I Have Compassion Fatigue

I have compassion fatigue.  Unlike the sense of physical fatigue which haunts me from late afternoon until early evening each day, compassion fatigue can’t be cured by rest, sleep, a nap, or putting my feet up.  I think the first step toward addressing my compassion fatigue is admitting:  I have compassion fatigue.  Hey, it works for drugs and alcohol.  I have a problem.   (Does anyone know if there’s a 12-step program for compassion fatigue? ) 

I don’t think I’m alone.  A close examination of the map reveals a compassion fatigue deficit at frightening proportions.  We’re having trouble caring for everyone who is beaten, brutalized, and hurt by a world that is just plain mean.

It is hard to be a Christian without some measure of compassion fatigue.  We should be physically and emotionally exhausted.  If church is easy, reflexive, and simplistic without a hint of exasperation then something is wrong.  Then we’re doing church the wrong way in the wrong place.

One noted psychologist defined compassion fatigue as “a state of exhaustion and dysfunction, biologically, physiologically and emotionally, as a result as a result of prolonged exposure to compassion stress.”  (Doesn’t that sound like a typical Sunday at church?)  The psychologist, Dr. Charles Figley, went on to add that symptoms may include behavioral changes, exhaustion, cardiac issues, numbness, depression, becoming easily startled, and a decreased sense of purpose.  (Check, check, check, and check.)

The phrase may be new (first appearing in print in the early 1990’s) but the idea of compassion fatigue is as old as empathy and compassion itself.  Immanuel Kant argued otherwise.  He though empathy impedes morality.  Empathy wasn’t really required for someone to be a moral person.  We know what happens when morality is detached from politics and society.  Time and time again, Kant was proven wrong.  Whether in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or Milosevic’s Serbia, morality divorced from empathy led to human suffering on an epic scale.  To see and respond to such needs on a regular basis for seventy years has been exhausting, especially for mainline Protestants.  People who help others or care about the world beyond themselves become worn out and tired.  Call it what you will, it’s a reality of the human condition.  Yet, despite our compassion fatigue, the world is a better place.

Compassion fatigue is an underlying premise in liberation theologies.  If we’re unable to empathize and feel suffering on some level, how are we able to truly help the marginalized, the needy, the poor, the forest fire victim, the hurricane victim, the flood victim, the everything coming in from around the world victim, answer emails from advocacy groups, call your senator about that “big” issue, and so on?  Welcome back to compassion fatigue.  What do we do?  How do we go on vacation from the need to be compassionate people?

We can’t pause, stop, or break from the need to be compassionate.  That’s not the way Christianity works.  It is possible, within the larger community of believers, to share our responsibilities with others.  We cannot and shouldn’t function alone.  Phone trees, email lists, and conversations work.  Ask for help when needs arise.  Are we raising money, making kits, or finding shelter for the night?  We must rely upon the body of Christ to meet the needs of the body of Christ.

The antidote to compassion fatigue isn’t less compassion.  It might not even be rest.  The world isn’t getting safer, saner, or less dangerous.  The answer, I believe, is living as Paul describes in Ephesians 4.  “Be angry without out sinning.  Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  Anger is exhausting, one might even say fatiguing.  Anger saps our ability to be compassionate.  The world wants to make us angry at every turn.  Hence Paul’s reply, “Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil.”  Let’s not be part of the problem.

Paul has two grand ideas:  don’t do anything that might hinder your ability to be compassionate or harm the community’s ability to assist you in being compassionate.  In Ephesians 4:28, Paul says, “Thieves should no longer steal.  Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need.”

Theft is a crime.  It takes away our sense of safety, sanctity, and security.  A burglar is thief; so are storms, hurricanes, fires, and floods.  All invade, destroy, and take what isn’t theirs to take.  Each leaves persons in need of compassion.  Paul says we should all be in a place to give compassion, in a community.  Our compassion does no good if we’ve excluded ourselves from the community.  How does he phrase it at the end, “with whoever is in need”?  That’s compassion in community, moving beyond fatigue.

He makes the same point again, this time, with language.  “Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth.  Only say what is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.”  Language can be destructive or compassionate.  Will our words be for the benefit of the community in times of need?

Will we use our gifts and graces for the whole of the community, that is, will we ask for help when we are overwhelmed?  Will we speak in ways that build each other up?  Do we have the courage to say, “I’ve got compassion fatigue and need your help to keep going?”

I hope so.  None of us can do any of this thing we call church alone.  We need each other.  That’s the only real answer I have.

Richard Lowell Bryant



The Nuremberg Defense

The Nuremberg Defense still works, at least as filtered through a uniquely
United Methodist interpretation of Romans 13 via U. S. Attorney General
Jeff Sessions’s United Methodist Christian Education. If the German
Lutherans in the dock at Nuremberg had been Methodists from Alabama, who
knows who’d have lived well into the 20th century? If we hadn’t been so
busy trying to keep races from mixing on our own continent, we could have
evangelized an Aryan Europe, eager for our arms-length approach to
Christian responsibility and Christ-like living.

You know what I’m talking about, right? I shouldn’t make that
assumption. The Nuremberg defense was the strategy used by senior officers
of the German High Command when tried by the Allies for war crimes after
World War II. (The trial took place in the city of Nuremberg, Germany;
hence its name). After WWII, when confronted with the horrors of the
Holocaust and ethnic cleansing in Russia, many officers claimed they were
simply “following orders.” These were not personal decisions, which they
may have objected to, but political decisions required by the necessity of
war, went their defense. Another former Nazi, Adolf Eichmann, made the
same defense when tried by the Israeli government in 1961. Lt. William
Calley and those responsible the My Lai massacre in Vietnam echoed the
same defense at their trials in 1971. What does this mean? If you want
morality, don’t look to war. War, as Gen. William Sherman said, is Hell.

Oh, be positive, Richard, it’s a lovely day, you might say. Yet if you’re
still in a detention center and your family is in Honduras and you’re
still in Texas, I’m guessing you’re in a form of hell. But if it’s great
for us, what does it matter for anyone else? That’s how many people say
they feel. Yet if the church is going to help anyone, even in this time of
denominational transition, our ability to remain empathetic must be

In this moment, we’re in a struggle for the survival of the democratic
republic. Those who are waging war on civil liberties, human rights,
freedom of the press, and the religious freedoms of those who aren’t
evangelical Protestants, could care less our impassioned letters to the
editor, daily bouts of incredulity, or attempts to censure members of our
own denomination. When powerful people such as an Attorney General who is
a lay leader in our denomination confidently and proudly relies on
versions of the Nuremberg defense, we’re done. When such a powerful person
can do so with full knowledge that United Methodist bureaucratic timidity
won’t challenge them (“our hands are tied by the Discipline and we refuse
to untie them despite the human suffering we pretend to acknowledge and
loudly bemoan”) we’re done. We’re finished not because of theological
divisions over homosexuality. No, this is far worse. We’ve become
short-attention-span activists; we say care, but after one letter telling
us no, we’re ready to let the institutional word be the last word.

Change was never going to come by compiling signatures. With human beings
still in cages, do we move on to our less “controversial” arguments? Hell,
no! We do both. How do we look at one letter from one district
superintendent claiming to settle the erosion of basic human rights in
America and United Methodism’s complicity in such an evil? I can’t salute
like a good soldier, say “yes, sir” and carry on. We’re well past that

As for the Romans 13 justification, I don’t owe Caesar anything. I don’t
think Paul meant for us or anyone else to transpose the phrase governing
authorities (as he knew them), meaning the Imperial Roman Administration
to 21st century America. I don’t want to be Caesar’s pet. Even Caesar is
subject to God. Our Caesar and those who administer his justice seem to
forget, this God isn’t a reflection of their own vengeful natures, but the
God of the Sermon on Mount. I owe that God everything.

Richard Lowell Bryant

Against the Grain (John 6:35)

I am grateful that Jesus made carbohydrates, particularly bread, central to Christian theology.  I really do like, appreciate, and enjoy bread and food made with bread. In fact, when Jesus says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life”, I have to admit: that’s not always what I hear.  I sometimes understand him to say, “I am the Big Mac of life” or “I am the Domino’s of life” or “I am the Subway Foot long of life” or even “I am the Arby’s and We Have the Meats of Life”.  Sometimes, things with no relation to bread are the bread of life.  Did not Jesus once say, “I am the sweet tea of life?”

Each of these items, in their own unique manner, feeds my soul in a way reminiscent of how Jesus described his identity as the “bread of life”.  Yet unlike Jesus, no matter how many roast beef sandwiches I eat or pizzas I devour, I will, once again be hungry. Like clockwork, my stomach will growl and I will want to eat again. Jesus talks about bread in different terms.  Jesus isn’t like Chinese food; thirty minutes, one good burp, and thrill is gone. No, when Jesus talks about bread and life he means a kind of soul nourishment which isn’t measured or regulated by the cycles of the human body.

He’s moved into the realm of the Energizer bunny, that part of us that keeps going and going despite the food we eat (which will leave us hungry), the house we live in (which will crumble), or the people who surround us (who will die, like us).  Jesus and the bread he’s talking about are part of a much bigger picture.  There are needs at the level of the human soul which are bigger than the Grandest Canyon or the widest ocean.  Jesus is saying, don’t let the size and spectacle of the world cause you to ignore the hunger inside your soul.

Why the “bread of life”?  Bread seems so basic.  Jesus could have used any number of words or phrases to describe himself, right?  Jesus could say, “I am the Messiah” or “I am the Son of God” or “I am the Holy One Come to Bring Life” or “I am Mary’s Boy” or “I am the one who walks on Water”.  The list could go on and on.  All of those are accurate.  Even though I made them up, they’re reasonable enough to believe that someone (even Jesus) might have described Jesus in such a manner.  They even sound less opaque than “the bread of life”.  They don’t require a metaphysical explanation and a deep dive into spiritual metaphors.  Why not choose something simpler?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.

However, I believe bread makes more sense than we realize.  It’s less of riddle than we think it is.  Bread makes the world go around.  Before we had money, before civilizations had cash to run their economies, what made the world tick; bread.  The cultivation of grain is the defining feature in western civilization.  At one point, we were all tribal nomads, wondering around the plains.  One day, that all changed.  We decided to let our animals graze in one place and grow wheat.  Cultivating wheat and growing grain changed the history of the world.  We are who we are because of bread.  We’ve been who we are, for most of recorded human history because of our relationship to bread.  Grain allowed civilizations to thrive.  Bread became one of the keys to life, wealth, commerce, and power.  With the grain, you could get livestock, slaves, and land.

Jesus, on the other hand, speaks against the grain.  He doesn’t talk about grain or its byproduct (bread) in a tangible way reflecting cultivation or accumulation.  For Jesus bread or grain, as life giving as it is, can’t be measured on scale, then bagged, or sold to the highest bidder.  Wheat can’t be planted in the ground, grain can’t be cultivated, nor can bread be baked.  Jesus is talking about something everyone knows, something their parents knew, their grandparents knew and asking them to look inward.  Jesus is going against the dominant culture of wheat, grain, and bread.  What feeds us keeps us captive.  What feeds us leaves us hungry.  What feeds us keeps us apart.  What feeds us is crumbling from the inside out.

We need new food, different grain, and better bread.  It’s not Moses’ recycled bread, rediscovered ways to slice old bread, but a renewal of the spirit that Jesus brings to those who decide to go with him as he runs against the grain.  It’s a rejection of scarcity economics and an embrace of abundant living.  That’s what John means by the bread of life.   It’s kind of scary to walk away from a table full of bread and toward a guy who uses bread as a metaphor.  That is against the grain thinking.  It’s also the most basic act of counter-cultural discipleship Jesus asks of any disciple.  Step from what you know, away from your comfort zone, into an area where faith is your only frame of reference.

Because you’ve been so nice, I’m going to let you in on a secret about the bread of life.  It’s not bread at all.  Jesus is a way of life; life lived on terms of abundance, grace, joy, and love.   Please, don’t mess it up.  For bread’s sake.

Richard Lowell Bryant

You’re Probably Missing the Fascism

The story of David, Uriah’s wife, Uriah, and Nathan carry over into a second week.  How could it not?  Conspiracies, cover-ups, and human misery on this sort of epic scale are rarely confined to minutes or hours.  These are grand events that unfold over days and weeks.  In turn, they impact the participant’s lives over months and years.  Then we, the well-intentioned purveyors of the word believe that we’ll do justice to the multiple layers of meaning found in these texts over a couple of 20-25 minute rap sessions  Who are we kidding? This assumes we have the intestinal fortitude to talk about something guaranteed to make most of the people in church more than squeamish and a little bit angry.

It’s hard to read 2 Samuel.  In one way, it’s like stepping into the third season of Game of Throne having never watched the first two seasons.  You know none of the characters, themes, plot lines, or ideas.  There are just lots of self-indulgent beautiful people sleeping with each other while other people fight needless wars of aggression against an evil it’s difficult to name.  Why should we care about people so distant and foreign to our own experience?  We care because there’s another writer who is also trying to tell David’s story.  Unlike Game of Thrones, this writer (called the Chronicler) is like turning on Fox News and hearing a sanitized version of David’s reign without any of dirty laundry and political baggage David carries.  As painful as may be to get the truth about David, at least Samuel tells the truth.  The Chronicler can’t find Uriah or Bathsheba anywhere.

Whenever I read the history of King David’s reign in 2nd Samuel, particularly those sections the Chronicler chose not to include, it occurs to me that the propaganda tools of “fake news” to attack the truth are at least as old the Bible.  In choosing to tell the story of King David’s rule, the writer of 1st and 2nd Chronicles decided to ignore the most important event in David’s time as King; a moment which would define the course of which followed.  Whether the Chronicler regarded the affair between David and Bathsheba as fake news or a personal indiscretion between the king and his girlfriend, we’ll never know.  We do know this affair led to the death of honorable, patriotic Israelite soldiers and changed the course of Israel’s destiny.  We know that nothing is personal able to remain privileged on the royal altar of narcissism when you’re the king.

Eventually, the world will know that Bathsheba is pregnant.  Bathsheba’s pregnancy, Mr. King David, is not a crime.  What it took to get there and what it means for the kingdom to live with the results of your cowardice and deception; Mr. King David, that places Israel in danger. Israel is in grave danger.

We are in danger.  I think that’s why these passages from 2nd Samuel make me so uncomfortable.  David’s illicit sex and cowardice are gross.  He’s a Harvey Weinstein-like predator.  However, because of his position, his personal faults lead to bad decisions which put the entire nation in danger.  The cheap sex and political cowardice are  essential ingredients to the political and religious fascism David seems intent on creating.

If the worst sin we see when talking about this passage is a man committing adultery, not solider being sent to die by his own king at the hand of his own men, then you’re missing the fascism.

If the worst sin we see is a king who loved God and was in need of forgiveness after adultery, not the woman who was probably raped in a non consensual sexual encounter, then you’re missing the fascism.

If the worst sin we see is a king who couldn’t momentarily see God’s plan for his life, not the abject brutality of his own actions, then you’re you missing the fascism.

Now  you try:

If the worst sin you see is ____________ , not the _____________ then you’re probably missing the fascism.

Richard Lowell Bryant

Following the Jesus Code

The man in question was discovered sleeping under the trees in the upper left, above the brick sign.

Here’s the problem.  I’m bound, even obligated, to follow the Jesus code.  What’s the Jesus code?  It’s this idea of loving strangers, showing hospitality to all, and extending care to visitors who enter my world; especially my life at church.  I signed on to live by the code years ago both in its Old and New Testament forms.  In fact, I’m a big proponent of the code.  I love the code.  On a regular basis, I’ll stand up in church and urge others to adopt the code for themselves.  Living by Jesus’ rules of graciousness and hospitality can be challenging.  Jesus, unlike our world, went out of his way to embrace those who many of us might willingly ignore or reject.  This is what makes following Jesus fun.  We are asked to push ourselves into areas where our comfort matters less than sharing God’s love.  That’s exciting, especially when you’re preaching on a Sunday morning or on in the controlled setting of mission trip with people who look just like you.  On the other hand, following the Jesus code can be unsettling on a Thursday morning in late July, particularly when you find a stoned homeless man sleeping in a hammock in the front yard of the church.

We’ve had a tremendous amount of rain over the past three days.  Localized flash flooding has inundated the island.  Ankle to knee deep water is everywhere.  Crickets, mosquitoes, and standing water have made our summer vacation island a swamp.  It’s humid, hot, and nasty.  The severity of the thunderstorms has limited the number of outdoor campers in the National Park Service and private campgrounds.  No one, if they had a choice, wanted to ride those out.

Hence my surprise this morning at seeing a hammock strung among a few of our only trees.  Someone was camping at the church.  No one told me about this.  I saw a few plastic bags and a man with dread locks, a beard, a knit camp, and well-worn beach wear.  He reeked of pot.

I brought him water.  Water is part of the Jesus code.  Without moving from the hammock, he thanked me for my compassion.  It was just water.  He wanted to know if I was a vegetarian.  I am not.  I eat meat.  This, in his mind, was not good.  Humans, he tells me, are mushroom based life forms.  If we were all vegetarians, wars would cease.  Fish would live in peace with chickens.  Pastors, he says, are all about money and power.  I tell him I’m broke and have no power.  In fact, I’m on the way to the dump.  If I had real power, someone would take my trash for me.  The “Christian/vegetarian humans are mushrooms” diatribe goes on for fifteen minutes.

