Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Wickedness, the Hard Way

Today's reflection on yesterday's Daily Texts:

I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. - Jeremiah 9:24

Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness. - 2 Timothy 2:19

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 119:169-176; 1 Kings 2:39-3:28; John 12:20-36

In the scriptures and in prayer yesterday, I was struck by the contrast between the Jeremiah verse and the 2 Timothy verse. Justice, righteousness, and especially LOVE above all are God's ways. There are plenty of teachings and examples in the Bible, from Jesus and many others, that show how caring for one another and seeking the well-being of all leads to a better life for everybody, and better relationships with God and one another.

On the other hand, the word "wickedness" (sometimes also translated "iniquity" or "unrighteousness" or "injustice" or "wrongdoing") is simply whatever is NOT God's way. Selfishness. Disregard for others. Deceit. The Bible is also full of stories and examples of when people abandoned God's ways and struck out on a path directed by self-centered human values. This does not go well in the long run.

What this tells me is that God has set up the universe to work according to a certain order, and God remains an active, living force within it. God's desire is for peace and harmony all around, right relationships with God and right relationships with others. And God's teaching of justice, righteousness, and especially love is the right way, the easy way toward that end. Everything else is the hard way. Relationships get broken. Anger gets stirred up. Conflict reigns. Wars are waged. People are wounded in many senses of the word. Life is lost or diminished. Pain is the order of the day. When someone strikes out in the world according to human zero-sum thinking - I have to win, you have to lose - it's a step in the wrong direction. It's the hard way.

I think this is where we stand with our national election this year. Under Donald Trump, we have one party that has lined up far too closely with forces of exclusion and prejudice and injustice. Racism, sexism, and fear of people from other countries or religions have all become more than just words or attitudes, but real actions designed to shut people out from being full participants in our society. It's laughable to me that this could be considered "making America great." Not too long ago, the Republican party was a voice for conservative economic policy and traditional social values, at the same time holding strong to American values of equality and justice. Increasingly, and especially this year, the party seems to feel the need to cling to its power by feeding on fears and prejudices, using blind anger and lies and distortions to demonize others. This is not justice, or righteousness, or love. This is wickedness. It has led us to the point where we seem to be seriously entertaining the idea that Donald Trump, the con man who has lied more in his campaign than any other politician in memory, who refuses to release his taxes that would prove the business sense he says he has, who has a record of taking advantage of others for his own personal gain, who tears people down in wrath and revenge for every imagined slight against him, could possibly serve as our president.

Wickedness is the hard way. Every step we take toward selfishness and injustice adds to the pain and trouble it will take to get back on the path toward God's vision. My prayer for America this year is that God will guide us with wisdom and righteousness - AND that we will pay attention to the guidance and wisdom and righteousness God has already set before us. And I pray for the future, for Americans who hold to conservative economic policy and traditional social values, that our political system will be reformed to the point where you can advocate for those things in an environment that also honors the lives and well-being of others.

God is active and alive in the world, and will continue to move us toward justice and righteousness and love. May we see and discern God's ways, and walk in them, and take the easier way toward God's desires. May we turn away from the hard way.

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