The Prophetic Imagination – The Alternative Community of Moses, pt.2

Tonight, we begin our study of Walter Brueggemann’s book The Prophetic Imagination. If you need a book, please let me know.

Triumphalism and Oppression:

Brueggemann begins with the observation that there is a connection between the religion of static triumphalism and the politics of oppression and exploitation. If we look at the empire of the Egyptian Pharaoh, we easily see this connection. The Pharaoh is a god or at least the son of god. (The Pharoah at the time of the Exodus was Ra-messes which means Born of Ra (the sun god)). Since the Pharoah is god’s son, then the Pharoah’s oppression and exploitation of the Israelites is divinely sanctioned.

In a similar fashion, if I or my group is the dominant group in society, there is a great tendency to see God as being on my side. If God is on my side, then God sanctions whatever my side does. Further, God stands in opposition to the others in society. Therefore, if I or my side exploits others in society, then that exploitation is God’s will. The starkest example of this in American history is Southern churches’ historic support of slavery and of segregation. If God is for us, then who can be against us?

Prophetic Criticism:

The first part of the prophetic imagination is prophetic criticism. For Brueggemann, criticism is not about carping and denouncing, but asserting that those in power have a false claim to their authority. p.11. He writes that criticism begins with the oppressed crying out (Ex. 2:23) for justice. The cry is not a cry of resignation, but a cry that “expresses a militant sense of being wronged with the powerful expectation that it will be heard and answered.” p.12.

The prophetic criticism reaches its goal when the powerful oppressive force of the empire is shown to be powerless, and it is left to grieve itself over its days of not caring and its politics of injustice. In the story of Moses and Pharoah, prophetic criticism reaches its apotheosis at the Passover where it is now Pharoah who cries out. Ex. 12:30.

Prophetic Energizing:

The second part of the prophetic imagination is prophetic energizing. The prophetic imagination is not simply about tearing down the existing reality, but in forming a new reality and a new order. This new reality is formed within the deep understanding of the freedom of the true God. We can look at the French or Russian Revolutions to see what occurs when the old oppressive order is overturned without the accompanying prophetic energy.

This prophetic energy arises from three areas. First, it begins in the inscrutable darkness of which neither Pharoh nor Moses is aware. The prophetic community may know the ending, but the means and methods are hidden until the end. Its an energy that can trust even in the dark.

Second, the prophetic energy envisions a new reality based on a new order. Brueggemann writes that the prophet does not see things under the aspect of eternity or in reasoned logic but in firmly partisan terms. p.16. God is biased toward the oppressed and the marginalized – for he actively chooses the weak, the foolish, the base, and the despised. 1 Cor. 1:27-28. The new reality is only brought about when God acts decisively for those on the outside.

Finally, the prophetic energy always ends in doxology not ideology. It ends with praise to the God that acted decisively for the outsider as the outsider, not so that the outsider could now become the oppressor. The prophetic energy ends with a celebration and a new song.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is beef barley soup. Discussion about 6:45. Compline around 8. I hope you can join us as part of your Lenten journey.

He has shown the strength of his arm, *
    he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
    and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
    for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
    to Abraham and his children for ever.

Luke 1:51-55

1 thought on “The Prophetic Imagination – The Alternative Community of Moses, pt.2”

  1. Pingback: The Prophetic Imagination – Prophetic Energizing and the Emergence of Amazement, pt.1 – Ancient Anglican

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