I keep insisting I need to get to the dump before they close.  He laughs, “I ended up preaching you a sermon, how about that?”  Yes, that he did.  I  heard his sermon.  It was loopy and a little frightening.  However, I hope he felt heard and valued.

“What’s your sermon on this week”, he asked?

“I don’t know”, I said.  I didn’t want to prolong the conversation.  It will probably be about something I call the “Jesus Code” and how it’s been getting me into some blessed and strange encounters for more years that I care to count.  One way or another, Jesus is always asking me to practice what I preach.  It’s easy to tell other people what to do.  It’s another matter altogether to be that person you’re telling other people to be.  Church bigwigs will tell you that church involves a lot fancy things.  This morning, here on Ocracoke, church was offering space, water, and an ear to a stoned homeless guy sheltering from a flood.  I was out of my comfort zone.  That’s OK.  Because it doesn’t get more Jesus like than that.

If this was today, can you imagine tomorrow?

Richard Lowell Bryant

If The Same Thing Happened Here, We’d Lose Our Minds

The scene of this morning’s suicide bombing in Suiweda, Syria

This morning’s news seemed worse than usual.  Forest fires in Yosemite National Park are putting lives and vacations at risk.  While on the other side of the world, apocalyptic blazes are raging throughout northern Greece.  As of this morning, at least 80 people have died fleeing the Greek fires.  In Quetta, Pakistan 31 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a polling station.  It’s Election Day for the entire nation and over two dozen people lose their lives exercising their democratic prerogative.  Then reports came from the government held areas of Syria.  Over 200 people were murdered in multiple ISIS attributed suicide bombings in the city of Suiweda.

These events are horrific tragedies.  In isolation, each one is a defining moment, forever changing the lives and countries of the people involved.  Combined, these tragedies represent the ill defined nature of chaos dominant across the world.  Yet, unless you’re in Syria, Pakistan, or Greece (or listening to NPR’s Morning Edition’s second hour), no one seems to notice.

If any one of these events occurred in the United States; forest fires that kill 80 people, the destruction of a polling station on the first Tuesday in November leaving 30 dead, or a wave of suicide bombings, these would be the biggest stories in America since the September 11th attacks.  There would be non-stop, wall to wall coverage, press conferences, memorials, and tributes broadcast for weeks.  Yet, when it happens somewhere else, we could care less.

It’s not that we don’t care.  If natural disasters hit our hemisphere (or country), we’re quick to mobilize and respond to earthquakes, floods, and fires that impact adjacent time zones.  When summer vacations and second homes are threatened with destruction, America will stop at nothing to help.  We pat ourselves on the back each time this occurs an applaud our community spirit.  On the other hand, tragedies marked by an epic loss of life in parts of the world where it’s easier to send projectiles than prayers, don’t register in our collective psyche.  Though, if similar events were to occur on our election day or devastate an equal number of lives, by God the world better pray, support, and love us because we’re, you know, America.  We take names and remember those who don’t support us with their thoughts and prayers.  Yes, something is wrong with our national sense of narcissism and entitlement.  How can we expect the world to care about us when we know so little about the needs of the countries we’ve invaded, impoverished, and isolated?  We can’t but we do.

Yes, it’s easier to stay wrapped up in our blankets of fear and division.  Who cares if people die in Pakistan or Syria?  Isn’t our ambivalence toward Syrians and the Pakistanis just another means of supporting the troops and signaling our support for never ending war in the Middle East?  It’s ironic, the President and Tucker Carlson debated the hypothetical need for Americans to defend Montenegro but neither man thought to consider why anyone else should be sent to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria.

Shouldn’t we be more worried about the President’s next tweet and who the media says we should hate today?  If we care about Syrians and Pakistanis, from where in our souls will we mine our most precious resource:  righteous indignation?

We’re not moved to outpourings of grief, sympathy, or prayers for Greece, Pakistan or Syria because we’ve been conditioned not to care.  If events are not moving between the axis of Moscow’s meddling, Washington’s swamp, or Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs; we are told that empathy is treasonous.  We’ve signed on to Faustian bargain:  either care about America’s descent in to Fascist tyranny or be counted among the enemies of the republic.  Both sides of the political spectrum make versions of this same draconian argument.  One cannot care about the dead in Greece, Pakistan, or Syria (or anywhere else) and listen to Michael Cohen’s tapes.  This is the lie we’ve allowed ourselves to believe.  It’s a falsehood we tell ourselves.

