The Chair and the Desk, 10/9/15

From the chair and the desk:

28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. 

-1 Kings 12:28-32

“Biblical thinking is liberated thought, i.e., thinking that is not entrapped by social categories of the dominant culture.”

-James Cone, God of the Oppressed, 1975 ed., p.97

I’ve been thinking about this all morning: “Behold your gods.” At first I couldn’t believe Jeroboam’s audacity and the citizens’ credulity–how could they accept that these two golden calves, fresh out of the furnace, should get the credit for YHWH leading them out of Egypt? Then I remembered that this is an age-old story: Aaron and the actual Exodus generation did the same audacious thing. And then I remember that this is an age-old story, and it happens in my life too.

A number of things flashed through my mind:  If my netflix history says anything, it’s that I’ve repeatedly bought into the new TV show that we’ve all been waiting for, the entertainment industry saying, “Behold your gods!” I’ve really bought into football, which is often team owners and advertisers, at the expense of poor men’s bodies, saying, “Behold your gods!” I open my phone and scroll through Facebook, every 6th or 7th little box an advertisement for a game that would happily rule my life: “Behold your gods!”

It’s not that I want to be a downer. All of these things–film, sports, games–could be created as art. But they’re usually just commodities that fight for our attention and our worship to make the rich richer, leaving the lost more lost. Leaving me more distracted and empty. All of would benefit from asking who in our lives is saying “Behold your gods,” and which of those voices we’re inexplicably listening to.

“9  Go on up to a high mountain, 
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength, 
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not; 
say to the cities of Judah, 
“Behold your God!”

-Isaiah 40:9

**I’ve quoted Cone twice now without representing the main argument of his book, which isn’t fair (in 2015 terms, it’s very similar to a Christian argument for #blacklivesmatter as opposed to #alllivesmatter). I’m still thinking about his whole, compelling book and what it means for what I think and do, and I’m worried I will set you up to reject sound-bites “from the desk,” out of context. I recommend giving the whole book a thoughtful read and reflection.**


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

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