Chickens Come Home

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright has taken a good deal of abuse in recent days for suggesting that 9/11 was a just repayment for America’s years of injustice to African Americans and attacks on other countries. “Chickens coming home to roost,” he called it. “God is a God of justice,” he said and that has consequences for the unjust.

Well, there’s no doubt that God’s justice is a Biblical theme. The prophet Amos was among the first to speak of it and he, also, saw God’s righteous judgment falling upon God’s own people:

“Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:1-2)

But Amos was a better politician than Jeremiah Wright. First he spoke of God’s judgment on everyone else: Ammonites, Moabites, and so on. And only when he had everyone nodding in agreement that God was just and everyone else would get judged did he go on to say, “You too.”

Not that Amos was popular even so. Amaziah told the king to do something about it and told Amos to go prophesy somewhere else. Truth has never been popular.

But Wright is far from the only preacher to talk about chickens coming home to roost. Malcolm X got tossed from the Nation of Islam for suggesting that John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a case in point. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said they’d been misunderstood when they suggested that 9/11 was payback for America’s tolerance of homosexuality and other pet peeves of theirs. But they did say it.

But it was a Republican presidential candidate, Ron Paul, who echoed Wright’s views on September 11: “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” he asked. “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Thomas Jefferson was thinking along the same lines when he spoke about slavery and said: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

So all sides are agreed that God is just and America has it coming, but there’s not much agreement about specifics. And that’s the real problem. Is it our intervention in other countries? Is it our immorality and tolerance of homosexuality? Is it our injustice to racial minorities? Or is it {fill in whatever you think God ought to deal with, especially if it’s something someone else is doing, not you}.

We have such a need for others to dump on. Study American history. For most of the nineteenth century it was immigrants if you lived in the North. If you lived in the South, you had slaves to whip. After the First and Second World War it was communists. Now we’re back to immigrants. Someone to dump on. Someone to judge. Someone God needs to deal with for us. Chickens to roost on someone else. Life can be frustrating. It must be someone else’s fault. God will get them.

The trouble is, you don’t get much support from the Bible for that attitude. “Judge not,” said Jesus, “lest you be judged.” “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”

I have to admit, however, that if we’re looking for chickens to roost, Jeremiah Wright has some reason to be angry. I’ve traveled with an African American friend and wondered whether we were getting the truth when a motel in Missouri told us they were full, wondered why it seemed as if everyone in the restaurant was being served except us. A parishioner was stopped on Rte 7 in Connecticut four or five years ago for driving while Black. He was following another parishioner to a meeting, but the lead car was a pick up truck and the driver was white. The parishioner who was stopped was in a Cadillac and was Black. He didn’t worry about it; it wasn’t the first time. But wouldn’t there be days, if your life was like that, when you’d like to see the chickens come home?

At the very least, there’s a subject here to talk about and perhaps Barack Obama is the man to get that conversation going. For sure we need to talk, because God is just and judgment day will come.

1 Comment

LibbyMarch 25th, 2008 at 5:58 pm

great post! We surely do need to talk, and I hope this gets us started.

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