the freedom of god

[excerpts from the final chapter of a book exploring how we respond to the fear of death]

….”God” and the religious institutions can become as enslaved to the fear of death as everything else in the culture….

So how are we to be set free from this idolatry? How are we to proclaim and experience the freedom of God? In the Old Testament, the battle with idolatry was fought by the prophets. And at its heart, the prophetic impulse is to proclaim the emancipation of God, the freedom of God, the liberty of God. The ambition of the prophet is to end the slavery of God….

This capacity for prophetic imagination, that God is free to be against us, is the great weapon against idolatry. Whenever and wherever the people of God lose this capacity, God becomes enslaved. When the prophetic imagination is eclipsed – when God can no longer be imagined as being against us and for those we oppress, exclude, stigmatize, marginalize, ignore, or aggress against – God is no longer free but a slave….

And what might be the sign of this eclipse of the prophetic voice? What are the symptoms of this failure of the prophetic imagination? Simply put, the alignment of, equating of, and identification of our voice and interests with God’s own….

This is how we know that God has been emancipated and set free from our slavery to the fear of death: When we can hear the voice of God crying out against us in the voices we ignore, marginalize, victimize, exclude, ostracize, harm, and kill, we know that God has been set free. The radical, prophetic freedom of God is fully realized when we see the face of God in our victims and our enemies. In that moment our slavery to the fear of death is fully overcome. In that moment the sacrificial love of Christ becomes fully manifest.

In that moment the Kingdom comes, on earth as it is in heaven.

  • Richard Beck, The Slavery of Death (2014)

survival for the oppressed

[Dr. David Moore, visiting from California, stressed the importance of Howard Thurman’s writing for a contemplative basis to activism. If you’re near St. Stephen, come on out for public lectures Nov 1 (7pm) & 2 (6:30pm) on “Standing Up to Domination and Violence with a Calm Soul”]:

The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish thinker and teacher appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed. That it became, through the intervening years, a religion of the powerful and the dominant, used sometimes as an instrument of oppression, must not tempt us into believing that it was thus in the mind and life of Jesus. ‘In him was life; and the life was the light of men.’ Wherever his spirit appears, the oppressed gather fresh courage; for he announced the good news that fear, hypocrisy, and hatred, the three hounds of hell that track the trail of the disinherited, need have no dominion over them.

– Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited

if I do not see…

[John Terpstra, poet and woodworker, visits SSU this week.]

Love your enemy, he said.
Do good to those who hurt you, he said.
Unreal, what he said. Fantasy. An offence.

If I do not see the face of the Maker in each face;
If I do not see the body of the one who won us over in all who suffer, and in the ones who out of their own suffering cause others to suffer;
If I do not see the spirit that animates all life breathing in and through each living human being;Then, what’s the point?

– John Terpstra, Skin Boat (2009)

buechner on types of love

The love for equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

on enemies and atheists

Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God’s love and God’s kindness and God’s patience and mercy and understanding of the weaknesses of men.

Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith.

– Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation