A Nonpartisan Metaphysics

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord [a] have for his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-14)

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Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-14)

Everyone thinks God is on his side—or her side if you happen to take offense at traditional masculine inclusive language, which said offense, in my informed and well-practiced opinion, has totally and unnecessarily mucked up, dweebed out, and politically corrected into inanity an otherwise venerable and highly polished lingo of masculine domination that still sounds better and communicates more clearly than any unwieldy gender neutral prosthetic construction foisted upon the language by bleeding heart linguists who care more about illusory, self-stroking liberation ideology than they do precision, economy, and artistry, and who have the audacity, the sheer gall to hijack the common tongue, pass judgment on its egalitarian nature, and pronounce, like some high moral tribunal, what is appropriate and inappropriate usage as though they are the divinely appointed mediators between the language and those who would like to use it and can decide what is the new linguistic orthodoxy and what should be burned at the stake.

Like I said, everyone thinks God is on his side—or their side, which, though technically incorrect, is closer to the intended meaning of everybody—emphasis on the every rather than on the one—and which, I hasten to add, is an example of legitimate language drift as opposed to the arbitrary and autocratic formulations alluded to in the previous paragraph, a drift that reveals the organic, democratic nature of a living language, a nature that rightfully resists the tyranny of imposed ideologies of every kind, even its own.

We all assume that our game is God’s game, that our take on the situation simply must be God’s take on it. We draw our narrow lines in the sand to separate the sheep from the goats, mumbling, “He who is not for me is against me.” We point; we scorn; we denounce. Seething in divine approval, we excoriate the blasphemers and bludgeon the ignorant. We haul them to the block and demand God’s allegiance to our righteous cause.

And God says, “I have now come.”

We churn the acid of indignation and vomit our shrill denunciations upon the offenders. Assuming the highest sanction, we call down fire from heaven to destroy the infidel. We are rabid. We cry out with a visceral revulsion, calling for condemnation, calling for blood, calling for crucifixion. We justify our wrath by cherry picking our mint and dill and cummin. O how we love this hate.

And God says evenly, “Take off your shoes. This ground doesn’t belong to you.”

We are incredulous. We don’t take that kind of crap from anybody. If God won’t damn the unrighteous, then God damn him. If he won’t crush the enemy, then we will do it in his name. Bloodlust—national, political, religious—devours us. Zeal for our house consumes us. A shout rises from the primal engines of our collective soul: “Kill the sons of bitches!”

God says nothing. His eyes are hard and implacable. Slowly, deliberately he draws back his two-edged sword. We quiver with maniacal anticipation. “Justice!” we cry. “Justice!” But then we notice that he is not looking at our enemies. Suddenly our glee turns to dread.

He is looking at us.

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