Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (I Kings 3:16-28) transports me to the summer of 1946 in the cotton fields of Springfield, Alabama, where 6 year old Dewey Cox is going out to play with his brother Nate. Dewey says, Today’s gonna be the best day ever! and Nate responds, Yeah, ain’t nothin’ horrible gonna happen today! Famous last words, as the two boys decide to play machete fight, with real machetes, and Dewey proceeds to cut his brother Nate in half, right at the waist. Before dying, Nate tells his brother: Dewey, I’m cut in half pretty bad. In case I don’t make it, you’ll have to be double great for the both of us. That’s the opening scene to one of my favorite movies of all time, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. This spot-on parody of all the serious music bio-pics continues as the country doctor rushes to the house to tend to Nate, and gives the family the bad news: This was a particularly bad case of somebody being cut in half. I was not able to reattach the top half of his body to the bottom half of his body. Dewey goes on to stardom and music fame, in spite of a disability (he is smell-blind, the traumatic event having caused him to lose his sense of smell), haunted not only by what he did to his brother, but his father’s reaction, summed up in a recurring sentiment – The wrong kid died.
The wrong kid died. That was a sentiment of another parent, not in a comedic parody, but in a real life tragedy that came to the attention of newly inaugurated King Solomon. The King had just gotten out of his prayer closet, where he had fervently petitioned the Lord for one thing, wisdom. I can imagine him rising from that prayer, going to his throne, with all the optimism of young Dewey Cox – Today’s gonna be the best day ever! And then he gets his first opportunity to try out the answer to his prayer, his new found wisdom. Two women from a house of ill repute come to him, with one baby, and one of the women proceeds to tell a gruesome tale. Both of the women had given birth, and in the dark of night one of the babies died, and the distraught mother switched the dead baby with the living one. The next morning, the mother of the living baby realized what had happened, but the other woman denied the charges. The King needs to make a decision in the dispute, and execute justice. He calls for a sword, and it looks like we are about to witness a particularly bad case of someone being cut in half, for his solution is to divide the living baby, and give half to each of the mothers. The mother of the living baby cannot bear this, and pleads with the King to give the baby to the other woman, but the other woman shows her hand by going along with the King’s decree. The King in his wisdom has discovered the truth, and restores the baby to its rightful mother. At that moment something new is born, the concept of Solomonic wisdom, called upon and prayed for ever since that day, whenever there are competing claims over something of great value.
Our democracy has given birth to many hopes and dreams across the ages. There are times when one of those hopes sickens and dies – the hope for a segregated society, for example, born to the majority white population; it died, even though there are some who refuse to bury it. The hope for a Christian empire, defined by a narrow, fundamentalist view of Christianity, has also died for many. And like the distraught mother in Solomon’s day, those who find their dreams dying sometimes try and steal others’ dreams. The analogy is not perfect, but I wonder how many people were recently awakened to a new reality of a pluralistic society, only to say, If my idea of a Christian nation is dead and gone, then I’ll take the hope of marriage, and raise it as my own. No one else can have it. Such is the predicament we find ourselves in, as preachers continue to preach out against the opportunity of a minority population to have the civil rights and protections of marriage. Where is Solomon when you need him? ( I’d love to hear his take on marriage, given his experience!) I don’t think he would counsel putting civil rights and the protections of due process up for popular votes. Finding a resolution to such a predicament in our democracy will be an uphill battle, for sure, but I trust we will get there. To quote Dewey Cox, It ain’t easy to walk to the top of a mountain. It’s a long, hard, walk. But I will walk hard.
How about you? Where does this Promise Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.