The Common Good

Silent Prayers and a More Than Perfect Game

There are times when there are no words. There are times when it seems that there is no hope for humankind, that our blindness to the things that make for peace is willful. North Korea sinks a South Korean ship while its own people starve. Israeli commandos board a ship bringing humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza and kill people in the process. The blockade itself is violence. Innocent people suffer. Israel is no more secure. In this case, we know the solution to the problem. Oil keeps gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The limits of human knowledge are evident. The ecology of the gulf suffers. The economy of the gulf suffers. It seems as if the earth is spinning on an axis of madness. Yet we know the earth is acting according to its own logic. It is humanity that refuses rationality.

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There are no words to describe the insanity, the futility, and the vanity of it all. There are no words even when we pause to pray. This is not God's doing. A lament to the Almighty is not appropriate. This is human folly. This is not a question of theodicy, of why an all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing and loving God would allow such suffering. This is our doing.

There are not words to describe the fact of too many words. Accusations and explanations fly back and forth. In the case of the Israeli raid everyone is a victim and everyone is a perpetrator. Regarding the oil disaster, we hear the head of BP bemoaning the effect the disaster is having on his own life while an entire culture and way of life stands in jeopardy. Pundits worry that President Obama does not show enough emotion, as if his anger will solve the problem. There are no words. There are no words to pray.

The good news is that our God does not need our words. God can interpret our groaning, our incredulous sighs, our tears. God's own Spirit intercedes. Romans 8: 27 says:

The Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

When we have no words, God's own Spirit prays God's perfect will.

And at the moment when it seems that humanity is just too self-centered and hard-hearted for redemption, a young man pitches a perfect baseball game. The umpire makes a bad call and the perfect game is not perfect anymore. The pitcher, Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers, is gracious and accepts the umpire, Jim Joyce's apology. They both understand that humanity will make mistakes, and in this understanding, in this forgiveness, we see a more than perfect game. There are no words.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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