Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. (Hebrew poet number 85)
Where mercy is planted, truth sprouts up and the earth thrives. Truth and mercy are each other’s soil, vines, each other’s fruit. And where peace lives—rise the sunniest of days. But righteousness…looks from above, looks down its long nose from heaven.
I don’t sit well with righteousness. Righteousness is a cloud that rains guilt. Maybe it’s Sunday morning fundie-memories. Or maybe it’s because it’s been plied as an adjective or adverb too long. We’ve all been righteously indignant. Happens to me daily. Righteous umbrage comes on in a flash, I bristle beneath it; then it passes, leaving me feeling spilled on and slightly embarrassed.
Either way, whether it’s early memory or ill usage, righteousness now has the whiff of pusillanimous piety. It doesn’t venture far from church. It’s a dressed-up-Sunday-word that lacks the parts to walk the weekday streets. Instead it struts about carpeted sanctuaries waiting out the workweek to again be employed by some dominical-fist-on-pulpit. Or fired off like a rubber bullet from a moralizing six-point text.
And it’s something of a rank spectre. I mean it gets in vents in the foyers, in the curtains covering the lancet windows, in the choir gowns, and it all smells a bit funky like a mix of Lemon Pledge and Old Spice.
And it loves hiding under the kneelers waiting upon the wandering mind to recount a libidinous thought. For it is especially adept at making bawdy what is naturally beautiful, lewd what is loving.
So I’m not sure it’s worth resurrecting righteousness. Except, here in this song (Psalm), righteousness gets some redemption: before it seemingly gets all lofty, righteousness makes a pass at peace, makes out, gets concupiscently down with peace—and truth is the progeny.
This I dig. I can imagine righteousness as a far different sort of rain cloud here, raining down, watering truth and nourishing mercy and peace. And in this kind of buzzing blooming garden, righteousness is righteous.