"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who sent an angel and rescued them! They were willing to die before worshiping any god but their God. Therefore I decree that anyone who says anything against [their] God should be cut into pieces….'" - Daniel 3:28-29
Um… Let's see if I have this right:
Three servants of God, whose names are fun to sing, refuse to worship the god of the king, whose name terrorizes lay readers everywhere. So the king throws them into a furnace, expecting they'll burn to a crisp, thus proving they worshiped the wrong God. But they're not even singed, thus proving that their God is better than everybody else's. The king, who loves a winner, then decrees a gruesome death for badmouthing God, creating, as we say, a chilling effect in the kingdom.
Um… Where to begin?
Well, a big yay for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who had the courage of their convictions. Would that more of us refused to count the cost. But a big boo for the idea that getting badly charred while demonstrating your faithfulness is pleasing to God.
Another yay because the king is suitably impressed by God. Now, if he comes to know God truly, maybe he'll do justice. You always hope a few kings will. But boo for thinking you can know God by violence. And double boo for thinking that because you've got religion, you should therefore slaughter people who don't.
So, yay for great old Bible stories. But boo for them, too. Boo and yay because once upon a time you might have read this story and thought it heroic; now you might read it and have your doubts. Yay and boo because it cuts both ways. Boo and yay because the more you read, the more you think twice. The more you're called to grow.
Um… Holy Spirit, you've made scripture so challenging. Thank you for keeping me reading, re-reading, and thinking twice. Thanks for making me grow.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.