In Wednesday’s reading we were transported with Isaiah into the very throne room of the Almighty One. What a spiritual high! In today’s reading (Isaiah 7:1-9), the prophet has a conversation with the king of Judah, offering God’s message about an impending invasion. In the space of a few verses the reader travels from the Holy of Holies, to the streets of Jerusalem; from singing the praises of God to a clandestine chat with an overwrought politician about the pragmatics of foreign policy.
Wait a minute? Didn’t Isaiah read the chapter in the Primer for Prophets entitled “Religion and Politics Don’t Mix”?
After all, that mantra has been a guiding principle of Western, bourgeois society for so long, some of us may be tempted to think it’s been carved in stone since the days of Moses. Here in this country, with its Protestant hegemony and tendency toward dualism, the principle commonly referred to as the “separation of church and state” has degenerated into little more than an excuse to privatize faith — as if a person’s faith can (and should!) be kept hidden from public view at all times (except within the walls of a building constructed for the purpose of worship). We can no more separate our religious selves from our political selves than we can separate our spiritual selves from our physical selves.
In the days of Isaiah of Jerusalem, everyone understood that religion, tribe (family), politics, economics and everything in between was invariably mixed together — pureed, if you will, into the stuff that constituted a person’s identity (and by extension, the identity of the nation). Isaiah forcefully reminds the king that the real Power protecting Judah is not to be found within armies or alliances. And the Word of the Lord to an anxious monarch is, “Take heed, be quiet do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…”
Imagine that! A religious person telling a politician to be quiet! And at least for that moment, the politician listened!