Sunday, August 29, 2010

Religious Revival?

August 28, 2010

Glenn Beck addressed three hundred thousand, and perhaps as many as a half million or as few as ninety thousand, like-minded souls today to issue a call to revival. Get back to God, he said. Restore the core values of America! Beck, who once claimed that Barack Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture," chose the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a Dream" speech to issue the call to revival. This is worthy of our attention.

Let's define revival as a return to God--a turning away from images of, or surrogates for, God's reality.

Let's define as a false prophet one who proposes a 'return to God' that leads instead to renewed commitment to false images of the divine.

Let's admit that discerning these matters is tricky business. Glenn Beck on the one side and Al Sharpton on the other see matters quite differently, yet both invoke God. And maybe the good Lord is glad to have them both over for tea.

Religious texts are filled with supremely confident calls upon God as if it is certain that God will ratify our wishes and denounce those of our enemies, but whence the certainity that the God who comes will share our views and grant our desires?

Abraham, a favorite of God's, once was called upon to sacrifice Isaac, his son of promise. Might not a revival lead to a similarly deep sacrifice? The Hebrew text contains an antidote to theological wish fulfillment. True revival would seem to be predicated upon an awareness that God may see things differently than we do.

If God is beyond our containments, then humility would signal awareness of God's presence, and such humility would qualify our claims about God's intentions. On the other side--here I am dependent on Reinhold Niebuhr--self-debasement would not signal God's presence. So what to think?

Does God prefer tax cuts, small government, and American exceptionalism more than concern for the poor, unemployed, and the increasingly sick ecosystem? Does God view governmental attempts to reduce misery as a malignancy? Does God want another deep tax cut?

Wonder what Isaac's view would be?

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