Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Exodus 33.2 - Hideous Ideas

I used to read a passage like this serenely:

I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites (Exodus 33.2)

But, alas and alack, no more serenity.

In the light of what White Europeans did to the inhabitants of North and South America, and to the peoples of Africa, and with the continuing plague of racism in the United States, a plague rooted in the American South and American evangelicalism, to read of peoples displaced by none other than God, for the sake of the few, disturbs me deeply.

We're talking here of people, children, families, hopes and dreams, and all the rest ... and without batting an eye, the Text speaks of an angel driving all of them out, lock, stock and barrel ... and where did they go? What happened to them?

Sure, I know the story - much of this never happened, and the Promised Land remained populated by its original inhabitants. But at best, an uneasy relationship, punctuated by conflict and war, not unlike modern-day Israel and the Palestinians.

Whatever happened is one thing, but the thought is another. And the thought is this: here are a people whose lives do NOT matter, people of no account, people who have something we want, and we'll not buy it from them, we'll take it from them, and god is on our side.

In just a few words, all the horror and sadness of history is encapsulated.

Ultimately, as the story plays out, God abandoned the land business, closed out and locked up, with a sign: "No More!" It was too costly, and it compromised God and God's people as well.

And if God apologized, God did so through the Prophets and through the Christ, with a vision of love and hope and peace for all the world, all its peoples, all its creatures, great and small - every rock, river, and tree.

Perhaps, now, the Spirit of God speaks through the tragedy: "Is this what you think? Is this what you want? Is this how you conceive of me and yourself?"

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Madness and Blood in the Bible - Exodus 32.25-29

There is much in Scripture that I love, much that I find instructive, much that deserves to be read and pondered again and again.

And then, this:

25When Moses saw that the people were running wild (forAaron had let them run wildto the derision of their enemies), 26then Moses stood in the gate of the campand said, “Who is on the LORD’S sideCome to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him27He said to them, “Thus says the LORDthe God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your sideeach of youGo back and forth from gate to gate throughout the campand each of you kill your brotheryour friendand your neighbor.’” 28The sons of Levi did as Moses commandedand about three thousand of the people fell on that day29Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORDeach one at the cost of son or a brotherand so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.” [Exodus 32.25-29].

What was Moses thinking?

Taking out on the people his own frustration and anger, justified as it might have been, but to raise up a priestly horde, self-ordained, with the blood of a son, a brother or a friend? Madness!

A fiendish scheme, a horrible, hideous, device by which to "prove one's loyalty to God," with a god-forsaken promise of a "blessing on yourselves."

I think of Ahab pacing the deck of the Pequod or Kurtz with his ivory, mad, obsessed, willing the death of others to satisfy some insatiable appetite for revenge, for power.

Horrible enough as it is, how is this read by evangelicals, so many of whom are beset self-righteousness, raging and bellowing against the evils of the world? ... and worse, how this is managed in the hands of self-ordained preachers, many of whom have their own love affair with violence and death?

I don't have to reject the whole of the Bible because of a passage like this, but something like this has to be rejected as an aberrant voice, one of the many voices gathered up in this anthology of faith. That some voices should perceive god like this is not surprising, but always sad ... for there's no way that this can be read with approval.

Read it for what it's worth - an ugly picture of the human reptilian brain ... a version of faith scripted in hell rather than in the saga of heaven.