ON BEING CRUSHED BY THE ALMIGHTY TERRORIST
From These Terrible Times
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; those crushed in spirit he delivers.”
The Thirty-Fourth Psalm of David was recited in early synagogues to assuage the anxieties of sufferers with promises of divine deliverance from suffering. The psalm is designed to encourage the brokenhearted no matter how crushed they might be. Indeed, the Lord is closest of all to brokenhearted and crushed people. The Lord is largely ignored at feasts but let there be famine or some other disaster and he is loved. Frightened people fear and therefore love the Lord most of all.
Yes, a condition is attached to salvation: one must fear the Lord. Lions may go hungry but people who fear the lord, particularly poor people, will have everything they need. And all who fear the Lord will have nothing else to fear besides the Lord, for the angel of the Lord sets up camp around each person who fears Him. Therefore if a long life is desired, we must fear the Lord and be not ashamed to look up to Him with beaming faces. Of course one who fears the Lord will refrain from evil and do good. At least he will not slander people and lie. Most importantly, he will seek peace. In return, the wicked shall be slain and the righteous man’s enemies shall be condemned to the worst dooms.
Downtrodden self-righteous people to whom the psalm is sung will no doubt begin to wonder: “When will the omnipotent Lord save me and kill my wicked enemies as promised, for crying out loud?” In due course of time, of course, and only the Lord knows when. The righteous man may be troubled, but he shall assuredly be delivered from all of his troubles, and not one single bone of his body shall be broken, or so it is said.
Imagine the misery of the person who has taken the Lord’s word to heart, who has feared the Lord, who has been righteous, yet is crushed nevertheless. A preacher’s claim that ‘crushed’ means that contrition, or merely feeling crushed, is called for because, figuratively speaking, one’s swollen pride has been crushed flatter than unleavened bread by the weight of original sin, is hardly comforting to the person who has in all humility obeyed authority yet has been literally crushed. The preacher’s sickly sweet claim only adds insult to injury. And the claim that a vessel must be broken before being filled with a new spirit is absurd to someone who needs food and water instead of empty words in the first place. It is difficult to see how anyone but the Lord’s Fool could be consoled by such nonsense.
The paradox of the existence of evil in a creation supposedly created by a one and only omnipotent and benevolent god has perplexed people for ages; or rather that god is a projection of their confusion to begin with. Sacred scriptures are rife with contradictions conveniently employed to justify any action whatsoever while avoiding the appearance of hypocrisy by clever argument and feigned humility. Nevertheless, a man may no longer feel righteous when he is literally instead of figuratively crushed. Postmodern Christian doctrine may maintain that we no longer need to be actually crushed in body and spirit since the Son of the Lord was sacrificed as a substitute or scapegoat for us all; we merely need to be figuratively crushed, in heart, the ancient seat of the mind, lest we become unbearably arrogant in our feel-good religion. However that may be, right may seem wrong to a crushed person; instead of fearing the Lord, which is good cause for loving Him and doing His bidding lest one be crushed, a man might hate the Lord. Or he might deny that the Lord exists except as a convenient myth to protect landlords and other overlords. The crushed man may then revert to his natural jungle-right to survive by any means whatsoever, embarking therefore on a relatively evil or natural course. He may proceed to rob and kill and rape, perhaps in the name of the creator of the law of the jungle, in order to obtain food, defend himself and propagate his kind.
Nonetheless, there are always martyrs or witnesses to the long-term advantage of righteousness; the more crushed they are, the more they suffer, the closer are they to nothingness or death, the nearer are they to salvation. At least among their own people they must not take the Lord’s law, which is hopefully engraved on their hearts at an early age, into their own hands and revise it according their own will, say to justify killing the local landlords and distribute the spoils to crushed poor folk that they may actually inherit the Earth forthwith.
Perhaps the real Jesus would put to scorn the old adage of militant men, that a life not worth killing for is not worth living, and claim that a life one must kill for is not worth living, therefore thou shall not kill but be shall be killed instead. The Lord’s martyr must suffer in all humility and welcome every indignity at home, at least until the Lord calls upon him to wage war or jihad on an enemy, in which case even greater suffering and degradation is required to preserve a person’s way of life no matter how depraved he or his leaders might be. in reference to the Thirty-Fourth Psalm, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (1981) compares saints with a warmongering hero:
“It is a fact that although the afflictions of righteousness are many, they continually enjoy the Lord’s deliverance out of them all, David’s own life, as well as the lives of the Tribulation saints, being dramatic examples. The latter will experience God’s great deliverance, whether by being spared death or suffering martyrdom; in fact, their martyrdom will bring them even greater reward and glory.”
Wherefore even the righteous are crushed until contrite; they may then every so humbly rise, leavened by the Lord’s spirit, to exalted heights, perhaps by means of new towers, until crushed and born again.
