fairy tales, there are two facets of horror. One is pro-institution, which is the most reprehensible type of fairy tale: ‘Don’t wander into the woods, and always obey your parents’. The other type of fairy tale is completely anarchic and antiestablishment.”

One frightens us into submission by making monstrousities of others. The second questions those who want us to submit by showing the monstrousities they create. Do the right thing or the monsters will get you, as in stay in your  bed or else. People who try to do things they believe are right, if left unchecked, create Frankensteins. And then point to those monsters and say we all have to fear them.

For example if your policy is to destabilise Central American nations so they live with economic uncertainty and violence it’s no surprise that you will get refugees on your border. If you take away social supports in communities like education and health care it increases crime rates.

It’s absolutely necessary for us to understand monsters. We need to name, own and claim them: to identify the monsters within and without, take responsibility for creating them, and claim a different reality for them and ourselves.

Which brings us to Goliath, the monster. This is a familiar story with subtleties and depths we prefer to skip over. Israel’s relationships with its neighbours 3000 years ago in the time of David were no less complicated than now. They were trying to annex territory and places like Gath were fighting back. Gath had a giant, a monster, named Goliath. 

A champion named Goliath from Gath came out from the Philistine camp. He was more than nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore bronze scale-armor weighing one hundred twenty-five pounds. He had bronze plates on his shins, and a bronze scimitar hung on his back. His spear shaft was as strong as the bar on a weaver’s loom, and its iron head weighed fifteen pounds. His shield-bearer walked in front of him.

Nowadays we would have told him he has to play basketball. Then, he was bound to be a military champion. 

“You can’t go out and fight this Philistine,” Saul answered, “You are still a boy. But he’s been a warrior since he was a boy!”

Goliath was a child soldier. A monster shaped by circumstances and expectations and reactions. He learned a rubric that kept him and his compatriots alive: Challenge them to a fight to the death. No comers? See you tomorrow. 

Until he was challenged, and brought down by, David. 

Name, own and claim. Name the circumstances that made a monster out of a child. Own the world that saw no other possibility. Claim a different world. Bring down the goliath of religious permission for violence. Bring down the goliath of making a monster out of an enemy, or making an enemy out of someone who disagrees with your worldview. Bring down the goliaths we create by raising them differently. See persons shaped by circumstances and find ways to raise them above what we easily relegate them to. See the freaks as human. Like you.