This morning, I tweeted my old (2012) review of David Lamb’s book God Behaving Badly. The review includes an extensive critique of Lamb’s attempt to rationalize and baptize biblical violence. Not surprisingly, I received a pseudo-pious reply from some self-righteous fellow who actually had the temerity to begin with “Who are you, o man?”.
Who are you, o man, who answers back to God?
— triggerman1976 (@triggerman1976) January 22, 2020
For full effect, play my video rendition of the tweet:
According to folks like this fella, asking questions and challenging particular biblical readings is a sign of impiety. Truly pious people don’t ask questions. They don’t wrestle with texts. They don’t explore various readings in an attempt to bring life and coherence to their deepest convictions. No, they just keep their head down and accept what they’re told, lest they be shamed with another stentorian reprimand of “Who are you, O Man [or Woman]?!”
That only shows that my Twitter critic doesn’t know very much about Christianity and its Jewish roots. “Israel” doesn’t mean Submission. That’s Islam. My pious Twitter critic is confused. Rather, “Israel” means to strive or struggle with God. And the identity of this people is embodied symbolically in the story of Jacob and his wrestling with the angel: “The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.” (Gen 32:28, CEV)
Christians have been blessed to be grafted into Israel. And so, to be Christian, to be faithful, isn’t a matter of tossing pious sounding platitudes from the hinterland that quash questions and damn doubts. On the contrary, it is to ask questions, wrestle with texts, exploring various readings as one seeks to bring life and coherence to their deepest convictions. Struggling with God isn’t impious. On the contrary, it’s precisely the opposite: the true disciple shows his or her mettle through the boldness and courage to undertake this journey.
And if that’s what God has revealed to be the true identity of Israel, then who are you, O Man, to say otherwise?