In what must be an abundance of coincidence, I have, of late, heard a number of speakers call for new prophets to arise.
My understanding of a prophet is that he or she is one who “utters divine revelations” or “foretells future events.” Generally, a prophet is one who forecasts trouble ahead. Although it would seem reasonable that these folks should also have some sort of ability to paint bright futures. In that event, I suppose we would call them optimists and dismiss them out of hand.
Economists have been cast in the role of prophet. What was that introduction line? Oh, yes . . . “this man has accurately forecast 12 of the last ten economic recessions.” The truth is, we grow weary of prophets because they tell us things we don’t want to hear. And, more often than not, they haven’t coupled the bad news with a plan for the future.
The difficulty for most of us is that some self-appointed prophets are merely critics. The difference between a prophet and a critic is that a prophet spends time listening to a divine being. Critics, on the other hand, listen to themselves and thus proclaim their own divinity.
I have had my moments as a critic. Undoubtedly I will climb that soapbox again. My hope is that I will have the presence of mind to delay my rantings. That I will close my mouth and descend until I have time to listen.
Very few prophets have soared above the altitude of critics and shown leadership. Those who have are those who have listened to voices from diverse springings — including the divine, in my opinion. And, in the end, they are those who offer at least a single step in a positive direction.
By all means, O Prophets, let us hear you if you see injustice, waste, or stupidity. But only if you offer us a step toward justice, stewardship, and wisdom.