Fire and Brimstone
“On the wicked, God will rain coals of fire and sulfur; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous.” – Psalm 11:6-7 (NRSV)
Is God still righteous if the wicked thrive?
Maybe you’ve noticed that there are children weeping in the streets because their parents have been taken from them—by immigration officials, by gun violence, by war.
Maybe you’ve noticed that there are people raging around the world because the systems that should support them have undermined their lives—governments spend money more readily on teargas than on education, corporations prioritize profit over community, religions love orthodoxy more than understanding.
Maybe you’ve noticed your own spirit, listless and wondering “how long?”—how long will hearts bleed, how long will discouragement weigh down souls, how long until hope is realized.
But still wars are waged and walls are built. Still wealth inequality skyrockets and gun sales surge.
Fire and brimstone aren’t raining down to engulf AK-47s.
Coals are not being stoked by the breath of God to incinerate white nationalism.
Is God still righteous?
One of the most essential classes of my seminary years focused on the problem of theodicy—the question of whether God can be good when evil still exists. Our class texts were the novels of Toni Morrison. The answers to theodicy that we found in Morrison’s novels, if they could be called answers, were complicated and sometimes discouraging. Perhaps God’s righteousness can’t be defended in the face of evil. Perhaps God’s goodness could only be found in part and in fleeting moments.
But finding answers wasn’t really the point. The point was to do the work of seeking them: to gaze honestly at trauma and evil, to look hard for hope, and to dig deep for love and life.
I don’t know if God is still good. I suspect God’s righteousness is tarnished, at the very least. But we’re called to keep searching for it—and searching for one another—through the fire and brimstone.
Sweet Jesus, the world is a mess. The wicked thrive and violence multiplies. Find within us what we long to find within you: goodness, mercy, and love.
Rachel Hackenberg serves on the national staff for the United Church of Christ. She is the author of Writing to God and Sacred Pause, among other titles. Her blog is Faith and Water.