Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Humble Disobedience?

Tonight I'd like to take a shot at turning some sacred cow into hamburger. Maybe this interpretation of these narratives isn't as popular as I think, but given the frequency with which I've heard it from a wide variety of sources, I'ma guess it's spread far and wide. Let's both introduce it and illustrate the problem with a little game called "One of these things is not like the others", featuring three pretty well-known vignettes.

1) God tells Moses to go back to Egypt and lead Israel out. Moses makes all kind of excuses, flat-out telling God to "send someone else". This is because Moses is extremely humble.

2) Saul is told by God's prophet Samuel that God has chosen him to be king, and he is given multiple signs to confirm this. When the time comes to be named king, Saul is hiding in the baggage. This is because he is really, really humble and doesn't think he's worthy of such honor.

3) Jonah is told by God to go preach in Ninevah. He refuses, and heads the opposite direction, until his path is rather dramatically reoriented. This of course is because Jonah is a colossal jerk.

Three men given direct orders from God. Three men do everything possible to disobey. For some reason two of them are thought of as humble, and the other a rebellious disobedient lout. I suggest that the popular interpretation is wrong on the first two - both of them were being every bit as defiantly disobedient as Jonah.

Here's the thing I just can't get my head around - how is it that someone can argue with and/or outright disobey the creator and sovereign of the universe, and be considered "humble"? A person can say "my way is better" to the only wise God, and this is supposed to be something other than arrogant sin? Elsewhere the humble man is he who recognizes that God is Lord of heaven and earth and who trembles at the word of God; in these two cases we are told that the humble man is the one who makes every effort to disobey and disregard the word of God. Does. Not. Compute.

Let me make a suggestion - there is never, ever, ever any justification for disobedience to God's word. Never. It is never excusable, and it is most certainly not a sign of something admirable like humility. These guys weren't humble or justified in their disobedience - and neither are we. When we read God's word and come to a command we don't like, it's not admirable or cute to hem and haw about how we're not qualified to obey it. It's rank disobedience.

If God says to do it, do it. Anything else is sin.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Option C Doesn't Exist

And now, a parable-ish-type thing.

A woman lives in a culture which features arranged marriages, and in January of next year she will be getting married. Two men have been selected as possible husbands; one of them would be the default winner, but if she appeals to the elders, the alternate will be chosen.

Now the alternate - well, he's nothing special. Kind of bland, not particularly exciting, he has some weird things about him, and some stuff in his past that's actually pretty bad. He'd be an OK husband, I guess, but nothing special. Just kinda meh.

The favorite, on the other hand, is a real standout - and not in a good way. He has promised that if he is chosen, he'll do all manner of horrible things to her. He's threatened the most horrific abuses imaginable (and some you can't imagine), and when he gets bored with that, he'll kill her.

What should this woman do? If she says nothing, she will be forced to marry the utterly horrible one. If she requests, she would be allowed to marry the not-great-but-might-be-OK one. If those are the only two choices, the smart thing to do is obviously to go with the tolerable one.

Well, how about other options? How about if she says she really wants to marry some other guy who is, she thinks, absolutely perfect in every way and can do no wrong? Sorry - Mr Dreamboat didn't get past the first round of nominations. The village elders have made it clear he won't be it. Begging for him will be inseparable from a vote for the utterly horrible one.

How about just leaving? Maybe, but a quick look at the other villages around and she decides against it. She can't find any place that's significantly better, and most are almost unspeakably worse.

So there are the four options. To wit:
1) Refuse to participate, maybe make noise about leaving - and wind up married to the horrible one.
2) Insist on marrying the fantasy man - and wind up marrying the horrible one.
3) Agree to marry the horrible one, and get it.
4) Ask for the tolerable one, and get him.

There's only one choice a thinking adult could make. It would make no sense to insist on some high-minded principles if it leaves her married to the sleazeball who will abuse and kill her. It's childish and foolish to so completely pine for what-can-never-be that you surrender any say over what will actually be.