“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign…He did what was right in the sight of the Lord…in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the sacred poles, and the carved and the cast images.” – 2 Chronicles 34:1a, 2a, 3b
One of the ads in the UCC’s recently-announced Stillspeaking 2.0 campaign says, “The Bible is like GPS. A brilliant guide. All-knowing. Occasionally wrong.”
If I had to choose such an occasion, I might pick 2 Chronicles 34, in which the adolescent king, Josiah, is applauded for destroying the holy places of other religions. It reminds me too much of recent events that seem anything but praiseworthy.
Six times in the Hebrew Bible we are told that God is a jealous God. If those words themselves are not wrong, their interpretation at least is leading us off an unfinished bridge.
I refuse to worship a jealous god, the kind of god that requires the destruction of others’ sacred space. Whether that space is a holiday party in San Bernardino. Or a cafe in Paris. Or the mosque in Pflugerville, Texas, where vandals broke in last November and covered a Quran in feces.
The god who needs such protection is the true idol. That god sounds less like the creator of the universe and more like the creation of teenage tyrants.
I worship the God well-pleased with another young man: the 7-year-old Texan who emptied his piggy bank as a peace offering to his Muslim neighbors. He, I believe, did what was right in the sight of the Lord.
Mighty God, you need no protection. May your unswerving love be our compass when the GPS fails.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.