Monday, April 18, 2011


I said in church the other day, that I was a prophet. Progressive Christianity sees prophecy as meaning the same as "social criticism." This is the sense in which Martin Luther King is seen as a prophet. It does entail some foretelling of the future, but it is not a magical or superstitious thing.

It is still a big deal to call yourself a prophet, as it is to call anyone else a prophet. It is making a claim of special wisdom. If it gives your ego a thrill to think of yourself as a prophet, then you are probably a false prophet. If you are not aware of what gives your ego a thrill (which is true of all of us, ultimately) then you can really have no idea of whether you are a prophet or not.

What I am really arguing, when I say I am a prophet, is that prophecy has become incredibly easy. Everyone is a prophet, or is about to be - except for the people who are really at the power-mad center of the corporate-political-money-government.

It is all melted together now. Not everyone who has money is political; some just live a nice life. But if you are involved or want to be involved determining how money flows through society (government/laws), you have to be very well connected to sources of money. Large corporations and their owners are, by their nature, interested in controlling the government that regulates the flows of money and benefits of our organized society. They also fill the other requirement, of being well-endowed with money.

Trends have become clear. This is why it is easy to prophesy now. Median wages rose in America until at least the 70's. But since the Clinton years, they have fallen, while the super rich have taken an even larger part of the pie. Connect the dots of increasing environmental damage allowed in the pursuit of energy, impoverishment of American workers, the loss of integrity by the corporate press, and the irrelevancy of elections to policy-making. A great backlash is in the making. It is hard to see how this will be resolved without great violence. The power-mad in America have set themselves on the course of using war to promote their interests, at the expense of other peoples, whose only recourse will be to further violence.

I have faith in the power of faith. I believe that telling this prophecy will cause enough people to believe it, that it will not come true. So, I want you to believe that it will not come true, only if you believe it will come true unless you believe it might come true, and start doing things to stop it. I'll break that down one more time.

I want you to believe there is a danger of immense violence and destruction in our society. I want you to believe that this danger comes from destructive forces that are not now recognized as destructive by a majority of people. I want you to educate yourself about the manipulations of the political system by monied interests. If you believe that and do that, I believe we, as a united people, can stop the violence and mitigate the destruction.


  1. Sometimes I think of prophecy, or the strange gift of being a prophet, as something that comes to light as a kind of slow realization that everything else that we might strive to be or accomplish is a lost cause. The prophet is one whom God frustrates from the inside and the outside, since any opening from either direction, any sense of progress, will serve to distract the prophet from his or her true calling. Success will convince her that she should continue to advance with perhaps more of her industry and even more of her care--and that would be fatal.

    The odd thing is that the prophet is needed more in our world today than the humble craftsman or the brilliant teacher or the organic farmer. But we do not see this, because we believe that the future belongs to us and will be a product of our ingenuity. The prophet represents the future and heralds it, not as an observer outside of the future, but as a necessary part of its unfolding, and as an embodied and perhaps graphic sign of the present exile that most people deny.

    I wonder if some of the most hopelessly addicted people in our society, some of the most incorrigible and despairing, those with chronic life-controlling problems, may be prophets. Perhaps this is why Jesus so exalted the least and the lost and the suffering...they are the ones who can receive new life, and their being loved is the completion of God's activity--which is the basic focus of the prophetic life.

  2. Thanks very much, Anonymous. Such a beautiful comment! Please send me a link to your blog (I hope you have one.)

  3. I agree, prophets are desperately needed today - lots of them. But we don't need any more poor, lost, suffering people. We already have enough that everyone could see them, and know what needs to be done.

    I am all for the poor and lost (including me) to receive new life already, in whatever form they can experience it.

    Political trends right now tend to point toward the prediction that we _will_ be getting more of the poor and lost soon, but I am praying that they will quickly join forces with those of us who want to reduce poverty and alienation.

  4. I'm not sure I agree that lots of prophets are needed, though I think there's good biblical support for the belief that the Spirit is poured out on many, and so many may in reality be or aspire to be prophetic. Some further questions and thoughts:

    1. Is a distinguishing feature of a prophet (as opposed to a "futurist") that s/he doesn't know she's one, and in fact is only ever a "prophet of a future not our own," in the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero? In other words, are prophets actually better at giving voice and image to futures that they do not construct through careful analysis of historical data, but instead become aware of via revelation of a different sort (as dangerous as that can be)? Maybe it's both, or this is a false distinction. My own "experiences" with being a prophetic voice are that I don't know what the blazes I'm saying at the time, but am corrorborated by experience later on. Or, sometimes it's a question of demonstrating in our lives the truth of a prophetic witness borne by someone else--often without our conscious intention to demonstrate this truth in our lives, but with an "aha" experience when it comes home (often in a way we didn't expect).

    2. I agree that it's grotesque (which I see might be implied by my first post) to think that we need more suffering and more oppressed people. At the same time, suffering (and I'm not talking self-imposed ego-satisfying and largely delusional forms of "suffering") seems pretty central to the way that God is, and is active, in our world. So, we need to strive in hope against the conditions that cause suffering, but recognize that we can't eliminate it--and that while it is a definite kind of evil, if you will, God is especially active through suffering to bring good.

    3. On the bus into work this morning, it struck me that one distinguishing feature of prophets is that they live in exile--geographic sometimes, but often social and certainly psychological. Another way of putting it is that prophets belong in a different world, a transformed world--and thus are in exile as denizens of the current state of affairs. In my previous comment I'd suggested that prophets are a sign of the "present exile." I guess part of what I meant is that prophets have somehow to recognize this exile acutely (that is, separation from the loving justice and freedom that God intends), and that this deep recognition is essential to the prophetic task of articulating a different future. Penetrating social analysis is necessary to define the dangerous trends that you've pointed to in your original post, but I wonder if parallel or interwoven personal crises are needed to induce the needed transformation. if Auden is right, that "we would rather die than change," we need more than generalized anxiety about the future or about the money-concentrating systems of destruction that characterize it, and we need something other than action or education alone. Maybe this gets back to your post(s?) on faith...

  5. blog is: --but I haven't posted anything there for quite a while.

  6. Can it be said that it take faith to follow a prophet because they tend to say things which we either don't want to hear or are hard to believe...or both?