Sunday, February 27, 2011

Help Wanted: Prophet

I'm not usually in the habit of promoting any type of religious article or commentary. However, I just read a most interesting piece at Consortium News, "America, a Land of No Prophets" by Rev. Howard Bess.

Here's a portion of it.
In 2011, the United States is without a prophet in the Bible tradition. In my lifetime, we have had prophetic voices, but only one truly significant prophet, Martin Luther King Jr. He fit the description and walked the walk.

Dr. King did not seek the role that was thrust upon him. Indeed, the burden often depressed him. Yet, he confronted racial discrimination. He championed the poor. He challenged the evil of the war in Vietnam. When he was killed, many among the rich and powerful were glad that he was gone.

Some will ask “How about Billy Graham?” Billy Graham was certainly the most popular Christian preacher of the last half of the 20th century. However, his popularity is the first signal that he was not a prophet.

The rich of America were Graham’s buddies, and he was a White House regular with every U.S. president during his years of popularity. He built an organization that was a financial juggernaut and is now a well-endowed institution.

Graham’s passion was the salvation of individuals who were willing to repeat the correct words in exchange for a promise of a home in heaven.

When compared to the prophets Moses, Micah, Jeremiah, Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham is not only not one of them, but probably would be the object of harsh criticism by them all.

However, it is not just Billy Graham who fell short. It is the rank-and-file of American clergy – liberal, conservative and fundamentalist – who seemingly do not have a definition of morality that calls us to be our brother’s keeper...


  1. To play devil's advocate...

    Popularity doesn't rule out "prophet" status. Many of the Bible prophets were cozy with the king, though they also criticized him too.

    Ok, that said, I think you're right in this post. Yet again, in my opinion a leader or "prophet" is more of someone who happens to be at the leading edge of the wave of sentiment welling up on its own from the people. As in, when a people are ready, a leader will emerge, not the other way around.

  2. Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. surely was a man that was willing to speak out against the grain of the status quo in hopes of change to take place. He surely didn't take on the passive position of Zhuangzi of showing the greatest kindness when we leave each other alone to follow our own paths. Let it be? I am sure glad he wasn't a Taoist. Martin Luther King Jr's. life is a great example that shows us that human beings are about creating change. It is our nature to evolve. It is our nature to speak out and debate about a higher way to think. We each are our brothers keeper to create change.

  3. Brandon,
    I think I would disagree that most of the OT prophets were "cozy" with the rulers. They were known to them, for sure, but several of the prophets had to stay away from the ruling class a good deal of the time to stay alive.

    M & S,
    I do understand how part of Zhuangzi's philosophy could be described as laissez faire and yet many of his stories involved sages counseling various rulers. I would submit that Zhuangzi was not that unlike MLK -- both tried to lead by example. Both walked their talk.

    It might be an interesting experiment -- one I may ponder and attempt in the future on the blog -- to drop Zhuangzi into the 21st century to see how he might approach his philosophy in today's terms.

  4. I agree with you Rambling. Not only can the message of Zhuangzi be misconstrued to mean lead a passive life and leave well enough alone, it can conveniently be deliberately misused and misrepresented to conform to our fears. In other words, sometimes it takes guts and risk to say something to someone else but a convenient alternative route to those uncomfortable troubled waters would be to postulate that being one with the Tao is to let it be. You can see here that beliefs are typically generated to conform to our comfortable wishes of boundaries we weave.

    By the way, I'm Mark. My wife and I share one email.

  5. You probably know more about the Bible than I, since I've only read parts. But I didn't say "most," I said "many" and probably should have said "some".


  6. "It might be an interesting experiment -- one I may ponder and attempt in the future on the blog -- to drop Zhuangzi into the 21st century to see how he might approach his philosophy in today's terms."

    That would be fascinating. You should, man


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