I took myself down to St. David’s in Englewood this morning. This is the parish, some 45 minutes drive south of Sarasota where I help out from time to time.
The Rector is a good man, and the congregation is wonderfully friendly. But the Liturgy drives me crazy.
It is all so low key; so lacking in energy. It drags on and on. At one point this morning I thought “If this gets any slower it will go backwards”.
I was seated up front behind the Altar, all decked out in my vestments, so I had to look engaged and interested.
But my mind was not in the same place as my body!
I was thinking about the first Lesson and the Psalm for the day. Here are a couple of extracts:
Exodus 12 v12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals;
Psalm 149 v6Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, 7to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
I began to muse. And I mused about the approved violence in the Bible.
In Exodus the Lord says that he will kill all of the first born in Egypt, as a means to let the Hebrew people escape from slavery. The text suggests that the Lord approves of infanticide.
In the Psalm the people sing the praises of G-d with their voices, whilst they slaughter their enemies with a double edged sword.
St. David’s good Rector ignored these passages in his sermon, preferring to preach from the Gospel reading alone. Fair enough. I too might have done the same thing.
But the two violent passages were left “hanging out there”.
Had I been preaching I would have felt compared to de-construct them, to “let G-d off the hook”, so to speak.
(I would have suggested that the passages project the honest and violent thoughts of the people, rather than the will of G-d).
But maybe G-d should not be let off the hook so easily. After all, even the Book of Revelation in the Christian Scriptures speak of a fearsome G-d of vengeance.
All this is to say that “G-d sanctioned violence” is a part of the Jewish and Christian “Sacred Texts”.
I believe that we should treat these texts with caution and suspicion.
I also believe that we should be honest enough not to castigate Muslims for the approved violence in their “Sacred Text” (The Koran), whilst ignoring the violence in our own scriptures.