Monday, February 9, 2009

Imprecatory Psalms?

What Happens if the Church Does Not Sing the Imprecatory Psalms?
from Biblical Horizons by Rich Bledsoe

What happens if the church doesn’t sing the Imprecatory Psalms? We don’t like them. They are mean and nasty, and the one outstanding virtue inculcated in our public schools and universities (as Allan Bloom noted more than twenty years ago in his observations of American college students) is “niceness.” But what happens when everyone is “nice” and “conflict resolution” and diplomacy are made the ideal for everyone around? The end result is: the sociopaths take over.

Sociopaths, and people who at least begin to mirror them, and begin to have attributes that resemble them, are extremely adept at putting themselves in positions of power, and have an uncanny way of holding everyone at bay with massive amounts of confusion and intimidation.

Eventually, they get their way simply because nobody has the energy to deal with them or stop them. These people become a full time job.

There are nations in the world where not just individuals who fit this description, but whole clans and families of this sort of people, control everything. Italy , for example, is famously run by “Mafioso.” The American myth of “The Godfather” tells one tragic story of a generational line of the Mafioso. The great tragedy of the Mario Puzo tale is that in that case (as I suspect in many real life cases) the “Godfather” grew up in an old Sicilian neighborhood in New York City , and became a better, and more virtuous protector of the neighborhood, against a more vicious godfather. One godfather overthrew another, but in the end, his own line and own corporation was worse than the last. The Godfather and his family and corporation, were a false church and shadow state.

There are a whole bevy of books out there now that tell us about dealing with “evil.” I am not up on the latest ones, but two that I am very familiar with are Scott Peck’s PEOPLE OF THE LIE, and Edwin Friedman’s A FAILURE OF NERVE. Peck says there are people out there who defy any psychiatric designation, and can only be termed “evil.” And what is worse, he says they are not so rare.

Europe before WWII became a place of complete lassitude, complete tolerance. The Weimar Republic was famously a place of, as we would say now, “complete liberation” rather like modern day Holland . But far from being ultimately liberating, along with the rest of “liberated Europe ,” it simply became a breeding ground for evil take over artists.

We all know the rest of the story. In large measure, Hitler took over, because nobody had the energy, or time, to deal with him and his crew of wreckers and troublemakers. It is like having cockroaches take over. They have a persistence of survival, and have more energy and reproductive capacity than you can deal with. And, given enough time, these groups rediscover what good and virtuous people, who are filled up with being “nice” and self pre-occupation, have forgotten. They rediscover the power of fathers. They learn to become “godfathers” and learn how to spawn families, clans, and whole tribes of very energetic and controlling take over, and “keep over” artists. They become “war lords.” They rediscover fatherhood, and use its power for completely perverse and tyrannical ends. Finally, they rule everything. That is what large portions of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia look like today. The ridding of whole areas of such control is what one of the long sustained achievements is of what is now in some places contemptuously referred to as “Western Civilization.” The replacement of warlord clans with the rule of law was an enormous achievement.[1]

And such a takeover again is what threatens if the church decides that the imprecatory Psalms are not “nice.”

You might notice that at least some of the Imprecatory Psalms are directed at whole clans of people. They say terrible things like (Psalm 109 NKJV)

8 Let his days be few,And let another take his office.9 Let his children be fatherless,And his wife a widow.10 Let his children continually be vagabonds, and beg;Let them seek their bread also from their desolate places.11 Let the creditor seize all that he has,And let strangers plunder his labor.12 Let there be none to extend mercy to him,Nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children.13 Let his posterity be cut off,
And in the generation following let their name be blotted out.

Such terrible things are said, not because the authors were “sub-Christian” (meaning “sub-nice”) but because they were dealing with conditions that we have long since forgotten.[2] Evil runs and grows in generational lines. And what sounds cruel and horrible may be the most merciful, and indeed the only merciful thing that can happen.

Our best instruction today is in the movies. If you remember, the entire tragic enterprise of Michael Corleone, was to escape his family, and he could not. Because he didn’t, he had to lose everything, including finally, his beloved daughter in order to be saved (the Script title, given by Puzo himself was “The Redemption of Michael Corleone”). If a generation earlier, he could have escaped, if he could have become “fatherless.” if he could have been “cut off” as posterity, if the name “Corleone” could have been “blotted out” the final “cutting off” could have been avoided, while there was still a scintilla of goodness left in the line. But it was not, and one line finally destroyed another line.

We baptize in the “line of generations” that righteousness might grow strong and become an oak and not just an individual twig. Evil also grows in generations, and Americans no longer remember this. We are too many generations removed and have entirely done what the Bible warns us over and over not to do. We have forgotten. That is why we no longer include the Imprecatory Psalms even in our readings, let alone as material for chanting.

Woe be onto us. God hears our prayers, and we get what we ask for and the rot grows where we as the church and caretaker of the world do not ask, and do not fight. We are about to rediscover again what it means to have “warlord families” in our midst. Indeed, they are already here.

[1] Ellul, J. (1978). The betrayal of the West. New York, Seabury Press.
Ellul understands far better than the critics the follies and crimes of Western Civilization. But he also knows that many of the critics are not real patriots, like Jeremiah was a true Hebrew patriot, or Solzhenitzyn a true Russian patriot. Many of them are traitors to exactly those Christian and Biblical roots that have made Western Civilization almost uniquely self critical.
[2] Indeed, our ethnocentric blindness is enormous and almost funny. It is almost as though we believe it a shame that King David did not have daily web access to the New York Times editorial page. If he had, just think how many elementary mistakes he could have avoided.

1 comment:

ScottH said...

Along these same lines the "great Bible scholar" Jesse DuPlantis wrote about these "negative" Psalms. In his infamous book "Heaven Close Encounters Of The God Kind", Jesse met King David in Heaven. (sure he did LOL!) David tells 'ol Jess that he "wished he'd written more songs about God's answers than about my problems." In another place 'ol Jess claims David told him, "I did write of my experiences." "But the better ones (the better ones?) are when I allowed the Lordship of God in me to come out more than the trouble that I spoke about." So I guess in DuPlantis's warped mind Psalm 109 isn't a "better one" like Psalm 23 for instance! Does this idiot have any concept of the inerrancy of Scripture? Sheesh!!