When Scripture gets testy

A rant and riff on Jeremiah 7–8:3

by Ken Sehested

Remember that time when Jeremiah failed to accentuate the positive?

“The word from On High came to crotchety Jeremiah: Stand in the gate of the YHWH’s house and announce: Thus says the Lord. Assess your days and amend your ways. Do not rely on deceptive marketing campaigns, or say ‘God bless America,’ ‘God bless America,’ ‘God bless America.’

“For if you do well, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan and the widow, or shed innocent blood, then I will dwell with you. But see how my sanctuary has become an altar for violent design—Torah’s and Psalmist’s, Prophet’s and Gospel’s place usurped by gunmetal steel.

“My house has become a den of pistol packing pietists, certain that their firepower serves to protect the integrity of the Most High who, GREAT as he is and all, is just a little naïve about the possibility of active shooters and thus the need for safety training, practicing lock-down procedures, video surveillance, car tag monitoring services in the parking lot, and off-duty deputies guarding the till.”

Maybe, we say, we could dual-purpose the choir rehearsal room to serve as a shooting practice range for church staff and deacons, and hand-to-hand combat techniques using ink pens as knives, with training in how to aim at intruders’ carotid arteries at the first shout of “Allahu Akbar!”

(Ooops. Those church house shooters tend to be the white-male-Christian variety.)

What’s that, pastor, about aliens? Don’t worry, we’ll get ICE down here pronto to get them into one of the private prison deportee camps where no writ of habeas corpus can reach them. We’ll get the lighter skinned orphans and widows to the social service office and get the rest bused back to their neighborhoods beyond the tracks. The Salvation Army and rescue shelters have experience handling this kind. We always take our Wednesday night church supper leftovers there. (I’ve heard some say those shelters spoil their guests, particularly whoever gets Mrs. McKlesson’s chicken and dumplings.) I don’t mean we take it, you know. That would violate our church security protocol. Willie, our custodian drops it off on his way home. He knows the neighborhood.

“The Lord God of Heaven speaks to the shut-out, warning against the rationers of Heaven’s manna, saying, ‘As for you, do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Their confidence is vested in what they strap on their hip, in their legislative graft, in the market’s bullish tilt and their brokerage firm’s guilt.’

“This people have done evil in my sight, says the Lord. They commit abominations in their liturgy. Their invocations call upon the reign of ruin. Their incantations foster mayhem in the courts of justice. Their eucharistic practice devours the poor. Their anthems celebrate infamy; their praise songs, villainy. Their prophets accentuate the positive; their priests treat harm lightly.

“Their benedictions are boisterous claims to more of the same.

“At the appointed time, says the Sovereign, all the bones of their presidents and congressional leaders, chief justices and CEOs, shall be disinterred and spread before the sun, and what they previously worshiped will be turned against them. And they shall be scattered to sh*thole regions, to be heard from no more.”

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©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org