A prophet is a seer. He sees what others cannot or will not see in his own culture, and he therefore sees what others cannot or will not see in the future. A prophet looks deeply into the reality of the present moment and sees beneath all the facades, the subterfuge, trickery, lying and chicanery of the world. Because he can see just the way things are here and now he is able to predict just the way things will be in the there and then.
Most often the authentic prophet then writes about what he sees in words that are not only prophetical but poetical. The prophet writes of whirlwinds and wildness. He writes of fire and ashes, tear and terrors, judgment and mercy and he does so in language that is symbolical and sacramental–language that is at once concrete and abstract–real and unreal.
Paul Thigpen is just such a poetical prophet. His daring book The Burden is a challenging and gripping read of sixteen poetic chapters. Written in a style reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets, the Book of Revelation and T.S.Eliot, The Burden takes us through the wasteland of modern, civilization to view the horror and the darkness of our day and warn of the terrors to come.
This is a sobering text with an ominous message that cuts through all the shallow optimism and sentimentality of our day–a shallow optimism and sentimentality that masks unspeakable cruelties, revolting decadence and horrifying crimes. So the text begins,
In the silence of the night,
a still, small Voice came whispering:
in the tumult of the day,
a thundering Cry,
like the sound of many waters:
“You must not remain silent!
You must write what I tell you!”
So I asked trembling,
“What words to you give me?”
And the answer came swift and sure.
So the prophet begins and weaves his way through the streets of a sick society like a soul lost in the wilderness of this world. Thigpen craftily composes a jeremiad which thunders from the heart of an angry God, but a God who is only angry because he has seen his beautiful world broken by mindless demons–a God who is angry as any Father would be angry if he discovered that his precious child had been raped, mutilated and murdered by a crazed and deformed maniac.
Lest it sound like this work is too dark–it is dark as Scripture is in places dark. It is dark because it looks at the dark and diagnoses the dark. However, it is also light as a candle in a cavern is light, and in the final pages the book offers the hope and the promise of light and life if we will only turn and turn again to the Father of Light and Life.
I had the privilege of reading the first manuscripts of this book, and encouraged Paul to ensure its publication. This is a book that is one of a kind. It’s unusualness is its strength. It is a book I cannot recommend highly enough for its sheer visceral potency and beauty.
Get this and pass it on. The Burden.