In my first post for this blog, I wrote about power. I wrote particularly about those conceptions of power that we usually pay no attention to and the prophetic voices (like Kanye?) that call us to pay attention to these power dynamics. Whatever you make of Kanye, you can’t deny that the dude is messing things up: he pisses people off, he utters surprisingly profound one-liners, he says nothing in the midst of a lot of something. It’s messed up—sometimes seriously messed up.

As I write this, I’m on a plane home from warm San Diego, where I said a definitive something. For about the thousandth time a group of us performed an enactment of 2 Kings 5 (the story of Naaman) in Hebrew. When you’re performing something in another language you make sure you know what those words mean. You pay close attention, even though that often means you’re all the more confused. Enactment forces exegetical work that is avoidable when you’re reading pages. It brings “inconsequentials” into the limelight. It emphasizes themes and narratives that you might pass over on first glance.

All that to say this: 2 Kings 5 is all about power. The passage flips the power structure of that day and age on its head. Go read it. The kings do nothing; the servants carry the kind of grace that motivates action. The kind of grace that shocks but also heals. Still, it’s the power plays we have to note here—both the kings and Naaman assume their positions carry power, but they are all relativized by a little girl, Elisha, and the servants of Naaman. The powers that be are brought to naught through the grace-infused intercession of lowlifes. This is how God works.

In San Diego I roamed the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter to and from the conference. I walked by a woman who spit a scrap of styrofoam cup at me. I walked by at least fifty people a day on cement with sleeping bags pulled over their heads. Then I ate tapas and new American cuisine. I spent a lot of money, money given to me by my post-undergraduate institution. I slept in a Westin bed. I got annoyed with delayed service. I sat in a chair and listened to a paper on the Protestant reclamation of natural law theory. I chilled in a hot tub. I wore a bathrobe for fun while I watched a show called “Ridiculousness.”

See the thing about power is, God, we love to critique it but when it’s ours, we hold that shit so tightly it would cost us our life to let go. And the thing about being a Christian is that passages like 2 Kings 5 or the passion narratives or all the prophets or all of Paul should fundamentally change these power dynamics. Not only in our hearts but our operations too. Our identity changes. So when I go to San Diego to perform such a powerful (I use that word deliberately) narrative and then live my life shaped by some other one, I write dissonant blog posts like this one. And that’s probably good. Maranatha.

There’s a theologian named David Kelsey who says this: “God orders the world by speaking wisdom into it.” Maybe that wisdom—so divine, so immediate, so transcendent, so full of grace, so primal—makes order look like not order at all. Maybe that wisdom speaks a radical re-ordering. For example, read the Bible. But there’s something more to that quote based on who God is and who we are:[1] God invokes wisdom in God’s creatures. Sometimes this looks like art, sometimes like music, sometimes like a piece of styrofoam cup, always like gospel. It feels weird, it messes things up, and it creates the kind of dissonance that floors us.

I’m still peeling my face off the ground, but I’m prostrate.

 

[1] pointed out to me by Dr. David Stubbs

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    This is wonderful.

    Reply
  2. Brad

    Thanks Laura!

    Reply

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