Psalm 24

"clean hands and a pure heart"

The poet asks, "Who many ascend the mountain of the Lord?" And the answer comes, "The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully." 

In Hunting Magic Eels, I make the argument that the biggest threat to faith in the modern world is what I call "the mystical-to-moral shift." We believe that goodness is the goal of faith, rather than seeking God. This moralization and politicization of faith, given how politics is increasingly becoming an arena of moral identity and performance, instrumentalizes God and the life of faith. God becomes a tool to become good, faith an instrument for a political agenda, church a technique for moral self-improvement. 

Phrased differently, God is perceived as means and goodness as the end. We believe in God, go to church, pray, read our Bibles, follow the Golden Rule all in order to become a good person, increasingly a politically inflected vision of a good person.

This instrumentalizing of faith undermines faith because, as we all know, you can be good without God. And you don't need to believe in God to vote well. There are many non-religious ways to become a good person or subscribe to the proper politics. And if you don't need God, faith or church to be good, well, what's the point? If you can get to the end by other means, God, as a moral or political tool, can be left behind. 

In Psalm 24, all this is reversed. In Psalm 24, goodness is how you get to God. Goodness is the means, not the end. God is the end, the goal, the final destination. Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? The one with clean hands and a pure heart. As Jesus said, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Or as 1 John says, the one who loves knows God.

God is the goal, and goodness helps me on that journey. Not the other way around. 

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