Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? … [The One] who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. – Psalm 2:1, 4 (NRSV)
The psalmist’s “why” isn’t a hard question to answer. Why do the nations conspire? For wealth, for power, for leverage. Why do the peoples plot? For vanity, for jealousy, for the false promise of security. Why wouldn’t there be international collusion and systemic connivance? Is there any downside?
I genuinely don’t know. The threat of God’s derisive laughter certainly doesn’t seem to keep many people awake at night. Truth be told, it doesn’t keep me awake at night either. But I can toss and turn for hours over people’s manipulations and nations’ geopolitical maneuverings.
Why other people do what they do the way they do it—especially when I don’t understand their rationale—too easily pricks my irritation. Why does someone ask an obvious question instead of researching the obvious answer? Why do people call instead of text, or text instead of call, or schedule a meeting when they could just send an email? Why do white people trip as hard as we do over the fear of others, and the fear of accountability, and the fear of equality?
My spirit conspires within itself about others’ motivations, and it is hard-hearted against the idea of allowing much (if any) room for the benefit of the doubt. God help me, there’s a satisfying righteousness in derision.
But derision is God’s prerogative, not mine. I don’t have any business (or holy injunction), none whatsoever, to conspire and plot unless I am conspiring against the vanity of my own righteousness or plotting to undermine my judgmental assumptions about others.
I don’t know why people do what they do, God, but I have my hands full just trying to understand my own self. Let my heart and my plans be accountable to you, first and foremost.
Rachel Hackenberg serves on the national staff for the United Church of Christ. She is the author of Writing to God and the co-author of Denial Is My Spiritual Practice, among other titles. Her blog is Faith and Water.