This was written by John J. Shaffer on December 8, 1983, for “Personal Therapy”. At the time the Alaska Mission Annual Conference was in a “dustup” with certain members of First UMC, Anchorage. I didn’t want to throw gas on the fire, but I did have some reflections, so I wrote them down. I have always been fascinated by the “odds” between some of the prophets and their critics. Some times life has been lonely, such as in Nome with 102 business owners opposed me and two supported me, as I worked to take the town out of denial in regard to the alcohol problems. So these reflections was claiming the label of troublemaker. One could do worse.
Some leaders at First UMC were objecting to a resolution that was adopted about the non-payment of taxes. It didn’t have a chance of being adopted by General Conference, but certain members were very, very upset. They requested our church mailing list and to my knowledge, most churches denied their request. That was amusing, as mailing lists are easily available (in those days), but we still denied the request.
I do not recall the order of things in my relationship to First UMC, but one time the leadership sent a letter to the cabinet requesting that certain individuals not be appointed to their church and I was honored to be on that list. Many years later one lay person at First UMC came to East Anchorage to try to stir up my leadership against me. Even those who might have agreed with his position on this and that told him he “get lost” or “get out” or words to that affect. Very affirming…
I Kings 22: Micaiah was called upon by the king to comment upon an issue of his day. However, the King didn’t really want to hear him, because Micaiah always said bad things. But he also had a reputation for knowing the truth! The King’s counselors warned Micaiah that the vast majority (about 400) were telling the King what he wanted to hear, so Micaiah had better do the same. So he did. However, the King didn’t believe the good news. One person even slapped Micaiah in the face as he was exhorted to tell the truth. You can read all about it in I Kings 22.
Many in that day served Ba’al. In point of fact, they worshipped Ba’al. In their own words they would say: “We worship the Lord. We are faithful to the Lord”. But, when one examined their lives, it was Ba’al who was their Lord.
When the prophet in their midst suggested that serving Ba’al was not wise, he was told to be quiet, for it was clear to them that the vast majority could not be wrong. One time, when they took the time for a survey of opinions on the subject, the vote was about 400 to 1.
Of course that one vote made them very uncomfortable for some reason. Some were even angry. Did they know that history would show that it was possible for minorities to be correct?
They would argue with the prophet: “Isn’t there room for more than one point of view about the ultimate meaning of the universe?”
“Certainly”, said the prophet, “there is room for more than one point of view. I certainly believe and think so. Let us hope that the Lord God Almighty thinks so, too.”
So the prophet continued to assure the king that the ‘horns of iron’ which he possessed would defeat the enemy in battle.
To jump to the end of the story (or was it the beginning?): they did not defeat the enemy.
Meanwhile, the prophet was not very popular. Those who were still speaking to him berated him for his prophecy of doom for the King. They didn’t have the insight to know why the favor of the Lord God Almighty had been withdrawn from the King. The King had not only switched gods on the people, but he had been dishonest on other matters. He lied to the people and he may have even lied to himself, saying that the things he stole from others really was his in the first place. After all, he was the King, wasn’t he?
So his followers said to the prophet: “Why can’t you support the King in all things? Where is your sense of patriotism and loyalty to your nation/King?” They said, “The next thing you know, you will be criticizing the King for oppressing the poor or crushing the needy or for spending more energy on making wine than in helping the people.”
Micaiah indicated that Elijah had taken care of the latter problem, but “I will leave the other matters to Amos…he will take care of the sins of another century.”
Again his distractors railed against him: “I suppose you will also criticize the King falsely for oppressing the widows and orphans.”
With uncharacteristic patience, Micaiah replied, “No, I will leave that up to Malachi. Our names are similar, but our word is not the same. Similar tune, but different words.”
“How can you do this to us”, said his friends, “if the king goes down, we will go down with him. Would you rather be ‘pink’ (the color of Syria even in that day) than ‘dead’?
Micaiah lost his patience: “Let’s get our centuries straight. That issue must confront the prophets of the 20th Century. We have enough problems with Ba’al and the Syrians, without worrying about decorating schemes.” The issue is not ‘pink’ or ‘dead’. The issue is being faithful to that which we know. Nothing else matters.”
It seems that every age must decide whether or not to trust the gods of the surrounding culture or the military establishment or the Lord God Almighty. Quite often it seems that the majority would rather come at this issue from the point of view of strength.
Yet we must ask this question. Who is stronger than the Lord??? Will our military might protect us from judgment?
It did not protect Ahab from the judgment for taking that which did not belong to him. As powerful as he was, the dogs licked up his blood.
What God are we serving in the 190’s.
Does the image of the fiction writer of a bomb being the center attraction for our worship setting seem to be coming to a reality in the world today?
1984 is coming!
And then the judgment!
I Kings 18:17-18
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” and he (Elijah answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Ba’als.”
Who then can be called a troublemaker in 1983?
It is 2015. Churches continue to display national flags in the sanctuary. Our nation continues to spend great resources for military hardware while children starve. Ba’al is still in our midst.