Healing of the Soul
The recent massacres in a grocery store in Buffalo and a Presbyterian church in Orange County make it clear that there is something tragically wrong with American ethos. We see hatred displayed through mass murders, but we just go on as if nothing has happened. As of May 20, 2022, there have been 205 mass shootings in the U.S. That is more than 10 per week. So far, 16,588 people have been killed by gun violence, and 13,719 have been injured. This is an American phenomenon.
The Bible has a word for this American sickness, “tza’arat.” The Septuagint, the Latin translation of the Bible, translated tza’arat as “lepra,” which in Greek meant “rough” or “scaly.” The King James Version mistakenly translated “lepra” as “leprosy” or Hansen’s disease. The medical community believes the symptoms described in the Old Testament are most likely psoriasis, a skin condition, or vitiligo, a disfiguring but otherwise harmless disease.
Traditional Jewish thinkers have understood tza’arat not as a medical condition but as a spiritual condition because tza’arat was treated by priests, not doctors. Tza’arat described a spiritual ailment that manifested itself outwardly. The Talmud, the Jewish laws, lists some of the reasons one might be afflicted with the tza’arat, including gossip, perjury, arrogance, theft, and envy.
We have a spiritual illness that has manifested itself as conservative theology and conservative politics. The politics and religion of self-centeredness and hatred are not new. We had Hitler and Mussolini during WWII, and in modern politics, we have Trump and Putin. We had Crusades to perform religious and ethnic cleansings. They are examples of the illnesses of the heart that were manifested as hatred towards others.
The sickness of the mass murder in Buffalo lies in the heart of a teenager; the spiritual problem of a troubled soul manifested itself outwardly and took ten lives. Tza’arat. Many states are passing laws to deny women their God-given reproductive rights, tza’arat. Catholic Bishops deny communion to President Biden because they disagree with his political views, tza’arat. Global Methodists, and other conservative Christian groups, are denying the faith of the LGBTIAQ+ community, tza’arat. These are examples of sick hearts being manifested outwardly in hatred of others.
In this Sunday’s text Naaman, a general in Aram’s army has a medical illness and is healed through a spiritual ritual. His healing and subsequent belief in God described the nation of Aram, who was once an enemy, but later became an ally. Naaman’s outwardly visible ailment, or the enmity of a nation of Aram, was healed by healing the soul.
The hatred of others is an illness of the heart that requires spiritual healing. It is tza’arat. The traditional remedy was isolation, and it was not to protect the uninfected but to help the sick see that the hatred of others has no place in everyday life of the faithful.
The recent global rise of tyrannical leadership will eventually subside as the truth of their illness will be revealed, and people will demand the healing of their collective souls. Occasional small-time emperors will come and go, so we will have to remain vigilant. The virus that causes illness of the soul does not go away entirely but is only kept at by love and grace. We need to remain faithful and vigilant because the sickness of hatred will come again in a different form. We will need to be alert and confront every evil by being the agent of hope and healing.