This is my second poem about Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased, based on the 50th Psalm this time, and in the voice of Russell Crowe’s character, a minister who firmly believes that his faith prohibits sodomy and that, if his son is gay, he cannot be Christian.
Here the rejection of homosexuals is only implied and has no connection with the original text, showing how flexible the rhetoric of divine wrath can be when we choose to invoke against a given group of outcasts. Ironically, the speaker’s commitment to homophobia is extremely inflexible, and takes no note of the highly varied and extremely dated, parochial contexts from which the Bible’s abundant repertoire of hatespeech is culled. This Davidic Psalm belongs to an obscure Levite tradition in the Hebrew original (for extensive footnotes, see Robert Alter’s translation, The Hebrew Bible).
When God speaks to us, when the Lord calls us,
he calls to all creation with one voice
from east of the dawn to west of the night.
From the citadel of the promised land
God’s light seeks us out to show the way home.
We pray that he will come and not be still.
Ahead of his oncoming wrath burns hell,
and his coming is like a hurricane.
Let him summon the hosts of the heavens
and earth assembled to judge his faithful:
“Gather together all the believers,
who would follow the Lord in his mercy”
and let heaven itself pronounce justice,
for Christ the King is our Lord and our judge.
“Hear me, my congregation, when I speak,
as a Christian, what I witness to you.
I preach from the gospel, the word of God.
Not by your offerings does God weigh you,
nor your attendance at service or prayers.
We do not gather here for a head count,
neither does God need our money, our time.
For his are the forests, oceans and skies,
the summits of mountains, the sun, the stars.
He knows every sparrow’s nest and burrow,
all things bright and beautiful dwell with him.
Should God want for praise, come seeking us out?
No – in him dwells all breath in its fullness.
Would he fritter through our pocket money
and set store by our comings and goings?
Come to worship in hopes of thanksgiving,
and tithe in the fulfilment of your vows.
Call on the Lord in your day of distress –
he will save you. For this, we worship here.”
And I say unto the false believers:
“Why do you fling the Lord’s words in my face
and call yourselves Christians, people of faith,
who, in your sin, too proud to be chastised,
have cast aside God’s Testament wholesale?
You follow the wicked in temptation,
surrounded by the vilest criminals.
You dare speak out in defense of evil,
and constantly trip over your own lies.
You sit in the pews, and yet defy God,
betraying the bond that makes us one faith.
All this you have done while I kept silent.
Did you imagine I sanctioned your crimes?
Today I reprove you and make my case.
Reckon with this, you who spurn consequence,
lest the wrath of God bring you to nothing.
Those who come here in thanksgiving know God
and commit their lives to the Christian faith.
To these true believers God shows his love.”