Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Yankee Naïvete

“But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.” Psalm 104


Whoever wrote Psalm 104 didn’t have an MFA and didn’t study at a prestigious writing program with renowned teachers. How was he to know that introducing a whole new subject at the very end of the poem just simply not done?

Someone should have told him what’s perfectly obvious—that taking a cheap shot at the wicked—(whoever that is)—at the conclusion of the breathtaking survey of all creation that is Psalm 104's great triumph is not only sophomoric but gauche. After all, “the wicked” are not at the heart of this poem; God’s providential hand in his beautiful, natural world is.

In 35 verses of one of the most beautiful and comforting poems in the book, there’s not one mention of “the wicked” until the very, very end, and then here, last verse, they get thumped. If the writer wanted to explore “the wicked,” he should have pulled out another sheet of whatever it was he was writing on and started in on another song.

I know. I’m a writing teacher. I edit papers, have for years. I know what works and what doesn’t.

But then, I read things like this:

“Hindu extremists on Sunday beat four Christians, including a pastor, who were later arrested on charges of “forced conversion” in Madhya Pradesh state.

"A group of about 15 extremists punched and hit the Christians with hockeysticks soon after worship ended at about 10:30 a.m. After the initial attack, the extremists dragged the Christians to the Sheopur police station about 500 meters away, beating them en route. The police promptly arrested the Christians, as a complaint against them had already been filed.

"The officer in charge of the police station, Hukum Singh Yadav, also allegedly beat up Pastor Jwala at the facility. Yadav was not available for comment.”

Scholars like Phillip Jenkins say uppity Christian like me, educated, acculturated, tasteful believers, will face some trying adjustments when Christians from what we’ve traditionally called “third world” countries will outnumber us (they already do). One of those adjustments will arise from their wholly different life experiences, lives like that of Pastor Jwala in Madhya Pradesh state, India. When those we’ve “missionaried” come to the secular west to missionary us--as they already are, we enlightened Christians will have to recognize that Pastor Jwalas have suffered at the hands of “the wicked.” That which I can only imagine is as real as water to many believers around the world.

Maybe one of the reasons I’d cut the second-to-last line of 104 is the simple fact that I don’t know “the wicked” all that well. My nonchalance makes the psalmist’s comment extraneous. Thus, it's easy for me to red-pencil it, to edit it out.

But it’s likely that Pastor Jwala can’t imagine a blessed world of Psalm 104 unless that world is scoured of God-haters.

All of which means, my prejudice is showing, as well as my naïvete. I’m an American.

God’s word is so much bigger than I am, so wide and encompassing, so much broader, so much deeper, so much richer than the parameters of my very own small
world.

Thank goodness it’s his Word, not mine.

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