This week's readings include sentiments that appall me: dashing children's heads against rocks; applauding the idea of Jerusalem as a woman abandoned and abused because she had it coming; accepting the idea of slavery and the "proper place" of inferiors. I cannot go where these texts would lead me. I will not follow them.
Last year I attended a prayer vigil in downtown Jackson on the night of
a scheduled execution. A hard rain was falling. I recognized a couple
of people as fellow clergy and a couple of others as consistent
advocates for justice in our small state. It was just a small crowd
composed of those who have been praying and working against capital
punishment for years.
In the year after the tsunami destroyed the Sri Lankan coastline,
lawmakers threatened to pass a law making Christian evangelism illegal.
The proposed law was popular because of widespread anti-Christian
sentiment. The majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, and they resented
the privilege given to minority Christians under British rule in the
Habakkuk has a complaint. There is violence. There is wrongdoing and trouble. Ruin and strife and contention are in his face. He cries out for help, but God doesn’t seem to be listening. He sounds the alarm, but God does not show up to make things right. As a result, the institutions of law are paralyzed and justice is intermittent.
An emphasis on the decision character of faith has a long and deep history in the American psyche going back to our Puritan and evangelical ancestors. From Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney to Billy Sunday, Billy Graham and their successors, faith, as encountered in the idiom both of born-again revivalism and of religious “progressives,” has served as shorthand for “I have decided to follow Jesus.” But the biblical meaning of faith cannot be reduced to individualistic voluntarism.