The Hebrew term for ‘crushed’ was interpreted for us long ago and rendered as ‘contrite’, but several revised bibles have reverted to “crushed.” The Jewish Publication Society Hebrew-English Tanakh (1999) translates Psalms 34:19 (verse 17 or 18 in some bibles) as: ”The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; those crushed in spirit he delivers.” The Authorized Version of the English Bible (1611) reads: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” The term “contrite” is favored over ‘crushed’ in the Jewish Publication Society’s The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoreth Text, a New Translation. “Contrite” is also employed in the Fifty-First Psalm (51:19) and in Isaiah (57:15) of the Tanakh. Now ‘contrite’ is derived from the Latin, contritus, which means “worn-down or crushed,” but the English terms are not synonymous.
To be ‘contrite’ is to be overcome by a sense of remorse or feelings of guilt and therefore wanting atonement. Someone might be literally crushed through no fault of their own. The doctrine of original sin may be wheeled in to find fault, but why should a righteous person feel guilty? One never knows if one is entirely righteous; indeed, “Nobody is perfect.” Now we might think that, If it were not for that one little mistake or sin, that visible blemish on the bullock sacrificed to the Lord, or the invisible blemish on the crushed heart offered up for sacrifice, then and only then…. But on second thought we think not, for every person with a conscience must fear the Lord if not his or her own male superego, and is guilty no matter what s/he does, for the origin of the sin or fault is in self-conscious existence, in not being one with the Lord; which is to say that the error is in being born in the first place. No wonder there is so much evil in the world; and there shall ever be evil until humankind is equally mixed, crushed, and baked as flat as matzo bread, or, if you prefer, is beaten and rolled flat as a pancake for the Lord’s Breakfast, that a New Day might proceed.
Apparently much of what we call ‘evil’ is the rod of the Lord exacting punishment for our wickedness. Luther believed that the Muslims were an iron rod wielded by the Lord. Luther admonished Christians to be duly educated as to their own sin while engaging in the just war – according to his formula, to rise against one’s own lords is unjust unless they be conspiring Catholics. We might ask, with all due respect, Was it Luther’s Rod of the Lord that flattened the symbolic Twin Towers of America’s military-industrial-oil complex? If it is true that everyone is a sinner, we might in all fairness ask if the pride of the sinners within and without were duly crushed into contrition by the criminal deed. Yes, we hear that the Warriors of the Lord have gone to the Better Place and are united with the Lord. They fought the good fight on Earth, or else they would not have received the Purple Heart or the civilian equivalent. Did their families, friends and countrymen repent of their own sins before seeking the Lord’s vengeance on the wicked enemies implicated by the leadership? We hear a resounding “No.” And they shall presumably suffer greatly until that No is converted to Yes.
How cruel! It would seem that true believers would make sacrifices and suffer to help the crushed even though the crushed are not contrite or willing to grovel. Never mind those who are too crushed or insane to realize their errors. Is there no mercy or forgiveness or salvation for those brokenhearted people who are crushed yet do not feel they are guilty for their predicament? Apparently not…. Perhaps if they and their forebears had done unto others as they wanted done unto themselves they would not have to suffer the present predicament. Until then, many habitual liars, cheats, thieves and killers not to mention terrorists and freedom fighters knowingly do evil with apparent impunity; white-collar criminals legalize their own crimes in Congress and Court and prosper all the more by the immunity. Perhaps all of the above need more crushing, their lands lain waste and abodes reduced to rubble. Only then, as the Fire and Brimstone preacher knows so well, shall people see the light and repent. But the New Interpreters’ Bible (1996) begs to differ with the old interpretations:
“’Contrite’ is a more interpretive translation of a word that literally means ‘crushed’… God does not want ‘broken’ or ‘crushed’ persons in the sense of ‘oppressed’ or ‘dysfunctional.’ Rather, God desires humble, contrite persons who are willing to offer God their whole selves.”
That is kind of God, we think, but what is to be done besides the self-sacrificial, religious worship of the god who is absolute power? How is power to be distributed? Those who have little power might grovel in the dirt at the feet of those who have much, doing so figuratively speaking, and as a matter of attitude present their rears to the Lord’s representative, obeying his bidding for whatever they might get out of it, which might be a lot in the long run if the king or his democratic-republican court be benevolently disposed.
But the self-righteous misinterpreter of divine will, in all the sin of pride and arrogant exaltation of false humility, laid claim to Jesus Christ as his political hero and donned the crown of the false god he defined for the political salvation of his self, kith and kin, giving mere lip-service to the god of the brokenhearted and crushed. Instead of uplifting the crushed, as a compassionate king would uplift his subjects, the tyrant placed his boot on their necks and made the demand the despot makes of slaves: total submission and obedience, or torture and death. We might as well call him god, even though he would piously deny the identification. But fear not, for the Lord is close to the brokenhearted; those crushed in spirit he delivers.