I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream. - God, circa 760 BC, slamming the religious hypocrites. (Amos 5: 21-24
If there's one thing we're good at in America right now, it's rhetoric! Not just talk, but negative talk! Not argument so much as rant.
Why engage in conversation when we can save time and get directly to the condemnation? Why waste time with dialogue when there's some good diatribe right there on the tips of our tongues?
Consequently, I'm pretty much clear regarding what most people are against - but wouldn't it be nice to hear a little more about what they're for?
The good news in all of this (I guess it's good news!) is that our current level of malfunction is nothing new. Hypocrisy, misinformation and misrepresentation, amped up and disseminated via loud invective, has been around as long as there have been people to take note. The scripture I quoted above was aimed at religious hypocrites; but it's a good fit for any of us more inclined to run our mouths than to take positive action.
In Montgomery, Alabama, there's a really nice monument to civil rights leader Martin Luther King. The problem, however, is that the words from Amos are credited to MLK! Here it is. But I can understand the confusion on behalf of the guys with the chisel; because MLK lived the words he quoted, and after a while they just seemed to fit.
It makes me wonder what words might be attributed to us, if as much attention was given to what we do as what we say. Would it be from the other end of the Amos quote: "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies..."
The problem grows exponentially when talk is preferred over action. Sitting around with people pre-disposed to agree with a certain slant and exchanging hearsay, stories, distortions, accusations, myths, lies, half-truths, assumptions, and versions of "This guy who actually heard it from a friend who was there wrote about it in his blog - then a friend emailed some of that to his cousin, and what I got from that forwarded email from my co-worker's friend - who knows the truth about what's going on - is the gospel...."
After a while it all begins to sound like the truth - and that is a sad commentary!
Here are some gentle suggestions:
- Put down your megaphone... and pick up a bag of food for the homeless.
- Enough with quoting talk radio hosts... try the Bible - "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God...."
- Stop labeling advocates for the poor Marxists... instead, make a substantial donation to your local indigent care health clinic.
- Quit calling down fire on same-sex partnerships... but work your butt off to reduce the divorce rate in your community.
- Abandon your campaign to smear those you disagree with... and invest some effort in making your ideas more compelling.
Or - to paraphrase God's lament in the above passage - Stop dragging God's name into the middle of your pettiness, your nationalism (it's not the same as patriotism) and your angry, unfounded, sense of superiority. You should know it's not cool to include your politics, your prejudice, or your hate in celebrations of God. If that's the way it's going to be, then stop the music, God's not even listening any more... As an alternative, let fairness and mercy roll on like a mighty river, and let the evidence of your right-living, defined by love, be a never failing drink of cool water.
Amen - DEREK