Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood

Psalms of Shame for an Achy-Breaky Heart

#Twible Ps 69: G, I know you don’t really want my enemies to triumph here. It would make you look like a total wuss deity. Man up, please.

There’s a whole lot of shame in the Psalms.

I guess it’s not surprising, when you remember what a shame-based culture Israel seems to have been. Generally, the Psalms speak to the kind of shame you would expect: we want God to make our enemies look and feel absolutely terrible. We want them to be full of shame, and to never triumph over us again. You can hardly turn a page in the Psalms without seeing pleas that our enemies would wallow in shame. (I find this cathartic, in my diseased and spiritually immature way.)


But one thing I’m learning in the Twible is that the Psalms also appeal to God’s sense of honor and shame. Some of the Psalmists seem to have almost baited God into doing justice, working under the very human premise that surely God would want to save face in front of archrivals like Baal and Tiamat. How could God continue to let the poor suffer and the wicked prosper, when his own honor was at stake? Why wouldn’t this God take care of his own?

There’s also a backhanded missionary zeal to this shaming. Some of the Psalms inquire of God, “If I’m one of your followers and my life so very obviously sucks eggs, then why would anyone else ever want to sign up for life with you?” Psalm 13, for example, wonders aloud how long God will stand by and watch while the Psalmist suffers. The subtext is accusatory. If God treats his friends this way . . . .


Many of the Psalms were used liturgically and in worship, and it’s interesting to imagine singing this kind of woe to God. Theologically, it’s akin to an achy-breaky country music song. God done did the Psalmists wrong.

#Twible Ps 65: Thanksgiving Psalm. G waters the earth, provides us w/ grain, & crowns us w/ bounty. Please pass the yams, rolls, & pie.

#Twible Ps 66: G, you put us thru hell, stomped on us & let our enemies triumph. But we deserved all that. SO glad you still love us.

#Twible Ps 67: G’s so amazing that it’s a mystery why all the nations around us don’t fall down in worship. Give it up for our G, Egypt!

#Twible Ps 68: Loooong Ps; basic message is this: Don’t mess w/ G Soprano. He’ll split our enemies’ heads open & break their kneecaps. Yay!


#Twible Ps 69: G, I know you don’t really want my enemies to triumph here. It would make you look like a total wuss deity. Man up, please.

#Twible Ps 70: O Lord, make haste to help me. Just FYI, “haste” means “hurry.” As in, step on it. Now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

#Twible Ps 71: Even to old age & grey hairs, do not forsake me. Even to lumbago & arthritis & dementia. Even to incontinence. Wait, TMI.

  • http:.// Course Correction

    Great post! You’ve just clarified why I don’t care for many of the psalms–I laugh at country/western music, but thought laughter was blasphemous when reading the Bible.

  • Jana Riess

    Gosh, I hope laughter isn’t blasphemous, because then I’d half to scrap my whole Twible project. Without laughter I’m not sure I’d be able to stomach some parts of the Bible at all.

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