The Modern Prophets Speak Out!

December 28th, 2017 5:38 pm

Hadje Cresencio Sadje is an associate member in the Center for Palestine Studies – SOAS University of London, UK. He is currently a Master student at the Evangelical Theological Faculty – Leuven and has been working with various professional and faith-based organisations, including Christian Peacemaker Team, Caritas Brussels, Peace Builders Community Philippines, and the Foundation University – Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

Hebrew 1: 1-2, New American Standard Bible

“When we speak we are afraid our worlds will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

Audre Lorde, 27 January 2014

Preaching against warmonger and populist global leaders appears to be imperative in every nation today. This has, of course, been prompted both by rising tide of populism and white world-supremacy. The US president Donald Trump, for instance, declares Jerusalem as the capital of Israel that could jeopardize the long-overdue peace process between Israel and Palestine. For some critics, however, Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not new because the previous US presidents have done the same thing. Take for example, Bill Clinton (1992), George Bush (2000), and Barack Obama (2008) during their presidential terms. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Trump’s declaration is menacing the basic international norms. Outraged, three global religious leaders, Pope Francis, Archbishop Justine Welby, and Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit entered a formal concern against this radical curtailment of peace process. Pope Francis publicly expresses, “I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days. And at the same time, I wish to make a heartfelt appeal to ensure that everyone is committed to respect the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.” Likewise, Archbishop Welby resonates Pope Francis’ call for the “Status Quo” agreement (shared religious sites among Jews, Christians, and Muslims) over religious sites in Jerusalem to be protected. As well, Rev. Dr. Tveit, a general secretary of the World Council of Churches, expressed grave concern over president Trump’s destructive announcement. Rev. Tveit argues, “Such a step breaks with the longstanding international consensus, and almost seven decades of established American policy, that the status of Jerusalem remains to be settled. It also pre-empts a negotiated resolution of this most difficult issue in any final peace agreement, which must be achieved between Israel and Palestinians themselves.”

Bob Englehart / Cagle Cartoons – ‘Donald Trump and Jerusalem

If some Christians have often been puzzled by and sometimes hostiles towards Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, and Rev. Dr. Tveit moral stands over Trump’s declaration, I overwhelming agree with the contention advanced by these three distinguished religious leaders that set an exemplary of nonconformity in the age of new global populism. For them, to speak the inconvenient truth and not be intimidated of backlash, to make unpopular moral stand before public opinion, to pursue the right course of action despite overwhelming odds, and to remain firm and valiant—these are the true characteristics of a modern prophet of God.

How important these modern prophets are? Like Desmond Tutu, a living African religious icon, Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, and Rev. Dr. Tveit, draws a striking parallel between the ancient Hebrew prophets and living celebrity prophets. Celebrity prophet, as Walter Brueggemann describes, in his provocative book entitled, Disruptive Grace (2011), “Celebrity prophecy is important among us. Celebrity prophets continue to push the edges of thought and imagination to create space for the rest of us in which to maneuver. Celebrity prophets among us say things that sound to some folk to be utterly outrageous, but then the rest of us sound less outrageous.” Brueggemann added, “You can name celebrity prophets and give thanks to them—Desmond Tutu, William Stringfellow, Michael Sloane Coffin, Jim Wallace, Barbara Brown Taylor, Tony Campolo, Michael Lerner, Brian McLaren, and sometimes me…But after all of them, there is still the day-to-day parish task of the prophetic, not so daring, not so space-creating, not so crazy-sounding (129).” For celebrity prophets, it is necessary to counter acting and reacting to conventional thoughts and wisdom to engage society in a discourse. Over time, these celebrity prophets, Brueggemann points out, are the social conscience that counterweight the selfish, inhumane, and oppressive global system.

One of the tasks of the celebrity prophet is to change our view of the nature of events, to take a look and to see a different level of reality. Take for example, one of the most challenging issues faced by contemporary celebrity prophets, is to re-introduce the liberative meaning of Christmas story. In the US, the Pew Research Survey 2017 shows, the religious aspects of Christmas became less prominent in the public sphere.” They added, Christmas appear to be moving in a more secular direction. Christopher Deacy, a scholar of religion and ‘popular culture’, offers a critical examination of the Christmas holiday. In his book, Christmas as Religion: Rethinking Santa, the Secular, and the Sacred (2016), he observes that consumerism and capitalism distorts the true meaning of Christmas story. Deacy concludes, distorted Christmas holiday become the religion of capitalism. In his powerful Christmas message, “Urbi Et Orbi,” however, Pope Francis unwrapped the true meaning of Christmas story. He argues, “Today, as the winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline, Christmas invites us to focus on the sign of the Child and to recognize him in the faces of little children, especially those for whom, like Jesus, “there is no place in the inn” (Lk 2:7).” He contends, celebrating Christmas should constantly remind us to maintain a credible Christian witness in the public arena. To recognize Christ in the faces of the most vulnerable people around the world. Pope Francis further argues, “We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians…We see Jesus in the faces of Syrian children still marked by the war that, in these years, has caused such bloodshed in that country…We see Jesus in the children of Africa, especially those who are suffering in South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Nigeria…We see Jesus in the children of unemployed parents who struggle to offer their children a secure and peaceful future…We see Jesus in the many children forced to leave their countries to travel alone in inhuman conditions and who become an easy target for human traffickers.” Hence, Pope Francis, being an exemplary of celebrity prophet, contends that we should demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas by choosing to be in solidarity with the poor on the periphery, particularly the most vulnerable children in conflict-affected areas. In Christmas holiday, he argues, we should stop thinking about our self and start thinking about others in need.

In conclusion, the Word of God reminds us, “The righteous will inherit the land. And dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speak justice.” Psalm 37: 29-30 (NASB)

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