“The Help:” Prophets Major and Minor

Wow, this is going to be a great book.

Sorry family, you will be microwaving your own dinner tonight, mama is reading.

Wow, that was an awesome book! If I know you, I’m going to make you read it.

I kind of want to read that again.

I really wish I’d written that myself…

This is the 5-stage journey of a really excellent book. Kathryn Stockett’s, “The Help” took me through every one of them when I first read it, with an extra twisty 6th step thrown in the middle. The all-over chills moment when I thought—that is  really powerful and profound and could change the world, if the whole world  would read this book.

The somewhat awkward yet dynamic main character, Skeeter, is in the car by herself. She’s having a bit of an inward meltdown (haven’t we all had one of those while  driving the car? Thinking  that we shouldn’t be driving at that moment,and yet  realizing, somehow, that the car is propelling us through it?). She is questioning her life, her family, and ultimately wondering what parts of her past she can hold onto and still be true to the person she’s becoming. She’s flipping through the radio and somewhere, through the static that usually surrounds her small Alabama town, she hears a few lonely strains of Bob Dylan. She’s never heard him, or even heard of him,
but that voice grabs her, and she pulls over, not wanting to lose the signal (from Memphis, if I recall correctly).

As she sits alone in her car and listens to the rest of the song, she “feels like she’s heard something from the future.” And, simple as that, she is transformed.

Music can do that. Books can do that. The people who move in and out of our lives can do that. They give us a glimpse of a becoming future, and somehow move us there like cars on a dimly-lit highway.

Skeeter was glimpsing the future on that (appropriately dramatic) dark and stormy night. Those few strains of Dylan turned out to be the voice of a generation, and, as it happened in the book, so did she. In that tiny stanza of music, she was glimpsing her own life; and the story that was unfolding in America, the story that would be hers to tell.

I’d say that Bob Dylan was a prophet in the real world. I’d say that Skeeter was a prophet in the context of the story. I’d call Kathryn Stockett prophetic for writing this powerful, world-shaping book.

In the midst of all the alarmist dooms-day saying that’s swirling in the air around us, all the Bibles flipped open to Revelation every time there is calamity on the news, and all the “This tornado is God’s punishment for feminism and the gays” (WTF??) that seems to be the subtext of our culture, it is important that smart people be able to point to some real examples of prophecy, and remember what prophecy is NOT.

Prophecy is not a crystal ball and a cape. Prophecy is not the spooky parallels between stuff the Bible says and stuff that’s happening now. Prophecy is not Sybill Trelawney in the divination tower of Hogwarts.

Prophecy is more like Yoda. Or Mother Theresa. Or Bob Dylan.

Prophecy is truth spoken for and about one’s own time. Prophets have such deep insight about their present time, and articulate it so well and bravely, that sometimes their truth carries into the future. Like radio waves from Memphis. Martin Luther King, Jr.—prophet. Ghandi—prophetic. Oscar Romero. Harper Lee. (Yes, my kid’s name is Harper).  All prophets. All of them were so present and powerfully honest in their time that they were able to show us a glimpse of what was coming. That doesn’t mean that any of them–Isaiah, Jeremiah, or even Yoda– knew when or how the world was going to end.

Our world is so full of fear and uncertainty, there is a desperate attempt to make it all
connect and add up.  Many attempt to do that adding up with a Bible in hand, and a deep hatred of the “other” in the other.
They also have a crystal ball, but their hands are full…

If you are reading my blog, you probably didn’t need me to tell you any of this. But, when true prophetic wisdom comes to life in the pages of a book, or in music, or in
the real and present world around us, it is always worth sharing. I am really
looking forward to seeing  “The Help” movie soon. I want to see if they capture this scene as powerfully as it came off in the book. If you’ve seen it, don’t tell me! I don’t like to see the future…I just like to catch a glimpse of it, shining through the static from time to time.

Meanwhile, who are the other prophetic voices of our time? What is their present truth revealing about our coming future, and how are they moving us there?

About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...


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