From the publisher | October 5, 2022

Who’s your prophet?

Microphone behind empty chairs and a screen that says "Walk in his ways"
Photo by Wendy McFadden

I can’t help but read the subtitles or closed captioning on a screen. Sometimes they help me catch words I missed. But mostly I have to read them because they’re there.

What’s especially fascinating is live captioning. How amazing that there are people who—even with the inevitable mistakes—can listen while also typing what they’re hearing in real time. The output is always impressive, and sometimes amusing.

This year at Annual Conference, I learned from the real-time closed captioning that Hoosier Prophet sounds almost exactly like “Who’s your prophet.” The Brethren Press team didn’t think about that when we titled the book, but surely Dan West would have liked the double meaning.

But maybe we don’t want to figure out who our prophets are. From what we know of biblical prophets, these folks are not the ones you want to hang out with for a good time. They’re not amassing followers on social media, or winning popularity contests. They’re more likely to make you uncomfortable. When they cry out, “Thus says the Lord,” you’re braced to hear about the wrong you’ve done. It’s easy to think of prophets as grim characters always looking to point out the error of your ways.

Perhaps a better point of view would be that prophets are specially attuned to the character of God, and the world is not. I like the way Martin Luther King Jr. described this in several of his speeches:

The world is in dire need of a new organization: The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” . . . As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth, who could say to the men and women of his day, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that spitefully use you.”

We too can look around and see when things are not right. If we chafe at those wrongs and refuse to adjust to injustice, could we each be prophetic? That’s not at all grim; that is a message of hope coming to us in real time.

Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.