Krista Tippett interviewed Walter Brueggemann in 2013: Some notes-
- Who were the prophets?
- …on the one hand, they were rooted in the covenantal traditions of whatever it was from Moses and Sinai and all of that. The other thing is that they are completely uncredentialed and without pedigree, so they just rise up in the landscape… the people that control the power structure do not know what to make of them, so they characteristically try to silence them.
- But if I just ask you to choose kind of a quintessential passage, maybe Jeremiah, maybe Isaiah, or maybe just one that has remained especially meaningful to you over the years?
- Jeremiah 4. It goes like this: “I looked” — and you don’t know who I is — “I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid waste before the anger, before His fierce anger.”
Well, you get the “I looked,” “I looked,” “I looked,” and what that text really is is Creation in reversal, so you go from heaven and earth to mountains, to birds, to humans, and he’s describing it all being taken away at one time. When I hear that kind of poetry, I get chill bumps because it seems to me so contemporary that I think that’s how very many people are now experiencing the world. It is as though the ordered world is being taken away from us and it’s just so powerfully exquisite.
- The other text I’ll read is Isaiah 43. It’s a very much-used passage. “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” And apparently, what he’s telling his people is just forget about the Exodus, forget about all the ancient miracles, and pay attention to the new miracles of rebirth and new creation that God is enacting before your very eyes. I often wonder when I read that, what was it like the day the poet got those words and what did it feel like and how did he share that? Of course, we don’t know any of that, so it just keeps ringing in our ears.
- So what is it hard for preachers to talk about here?
- Well, I think at the broadest level, it is hard to talk about the fact — I think it’s a fact — that our society has chosen a path of death in which we have reduced everything to a commodity. We believe that there are technical solutions to everything, so it doesn’t matter whether you talk about the over-reliance on technology, the mad pursuit of commodity goods, our passion for violence now expressed as our war policies…
- OK. You know, another one of those words that recurs a lot in your writing that comes also from the text is another word that we don’t have in our culture very often. It’s mercy. We talk about forgiveness, we talk about reconciliation. Mercy to me is something different, something bigger. Tell me about that.
- You may know that the Hebrew word for — Phyllis Trible has taught us that the Hebrew word for mercy is the word for womb with different vowel points. So mercy, she’s suggested, is womb-like mother love. And it is the capacity of a mother to totally give one’s self over to the need and reality and identity of the child. And mutatis mutandis then, mercy is the capacity to give one’s self away for the sake of the neighborhood.
- You wrote that “God is the map whereby we locate the setting of our life, that God is the water in which we launch our life raft, that God is the real thing from which and toward which we receive our being and identify ourselves. It follows that the kind of God at work in your life will determine the shape and quality and risk at the center of your existence. It matters who God is.”
Now none of us do that completely, but it makes a difference if the quality of social transactions have to do with the willingness to give one’s self away for the sake of the other rather than the need to always be drawing all of the resources to myself for my own well-being. So it is this kind of generous connectedness to others and then I think our task is to see how that translates into policy. I think that a community or a society finally cannot live without the quality of mercy. The problem for us is what will initiate that? What will break the pattern of self-preoccupation enough to notice that the others are out there and that we are attached to them?