A Summons to Freedom

“Religion – as understood by Abraham and those who followed him – is at its best when it resists the temptation of politics and opts instead for influence. For what it tells us is that civilisations are judged not by power but by their concern for the powerless; not by wealth but by how they treat the poor; not when they seek to become invulnerable but when they care for the vulnerable. Religion is not the voice of those who sit on earthly thrones but of those who, not seeking to wield power, are unafraid to criticise it when it corrupts those who hold it and diminishes those it is held against. Elijah was a great prophet. He was ‘zealous’ for God’s honour and bitterly opposed to the false prophets of Baal. He challenged them to a test on Mount Carmel. He won; they lost; the people were persuaded; the false prophets were killed – as convincing a demonstration of religious truth as any in the Bible. But the story (I Kings 18-19) does not end there. Summoned by an angel to Mount Horeb, he witnesses an earthquake, a whirlwind and a raging fire. But ‘God was not in’ the earthquake or the wind or the fire. He came to Elijah in a ‘still, small voice’. When religion becomes an earthquake, a whirlwind, a fire, it can no longer hear the still small voice of God summoning us to freedom.”

Not in God’s Name, pp. 236-237