Saturday, March 14, 2009

Where are the prophets?

So who are the prophets to American civil religion? American corporate religion? Unbridled captitalism? "In Cramer We trust," ad hype for CNBC's Mad Money, is a correlary to the belief, "In debt we trust." Jon Stewart on the Daily Show Thursday night (Mar.12)was not joking when he took Jim Cramer to task for failing to warn the American people of the coming global economic crisis.

So who are the public media prophets? Jon Stewart? Bill Moyers? Who? And what about the church's prophetic vocation in the public world? Whose are the prophetic voice? The persistent voices?


Anonymous said...

The thing about prophetic voices is that no one wants to listen to them until the prophecy has come to pass--and then we wonder why no one told us. I have a hunch that some have foreseen the economic crisis and have tried to make their voices known (I'm not 'informed' enough to know who those prophets would have been, if they did, indeed, exist). But in our society and in ACR, like the Israelite people at the time of Jeremiah and Isaiah, do not want to hear bad news. We prefer to say, "Peace, peace" when there is none. We prefer to listen to the false prophets that cry out that all is well--especially when we use, as standards, the top 5% of the nation's population, in terms of socio-economic status.

So, perhaps instead of asking, "Where were the prophets?" we should be asking, "What did they say, and why didn't we listen?" And then maybe we can learn (the pessimist inside me doubts this) from that past and use it to guide our ears to hearing truth rather than a convenient lie.


Rob G. said...

It seems to me that a significant piece of being a prophetic voice that often gets ignored or at least glossed over (because we tend to be afraid of offending people) is to name sin. This would be true for each of the realms Norma highlights. Because naming sin tends to happen as a response to something rather than a foreshadowing of something to come (although it can do that), it often gets brushed aside because, in the heat of the moment, people don't want to be told that what they're doing is wrong. Now, the naming of sin is the first part of the prophetic voice. The second is the proclamation of forgiveness. As is true with the cross and the tomb or with Law and Gospel, we cannot have one of these two pieces without the other. If we proclaim forgiveness blindly without having first named the sin(s), we are "proclaiming" cheap grace. On the other hand, if we name sin and then stop there, where is the relief and the hope for the sinner? In doing this naming and proclaiming, we do not excuse what happens which harms the other; instead, it serves as a call to repentence and the changing of one's ways so that such harm doesn't continue.

I know we all already know this, but I find it is sometimes helpful to remember that this is a very important aspect that we (that is, all Christians) must embrace. It is, after all, at the heart of evangelism and mission.

So, whoever is doing this two-pronged approach to injustices and other sins in the United States and the world for that matter would seem to me to be a prophet.

Jeff said...

Having watched Jon Stewart's interview of Cramer the other evening, I am even more convinced of the prophetic role that the media could have in our society. He not only took Cramer (the prophet of the royal court) to task, but revealed the insider shenanigans and the failure of networks like CNBC to report the news as it is instead of catering to the Wall St interests. I saw a prophet challenging a network to reclaim its prophetic voice.

Along those lines, not only are persons like Stewart and Colbert prophets in ACR through humor and satire, but I find the prophetic voice especially in music. Sure there is the watered down, lifeless catchy pop that dominates airwaves (the music of prophets of the royal court), but there are also voices that are critical and/or imagine new a world. Bob Dylan, Josh Ritter, Derek Webb, Neil Young, John Denver, and U2 are among the artists I deeply appreciate for their good song writing and prophetic lyrics. Prophets in the OT were poets and I think many today are as well.

Chris said...

When I read Tobi's note about not listening to the prophets until it is too late, I think of a financial analyst for Fox News, of all places, who was among a group of analysts brought on. He was the only one to suggest that things would get worse before the subprime mortgage mess really got going, and he predicted the bank crashes in the same fashion. Each time, the other analysts and the hosts would shout him down, more interested in yelling, "peace, peace" so that this one voice of doubt and reason could not be heard. I actually found a youtube clip here if you would like to see "prophets" - or maybe more accurately "profits" at work.

The Biblical nature of the way this man was silenced is something to behold.