Saturday, September 12, 2009

I found this funny.

True Prophets

I believe that in Christian culture we have developed a distorted view of what prophecy is. I think many of us, myself included for a period of time, believed that the job of a prophet was to predict things to come, conjuring up images of Nostradamus and crystal balls. The prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) were men - and women - who spoke out against existing power structures and injustice brought on by this inequality. You could argue that the role of "prophet" in this sense went all the way back to Moses and his desire to speak out about the injustice that was being heaped upon his or her people. It is true, many prophets cited specific examples of what was to come, but always IF the people did not respond to God's call to create equality among themselves.

The prophet Isaiah:
wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,

learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.


But your eyes and your heart
are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion.


Woe to those who plan iniquity,
to those who plot evil on their beds!
At morning's light they carry it out
because it is in their power to do it.

They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them.
They defraud a man of his home,
a fellowman of his inheritance.


For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
You oppress the righteous and take bribes
and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain.
Obviously there is a common theme here. The Old Testament prophets all spoke out against inequality, oppression, corruption and greed, and this is simply a short list of scripture references. For Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Amos and Ezekiel, challenging the status quo and specifically to challenge the mistreatment of the lower social classes was the prophetic vision the Lord gave to them. Their vision of the future was tied completely to their view of the present; "change your ways now, or this will happen to you and your people in the future."

I'm reading the book The Politics of Jesus by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. In it, Hendricks says that "there has never been a conservative prophet."
Thus the primary purpose of biblical prophecy is to effect social and political change in society. Prophets never uncritically support the status quo. Rather, their role is to challenge it. In our time, when many seem to think that Christianity goes hand in hand with right-wing visions of the world, it is important to remember that there has never been a conservative prophet. Prophets have never been called to conserve social orders that have stratified inequities of power and privilege and wealth; prophets have always been called to change them so all can have access to the fullest fruits of life.
Hendricks goes on to boldly state:
How can a false prophet be identified? There are two telltale criteria: (1) they are silent about issues of social justice, and (2) they function as uncritical supporters of rulers and politicians, rather than as their moral conscience and dedicated arbiters of biblical justice. Instead of challenging political regimes -- and all earthly regimes need to be continually challenged to do right -- false prophets either align themselves with them or say nothing at all.
Pastors, Christian leaders and others, although having an obvious duty to comfort those afflicted in mind, soul, spirit and body, it is also their duty to afflict the comfortable. If the pastors that have your ear -- whether that be when you are sitting in their pew, listening to them on podcast or watching them on TBN -- if they are not challenging you to love the poor, protest social inequities and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, you may be listening to a false prophet, at the very least a shepherd who is not taking care of his flock.