Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Prophets and Kingmakers

From time to time I've mentioned the EfM seminar meetings I attend on Sunday nights. It is a four year program where, in addition to theological reflection as a group, students cover different materials in each year of the program. This is my second year, so the focus is the New Testament. Last year we studied the Old Testament in depth, and learned lots of fascinating things that I didn't know before. But, as those readings recede further into the past for me, I can mostly recall general themes and motifs rather than specific details. For example, I know that there was quite a bit about prophets and kings. And in the past few days I've been thinking about the prophet/king dynamic in terms of the role of bloggers in relation to elected officials.

Prophets often were cast in the position of having to "speak truth to power" when the king was not doing right by the "little people". As I was pointing out to Maryscott last night, the problem with being a prophet in that sense is that the job usually doesn't pay very well, and prophets often make a lot of people angry. But prophetic voices are very much needed to remind people of the issues that really matter. At B.R.E.A.D. meetings we often hear words from the prophets, reminding us that we are called to do justice. Martin Luther King, who can himself be seen as a prophetic voice, was known to call upon the words of the Hebrew prophets:

"Let Justice roll down like waters in a mighty stream," said the Prophet Amos. He was seeking not consensus but the cleansing action of revolutionary change. America has made progress toward freedom, but measured against the goal the road ahead is still long and hard.
Bloggers can play the role of prophet sometimes, in that we are often decrying some injustice and (hopefully) mobilizing people to address that injustice. What about kings? Well, bloggers, it seems, occasionally aspire to be kingmakers.

In a February 16 article in Salon entitled Fighting Words, Joan Walsh asked
Maybe I'm the one who's naive, but the whole episode made me wonder: What does it mean if liberal bloggers aren't warriors for the truth, but rather for candidates? What does it mean for media, and what does it mean for politics?
If you read the article, you'll see that Ms. Walsh is (or was, as of February 16) yet another columnist who hasn't received the memo that the proprietor of Daily Kos is not a liberal. But the question she raises is worth considering. I think at the most basic level it is important to have full disclosure about any financial ties between bloggers and campaigns--when such ties exist. But I also hope that we can start to make the media more aware of the diversity among bloggers on the "left". And that many of us have no desire to play the role of kingmaker, precisely because we place a higher value on our ability to continue "speaking truth to power".