Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 94) transports me to a three thousand year old war on terror, which is hardly a war at all, but more an experience of gross human rights abuses and slaughter of the innocents. The arena for this particular explosion of terror is Palestine, but it could well describe the scene in the contemporary Basque region of Spain, Darfur, Syria, or any number of other sites where the mighty crush the weak. The Psalmist is not calling for a government crackdown on terror networks or for special forces units to go into the mountains and root out the honchos of horror. No, this is an appeal to God, the One worshiped as help for the helpless, voice for the voiceless, fortress for the fatherless. The hubris of those raining down terror on the innocent is such that they feel godlike themselves, blatantly daring the Almighty to come out and fight. Haughty, sneering, boasting, they seem to be happy, poster children for a book to be written about why good things happen to bad people.
The Psalmist calls for an end to this humiliation and oppression. I love the expression in one of the Spanish translations of the third verse: Dios mío, ¡basta ya de malvados, basta ya de sus burlas! Translated: My God, enough of this evil, enough of their mockery! The phrase ¡Basta ya!, meaning enough already! is quite common in Latin American countries. It is born out of deep frustration, and in this case it is a shout of defiance to the powers of oppression. Interestingly, there is an advocacy group in Spain named, appropriately enough, ¡Basta Ya! and they have worked unceasingly over the past decade to put an end to the reign of terror embodied by the ETA group, which has murdered over 800 people in its attempt to separate the Basque region from Spanish rule. ¡Basta Ya! won the Sakharov Prize for human rights work in 2000.
¡Basta ya! is an expression the Psalmist used to address God as well as the terrorists in the midst. Enough of the absence of God. Enough of the stand by witnessing of violence on the innocent without acting. It’s hard to know what God’s direct actions might look like in the face of violence and oppression. The freedom of creation seems to have handcuffed God to the position of observer, since the violence and oppression have not abated in the three thousand years since David cried out enough! But if freedom has chained the Almighty, that same freedom of creation has liberated us from our chains. Those of us who claim to be God’s people are not consigned to observer roles. The Spirit of God within us challenges us to act as God’s emissaries, God’s ambassadors in confronting the slaughter of innocents and ambushing of the weak. We can give gratitude for those who answer the Psalmist’s cry: the Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Baptist Peace Fellowship, the Every Church a Peace Church movement. Some day, all of us followers of Jesus will hear the clarion call of ¡basta ya! We will know finally that the world has had enough of the presence of violence and the absence of peacemakers, and we will join the movement.
How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.