Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Preachers, Prophets and Polemics

Throughout history prophets and preachers have made direct references to requests for The Divine to cause ruin and destruction on peoples deemed to be living and/or acting in ways contrary to the Commandments of The Divine. There are even instances of The Divine making such pronouncements.
“God saw that human evil was out of control…God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. God said, “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep.” [Genesis 6:5-7]
“Here’s what will happen if you don’t obediently listen to the commandments and guidelines that I am commanding you today. All these curses will come down hard on you:
- God’s curse in the city.
- God’s curse in the country
- God’s curse on your basket and bread bowl
- God’s curse on your children, the crops of your land, the young of your livestock, the calves of your herds, the lambs of your flocks.
- God’s curse in your coming in,
- God’s curse in your going out.” [Deuteronomy 28:13-19]
“This is a Message that the God of Israel gave me; “Take this cup filled with wine of my wrath that I’m handing to you. Make all the nations where I send you drink it down. They’ll drink it and get drunk, staggering in delirium because of the killing that I’m going to unleash among them.” [Jeremiah 25:15-16]
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.” [Matthew 23:27-28]
There are similar examples from most of the great religious leaders of history. That is what
Prophets and preachers do. Sometimes they are on target. Often they are not. But they serve a
passionate God – and passion has to be part of their assets.
Why then are so many seemingly scandalized by Barack Obama’s pastor, The Rev. Jeremiah Wright? He is a black man who served his country as a Marine. He is a servant of God, ministering to thousands of women and men, adults and children, who daily experience the consequences of centuries of racial segregation, bias and opprobrium.
In that context, it is not a challenge to understand Pastor Weight’s rhetoric. How dare we ask our black brothers and sisters to serve their country, endure the many ways of racial bias that rule in our society - and then join in saying “God bless America!” Does it not make greater sense to hear him, as a modern Jeremiah, proclaim “God damn America”?
We can use his remarks as an excuse to reject Barack Obama. But such use, at the least, suggests we are hypocrites- and, at the worst, racists.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Palm/Passion Sunday and Eliot Spitzer

This week's Pericope study focused on the Palm Sunday-Passion dichotomy - and the usual comments on the fickleness of the "crowd". On Sunday they welcomed Jesus and wanted healing & life - and, by Friday they wanted his life.
On my way home, listening to NPR, the discussions were on the radical "fall from grace" of Eliot Spitzer. Hailed as the "Sheriff of Wall Street" and now vilified as a "john" - a user of high priced prostitutes.
One of the NPR discussants talked about the trouble humans have with heroes who are not perfect. As soon as any crack in the persona is identified the crowd shouts "crucify him".
This is not to suggest that Jesus fell from grace because he used a Call Girl business! But, the crowd turned on him because he failed to fulfill "their" agenda.
As Lutheran Christians we affirm that, by nature, we are sinful; we agree with Paul when he claims that he too often does the bad he wants to avoid.
An affirmation and an agreement easily forgotten when judging others.
Perhaps some reference to the Spitzer saga will aid some folks in attendance this Sunday see that our observance is not just a "nice" trip down memory lane!
We're really not any different than the crowds in Jerusalem during that fateful Passover.