To Build Up and To Destroy: Day 9


So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ The people did not answer him a word.Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred and fifty. Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.’ All the people answered, ‘Well spoken!’ Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.’So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’ Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.

 Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come closer to me’; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down; Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, ‘Israel shall be your name’; with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, ‘Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt-offering and on the wood.’ Then he said, ‘Do it a second time’; and they did it a second time. Again he said, ‘Do it a third time’; and they did it a third time, so that the water ran all round the altar, and filled the trench also with water.

 At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt-offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.’Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.’ Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there. – I Kings 18:20-40


It’s really hard to read this story today. Yesterday, a man went into a Mosque in New Zealand and opened fire on the people there. He then did the same at another nearby Mosque. He did it in the name of white supremacy. He was opposed to foreigners and refugees.

I won’t be surprised if he invokes Christianity at some point.

At least 49 people are dead. 49! I can’t wrap my head around it.

We have to own how texts like these support the ideologies of those with extremists views. When I was taught this story as a child, Elijah was seen as the hero, the deaths of the prophets of Baal completely justified because they worshiped the wrong god.

We’ve used the “wrong god” argument to justify colonization and slavery. We’ve used it to justify genocide. We’ve used it to justify every manifestation of white supremacy and Islamophobia.

The “wrong god” argument must be rejected. The “wrong god” argument is evil.

I have a handful of Muslim friends, not as many as I would like, but I want them to know that I won’t support a faith that invalidates theirs. I won’t be part of a community that undermines their experience of the Divine. I won’t be silent when I see people make broad generalizations about their faith, just as I don’t want to be associated with the worst elements of mine.

This story about Elijah reminds me of those who are committed to the idea of Christian apologetics. It’s all about proving that our god is “right” and other faiths are “wrong”. I used to be one of those people and I repent of that. God, forgive me!

No one has the market cornered on understanding the Divine mystery. Certainty is the true enemy of faith.

I’m angry, sad, but not shocked. These things don’t shock me anymore and that in and of itself may be the saddest part of all of this.

Maybe it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: white supremacy is one of the things that must be destroyed if we are moving into a new world. We have to dismantle it in its most violent forms as well as its more subtle, insidious forms.

The world that we are building needs to have space for all faith expressions. No one owns the Divine.


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