THE BLOG
05/31/2010 10:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hearing the Prophetic Call in the Gulf Oil Disaster

I am torn.

The Pastoral Minister part of me wants the BP oil spill to cause as little damage as possible to the environment and to the livelihoods of the good, decent people of the Gulf. For their sake I want the pain to be minimal. Yet my short-term compassion carries with it a fear for the long run.

The Prophetic Minister part of me wants the results of the oil spill to be so utterly devastating to fish, fowl, flora, and finances that it puts us on a new path. Even though the near-term suffering would be Demonic in scope and character, perhaps in the long haul, this is our only hope of being "brought back to the Lord." (Keep reading to see what this means.)

I live in the heart of Texas, far away from the oily waters. The direct effects of overwhelming ruin in the Gulf will be marginal for me personally. I struggle with being guilty of gross callousness and insensitivity for entertaining the prospect of short-term pain in the service of long-term hope.

The Prophetic aspect of my being is informed by the Jewish Prophets. With broken-record tenacity, they asserted again and again that Israel was out of harmony with God's moral order, and that the Lord was going to allow or cause a calamity to come upon his chosen people in hopes of bringing them back to the eternal values.

Thus says the Lord through the Prophet Jeremiah:

How can you say, 'We are wise,

and the law of the Lord is with us'?

But, behold, the false pen of the scribes

has made it into a lie.

The wise men shall be put to shame,

they shall be dismayed and taken;

lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord,

and what wisdom is in them?

Therefore I will give their wives to others

and their fields to conquerors,

because from the least to the greatest

every one is greedy for unjust gain;

from prophet to priest

every one deals falsely.

They have healed the wound of my people lightly,

saying, 'Peace, peace,'

when there is no peace.

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?

No, they were not at all ashamed;

they did not know how to blush.

Therefore they shall fall among the fallen;

when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord. (Jer. 8:8-12)

Strong language like this makes Ralph Nader look timid!

I don't view God as a cosmic Wizard of Oz at the controls of the world, dealing out sticks and carrots. But I do see these scriptures as profound insights into the nature of humanity. In the way we conceptualize recovery from addiction, we acknowledge the truth of passages like this from Jeremiah: the addict has to "hit rock bottom" before he can muster the humility and fortitude to move toward the light. And even George W. Bush confessed that America is addicted to oil.

I understand Jeremiah's Prophetic condemnation to be a graphic expression of the natural consequences of violating universal moral principles. The hope of the Lord's discipline was not masochistic revenge but to bring the lost ones back into harmony with the good and the just.

Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches;

but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord. (Jer. 9:23-24)

The damage in the Gulf is mounting, and the oil spill is now acknowledged as the hugest in U.S. history. At this point the harm is substantial but could still be considered a near miss if it is not massive enough. I fear that if this is the public perception, the BPs of the world will achieve glory in their heroic technological measures. This will then be presented as proof that our genius can save us from any calculated failure. The government will return to its chronic regulatory complacency, and "drill, baby, drill" will return as our operational mantra.

Do we need to suffer full-blown ruination to be awakened to our right mind?

The Pastoral Me and the Prophetic Me remain torn.