Monday, January 28, 2008

Who needs prophets, anyway?

John Hobbins remarks on the rightward shift of the world’s political leaders, and them makes this very insightful statement

But then, who takes the prophets seriously these days? I’ve noticed they make a nice wax nose for those who like to add a bit of religious incense to their political hackery of choice. Anyone who thinks the Hebrew prophets were liberal Democrats or social conservatives ante litteram hasn’t got a clue.

I am reminded of the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel in his classic study The Prophets

What manner of man is the prophet? A student of philosophy who turns from the discourse of the great metaphysicians to the orations of the prophets may feel as if he were going from the realm of the sublime to an area of trivialities. Instead of dealing with the timeless issues of being and becoming, of matter and form, of definitions and demonstrations, he is thrown into oration about widows and orphans, about the corruption of judges and affairs of the market place. Instead of showing us a way through the elegant mansions of the mind, the prophets take us to the slums. The world is a proud place, full of beauty, but the prophets are scandalized, and rave as if the whole world were a slum. The make much ado about paltry things, lavishing excessive language upon trifling subjects. What if somewhere in ancient Palestine poor people have not been treated properly by the rich? So what if some old women found pleasure and edification in worshiping “the Queen of Heaven”? Why such immoderate excitement? Why such intense indignation?

The things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world. There is no society to which Amos’ words would not apply.

He goes on to quote from Amos. Do read the whole first chapter of The Prophets
<idle musing>
Indeed! But who takes them seriously anymore? They obviously didn’t understand the give and take of the marketplace; the importance of turning a profit; the necessity of watching out for oneself by taking every advantage possible.

Unrealistic idealists, that’s what they were! Ignore them, or if your religious leanings won’t allow you to ignore them, then create a hermeneutic that reinterprets them so that they are essentially ignored. But, whatever you do, don’t pay any attention to them or the God for whom they spoke! If you do, it might mean changing your lifestyle and behavior.

Of course, that is fraught with problems, since you will soon find out that it is impossible! That is why we need God. . .
</idle musing>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Isn't is amazing how Heschel's The Prophets still read well after all these years?

It would be a nice initiative by a bookseller to put out a retrospective volume on Heschel. (Hint)