There has been a debate in the blogosphere among Unitarian Universalists regarding UUA President Bill Sinkford being part of an interfaith coalition that met with Iran’s figurehead president Mahmoud Ahmendinejad in NYC recently. One blogger stated that simply talking does not make one a prophet, sometimes it makes you a fool. He states that a true prophet is one who is able to organize power behind the words spoken and therefore can be held accountable to what is spoken. He argues that Bill Sinkford’s words without any power behind them, made him a fool. He quotes Nehemiah 5 as an example of what he calls prophecy with power. It’s a fair argument. Through out the Hebrew Scriptures the prophetic has been paired with power, whether that was the power of an impending doom if changes were not made or the power of miraculous events.
Yet there is a place for the fool too as prophetic voice. The fool is one who no one takes seriously and therefore is able to speak unvarnished truth. The fool is the one that people scoff at and deride and then realize that they were the foolish ones with their behaviors. We see the role of the fool as prophetic voice in Shakespeare’s plays, such as portrayed in King Lear. We see the prophetic fool in modern days with Stephen Colbert’s presentation at the White House Press Corp dinner in 2006. Yet the fool also has power. It is a power that comes with inner convictions that enables the fool to speak words of truth. It is because the person is playing a fool that sometimes the words get heard and changes can occur.
Some of my colleagues (read through to the comments) thought our UUA President, Rev. Bill Sinkford, played the fool by speaking with one of the heads of state of a tyranical dictatorship. Many thought he should have sided with the protesters outside and that stance would have been the correct prophetic stance to take. Funny thing about prophetic stances most are not realized as such until much later, sometimes years later.
Jonah was very concerned about playing the fool with the city Nineveh. So he ran away. Yet, Jonah eventually after some bizarre twists and turns, does take the prophetic stance and speaks with the King of Nineveh. The King was a tyrant. The king and his people had done some horrible things. And after hearing Jonah, the King and the city of Nineveh repented and Jonah’s fear of looking like the fool is realized. It is a risk that prophets take sometimes.
One never knows how the spirit of love is going to move and speak through us. Nor on what ears the message of love will fall on. The fool can be a prophetic voice. Perhaps we should not be so quick to judge the actions of those around us as they just may be responding to a higher conviction than we can discern with our senses. Blessings,