Monday, October 30, 2006

A letter to the President

This letter, written last night in reaction to one of the morning's scripture readings heard in church, illlustrates two things.

First, it can be quite worthwhile to pay attention in church. Some astonishingly relevant things are in the Bible.

Second, religion can be used in politics in a responsible way. While one may agree or disagree with the position the writer took, the Bible verses are used in the "prophetic" or critical manner, not as theological "proof texts". As the prophet Nathan, the truth teller, told King David a story designed to accuse him of being the sinner described in the story, so these verses were used to accuse the President in words from a source he claims to take seriously.

The flaw in the letter is that, of course, the President will never read it. And if he did, he would dismiss it. It takes a publicly recognized prophet/critic to say these things to his face. No such person with access exists. There is only "the public" and its "uncertain trumpet", heard in muffled tones in polls and in votes which may or may not be counted as cast.

Here's the letter. Go thou and write likewise -- and forward it around, as this has been forwarded.

Dear Mr. President,

Today, our Old Testament reading made me think of you.

It was from Isaiah. Please take it personally and to heart.

Isaiah 59:3 - "For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue murmurs wickedness."

It well may be that you haven't consciously lied and that you've believed everything you've said. Even so, the wickedness has been done and its effects remain.

The effects of the wickedness enshrined in your and your predecessors' policies and actions are expressed in a later verse in today's reading, verse 14:

"Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter."

It's time for repentance and a change of heart and a change of direction -- for you, for both parties, and for our nation.

The blood spilled in Iraq will probably be multiplied if Iran is attacked; the consequences are likely to be catastrophic for our country as well as for Iran, the Middle East, and, indeed, the world. The unintended consequences of the invasion of Iraq must be held up as a scale model of what to expect when the bombing starts in Iran.

At 75, my wife and I don't have much life left to lose, but our six grandchildren are between 10 years and 10 months old and I worry about what kind of battered world that you and other world leaders, public and private, are in the process of condemning them to. And not just them, of course.

I believe that, for an individual, it's never too late to repent. However, when a leader of a nation commits "sins of state", it may too late for the nation itself. The blowback may destroy more than can be repaired.

Living in old Shaker country, I recommend their hymn, Simple Gifts, that celebrates repentance: "to turn, turn, will be our delight, and in turning, turning we come down right."

Peace, shalom, salaam,


So I said, "Wisdom is better than might, yet the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded." The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one bungler destroys much good. -- Ecclesiastes 9:16-18