Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Jesus on Authority and Power II

Exodus 3:7-10

Then the Lord said, 'I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

This passage is so well known not only to Christians, but in our popular culture. The Exodus is not only the key story and symbol which was a key to Israel's identity through its existence which lives on today in the lives of those who observe passover. It is also a symbol of the identity of the United States. Thomas Jefferson proposed that the great seal of the United States depict Moses leading the people out of Egypt. (Horsely, Jesus and Empire). Curious that Jefferson understood the political implication of this story better than the modern church seems to. Rarely do we speak of the politics of this story as often as it is recited, taught and preached. this story lies at the heart of Biblical concepts of political authority. Pharoah conscripted a foreign people in the minority as slaves to construct his kingdom (a practive later employed by the Caesar's and the Herodians in Jesus' day.) Not only were the Israelites exploited economically, working not for their own profit, but to build the wealth and opulence of the Egyptians, they were also the object of state-sanctioned genocide. Pharoah ordered that male children of the Israelites should be killed. It is because the Israelites are dehumanized and killed and their labor used to create wealth for elites, and that this is a state sanctioned and legal reality, that God intervenes in the person of Moses. Governments that sanction violence, oppress the vulnerable, and economically exploit their subject or the 'alien in their land are an affront to God according to this story. Moses is a revolutionary, not in the sense of violence or terror, but in the sense of demanding not only freedom, but justice for his people. Which causes one to wonder; if this was the position that God expected of Moses in the face of violence, oppression and exploitation; to resist (non-violently) and act to bring peace, freedom and justice, what position does God expect of us?

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