“God is Not a White Man”
Reflections on Psalm 15
There is a great new video on YouTube called “God is not a White Man” by Gungor which whimsically (but quite seriously) goes after the common misconceptions of God and offers the alternative “God is Love, and God loves everyone.” Sounds like Jesus might have written that one.
How does God love to people? It starts by creating the good conditions that enable them to flourish: a Garden of fruitfulness with enough for everyone, and humans to share it with. Ah, but put humans in a Garden, and pretty soon there will be trouble. We have a hard time keeping the Garden tended and an even harder time blessing each other. God shows Love by guiding us into correcting our impulses that would desecrate relationships on both the personal level and the social and economic levels.
Today’s Daily Lectionary texts begin with Psalm 15 that explores the ways in which community between persons can break down, and makes it a matter of God’s concern.
1 O LORD, who may abide in your tent?Who may dwell on your holy hill?2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,and speak the truth from their heart;
Speaking the truth is a condition required for right relationships – and God loves us by making our impulse to run to him with our vendettas against each other out-of-bounds.
We are not to corrupt relationships with our tongues:
3 who do not slander with their tongue,and do no evil to their friends,nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
In the ancient language of “love or despise” (no complex middle ground) the ways of the wicked who intentionally corrupt relationships through slander and reproaches must by rejected:
4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised,but who honor those who fear the LORD;
Rather, the person who is able to stand in God’s presence is one whose mouth will not do damage to another – even it it means doing damage to oneself – by making an oath that will unexpectedly put you in a disadvantage – but fulfilling it anyway, rather than creating a community in which trust has broken down:
who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
But the conditions of a flourishing human community cannot just be personal and private. They must include economic relationships as well. The strong always take advantage of the weak among humans – so God’s love guides economic behavior (in the context of an ancient agrarian culture) forbidding usury:
5 who do not lend money at interest,
We go further: this society must be one in which the poor are treated equally at the court. Rich people must not be allowed to blind the eyes of justice with their tempting cash. Yes, this is “social justice” (say it loud):
and do not take a bribe against the innocent.
God shows love for the people he made by creating the original conditions for them to flourish in, and by showing them how to maintain those conditions. He offers this blessing:
Those who do these things shall never be moved
Here it is, all together:
1 O LORD, who may abide in your tent?Who may dwell on your holy hill?2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,and speak the truth from their heart;3 who do not slander with their tongue,and do no evil to their friends,nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised,but who honor those who fear the LORD;who stand by their oath even to their hurt;5 who do not lend money at interest,and do not take a bribe against the innocent.Those who do these things shall never be moved
Is it any wonder that following this trajectory, Jesus comes, as today’s gospel reading shows, healing, feeding, rejecting the ideology of scarcity (and therefore competition for scarce resources) in favor of sharing, which leads to satisfaction and abundance for all, and even left overs (see John 6:1-15).