When I was a teen, fire and brimstone preachers quoting Old Testament prophets or teachers using language rich in righteous indignation and condemnation struck me as way way over the top, unlikely to persuade or motivate modern audiences, and certainly not me. I preferred tactful, nonjudgmental language and a therapeutic approach.
Nowadays, as a middle-aged father with a teenager testing limits and as a university teacher with sometimes recalcitrant students, I relate to the outrage, righteous indignation, high-standard setting, and disappointment expressed by the Old Testament prophets. And sometimes, I have to grudgingly admit in retrospect, I was motivated by the disapproving language. My previous post, "Give the People Bread and Circuses Instead of Intellectual Challenge and Education," outlined my concerns about habits young people are developing, entertaining themselves to death. I also ranted in an email to a friend about what seems to be the increasing frequency of offensive language in public. I found validation from a Katy Couric column.
These observations probably expose me as a judgmental, uptight old codger who has lost his sense of humor, grouses about kids' bad language, the decline of the species and civilisation due to decadence of this addled and computer-game addicted younger generation. They are all going to hell. And another thing. Get off my lawn!
So be it. Frederick Buechner described some of the Old Testament prophets in light, humorous language I could relate to. In his book, "Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who's Who," Buechner writes that the OT prophets had a "total lack of tact. They roared out against phoniness and corruption wherever they were found."
Amos: "When the prophet Amos walked down the main drag, it was like a shoot-out in the Old West. Everybody ran for cover. His special target was The Beautiful People, and shooting from the hip, he never missed his mark...When justice is finally done, Amos says, there will be hell to pay."
Hosea: "The prophet portrays God as lashing out at the Israelites for their disobedience, and says that by all rights they should be wiped off the face of the earth..."
Jeremiah: "The word jeremiad means doleful and thunderous denunciation, and its derivation is no mystery. There was nothing in need of denunciation that Jeremiah didn’t denounce. He denounced the king and the clergy. He denounced recreational sex and extramarital jamborees. He denounced the rich for exploiting the poor, and he denounced the poor for deserving no better. He denounced the way every new god that came sniffing around had them all after him like so many bitches in heat; and right at the very gates of the Temple he told them that if they thought God was impressed by all the mumbo-jumbo that went on in there, they ought to have their heads examined.
- Katy Couric column on the disturbing increase in public cursing, reflecting "a coarsening of society," a decline in civility and mutual respect.
- Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who's Who
- Frederick Buechner on Amos
- Frederick Buechner on Hosea
- Frederick Buechner on Jeremiah
- Frederick Buechner on Isaiah