The Silence of God.
In Jewish author Chaim Potok’s novel, “The Chosen”, the SILENCE of the Creator of all things emerges as an underlying theme.
The plot involves two teenage boys growing up in two very different Jewish communities – one community is ultra conservative, the other is reformed. Both Jewish communities believe the Creator of all things has spoken into the world.
The irony of all Potok’s novels is that he, Potok, a
conservative Jewish rabbi, constantly deals with the complex questions:
How does the Creator speak?
How is the Creator heard by worshippers to-day?
And does the world have the opportunity to hear – or listen in
– on what the Creator might be saying.
This theme continues in the follow-up novel, “The Promise”. And in the astounding novel “My Name Is Asher Lev”, the main character, Asher Lev, is an artist raised in a conservative Jewish home.
His paintings centrally focus on the CHRISTIAN symbol of the Creator’s gracious speaking – the Cross. Asher Lev’s use of that symbol creates agony for his family, his community. Why
is this Jewish artist using the cross to mark what he wants to SAY of the Creator’s speaking…
The cross a symbol that – by itself – climaxes it seems, in
While Potok’s novels are set in the USA or focus on American
characters in post World War II Asia, echoes rebound from the
agonies of the Jewish holocaust under Nazi Germany.
In “The Chosen” one boy’s father is a conservative rabbi, a
famous rabbinical scholar. Men in his community to this day wear a long curly lock of hair – payos – in front of both ears. The curl, according to one rabbinical tradition, was to remind the Jewish people of a charitable custom whereby a devout Jew let the corners of his hair grow to remind Jews to leave the corners of a field uncut for the poor, the vulnerable, to glean.
The second boy’s father is a famous academic scholar of the Hebrew texts, an expert in methods of some scholars. A method rejected by the conservative community’s scholars.
Both fathers are devout Jews. But throughout Potok’s novels the questions arise…
How does the Creator speak into the world?
How is the Creator speaking into their intra-communal
How does the Creator ACT into a world in agony?
This week in San Diego, about 10,000 scholars will come together for an annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. Other
groups will meet before these huge meetings, a few after.
The Evangelical Theological Society – predominantly a bastion of male evangelical scholars, many of whom believe the Creator will not permit women to speak to men through women PROCLAIMING the words of God – will hold a side meeting.
Over the last week I’ve been thinking a lot of 10,000 scholars on religion. Some are Jewish, some Christian, some Muslim, some Hindu, some believers, some agnostic….. About half specifically are Biblical scholars – some believers that the Creator speaks, has spoken. Some have other beliefs.
I have been thinking of the male dominance of the Evangelical Theological Society and the silencing of women.
I have been thinking of the most voiceless – refugees, most escaping areas of the world where the brutality of religious extremism has made them refugees…
This mental juxtaposition of refugees fleeing religious extremism of multiple 21st century locations echoing the holocaust – the Middle East, Northern Africa, Southern Asia, – and great annual meetings of predominantly male scholars all ultimately discussing “Creatorspeak” in one form or another, has become the intellectual crucible for my reconsideration,
yet again, of Mr Rudd, Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison and their policies on refugees.
All three of these men claim to follow Christ.
Mr Rudd is a keen student of Bonhoffer – that Jesus disciple who opposed the Nazi architects of the World War II Jewish holocaust. Bonhoffer was silenced through execution.
Mr Morrison made his inaugural parliamentary speech speaking of Jeremiah’s announcement of “lovingkindness, justice and
righteousness on the earth”. Mr Morrison’s voice and policies to-day mock the words of his inaugural speech, the prophet Jeremiah has been gagged.
Mr Abbott trained in a Catholic theological seminary for 3 years and is a “practicing Catholic” to-day – whatever that means in his mind.
As I reflect on these men’s actions, as I consider speaking into our world to-day I plan to re-read Potok’s novels one by one because I need to grapple with how Mr Rudd, Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison apparently are able to silence the Creator.
How can I say that? some might ask…
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels
with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of
the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. ’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave
you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? ’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. ’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me
no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. ’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you? ’ 45 Then he will
answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. ’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Read those verses and tell me where have you heard them from
the pulpits of Australian churches since the
Labour government and now the Coalition government set in place horrific refugee relocation and return policies.
I think I need to reread Potok because it appears Mr Rudd’s
Anglican community, Mr Morrison’s ShireLive community, and Mr Abbott’s Catholic community have silenced the Creator for their communities…
Or is it that Mr Rudd, Mr Morrison and Mr Abbott are deaf…
Deaf disciples was a problem among Jesus disciples in the First Century too.
So I ask myself…
Has the Creator been silenced? Or are we, his followers, deaf?