We Need To Talk About Toilets

I’ve said this before, but we need to talk about toilets.

For most of us, the humble toilet is something that’s taken for granted. It’s just there, certainly not something to worry about. Okay, maybe toilets are a tad embarrassing, not something to talk about in polite conversation, but they’re there when we need them, right?

Sadly, for a lot of people that’s not the case. And that’s why we need to talk about toilets, because among other things (sanitation, safety, education) they’re a matter of human dignity.

For a start, there aren’t enough decent public toilets out there for people with disabilities. That presents a stark choice – either struggle with inadequate facilities or just stay in the house all the time. Neither of these choices are fair, neither allow people their intrinsic worth and dignity, but this is the reality for too many. There are children with disabilities who have to be changed on a filthy, inadequate toilet floor just because of the lack of equipment like hoists and adjustable changing benches. This should not be the case.

This is why toilets are a theological issue, and why our churches have to give them more thought. For a start, are our disabled toilets as good as they could be? Do they need more investment? Look, I know funds are tight, but when people are marginalised from the wider community, that could be a clue as to where our churches’ spending priorities should be.

Then there’s accessibility. If local councils and town planners aren’t stepping up to the plate, maybe our churches should make our toilets more accessible to the public. And I don’t know how they might work, but that doesn’t matter because these are conversations that need to be held on a local level in response to local needs.

I know this might all seem a bit prosaic, but toilets are a theological issue. They’re about compassion and justice, they’re about loving our neighbour and the Image of God.

And that’s why we need to talk about toilets.

Don’t Rape (2 Samuel 11:1-4)

A long time ago, a king strolls the roof of his palace and spies a beautiful woman bathing. Being rich and powerful and used to getting what he wants, he orders the woman brought to him, whereupon he rapes her.

Often this is portrayed as a conniving seductress enticing a king in his moment of weakness, but that’s not evident from the text. Bathsheba was more likely washing as part of her monthly purification ritual, just like every other woman in the kingdom. As for David, he knows her husband, and possibly her father; Bathsheba may well have not been a stranger to him. Had she caught his eye before? Had he finally spied his opportunity? Regardless, there’s an abuse of power here: in a rigidly patriarchal society, how many women would feel able to say no to the will of a king?

Let’s not blame Bathsheba for this, just because we love the giant-slayer, just because we love the psalmist. This is all on David. The subsequent cover-up and murder of Bathsheba’s husband just compounds the whole thing. A culture of shame and silence pervades the palace, and later, when David’s own daughter is raped by her own brother, the king does nothing about it.

We like to think we’ve moved on from primitive Bronze Age attitudes like this, but the avalanche of reports detailing sexual assaults by actors, politicians and other high profile figures show that Bathsheba’s story is never far away. And as with Bathsheba, these reports are haunted by the suggestion that powerful, ambitious, successful men are reduced to a helpless mass of urges when faced with a woman, or maybe even a teenager; men become predator and prey rolled into one, a whole culture groomed for sexual exploitation and assault.

Rape and sexual assault are often treated as a “women’s issue”, but given the statistics around those who perpetrate these crimes, they’re also issues of toxic masculinity, and as such the onus is on men to do something about this. We have to stop diminishing it, enabling it, normalising it; if you can’t control yourself around women or girls, or men or boys, you need to seek counselling rather than seeing other people as your divine right. And, to be fair, we have to stop belittling cases of sexual assault where men are victims, because that’s toxic as well.

And churches need to stop defending this, covering it up, justifying it, because to do so is a whole other level of sin.

In short, David committed a crime of power that’s constantly replaying down through the ages.

So men must stop raping people.