The name of this blog comes from the Bible passage recording the one written document attributed to the Prophet Elijah.
The passage might be summarized as You’re no better. The King and people of Judah believed themselves to be entitled to God’s favor, even as they behaved in ways no better than neighboring nations. Elijah warns them of God’s disfavor, and the prophecy comes to pass as the kingdom is devastated by those it considered lesser people.
You’re no better runs through my head as the American political reality show plays on in the two major party conventions, and in the news and social media surrounding them. There is a whiff of perception in people saying I don’t think I can vote for either one. But that avoids any recognition of how we might might enable both.
This morning I saw this well done video about the rise of Hitler. Comments on it, as you might guess, tend to be Yeah that’s exactly what the other side is like. Which cries out for the warning, You’re no better. Both “sides” play to our resentments and real and imagined problems; we behave in ways that allow them to grab and maintain power.
You’re no better. We’re no better. We need that kind of humility and realism to stop ceding more and more power to Caesar to slay our bogeymen, who are all to often just flesh and blood neighbors.
But even from the religious or spiritual community, which should carry the prophetic voice, we hear Wait, yes, we are better. There’s an opinion piece trending, in which the writer condemns a key penitential prayer and demands that Pope Francis abolish it. Yes, some kind of cosmic peace and love is to be attained by appealing to an authority figure to ban what bugs you, never mind what it means to others.
Which is to say to the author, You’re no better.
Confession of sin is a great equalizer and can be a source of peace. It asks us to stop and question what we’re feeling, thinking and doing. It is to hold up the constant possibility and probability that we’re no better and to restrain action based on the false narrative that we are. It is to admit that we all stand in need of mercy and, as we receive it, are all obligated to offer it.
I’m no better for sure. I’m as bad as the next person when it comes to saying There oughtta be a law. But most laws beyond a few big ones that value and protect all people equally – You shall not commit murder, for example – are just one group of people considering themselves entitled to impose themselves upon others.
Watching the Hitler video can be a good spiritual exercise. If you can watch and say, Yeah, that’s those other guys. Glad I wouldn’t have been part of that, it is worthwhile to ponder what Jesus says in Matthew 23:29-30,
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
Because the odds are we’re no better.