When Man Is King

I woke up at my normal 4:35 this morning and came to one of my study spots. Instead of going right to what I’m supposed to be doing (writing a paper), I decided to catch up on the blogs I follow, which have been one of the many casualties of grad school. Cheryl Hyde, my neighbor & friend, writes a blog called Cracked Water of which I am a loyal follower. Cheryl is a social work professor that doesn’t cut corners, which is something you have to love about her. She wrestles with things honestly, which takes into account the nuances and complicated emotions that are involved with topics such as the death penalty.

With her most recent post called “Execution Day,”she further stirs my usually-adamently-opposed opinions on the death penalty. I rarely waver…until things like Lawrence Brewercome up. And, like Cheryl, I’m not 100% okay with my wavering. It frustrates me how human I am sometimes.

After I finished reading Cheryl’s post, I noticed one of the comments on it was from her good friend Sue Swartz. Sue is a Jewish poet who is very passionate about social activism and equality, which automatically made me love her the first time we met. Her blog,Awkward Offerings is another engaging respite for me. I noticed that she had written two back-to-back entries on the Troy Davis story, a stark picture of injustice by way of denied clemency (in my humble opinion). Sue linked an article called “Explaining the Death Penalty to My Children" from the Atlantic, which made me feel an entire spectrum of emotion including both passionate agreement and a heaping handful of self-loathing. I highly recommend this article.

Then, last but not least, I accidentally came across an LA Times article that talks about the divided reactions to the two executions that happened on the same exact day.

And this was my morning reading. And now I’m posting instead of paper-writing.

Between this and the various other events of the world that only seem disconnected (like oh, say, the war, Lybia, the death of Osama Bin Ladin, the emaciated economy, the environment … and don’t even get me started on the Casey Anthony verdict), a girl really starts to think deeply about her views on mercy - or lack thereof.

My life seems to ALWAYS operate in and around sets of themes, which means I have very related things swirling around in my mind all at once all the time. I used to think this is what made me “tortured” (the curse of an overactive mind), but as I grow up I think this is actually exactly how minds are supposed to work. I think if we aren’t at least a little tortured by these things, then we are not thinking about them properly.

Ever since I started “speed reading” the Bible from cover to cover for one of my grad school classes, I can’t help but note the Hebrew Bible’s take on justice & mercy. Speed reading these books is the way to go because when you read it quickly, it all connects. You see a consistency that you never saw before, both in humans and in God. And I hate to be so harsh on my own kind, but I have to be honest that my conclusion about humans is kind of grim lately. Seeing these consistencies changes my perspective, the lens through which I observe the world. (I know all the humanists out there are going to close their browsers now…please don’t!)

I think our culture spends a lot of our time thinking about justice and very little time thinking about mercy. What do we think mercy is? What are our views on mercy vs justice? Where do the two meet? Where do they not meet? … Why don’t we (eh-hem, Heather) ask ourselves these kinds of questions instead of just bitching or feeling afraid of the current climate?

Again, it frustrates me how human I am sometimes.

A goal I have for this new season of my life — particularly as I become a therapist — is to think more broadly & humbly (though just as adamantly) about justice. I have the advantage of having a personality that errs on the side of “let’s look at all sides of this story,” but I still have a long way to go. Allen’s sermon yesterday (humorously entitled “Game of Thrones” because he knew that would make me laugh) talked about how & why mankind being “on the throne” doesn’t work out so well. Also, on Friday I was emailing back and forth with my professor, Dave Lamb, about my “trouble” with the book of Judges, and he said this:

One of the main points in that section is that people were doing what was “right in their own eyes” and this is often connected to the idea that there is no king. This is in contrast to people doing good or evil in the eyes of YHWH which we see a lot of later in Kings, for example. Versions of this phrase are repeated (Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Some scholars think that the horrible behavior of the Israelites here combined with this phrase suggests that Israel needs a king to rule them. I could agree depending upon what kind of king. Human kings didn’t really work out well for Israel either. Only when God is king will things be good.

I know a lot of my “readers” (I say this as if I have a fan base - ha! I wish) don’t agree with the notion that God being “in charge” is the most comforting thought. And that’s one of the reasons I created this blog: to share thoughts and listen to each other. This is why we have the internet, a place that can actually operate as a world-wide classroom. I would love to hear why people feel this way about God. And I want to throw out 2 final questions (they are actually from Allen’s sermon, so I can’t take any credit or flack that will result), which I have been asking myself a lot lately:

1) Is humankind operating as “king” really working for us? (Keep in mind this assumes that American liberty/democracy gives us the chance to all be individualized “kings” in a way, for better or worse.)

2) Is one of the reasons we are scared of God being “in charge”/King because we don’t know him that well?