One verse in one psalm is the lens through which I see all else in — since I am a Christian — the Christian Bible. It is Psalm 82:5b which says, within its context, that, “injustice shakes the foundations of the earth.”
Were all else lost forever from the Christian Bible, that single verse would be more than enough as surviving remnant to start over again from scratch. (Outside and apart from any Christian Bible, that verse can be rephrased to warn that, “injustice threatens the future of human evolution.”) But, in any case, back to Psalm 82.
It does not start with any of that divine bully-pulpit stuff about, “I am the only God—there are no other Gods, etc. etc.” Instead, it imagines the High God seated in heaven surrounded by all the other Gods and Goddesses who run the world. It is like a divine CEO sitting down with Upper Management. And, unfortunately, UP is in serious trouble. Its performance review is an indictment for global malpractice with this bill of particulars:
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’” (82:1-4).
That is clear enough as a judgment of transcendental malpractice. But what follows is surprising.
You expect excuses from those castigated divinities. “We are so busy, so much to do, so many things to take care about.” Instead we get complete incomprehension. We get this: “They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness” (82:5a). They say, as it were: We handle retribution, we don’t do distribution. Our purpose is power, who brought up this justice stuff?
And that is when we get the key verse. That most clearly and fully expresses my own Christian faith. You expect some anthropomorphic threats about the anger of the High God and the downsizing of Upper Management, Instead, there is only this threnody for a threatened world: “all the foundations of the earth are shaken” (82:5b).
We should write that verse on our hearts and on our consciences. We should inscribe it on our bathroom mirrors so it our first bleary-eyed vision each morning. We should carve it on our domestic programs and on our foreign policies. We should even use it as a criterion when the time comes to choose between political candidates: Do you agree that justice shakes the foundations of the earth? And, if you do, what will you do about it?
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