Praying for justice? Miracles and absurdity

A lot of people are insistent that miracles either really happened, or, that they really didn't. I really don't have much at stake in the fact or fiction of God's working against the grain of nature in order to somehow convince anyone that it is a truly strange universe. I'm not expecting any miracles beyond the one that, after years of narcotic and alcohol abuse and homelessness, I am still alive today. But even a statement such as this may miss the point as badly as the insistence upon demanding proof for or against the veracity of miracle claims.I do find it interesting that many people who don't believe in miracles that subvert science do intend to pray for healings and such. Some progressives apparently believe that the Creator of the natural world can heal cancer or bring world peace, but cannot be known truthfully in the context of resurrection or an effective church congregation.

For one, I have never believed that the world was created in six days, or that the sun revolved around the earth, or that millions of Hebrews marched across the desert for forty years. I am perfectly aware of scientific realities and the limitations of faith based upon belief in miracles. I believe in the idea that somehow, while God does not know the future, the Creator has a plan for creation and is constantly responding to human faithfulness, or human seeking, or prayer, in a manner that has real effect on our lives, and the world at large. If this is simply psychologically effective, I suggest it is no less integral to human wholeness than the same psychological effect of a sense of freedom, or liberty, or safety. Human condition can often be facilitated by healthy spiritual experiences that have no verifiable basis in fact other than feeling or emotion.

I also find it difficult to understand why people reject the Bible, or reject the possibility of the authority of Scripture, simply because it contains unhistorical and scientifically impossible events; or because it offends their 21st-century (or even 19th-century) social sensibilities. The truth of the Bible is not found in statements that wives must submit to their husbands, or that homosexuality is a doomed relational endeavor. The truth of the Bible is found in its revealing of a people's relationship with a God who has revealed the divine self to a people in a very specific way. That these people may have interpreted the message of the Creator in an unrealistic or seemingly immature manner is assuredly prototypical of our own contemporary relationship with any one of the many gods we experience relationship with.

Regardless of whether or not the Bible makes us feel good or bad, the Bible has been the text upon which much of the right and wrong- or the evil and compassionate - human actions are given meaning. Much of our American privilege, the fact of the American empire, much of our American "rugged" individualism, is based upon readings of Scripture that have promoted violence and patriarchy and suffering. Many of us, non-violent disciples of the Christ, are particularly tuned in to the misery of such interpretations.Yet, instead of interpreting the story in a manner that maintains the beauty of the Hebrew, Jewish, and early Christian experience, and the intensity of the creator-creation relationship that is revealed throughout, we tend to reject the text, and with it, the whole story of a God and a people who have chosen to experience the universe in covenant relationship, culminating in a reconciliation, a sense of Shalom, that will set human beings right with one another. If this is not the story of Jesus, the story that pacifists should interpret and live out, then not only those who engage in gay-bashing and patriarchy claim ownership of the text, they gain ownership of the only god most Americans have any relationship with at all.

The argument here is not whether or not Jesus walked on water. The struggle we face is one of which interpretation of the story of YHWH will give a people renewed hope for the wholeness that Abraham and Ruth, David and Mary, and Prisca and Paul all held onto as they stumbled through a similarly repressive world that was underwritten by popular religion. It is integral, however, that we reclaim the story, so as to be intelligible to the Church, to one another, and especially, to make the past intelligible to us.

But don’t reclaim the text as a liberal or progressive project. Reclaim the text as a means of being faithful and consistently aware of God’s ability to change us. It may not be what we believe about marriage, patriarchy, or racism that needs to be changed so much as our hearts must be changed to reflect that rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Covenant relationships, and the end of distinctions is a biblical concept, not a progressive one. We should pray for God’s justice, but we must embody that justice. Your vote and prayer is not enough. Perhaps that’s why we limit our prayers to asking for cancer cures and new jobs. Anything else necessitates our own actions.

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