The word of the day is Judgment. More specifically, Divine Judgment and what to make of the Bible’s characterization of God requesting/demanding/perpetrating violent judgment upon humanity.
I’m in the very early stages of booking an event for two scholars on violence in the bible to discuss the subject, so I took notice when acquaintance posted a review of one of these professor’s work, in which he tries to make a point that God’s judgment is a component of God’s mercy, because God must act on behalf of the oppressed. To be merciful to Israel, for example, requires violent judgment against Israel’s enemies. It troubles me however to posit that God cannot be merciful without simultaneously being violent.
I will also acknowledge my own community’s hesitation about judgment. We do not talk often or ever about God’s judgement, perhaps because it has been so misappropriated and misapplied, but also because we choose to focus on the invitation of God and the inclusivity of the community.
Yet, we believe that God does take sides and that God’s justice includes acting for the benefit of God’s people. So what are we to make of this claim that God’s judgment and God’s violence are inextricably linked?
And the other reason the word of the day is Judgment is that this came up on my scroll immediately after:
I maintain an absurd hope that God’s judgment for the oppressor follows God’s patience and at that intervention for the oppressed is a comfort and reward that far out exceeds their suffering. If God’s judgment against injustice is righteous, so are the reparations for the oppressed. And that what we would call judgment against the oppressor, in our finite perspective, is the collapse of their crooked enterprises.
And so our call is to align ourselves with God’s righteous work- both to strengthen and support the oppressed and to hasten the demise of structures that perpetuate oppression. We cannot remain neutral or silent, nor ignore our own responsibility for where injustice persists. We must be deliberate and act, or else miss the message of the prophets altogether.