Responding to Political Violence

Scripture Focus: Psalm 52.1
1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero? 
Why do you boast all day long, 
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? 

Ezekiel 13.10-12

10 “ ‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?” 

Reflection: Responding to Political Violence

By John Tillman

Today’s scriptures show us David’s response to violent men like Doeg the Edomite in Psalm 52 and a faithless culture that denies God in Psalm 53.1-2 and they seem particularly relevant.

Political violence, like that committed by Doeg, was still the norm during Jesus’ ministry. The disciples were familiar with political murders and slaughters of innocents that would be shocking in today’s world. 

It is part of our modern vanity that we falsely believe ourselves beyond the violence of previous ages. Despite our sense of moral superiority, we have not advanced beyond violence for political ends.

Our political rancor has reached the point of normalizing violence. In the dystopian novel, 1984, Orwell described ”The Ministry of Peace” which dealt in war. The dystopian “War is Peace” concept has been gradually adopted by all political groups, Christians not excluded. 

It seems more and more Christians are willing to whitewash politically motivated violence as necessary self-defense. We have sunk to the point that political opponents (left and right) cheer their violent allies and point to violent opponents as justification for further violence. Such violent language unfailingly leads to murder in the streets. 

If trends continue, there will soon be an event similar to the Kent State shootings. For Christians to fail to condemn, or worse, to directly endorse this type of violence is a great moral and theological failing.

Ezekiel spoke to whitewashing prophets of his day who glossed over the weakness “a wall” they claimed would defend the faithful from harm. Ezekiel told his listeners (and tells us) that everything they trusted in more than God would be destroyed and they would watch it fall in horror.

While psalmists and prophets often cheer the wielders of violence, Jesus sets a new standard for us when he calls us to bless and not curse, to turn the other cheek to insults, and to go the extra mile, enduring under oppression. 

We are called to stand up for and support those who are being oppressed to aid them, defend them, and speak out for them.

We are called to endure patiently our own oppression, ensuring that we are suffering for doing good, not for doing evil. 

May we remember that responding to oppression is not about vengeance or self-defense.

Our response must be one of remaining faithful in what we say and do, while patiently suffering the consequences of doing good.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting

Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the earth were born, from age to age you are God. — Psalm 90.1-2– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 13  (Listen – 4:14)
Psalm 52-54 (Listen – 3:18)

Read more about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
The language of many Christians and prominent Christian pastors has followed [the world], growing combative, disrespectful, and even violent.

Read more about Abandoning Human Vengeance
We must be the first to break the chain of retaliatory and violent rhetoric.
We must abandon human vengeance before we can see divine justice.

Praying Through Betrayal and Failure

Psalm 53.3
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
   there is no one who does good,
   not even one.

Reflection: Praying Through Betrayal and Failure
By John Tillman

Today we see three Psalms in which David is dealing with betrayal and failure.

He is betrayed by Saul. He is betrayed by Doeg. Later, he is even specifically betrayed by the people of a city in which he is hiding from Saul.

David has failed to please the king, failed to heal the king’s madness with his prayers or his musical ministry, and failed to protect his allies and the men and families who are with him on the run.

In some ways the artistic license of the Psalms allows them to be a truer history than the books that record these events. The narrators of 1st and 2nd Samuel and 1st Kings are limited to facts and observable happenings. In the poetry of David we see deeper. When David’s response is dignified sorrow and grief, the psalms show us his violent anger and desire for revenge. When David seems confident and decisive, in the psalms we see that he is doubtful and questioning.

Today we pray a prayer, combining passages from each of these psalms.

Betrayal and Failure

Our culture favors the boastful.
(even when we claim not to)
But you do not, Lord.

   Why do you boast all day long,
You who practice deceit,
 You love evil rather than good,
  falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
   you deceitful tongue!

May we respond to boasts with humility, to deceit with the truth, to evil with good, and to harm with healing words of comfort and love.

The fool says in his heart,
   “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
   there is no one who does good.

God looks down from heaven
   on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
   any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
   there is no one who does good,
   not even one.

Arrogant foes are attacking me;
   ruthless people are trying to kill me—
   people without regard for God.

Surely God is my help;
   the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling… — Psalm 43.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 16 (Listen – 6:59) 
Psalm 52-54 (Listen – 3:18)

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Read more about In the Face of Betrayal
Jesus was familiar with the entire spectrum of betrayal.
He was betrayed on a national level.
He was betrayed on a broad, societal level.
He was betrayed on an intimate and personal level.

Read more about Prayer for Enemies
Let us pray with renewed commitment for our enemies, our villains, our heretics, our corrupt officials, our attackers, and those who scoff at the mention of prayer.