“And the LORD has given over the kingdom to your son Absalom.”
Today’s reading from Samuel raises a fundamental question about God’s relationship to human events, especially human conflicts. Whose side is God on and how can we tell if this is really so?
Since I’m not a Scripture scholar, I Googled Absalom to get a better understanding of what was happening in this passage. It seems that Absalom was leading a revolt against his father, King David, for control of the kingdom. At the height of this struggle, Shimei, a relative who obviously hated David, informed the king that the Lord had sided with Absalom as punishment for David’s murders within the tribe of Saul to which all three belonged.
I’m interested in Shimei’s assertion because it is similar to countless claims throughout the ages that people have made during all sorts of conflicts. God is my ally and your enemy. God gave this kingdom to us and you don’t have any right to it. God made us superior and has ordered us to rule over you. With God on our side, we’re bound to win and so forth.
But in such situations, I ask questions similar to those that arise from this passage. How did Shimei know that God had given the kingdom to Absalom? How can we verify claims that God agrees with us? Have we heard this from the Lord?
I recall Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J. telling a group one time that the voice of God can sound a lot like our own egos if we’re not careful. Whenever I hear anyone, especially a politician, giving us God’s take on his or her pet issues, I go back to Fr. Gillick’s reality check.
During an election year that is already turning nasty, it’s important to remember that good people including those drawing from the same inspirational sources will differ on policies; unless I’m missing something, God hasn’t been writing legislative proposals for anyone. He’s not a campaign strategist, political commentator or warlord any more than He’s the coach of either Super Bowl team or even the sixth man on my beloved Creighton Bluejays basketball team.