In the third chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul reminds us that everyone precious to God.  “Every ethnic group in heaven or on earth is recognized by him.  I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith.  As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together will all believers.”

God’s empathy is boundless.  God’s love is wider, longer, taller, and deeper than we can imagine.  It’s big enough to comfort those who lost family in Greece, Pakistan, and Syria.  Paul’s prayer is that we know and embrace this idea of God’s “big love”.  When Paul says, “every ethnic group” he means that God doesn’t have an isolationist foreign policy.  God weeps for the dead in Pakistan, Syria, and Greece.  God comforts the grieving, be they Orthodox Christian or Sunni Muslim.  God’s expansive love is something to be practiced and embodied.  Accepting God’s love is an act of faith.  God is meeting us in the world we call home.  Are we able to see our way to God?   Who knows who we might need to embrace?

Someone’s crying Lord, kumbaya
Someone’s crying Lord, kumbaya
Someone’s crying Lord, kumbaya
Oh Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s praying Lord, kumbaya
Someone’s praying Lord, kumbaya
Someone’s praying Lord, kumbaya
Oh Lord, kumbaya

Richard Lowell Bryant


Revoke King David’s Security Clearance: Send Him Back to Shepherding

Late last night, I took a moment to read through the coming week’s lectionary passages. Over the past few Sundays, I’ve wandered down the Old Testament path, looking at 2nd Samuel. That’s made things a little easier. The gospel and epistle readings have been tough. I say this prayer before I turn to the new readings, “Please God, don’t let them be about treating immigrants fairly, offering free health care to everyone in Galilee, and feeding people who aren’t on a welfare to work program. Amen”. That prayer never works.

Words like immigrants, justice, and peace keep popping up in the readings. It’s almost like Jesus wants me to talk about these important issues. In fact, it’s like the Bible is speaking directly to the social and political divides which haunt America. At those moments when I think I could marry some self-help mumbo jumbo with a bit of Jesus and preach about the “safe” topics; Jesus puts me back in the middle of the briar patch. Sure I could look for something else. I could go to other texts. I could preach a seven part summer sermon series with titles like:

Choices in Prayer

Life in Pieces

Spiritual Ideas I Gathered from Watching Marvel Superhero Movies

How to Calm the Waves of Brokenness

Jesus Died for Your Comfort

God Wants You to Walk on Water

You Have to Get Out of the Boat

Yes, I could preach those sermons but then I wouldn’t be preaching the Old Testament, the demanding stories of Jesus, or the hard words of Paul.  But is that really preaching?  If worship becomes a cross between Tony Robbins and a Ted Talk is it still church?  No.  It’s entertainment.

Still, when I read what’s on offer, I’m sometimes taken by surprise. Last night was no exception. I looked at where we’re headed in 2nd Samuel and there it was: King David is having an affair with Bathsheba. I immediately sent an email to God:

To: God@heaven.org

RE: 2nd Samuel 11

You want me to talk about a powerful ruler who has a history of sexual indiscretions and then commits treason by having one of his own men killed in battle?  Do you realize how awkward this is?  Aren’t people liable to get uncomfortable and draw conclusions to the world beyond church? This is what I’m supposed to preach! Not to mention, there are probably people in my congregation who’ve been impacted, in their own right, by infidelity and betrayal.  Color me queasy.  

Yours truly,


P.S. Amen

God is incredibly busy so I’m not expecting an immediate reply. That being said, I’m going to go ahead and mull this one over. So, without pushing too many hot buttons, I think King David is a real twit. In fact, I am all for removing King David’s security clearance. Have you seen this man’s history? A man who can’t be trusted to be faithful to his own wife or lead his own men in battle and is responsible for the murder of one of his own soldiers has lost the trust of the nation. There are words to describe such conduct: treasonous, cowardly, and a traitor. David has betrayed the very idea that undergirds the Kingdom of Israel and the very God who placed him on the throne. No, this man, this Judean shepherd can no longer be trusted to guide, guard, and shepherd this Kingdom. His clearance must be removed. Maybe, just maybe, Israel needs to think about getting a king who doesn’t give lip service to God.

If God gets back and wants me to talk about walking on water, I’ll let you know.

Richard Lowell Bryant