Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Atheist Reads The Bible: Isaiah 41:17-20

From the King James Bible (I know you people are out there trying to get me to use NRSV. I have a message for you FUCK NRSV! I want my bible readings to be endorsed by royalty. Plus I always thought the KJV has more aesthetic qualities.)

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

This is an interesting passage to start with, you know, I don't think I could have done better as a starting point if I had searched for one. It is Old Testament but it has a decidedly New Testament flair (although I guess that’s not surprising given that it is Isaiah)

The idea of god helping the poor is certainly better to my pallet than god ignoring the poor, however I wonder does this then shift the burden of helping the poor from society onto God? A bad precedent, I think, to set. If the influential members of society believe that they can ignore the poor and thirsty because god will provide for them, I'm sure some poor will be provided for but I think it would just lead to much worse poverty.

Also, I feel this passage fails in execution. I live in Oakland around immense poverty and desperation and I don't see fig trees and lakes and rivers sprouting up from the heavens, I do however see crime and misery. (Are rivers allegorical to crime and trees allegorical to misery? if so then god is one real jackass)

But my real problem with this passage is the promise of salvation and help. All of this stuff god will do. Why hasn't he done it already? Or, why is he not doing it now? It is a consoling passage but it seems on the face of it, just a bit light in substance.

1 comment:

Bobby McGill said...

Like your point about the implication of god being the scapegoat for society's lack of care for the poor.