Thursday, June 4, 2009

When Is Is Prophetic and When Is It Just Politics as Usual?

From the April 22 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirerimage

Michelle Obama’s planting of a garden at the White House was a prophetic act, according to Ellen F. Davis, biblical scholar at Duke Divinity School.  “The essence of biblical prophecy is to show where the social order is broken, where human action threatens the created order, and where possibilities for healing lie,” writes Davis.  The way the agriculture business produces food is not sustainable in the long term.  Davis says: the use of chemical fertilizers is eroding the soil, for example, and chemical runoff is making water unsafe to drink.”

I was really caught up in Davis’ definition of biblical prophecy.  I think that she speaks truth, in part.  I think that PART of biblical prophecy is what she describes.  But biblical prophecy is not just horizontal. It is also vertical.  There is also an aspect of human-divine connection.  And the evaluation that the social order is broken comes not from society, but from God.

But as to her conclusion about the agricultural business, I fear that she is just using Mrs.. Obama’s garden to further Davis’ political views.   Nowhere in anything I read did I see that Michelle Obama had any intention of making a statement about agri-business.  I understood it to show her concern for the plight of many poor and unemployed people and as an example of the way we can save money and care for one another.

Why do I raise this in my preaching blog?  Because I have long held that prophetic preaching has been very one-sided in the conservative/evangelical community.  We speak loudly against abortion and gay marriage and the like. We preach what we know our mostly Republican congregations want to hear.  But when it comes to poverty, the abuses of capitalism, the sins of materialism while people starve to death daily, rampant militarism, we’re more quiet on that. 

It is a shame that Davis, in my humble opinion (IMHO) diluted down the prophetic statement that I believe Michelle Obama was making by tying it to her own political agenda. 

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