Week of Proper 5: Friday, Year 2   12 comments

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

There Is No Such Thing as Sacred Violence

JUNE 15, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Kings 19:9-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[At Horeb Elijah, on the run from Queen Jezebel] went into a cave, and there he spent the night.

Then the word of the LORD came to him.  He said to him,

Why are you here, Elijah?

He replied,

I am moved by zeal for the LORD, the God of Hosts, for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put Your prophets to the sword.  I alone am left, and they are out to take my life.

[The LORD called,]

Come out and stand on the mountain before the LORD.

And lo, the LORD passed by.  There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind–an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake–fire; but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire–a soft murmuring sound.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his mantle about his face and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  Then a voice addressed him:

Why are you here Elijah?

He answered,

I am moved by zeal for the LORD, the God of Hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put your prophets to the sword.  I alone am left, and they are out to take my life.

The LORD said to him,

Go back by the way you came, [and] on to the wilderness of Damascus.  When you get there, anoint Hazael as king of Aram.  Also anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah to succeed you as prophet.

Psalm 27:10-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

11 You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

12 Hide not your face from me,

nor turn away your servant in displeasure.

13 You have been my helper;

cast me not away;

do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.

14  Though my father and my mother forsake me,

the LORD will sustain me.

15  Show me your way, O LORD;

lead me on a level path, because of my enemies.

16  Deliver me not into the hand of my adversaries,

for false witnesses have risen up against me,

and also those who speak malice.

17 What if I had not believed

that I should see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living!

18 O tarry and await the LORD’s pleasure;

be strong, and he shall comfort your heart;

wait patiently for the LORD.

Matthew 5:27-32 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

You have heard that men were told, “You shall not commit adultery.”  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman with desire has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  But if your right eye makes you fall, tear it out and throw it away, for you might better lose one part of your body than have it all thrown into the pit!  If your right hand makes you fall, cut it off and throw it away, for you might better lose one part of your body than have it all go down to the pit!

They were told, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.”  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife on any ground, except unfaithfulness, makes her commit adultery, and anyone who marries her after she is divorced commits adultery.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 5:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-friday-year-1/

1 Kings 19:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/week-of-proper-1-monday-year-2/

Jesus, Women, and Divorce:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-1/

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This post follows the devotion you, O reader, will find here:  https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-2/.  Much of the content fits nicely with what I have written below.

Elijah, on the run for his life from Queen Jezebel, was discouraged.  So God encouraged him and showed him that he was not alone.  Then God gave Elijah other tasks to complete–to choose Elisha (who was to become a prophet also) as a disciple and to anoint new monarchs for Aram and Israel.  If one keeps reading one learns that, between the two new kings, many adherents of Baal will die, with divine approval, according to the author of this part of 1 Kings.

I understand why many people, especially those outside the Judeo-Christian fold, find the Bible disturbing.  Parts of the book are quite violent.  Some of its authors portray Yahweh as bloodthirsty, pronouncing death for those who choose not to worship him.  There are also death sentences for getting caught in adultery, losing a battle, showing great disrespect for a parent, and committing many other offenses.  Such passages help explain why I reject both biblical inerrancy and infallibility, for this divine bloodlust is incompatible with the love I see in Jesus.

I try to understand such bloody passages in context.  Elijah, under the threat of violence from devotees of pagan deities, was a radical monotheist who understood himself to be a soldier in a cosmic war.  People kill in war.  This is, however, the mindset which contributed to the Crusades and the Inquisition, and which provides much fuel to Islamic terrorism.  “Those are not merely misguided people; they are moral threats.  I can kill a moral threat and still be moral.”  That is the misguided logic of holy war.  There is no such thing as sacred violence or holy war.  If God is love, these cannot exist.

I own the two-disc set of the Terry Jones documentary miniseries Crusades.  In it Karen Armstrong explains simply the moral inconsistency of holy war, in this case, for Christians:  Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies, not exterminate them.  Jesus was wise.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/allegedly-sacred-violence-part-two/

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