America's False Prophets
Ezekiel 13 in light of the reality of climate change. God help us all.
A prophecy from Ezekiel 13
Annotated after reading the recent IPCC report on climate change, which says that without quick, extreme action the effects of climate change are going to be even worse than I realized.
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying.
Prophesy against the false prophets who say business can continue as usual
Prophesy with the scientists
Prophesy with the activists
Prophesy with the indigenous people
Prophesy with the people of the Global South who are suffering the consequences of our sins
Pray that their voices would finally be heard
Even if it’s just by you
Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!
Woe to everybody who claimed to have knowledge and didn’t
Woe to those who claimed to speak for God and didn’t
I know I’m supposed to call you “solid Christian teachers” because you said the right words about the nature of the trinity or inerrancy or whatever
But your lies killed people
and you should have known better
Jesus seemed a lot more concerned with that than “good theology.”
Even though the Lord has not sent them, they say, “The Lord declares,” and expect him to fulfill their words. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, “The Lord declares,” though I have not spoken?
How did “good leadership” come to mean “knowing the right Christian words and bible facts” and not “upstanding moral judgment”?
I once complained to a pastor about repeated, explicit racism from a leader in the congregation, and I did eventually get an apology.
An apology, that is, for the leader’s tone in an argument we had about said racism.
Because in the American church you can say “the Lord declares” all sorts of horrible things and still be taken seriously as long as you’re polite and male and speak calmly enough to let people know it’s everyone else who’s being irrational.
Because racism and care for the poor and IMPENDING MASS DEATH FROM GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION THE AMERICAN CHURCH IS DEEPLY IMPLICATED IN are just “things we can disagree on.”
They’re certainly not important life-or-death matters like the heresy “that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three characterizations of one God, rather than three distinct "persons" in one God.”
(Said leader has since risen to a position of even more power.)
“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.
When, Lord? When?
“‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall.
Jonathan Tobin wrote an entire article in 2018 about how climate scientists were being whiney and dishonest in saying that climate change was getting worse.
And despite how banal and facile and ridiculous this article is, I think it’s actually pretty impressive to do something this evil.
Because if you read the article closely, you’ll notice that Jonathan never actually presents any facts that contradict the scientific consensus. And that’s for a simple reason — he can’t, because Jonathan doesn’t know anything about climate science and has no idea whether or not the scientific consensus is true.
If somebody tells you that your friend’s house is on fire, and (without even checking) you call your friend to try to convince them there’s no fire, you’re a terrible person and probably headed for jail.
If somebody tells you a million people’s houses are on fire, you get to write a column for National Review.
Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth.
We waited too long, and this is exactly what’s going to happen.
And when the rain does stop, it will stop for months and years. The crops will fail. There will not be enough food for all the people.
What will people do when there isn’t enough food?
The eight largest fires in California history have all been in the past four years. People have died and been displaced. The smoke reaches my relatives in Canada. This is only going to get worse.
What will people do when the skies fill with ash?
Others find themselves underwater. The rivers will flood and the seas will rise. If warming hits 2 degrees Celsius (that is, if we do not take extreme action), the ice caps will start to melt and things will start to get really bad.
What will people do when their homes sink beneath the waves?
Desperate people do what they feel they must
There will be violence.
There will be wars.
Some of the warring countries will have nuclear weapons.
When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”
This is not the first wall to collapse.
As people continue to die of COVID solely because of the lies of the antivaxxers, the false prophets have been busy whitewashing the whitewash.
Senate Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso recently insisted that it was the Democrats who had been pushing people not to get vaccinated.
And this was a lie and everybody knows it was a lie and still it doesn’t seem to matter.
When the floodwaters come the wicked will sit in their yachts and tell stories of how hard they tried to stop the end of the world.
And perhaps some buried part of them will know it’s a lie.
But that won’t really matter to those who couldn’t swim.
“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the Lord.
We sometimes talk in the Christian church as if God’s wrath is equally against everybody because we’re all sinners. There is genuine good in this perspective, a sort of humility drawing us all to repent.
But I think it misses something really, really important.
If you flip through the fire-and-brimstone passages in the bible to find the fieriest and the most brimstone-y, you’ll find that they’re always about the same thing: God promising complete and total violent revenge against the rich and powerful who take advantage of (or at least are apathetic towards) the poor and marginalized.
These passages are terrifying, because they don’t promise judgment in the “everyone deserves judgment but Jesus saves us” sense. They depict people who believed they had saving faith suddenly discovering that prayer and belief and all the time they spent in church were worthless in God’s side because they didn’t care for the poor.
I’ve noticed that nobody gets too mad if you talk about that in vague and general terms, but things get out of hand if you name names.
God’s wrath is directed at Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Augusto Pinochet, and every CIA spook and local fascist who helped overthrow the democratically elected Chilean government and replaced it with a brutal military dictatorship.
God’s wrath is directed at Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and everyone else who ripped immigrant children from their families — and especially those who claimed Christ’s mantle in doing so.
And God’s wrath is directed at every oil company, every conservative tv head or blogger, and every pastor whose greed and self-importance led them to help cover up and enable the literal destruction of the world.
This is not “liberal propaganda” or “cultural Marxism” or any of the other meaningless words the false prophets use to label good as evil. This is clear, biblical teaching you can find in almost any book of the bible. Here it is in Matthew. Here it is in Luke. Here it is in all four major prophets. Here’s a bunch of it in Revelation.
And as I’ve written previously, this isn’t one of the past millenia’s many misuses of hellfire language. This is the original intent, one of the most beautiful portions of biblical wrath: in the struggle between the powerful and the powerless, God picks a side.
So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign Lord.”’
What will be left of the church when the prophets are gone? Will we finally have to listen to the prophets we’ve ignored?
“Now, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people who prophesy out of their own imagination. Prophesy against them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the women who sew magic charms on all their wrists and make veils of various lengths for their heads in order to ensnare people. Will you ensnare the lives of my people but preserve your own? You have profaned me among my people for a few handfuls of barley and scraps of bread.
If you want to get really angry, listen to this podcast about an Evangelical Christian leader who tried to get the church to take climate change seriously, only to discover that the Evangelical Christian power centers were more interested in consistent Republican votes than anything Jesus ever said.
By lying to my people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live.
Brian Sicknick should not have died.
Jamey Rodemeye should not have died.
Berta Cáceres should not have died.
Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber should not have died.
Alfonso should not have died.
“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against your magic charms with which you ensnare people like birds and I will tear them from your arms; I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds. I will tear off your veils and save my people from your hands, and they will no longer fall prey to your power. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
“How long, O Lord?”
Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives, therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disheartened.
But I don’t think I want extreme divine judgment.
I just want things to change.
And I don’t know how.
I will save my people from your hands. And then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
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