My wife was reading one of the passages from the lectionary for next Sunday. It was the familiar story of David's romp with Bathsheba -- a story irresistible to Hollywood, since it has sex, murder, intrigue, and conspiracy. What caught my ear this time was not the juicy part, but the first verse which begins like this:
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go forth to battle . . . 2 Samuel 11:1a (RSV)
What struck me was how casual and routine this sounded. It is spring, farmers plant their crops, shepherds take their flock out to pasture, and kings go forth to battle. It is just the way things are. That's life.
I put this together with a flight of imagination in which I was invited to participate in one of the endless talk shows with alleged experts who are asked to assess the current situation with Hezbollah, Israel, and Lebanon. My inclination would have been to say, "It is all so stupid, so utterly senseless." Such a remark would have branded me as a nut case totally unable to deal with reality. Actually, I probably would have offered some ordinary, conventional, predictable observations about "reality" like all the rest do, but I would have been thinking, "It is all so stupid . . ."
Bombs destroy the beautiful country of Lebanon and its people, in Haifa and Beirut bodies of men, women, and children are blown to bits or taken to hospitals with burns, limbs missing, barely alive. It is heartbreaking, tragic, and depressing that in two communities who have suffered so much, now suffer more.
Meanwhile, on TV we see diplomats in their expensive, finely tailored suits, safely removed from all the splattered blood and killing, meet, smile, shake hands, kiss each other on the cheek, and when their talking is over, most of the time not much changes, and scared little children still cower in the bomb shelters, and we are watching another commercial on TV.
We get so used to dealing with with things as they are, that it becomes as casual and routine as the observation that when it's spring, kings go forth to war.
So occasionally we need to step back from "reality" to be reminded that it is just plain stupid, senseless, that people should destroy each other and their material creations.
We so easily forget that there are other possibilities. What is the Good News proclaimed to a largely unlistening, unresponsive world but that there is another way? Christians do not accept Wolf Blitzer's reports on CNN as the final point of reference. A realm of transcendent ideals stands in judgment of immediate facts and points the way to peace, justice, and harmony. It is the failure of the human race -- all tribes and nations -- to hear this Word that finally explains our predicament not some particular bad tactic or failed policy.
If we could all, especially the kings of the earth, occasionally submit ourselves to the judgment of ultimate facts and possibilities, when we come back to the immediate reality -- as we must -- then we might approach it with a little more perspective, a little better sense of what we are doing, and perhaps start being a little less stupid.
Harry Emerson Fosdick in his great hymn God of Grace and God of Glory has this prayerful line, "Cure Thy children's warring madness." Yes, that is what it is -- "warring madness." Until that prayer is answered, we will continue as we always have -- when it is spring, the kings of the earth go forth to battle. But it is all so stupid.