I grew up on Country and Western music. There was one that I remember quit well that had a catchy phrase, "If loving you is wrong, I don't wanna be right." As I read Out of Babylon by Walter Brueggeman, new words for that tune came to mind, "If heeding this book is right, would we prefer to be wrong?" Do we want to hear the prophetic voice so clearly articulated on these pages.
Using the words of the Old Testament prophets, Brueggemann proclaims a prophetic challenge indirectly. He teaches us and then he challenges. He invites us to consider whether or not the dominant culture of the American empire and the way of life found therein shares patterns found with the empire of Babylon. And just as Israel lived in exile under Babylonian captivity and had to carve out a way of life that was faithful to its calling, so too the church today. He writes, “The experience of Israel in empire was a ready venue for the continuation of prophetic rhetoric that admitted no compromise with empire” (132). This kind of black and white prophetic confrontation worked well under the Babylonian rule.
However, the book concludes by describing how the Israelite exile shifted under the Persian empire. Instead of being dominated by a foreign empire, Persian rule allowed Israel to exist without domination, even to the point of helping to fund and rebuild the Temple. Therefore there was a shift of prophetic challenge during that time. The militant model of contrast and confrontation during the Babylonian period changed to one of accommodation and resistance, one that Brueggemann states “required a great deal more agility” (134).
There is no doubt that America is the dominant empire in the world at this point in history. And with any empire comes specific ways of life that usually relate to power, privilege and possessions. If these are left unchallenged then we acquiesce to their power over us. The rushing current of the dominant culture carries us along with it and we slap a little church and Jesus on top of it.
We need prophets today who will challenge this way of life and present alternatives. In some cases, we need direct and confrontational proclamations, those that resemble the confrontation of Babylon. In other cases, we need words of accommodation and resistance. Following Jesus in this day requires much more than just boldly proclaiming what’s wrong with America. We need prophets who will do the difficult work of pointing out the places where we rejoice in the freedom of life we possess, while at the same time identifying the places where we need to resist, standing against the flood waters of the dominant culture that sweep us up and carry us along.
You won't like everything he has to say. You may even throw it across the room because his words frustrate you. But if he is right, how can we be a church that it right? Check our more about the book by reading other reviews below.