Monday, June 8, 2015

Psalm 11, Justice and the Silence of Christians

Psalm 11 calls on God to answer injustice of the wealthy toward the poor seem like a timely topic as we are in the middle of the greatest divide of inequality since the Gilded Age or the early nineteen hundreds. Yet, few Christian In that age, Christian rose up in mass to protest the rising inequality. Christians, then, saw the rise as the result of social Darwinism and secular materialism. What a hundred year changes. Today, rather than rising up and calling out philosophies like Ayn Rand and others who update the social Darwinistic thinking (their are just moochers and takers or the poor and the productive classes or the wealthy), Christians aren’t rising up like the King David does in both Psalm 9 and 10? The question is why.

 I recently saw a Ted Talk by a social science team, about how people respond to a rigged game of monopoly. The researcher looked at how privilege effects us. In this version of Monopoly, two players we assigned different roles. The game was like normal monopoly accept that one player got to roll more dice and collect more money when they passed Go. In other words, they got more advantage and privilege to the point they could not lose.

While they got this privilege simply by the literal flip of a coin or by randomness, they started to think of themselves as better players than the one on a weaker position. The Rich were better than the Poor. The taunted the weaker player and then when asked to evaluate the game, they pointed to the superior play. Their built in advantages factored little in their own evaluation of their play, even though that was the single most important reason for their success. They also show less and less concern for the other player as their dominance in the game grew. The became more belligerent to poor player, even if their advantage came from nothing more than a flip of a coin. In other words they turn to the sin of pride and swam in it as pig in muck. The social science team could have saved time as the Biblical wisdom on the sin of pride beats them to their conclusions.

The parallels to current reality as frightening and can explain the Psalm 9 in tying the oppression of the poor to evil. Pride makes us blind to the gifts we have been given and makes us think we are the authors of our own glory. We are the job creators and we think we should be treated with what is akin to reverence. Yes, we still love the original sin and think of ourselves as God. Those who can’t make it as simply moochers, looters or losers. God’s way, of course, is rejected in such a world. When we think that we are the cause of our success and not a gift from God, we start to act as the player with all the advantages without see them. We think it is our own efforts which made us and we grow in pride.

When we can see past our nose and discover the pain of the poor, we start to demand justice like Psalm 9. Then after a wait and look at history, we see nothing changes. Many times those who were oppressed rise up from their shackles, only to become the next generation of oppressors. The slaves of Egypt become the oppressors the minor prophets wail against in disgust. We then arrive at Psalm 10. Why has not God acted? Why do the evil doers continue to oppress.

Psalm 10 opens out into a dilemma. Psalm 9 tied evil to the oppression of the poor and calls on God to act on behave of the poor. Psalm 10 prays in what seems to be the response. God has not yet acted against the evildoers and their oppression of the poor. The prayer pleads for God not to hide his face in the face of such injustice. God seems silent and the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and we start to hold them in disdain for their poverty.

Yet, God did act and it should frighten us. When God became man, we dwelt with us and he chose to live with the poor and to be poor. Jesus was homeless, even though he could have had a Park Avenue address. He chose to walk with the poor. The Incarnation was God’s answer to those who viewed their success as theirs and not a gift to be use to love God and love others. Through out the Gospel, Jesus says the poor and how we will be oppressed will be answered. The question for us followers of Christ. Do we join the saints of the past and call on at the very least, the closing of the divide between rich or poor. For to side with the poor is the be biblical.

No comments: