Into the Wilderness started the Extreme Psalter last week; we’re reading and meditating on ALL 150 psalms. Join in anytime! I’m going to be blogging a bit about the psalms as we go – these thoughts will usually be pretty short, since we only meditate for five minutes.
Psalm 2 is one of those psalms that I don’t like on first reading. Kings, wrath, kissing God’s feet etc. Not my favorite, even on the surface. It’s also a “royal psalm” and my study Bible tells me it was intended to be read during a king’s coronation. This makes me like it even less. If we believe God ordains a king or leader then we are implying that God approves of not only the king, but of the existing social/political order, no matter how oppressive. (This isn’t just for medieval times; if you have a subscription to NY Review of Books, check out Joan Didion’s commentary on the Left Behind series as a way to think of George W. Bush and the Religious Right.)
Essentially, if the king is ordained by God, this means if someone questions the justice of the government, they are questioning God. Which is a handy way to try to keep people who aren’t in power in “their place” (e.g. slave owners reading Ephesians 6:5-9 to their slaves or the Religious Right throwing verses about LGBTQ folks being abominations – handy resource on countering that, here).
This would imply the social/ political order has been ordained by God, and if it sucks for you now, don’t worry, you’ll be rewarded in Heaven.
Yeah, I don’t believe that.
First: there are a ton of resources on how to read the Bible seriously but not literally. I found Marcus Borg’s Reading the Bible Again for the First Time and Peter Gomes The Good Book helpful.
Second: I still sometimes initially align scripture with the voice of the Religious Right, which means that when the words say wicked, I assume they mean me and when they say righteous, I assume it means them.
I have to remember that actually, righteous means being loving, having integrity, helping the poor, supporting the alien (hi, immigration reform), and all that good stuff.
So. In meditating on this psalm I was thinking, if God is love and ordains love as the ruling power in a government or individual life, how does this change the story for me?
(By love, I don’t mean flowers, fluffy kitties, and unicorns barfing rainbows, but real love – the messy, the beautiful, the challenging, leveling power of love that transforms us. And on a political level, I think of that Cornel West quote: “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”)
If the nations and kings are rebelling against God and the “king” in this sense, it would mean that they are scheming for power over love – they are rebelling against God’s call for leaders to provide justice and mercy for all people.
In my meditation, I thought about how when I’m scheming and plotting to get what I want (whether it’s just in my head, or in actual action), I’m miserable. It’s when I focus on doing the work in front of me and on taking the next loving action that I find peace and serenity.
I was also really struck by the lines “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage.”
I thought: what if love is our heritage – not shame, or guilt, or fear? What do we receive from our past, and what do we want to leave others?