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Get Away From Me!


2 Kings 18:28-37

35 Where is the god of any country that has saved its country from my power, so that Adonai might be able to save Yerushalayim from my power?’  36 But the people kept still and didn’t answer him so much as a word; for the king’s order was, “Don’t answer him.”

Strange logic. ‘What god has ever saved anyone from me, so how is your god going save you from me?’ It sounds familiar, in a sickening way. In other words, “Who’s gonna stop me?”

In this present time, in this wreck of a world, I feel a glimmer of hope replace my guilt over keeping my mouth shut. I have not tried to ‘speak truth to power’ because my gut tells me it’s useless. It might be cold comfort, but it is comfort nonetheless, to hear the king’s order, “Don’t answer him.” Why do you suppose such an order was given? Could it be that the wise men of those times knew what happens if you try to argue with a manipulator; a liar; a cold-hearted, insatiable, power addict? ‘Nothing good’ is what happens!  In my own experience, the same holds true whether you are speaking ‘truth’ to the king himself, or if you are speaking ‘truth’ to his royal cupbearer. Talk about throwing pearls under the feet of pigs! If someone is trying to con you; if you are in danger of being bilked, gulled, beguiled and deceived; maybe it really is best if you keep your mouth shut. If you are being insulted, made mock of, and abused, maybe it’s better if you walk away. Never negotiate with a manipulator.

How do you speak truth to someone in whom the relationship between language and reality has dissolved? How do you persuade someone who simply isn’t listening? How do you speak to someone who has corrupted the very structure of language for their own degenerate purposes? An even more desperate question: how do you speak to someone who will not even consider that they are being duped?  How do you even begin to communicate with those in power who have succeeded in polluting the plain sense of the very words we depend on to bring us together in mutual comprehension?

No, I think I will sit here on the wall, eating my own dung and drinking my own urine* and obey the command: “Don’t answer him.”

 

(*The Daily Office skips Verses 26 & 27 of 2 Kingswhich read: 26 Elyakim the son of Hilkiyahu, Shevnah and Yo’ach said to Rav-Shakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it; don’t speak with us in Hebrew while the people on the wall are listening.”  27 But Rav-Shakeh answered them, “Did my master send me to deliver my message just to your master and yourselves? Didn’t he send me to address the men sitting on the wall, who, like you, are going to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?”

 

 

1 Corinthians 9:1-15

15b I would rather die than be deprived of my ground for boasting!

What is it with Paul and boasting? He sure talks about it a lot. When is boasting okay? Is it ever? Why does Paul feel compelled to ‘boast’ even though he is quite obviously extremely defensive about it?

(What does he mean by the word ‘boast’ anyway? I think he’s using it to mean merely “to speak of one’s own admirable and praiseworthy qualities.”)

 

I think the answer’s simple. It’s just that Paul’s between a rock and a hard place. People are insisting that he defend himself against accusations that are either just plain lies, or insinuations that make no sense to Paul because they don’t match his world-view. I think the second is more likely. He doesn’t want to defend himself because it’s evident to him that people are paying attention to the wrong things. I’d be angry too, if I was forced to defend myself under false pretenses.

He’s said over and over that his ‘ground for boasting’ is Christ. But these people are ignoring this priority and insisting that he defend himself against something that is all out of context from his standpoint. They are putting him in an untenable position in which he has to respond as if he thinks certain things are important, even though they are entirely meaningless to him, and what’s more, he thinks they’re utterly ridiculous!

I’m reminded of a time that I got called into the patrol sergeant’s office to defend myself against a complaint from a woman who told him that I said “It serves you right” after a traffic accident which was clearly the result of inattention on her part. I simply couldn’t figure out what the woman was referring to. All I could do was tell the sergeant, “I never said any such thing!” I was very uncomfortable, because it was clear to me that he was dubious about my truthfulness. I knew, inside myself, that I could never say such a thing, because I don’t conceive of the world in those terms. The Sergeant, on the other hand, was a person who most demonstrably did think in those terms, so we didn’t have much ground for mutual understanding. I kept thinking about it all day, and finally it came to me. I had opened the front passenger side door, and seen that there were two kids in the back seat. I leaned into the back seat and said, “You guys all right?” Perhaps it was my tone of voice which often comes across in a bit of an autistic monotone, or perhaps my inflection wasn’t sufficiently like a question. Anyway, she apparently heard it as “Serves you right.” What’s worse, apparently the kids heard it that way too. Even worse than that, I don’t think the Sergeant ever really believed that I didn’t say it. I guessed that she was predisposed to hear something like that because she had a guilty conscience, but that’s beside the point. The only point is that I could not discuss the matter without trying to explain my point of view to someone who had no perspective whatsoever on my way of seeing the world.  I only manage to 'get past' events like that due to a lifetime of practice. I’m used to being misunderstood and misconstrued, and having to defend myself within a social context that barely makes sense to me, and so I don’t get too wound up about it anymore.

Huh. It just occurred to me to wonder if St. Paul had Asperger’s too. At any rate, I sympathize with him from the bottom of my heart, even if he did get pretty wound up about it.

Matthew 7:22-29

23 Then I will tell them to their faces, ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’

Again, today's readings are making me feel better about some of the judgment calls I’ve been making lately:

v  To sit starving on the city wall, keeping my mouth shut, and listen to powerful people talk about their plans to make things ‘great’, and accept their utter disregard of the likelihood that pretty soon we will all be eating our own dung.

v  To carry on being philosophical when nothing makes sense in this wreck of a world, and there’s clearly no point in trying to make myself understood.

v  To ignore the pretentious, self-righteous, heartless, and malicious words of people who only want to push other people around and run the show, not to mention feeling quite all right about snubbing every last complainer, backbiter, tattler, or busybody, and saying “Get away from me!”

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