Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”
The one who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision.
Reinhold Niebuhr held those verses from the Psalms among his favorites.
There is no shortage of leaders plotting and conspiring, and in the short run they can succeed. But in the end history will bend toward justice. In the present moment, we may doubt the truth of that fundamental biblical insight, but over the course of human history, we can see how the arc has bent.
Niebuhr, like the ancient Psalmist, imagined God’s amusement at the human foolishness of plotting against the inevitability of that great historical march.
My guess is that Niebuhr would love the humor of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They see and expose the deep irony of those who set themselves up to take counsel together against what is just and right for the most vulnerable among us.
Recently, a Colbert quotation has been popping up repeatedly on Facebook. In a commentary some months ago about whether or not the United States is a “Christian Nation,” Colbert said,
"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it."
His point was not that we don’t help the poor, but that many who want to call America a Christian Nation also want to limit what we do for our poorest sisters and brothers.
It is worth noting, that though Colbert intended his remarks to be funny and amusing, he really isn’t kidding. He is a serious Christian who cares deeply about following Jesus.