Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dear Prudence

This week at morning prayer we began to read the book of Daniel. The first half of the book is a fascinating and challenging story about people in exile at the mercy of a capricious despotic ruler. This morning I was struck by a particular verse which has stayed in my mind. To set the scene, in chapter 2 King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and calls for his spiritual advisers, a rather motley crew of charlatans, to tell him what the dream means. To spice things up a bit the king insists that his 'wise men' not only interpret the dream but tell him what the dream is and if they can't then they will be torn limb from limb and their homes reduced to rubble. Of course the advisers can't meet the king's request and so the order goes out for all the wise men in Babylon to be put to death.

Unfortunately the king's decree includes Daniel and his mates. The chief executioner Arioch looks for Daniel and when he meets him this is Daniel's response:
Then Daniel responded with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the king’s chief executioner, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon; he asked Arioch, the royal official, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. Dan 2:14
The words that jumped out at me were that Daniel responded 'with prudence and discretion'. Now I don't know what your response would be to being told that you are about to be torn limb from limb on the orders of a murderous tyrant but I don't think mine would be prudence and discretion. I'd have run for my life or failing that ranted and raved at the injustice of it all and probably thrown in a few accusations at God for allowing the situation to arise in the first place.

I think about some of the more irrational, unjust and, at times it seems, malicious decisions which our political leaders make, here's an example in case your wondering what I'm on about, and my gut reaction is to have a good rant about them. Thanks to social media it's quite easy to have a good rant and it's helped by the fact that our rulers don't have the power to order us to be torn limb from limb, though I suspect one or two of our MPs would quite like that option at their disposal. On reflection I find myself pondering whether prudence and discretion isn't the better response. For Daniel it opened up the way into the king's court and a place of influence for the common good.

What does it mean to respond in a prudent and discreet manner on Twitter I wonder?

Couldn't resist the sublime Siouxsie and the Banshees' version of The Beatles' Dear Prudence.

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