The Psalms Summoned Something

By Tommy Airey

In the lead up to the election, I’ve been soaking my soul in the Psalms. I’ve found these Hebrew resistance songs profoundly relevant. They are rearranging my soul with both agony and ecstasy, two feelings foreign to most white folk like me. In hard seasons like this, I tend to get stuck in my head—and then head for the hills. However, these ancient, heart-wrenching words lend me the language to stay present and tend what is buried deep within me.

On these sacred, imperfect pages, the divine is neither distant nor controlling. The good news is that god is not a white man on a heavenly throne, but a life force flowing through human hearts. There is Something that weaves wonders in a web of mutuality. The pastoral people who penned these lyrics believed in a higher Power who heard human pain from a holy hill. Like a good shepherd, this Spirit of steadfast love rose up with rod and staff to respond to the misery and moans of the most vulnerable. Behold, a god who does justice for the orphan and the oppressed.

The Psalms summoned Something that transcended logic and reason in an imperial season much like ours. Orphanages—like border cages—were full. Oppression—like a white militia—was fully-armed. Privileged people loved folly and sought after lies. In response, the Psalmist floods her bed with tears and drenches her couch with weeping. She demands that the divine dash the powerful to pieces like a potter’s vessel. This is not a respectable middle-class faith. For these are people who feel like they’ve been forgotten.

The fury of this faith is coated with karma. Oh God, make them bear their guilt! Not in hell. Right here. Justice demands that those abusing and addicted to power drown in their own deceptive devices. The strong man must taste his own medicine. Surely, wicked ones from the white house to wall street to silicon valley will get snared in the work of their own hands. They have dug their pits and will inevitably fall into the mess they’ve made. Flattery, false advertising, algorithms, bribes, bailouts, campaign contributions —caving in on them.

In these empowering prayers, people of faith and conscience have agency and the powerful are held accountable. This rare brand of religion resonates with me. It is neither crutch nor codependency. It is a spirituality soaked with intimacy. In this frenzied hour, as I find myself fearing the worst, the Psalms dare me to keep reaching—while trusting in Something beyond my own reach. Something surprising. In the coming days of confusion, may the light of this Something shine its face on us.

Tommy Airey is a former high school teacher and Evangelical pastor. He is the co-curator of and author of Descending Like a Dove: Adventures in Decolonizing Evangelical Christianity (2018).

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