'Ich sehe schon im Geist,
Wie er zu Gottes Rechten,
Auf seine Feinde schmeisst'
which were translated as:
'I see already in spirit
how he hurls God's righteousness
at his enemies'.
Now those of you with any German will immediately spot that this is a total mistranslation. 'Zu Gottes Rechten' does not mean 'God's righteousness' but 'at God's right hand'. So the correct translation would be 'I see already in spirit how at God's right hand he smites his enemies'. But this translation error got me thinking. How often are we guilty in our speaking or writing of 'hurling God's righteousness' at those we assume to be God's enemies? Much preaching, for instance, appears to be aimed at the thick-skinned who need battering with the ram of their sinfulness. I wonder how many of those are actually present in our congregations?
Last week, for instance, I went to a church where the main import of the sermon seemed to be 'We ought to be full of thankfulness every day for the blessings God gives'. The trouble was, I was sitting next to a friend who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder
When we write of God's goodness, shouldn't we be making it attractive, rather than flinging it at people to demonstrate their sinfulness? Yes, making goodness attractive in writing is a difficult task. We all know how Milton unwittingly made Satan a more interesting character than God. Yet that task can be done: I think C S Lewis does it in Aslan, and J K Rowling, for all her faults of style (she should have had a better editor) does it in Dumbledore. Let's do more enticing and less hurling.
Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for New Daylight. Veronica used to belong to the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently churchless. She also blogs at reversedstandard.com