Thursday, November 04, 2021

Psalm 15, reflections from 1938 and 2021

This morning in my Magnificat (journal) reading for November 4, Psalm 15 was suggested. When I read it,  immediately my thoughts turned to the recent election and all politicians and candidates, issues and levies from city council to governor all over the nation. To me it said our leaders need to honor God in order to be successful.  So I turned to my favorite source on the Psalms, "Meditations in the Book of Psalms" by Erling C. Olsen which is based on his Sunday radio broadcasts during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Much to my surprise, I see I wasn't the only one who thought of politicians with this Psalm--so did President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was elected to 4 terms during the Depression and WWII. At the time of this telling, FDR was not yet a war time president, but a president who had been unable to keep his promise to get the country out of the Depression, in fact, his policies had deepened it as the federal government grabbed more and more power. In 1937 there had been another depression inside the Great Depression.

Olsen tells the following story: On the 5th anniversary of FDR's inauguration [1938] at a special church service at which this Psalm was read. . .it is reported that he suggested that this 15th Psalm of David was an appropriate lead for any story [reporters].  "The next morning the New York Herald Tribune obliged the President by printing the Psalm upon its front page.  This caused some controversy in the press (just like today) and Dorothy Thompson (very popular and influential columnist married to Sinclair Lewis) declared that it is extremely dangerous to quote the Bible in support of one's prejudices because the other side can always find just as appropriate a quotation. She even went so far, and correctly so, as to suggest that the devil can also quote Scripture.  Olsen goes on to say that it is unfortunate that the Bible is used this way (I don't think he was a fan of Roosevelt, nor am I) and that the Bible was never intended to be handled in a partisan way and can only be used by a spiritual man as he is guided by the Spirit of God.  Perhaps it was Roosevelt's speech that day in a church using scripture that Olsen disapproved of, but when I read it this morning, I immediately thought of November 2 and the election.

Psalm 15

1O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?

2Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart;

3who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;

4in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;

5who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

 Those who do these things shall never be moved.

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