September 19, 2010

dividing the waters

moses divides the red seaScholars claim that some of Jesus’ actions, like walking on water, are intentionally reminiscent of the Exodus story of the division of the Red Sea, which in turn is read by both Christians and Jews as a repetion of God’s act of division in Genesis 1:6-8 [link].

charleton hestonWhen Moses divided the waters of the Red Sea and brought the people to dry land, this required that Pharaoh’s army be cast into the watery abyss. Moses, as visionary as he truly was, could not help but be trapped within a worldview founded upon EXCLUSION. The formation of a rag tag group of slaves into a nation or PEOPLE came about in part through the destruction of their ENEMIES.  Moses’ vision of redemption was bound up in an understanding of order which separates BAD PEOPLE from GOOD PEOPLE. This is not to denigrate Moses or the Exodus pharoah’s army drowns in the seastory of liberation from slavery - I wouldn’t want to be without it. Moses was simply a product of his time.

What is far more upsetting, is that this continues to be true for us today. When we read the Exodus story, or watch the Hollywood version with Charlton Heston countless times on TV,  we don’t blink an eye when Moses drowns Pharaoh’s army in the waters. It’s hard for us to imagine it happening any other way.

But in fact the Old and New Testaments contain many other stories, written by a variety of authors, which could provoke us to question some of these foundational and violent moments, like this one in Exodus. There are other passages in the book of Exodus which challenge a worldview founded upon EXCLUSION [link], which insist on compassion for the weakest and most vulnerable members of the community, which demand hospitality for the stranger, commandments which disturb all attempts at EXCLUSION.  The beauty of the bible is the presence of this tension between EXCLUSION and INCLUSION.

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