Talmud this Shabbat: Gentle Voice / Anguished Voice: Which Voice Does America Need Now?


How does the clear call of the biblical prophet intersect with the mess of the real world?

How does Micah’s uplifting charge—do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God—intersect with grisly the murder of George Floyd by four policemen?

On Shabbat morning we will examine two very different voices of modern prophets.

On April 4, 1968, the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Senator Robert Kennedy (running for President) was scheduled to speak in Indianapolis. The police, the Secret Service, his family, his campaign all strongly urged that he cancel. Cities were on fire with protests. We cannot protect you. Don’t do it. Over their objections, he did it. He delivered a five minute speech. It worked. Indianapolis was the only city that night that did not have riots. Senator Kennedy invited people to go home and pray, and they did.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ classic, Between the World and Me, came out in 2015. Coates’ prose is poetry. His writing is lyrical, evocative—and devastating. He describes the constant fear that attends growing up black in America. The fear of the streets. The fear of teens brandishing guns. But mostly the fear of police. Police who can and do stop and frisk and shoot and kill black Americas who are utterly innocent. His good friend, Prince Jones, is killed at the age of 25 while trying to visit his fiancé. Ta-Nehisi writes the book as a cautionary letter to his teen-age son, knowing that this tragic fate could be the author, could be the author’s son, could be any and all black Americans. Dead. Gone. For no reason. And no accountability.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book is anguished. He does not try to comfort his son. He does not try to comfort his reader. He offers no solution. Racism just is. Black vulnerability just is.

Which voice–Kennedy’s gentleness, or Coates’ anguish–does America need to hear now? The point of prophecy, as Micah Goodman has taught us, is not to predict the future, but to change the future. Can either change our nation’s future?

Access the attachment here.

See you tomorrow at 9:30. Gann Chapel Live Stream.