Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Isaiah 3:1-12) transports me to one of the most draconian cases of radically libertarian anti-government sentiments and accompanying spending cuts ever seen in a nation’s history. The rug is pulled out from under programs supporting clean water and food for the hungry. Fend for yourselves. The military is drastically reduced, both in foot soldiers and in leadership. Fend for yourselves. Anarchy threatens to unravel the fabric of society; life becomes more and more oppressive, and all semblance of decency and respect goes down the drain as insolent youth rise up against their elders. In the midst of all this, the nation looks to enthrone its next leader, and no one is satisfied with the options. On the one hand, you have people saying the nation’s leadership is dithering, infantile, unfit, weak, indecisive, tentative, afraid to play rough with the big boys. And on the other hand, there’s nobody in the opposition any better. So people desperately try to recruit someone else to run – here, you seize the opportunity, you take the cloak, you take the mantle of leadership, you take charge of this heap of ruins. But one by one, the answer comes back: No, I’m not going to run; you’re not going to make me the leader. And the nation staggers on toward its doom, and the prophetic cry rings out, Woe to them, for they have brought disaster on themselves.
Sounds like something right out of last night’s blogosphere, but it isn’t. It’s right out of the pages of holy writ, as Isaiah lamented the state of affairs and the sorry state of leadership facing his nation 2700 years ago. The nation, through speech and deed, had betrayed the covenant, had defied the glorious presence of the Lord. From all we can read throughout Isaiah, we can surmise what the particulars of this defiance entailed – a growing reliance on material wealth and military might. It was the logical conclusion of the people’s wish generations earlier that they become like other nations. They got what they wanted. And so the prophet paints a picture of God withdrawing support, leaving the people to fend for themselves, to wallow in their own mire, until they are ready to come back to the covenant, until they are ready to weave the values of compassion and contentment, peace and social justice back into the fabric of their common life. They are doomed to poor leadership as long as the core values remain unchanged. (You’ll have to forgive Isaiah’s sexism in his rant, as he basically says, It’s going to get so bad you’ll have women ruling over you! I can jut hear the neighboring taunt: Your king throws like a girl!)
Back to our blogosphere, to our nation’s woes, we have seen something of a prophetic rant against weak and unprincipled (or wrong-principled) leadership from both sides of the ideological spectrum; neither the Tea Party nor the Occupy Wall Street folks are happy with Washington, for very different reasons of course. But for all their differences they share a common sense of dissatisfaction. Our President is reviled by some as unfit and by others as infantile and by others as too willing to compromise core values. Given his ever shrinking poll numbers, it has become apparent that his only shot at re-election is the field he’s up against (some call the Republican Primary field Obama’s CREEP – the Committee to Re-Elect the President). Yesterday’s bowing out, (a la Isaiah 3:6-7) of two of the potential “dream candidates” insures that “None of the Above” will continue to lead the field of wannabes. Ideology and political persuasion aside, it seems to me that Isaiah’s message and the message of the disenchanted today is that we really do have a dearth of strong leadership when it comes to governance. Could it be that that dearth has come about because the animating Spirit of life has pulled an Isaiah on us, has withdrawn the glorious presence of the Holy from the process, because we have long abandoned the core values of compassion and contentment when it comes to social and economic policy? Could it be that we will continue staggering toward a woeful doom until we break from the addiction to power, from the desire to be not only “like other nations” but to be the mightiest of all the nations, trusting in our own economic and military might to sustain our empire? Isaiah does reserve some hope for us, that good fortune awaits those who reject these evils and bear the innocent fruits of covenant love and mercy and compassion and peace. And so, with a firm reliance on the participation of Divine Providence with all who believe in and work toward this covenant vision, we would do well to mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor in pursuit of these alternative dreams and this alternative way of life and leaders who share the vision.
How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.