Thursday, March 03, 2011

Buyer's Remorse - the Bible and the WI Situation

I have been mulling scripture with respect to the situation taking place in Wisconsin. Some folks have been calling Scott Walker 'Pharaoh'. I've seen a few smart quips about bricks, straw and mud on Twitter. But I keep going back to the 8th century prophets. Seems like the right place. Amos will have something to say about this, right?

"They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins - you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate." Amos 5:10-12

Hm. Lobbyists in the balcony of the assembly, public can't get in, and are barricaded ever further away from their own government building? Sounds familiar.

Or maybe Micah?

"But you rise up against my people as an enemy; you strip the robe from the peaceful, from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war." Micah 6:8
Deploying ever larger cadres of law enforcement to guard against peaceful protesters? Adding metal detectors and searches to the entry protocol of the capitol? Denying members of the public without an appointment the right to enter? Ejecting folks who have the temerity to turn their back on the governor?

But then, I thought some more. And I flipped toward the front of my study bible, to Judges and Samuel, and Kings. And I saw this:

"...give us a king to govern us, like other nations..." said the elders of Israel (1Sam 8:4).
Ah. That's it.

And Samuel tries to warn them.

"These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. he will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves;" (1Sam 8:11-18a)

Know what you're asking for, said Samuel. This is what your world will look like: The fruits of your labor will be passed up the economic and social food chain, and you won't be able to do anything about it. And still, they proceeded:

"But the people refused to listen...they said,"No! But we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles."" (1Sam 8:19-20)

"Give us a tough guy," the voters of this state said. "Someone to fight our battles, somebody like all of the other states have." A few voices (but not enough, or loudly enough, or well-financed enough) said "Do you realize what you're asking for? Is that what you really, really want?" And the voters of Wisconsin clamored, "yes!," electing Scott Walker into our state's highest office last November.

Many of those who called for a king are now having buyer's remorse. And many of Wisconsin's residents are stunned at how quickly this has come. Law enforcement ringing the Capitol. Snow fences, and concrete barriers, keeping citizens away from the building. Lines to stand in while the government keeps us out. Draconian cuts to programs that make us a civil society. Decreasing education funding and increasing prison funding. Decreasing access to health care and decimating the ranks of skilled, dedicated public employees as they flee the Governor's power-hungry methods. This is not the Wisconsin I have grown to love. This is not the system of checks and balances I learned about in 9th grade American Government class. I was groping for a new metaphor, and I finally realized it was here, at the beginning of the reign of Israel's kings, in the Hebrew Bible.

And what disturbs me most is the end of Samuel's speech:

"And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day." 1Sam 8:18

We were warned.

People of faith, pray for wisdom and strength. We're gonna need it to get out of this hole we dug ourselves.


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