Fire and Brimstone

On the wicked, God will rain coals of fire and sulfur; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous. (Psalm 11:6-7, NRSV)

Is God still righteous if the wicked thrive?

Maybe you’ve noticed that there are children weeping in the streets because their parents have been taken from them–by immigration officials, by gun violence, by war.

Maybe you’ve noticed that there are people raging around the world because the systems that should support their lives have undermined them: governments spend money more readily on teargas than on education, corporations prioritize profit over community, religions love orthodoxy more than understanding.

Maybe you’ve noticed your own spirit, listless and wondering “How long?”: how long will hearts bleed, how long will discouragement weigh down souls, how long until hope is realized.

But still wars are waged and walls are built. Still wealth inequality skyrockets and gun sales surge.

Fire and brimstone aren’t raining down to engulf AK-47s.

Coals are not being stoked by the breath of God to incinerate white nationalism.

Is God still righteous?

One of the most essential classes of my seminary years focused on the problem of theodicy–the question of whether God can be good when evil still exists. Our class texts were the novels of Toni Morrison. The answers to theodicy that we found in Morrison’s novels, if they could be called answers, were complicated and sometimes discouraging. Perhaps God’s righteousness can’t be defended in the face of evil. Perhaps God’s goodness can only be found in part and in fleeting moments.

But finding answers wasn’t really the point. The point was to do the work of seeking them: to gaze honestly at trauma and evil, to look hard for hope, and to dig deep for love and life.

I don’t know if God is still good. I suspect God’s righteousness is tarnished, at the very least. But we’re called to keep searching for it–and searching for one another–through the fire and brimstone.

Sweet Jesus, the world is a mess. The wicked thrive, and violence multiplies. Find within us what we long to find within you: goodness, mercy, and love.

Written for the UCC Daily Devotional

Dear White Jesus

I cannot sit
at your clean white feet
waiting for the blue skies of eternity
while there is white-induced hell on earth.

I cannot pray
to your sweet white face
or repeat your white savior fairytales
that twist hope with capitalism and manifest destiny.

I cannot preach
of your anemic white justice
that absolves its own habits of white racism
and calls for #alllivesmatter whenever the lamb meets the lion.

Take your wonderbread cubes
and your styrofoam wafers; burn them
on the vineyards still bleeding from native populations.
Call it a picnic and see if white folks come with their children.

Take every last one of your white disciples
whose tongues are glib with love and grace
but slow to utter #BlackLivesMatter for fear of
committing their lives to a payment long past due.

Take your white salvation
that acquits white sin as fast as a white jury
and dances in self-absolution as if it’s the emperor’s clothes.
The world knows you are naked, white Jesus. Don’t blame Eve.

You are dying, white Jesus,
and still you cry, “I know not what I’ve done!”
while your prophets cajole, “You did nothing wrong, you
are white as snow.” But see: your blood drowns the world.

Someone come quickly
and comfort, comfort the white Jesus
who is lonely in stained glass and lifeless in praise bands
because the task of rendering racism sinless is his only purpose.

This time there is no resurrection.
It is finished, and your hallowed red letters
have returned to their dust, along with your integrity
as a cult god. Make friends with Baal and the golden calf.

Advent: Goodbye

Still I wait.
Still I listen.
Still there is only
disappointment.
We have waited.
We have hoped.
Perhaps now
at long last
God will answer
the generations
who have cried.
Perhaps.
But here —
here is a
shoulder
for comfort
until God
comes. Unless
God doesn’t come.
Unless the desert
never blooms.
Unless the streams
never bubble in song.
What if…?
What if never?
Cry, creation, cry
and say farewell.
Salvation isn’t
coming for you.

on Isaiah 35:1-7

What Will Destroy Us?

Ahab will come
armed with scripture
and swords and prophets
to say ‘you are wrong’
to say ‘your life
is anathema to mine’
to say ‘it is my
god-given task
to make your life hell’
and he’s right — not that he must
make your life hell but that he can, that he
can choose to destroy
without guilt or consequence.

The mountain too may threaten,
perhaps not with the same conscious intent but
with power and indiscretion
nevertheless:
roaring as a wind
that shouts to be heard
and does not stop
to listen;
breaking as an earthquake
that defies permanence
without regard for
safety;
consuming as a fire
that idolizes its own quick tongue
as the authority on all life
without noticing
the ashes drifting
in its wake.
All these too
will destroy without care.

But as we run from Ahab
as we tremble in the mountains
may hope be found, snatched,
held,
claimed and
proclaimed: that only One
will not destroy
only One will plant broom trees
for shade, only
One
will send angels
whispering “Get up again,”
only One will well up fresh water in
a toxic wilderness,
only One
will bind our hearts
for the long journey, only
One
will love our lives
when
kings and queens
and earthquakes and fires
otherwise rage to destroy life utterly.

What will destroy us? Too many things
but not
the Holy One.
Let mercy find & convict us
where we have lied to one another
in this regard. And may the One
forgive us when we
destroy.

on 1 Kings 19:1-13

Disbelief

It does not matter,
not now or in the end,
whether God means us well or ill,

For what wrath could God rain
that we have not already
poured on one another?

And what good could God wrest
from the clutches of the few
to bless the many?

Let the Savior spare Himself from the trouble
of coaxing and convincing — we are
already so long gone in the handbasket.

Let Wisdom save Her breath for that day
when the sun’s fires must be blown into a roar
to consume all that remains.

Why should we cling to hopes of a harvest
when the earth is yielding poison and
the springs overflow with toxins?

Is this your heart bleeding or is it mine,
and if we bleed out today or tomorrow —
why should God mind?

Take love for the bandaid that it is,
pretend that it makes things better,
and wait for God’s punishment.

on Zephaniah 1:12