Pooh’s Think

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Imprecation, Vulnerability, & the Hebraic Psalms

There is an aspect to the wrongful use of the Psalms here in my small community that I am afraid I might not have articulated with enough precision—or at least with enough force.

To begin with an analogy, let me remind you about one of the key errors of the local Serrated Edge practice: in the New Testament the use of strong language—which was never in the form of strict ridicule but remained dignified, royal proclamation—removed power from the user of the strong language; the user of strong words of judgment was made vulnerable. This is at least true within the typical immediate, conversational context. This first century practice was fully consistent with the humility that the suffering servant Israel had learned over the centuries; if the world was to be healed through them, it would be through their own suffering and sacrifice. When Jesus called the Pharisees a brood of vipers he was calling the state to put him to death, somewhat like Socrates’ continual questioning of politicians and priests called down the death penalty upon him.

We see something similar with regard to imprecatory prayer, that intriguing and unsettling use of song and prayer we see from the local Mother Kirk. In their original environment the Psalms were the personal cries for protection, motivated from a deep perplexity; danger surrounded, and murderous threats came against the meek and peaceful. The violent sought the life of the humble servant of God; the psalmist could pronounce confidently that he was indeed surrounded by the enemies of God not only because of the easy racial distinction between Jew and gentile (an easy distinction we no longer have) but also because of the clear moral distinction in play: those whose pride and lust for dominance were seeking the life of the innocent and peaceful. This is a fairly primitive distinction, one that does not take much character development, special cultural status, or mathematical system building to see. This might in fact be the most basic moral intuition we own as humans.

Consistent with this, I have already noted the possibility of a humane use of imprecation, as when a peace loving community, not comprised of provocateurs to trouble, is constantly inflicted with the threat of bloodshed and tyranny from those driven by violent hate and lust for power. But the Kirk community here in Moscow has had an eye on dominance from the beginning, brandishing explicitly that ideological sword of dominion theology. The confident march of the Christian soldiers has been illustrated in many ways and in many contexts. Any possible set back, internal hiccup, any critical pressure from the outside could quickly spark the employment of imprecatory prayers; at any time that the war march was slowed down or hindered, prayers might be offered, begging God to “do something,” to make the opponents repent and remove themselves from the “battle” or else to harm them, perhaps irreparably.

This perverted use of the Psalms here in my small community gives one more strong suggestion that the Kirk is not partaking in the Hebraic tradition of the Psalter, but is rather offering a pagan liturgy of violence, a liturgy crafted for those more powerful, driven by violent hate and a lust for power. “Worship” is declared an act of war in the Kirk, the way the Christian soldiers lay siege on the surrounding community of unbelievers, of infidels. But this is really not true; daily taunts, maneuvers, and cultural endeavors are the real mechanisms the pastor of the Kirk vigorously uses to further dominion. Even peaceful means have been noted; for example, the practice of heavy breeding has been explicitly expressed as a way to take over secular America. But let us limit ourselves just to this peaceful engagement in the culture “war” every Sunday, the holy worship of the Triune God. The trouble is that this pagan liturgy of violence, the imprecatory prayer, is a centerpiece of the weekly worship. During worship, the Kirk asks God to destroy local opponents, in fact everyone: if anyone doesn’t eventually repent, destroyed through baptism they say, they are to be destroyed through the violent hand of providential judgment. No doubt the pastor doesn’t believe in God; but the message is clear for the apologists, which is why their pastor does not admonish them to stop. In the movie Chocolat, it was after one layman followed through with the prayers and sermons of the village’s Kirk, setting fire to the gypsies’ boats, that the Leader finally saw the kind of sociological violence he advanced. Let us hope it doesn’t take this kind of wake up call for kirkers to see what it is they are about.

January 2, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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