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Thread for those who thinks their faith should inform their politics.

Discussion in 'Religion and Lighthearted Discussion' started by PatsFanInVa, Jul 14, 2014.

  1. The Brandon Five

    The Brandon Five Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    #75 Jersey

    Even more interesting to me is the idea that about a week after seeing the Red Sea parted they built a Golden Calf and worshipped it. There were no atheists in this group. God was in their midst and yet they created another god to worship. From that I conclude that there is something deep within each of us that rebels against God.
     
  2. PatsFanInVa

    PatsFanInVa PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Well, even taking Exodus at its word (alsways a sketchy proposition,) think about who did the liberating vs. the folks liberated. We have all sorts of theories out there about the historic event. There are even people who said there wasn't a historic event. But here's what the story is composed of for the mainstream of historians + religious bible believers:

    - Moses is a resident of the royal court. Some scholars say he's an egyptian (possibly with some throwback vintage fixation on Akhenaten's monotheistic reign in Egypt, although Akhenaten was by now vilified in Egypt...) The story says he's born an Israelite and transported to the royal court because Egyptians are killing Israelite babies. But all these ideas agree, Moses is from the court of the Pharaoh.

    - Purely from the story - hard to prove or disprove historically: The Israelites are a people that Moses came from, but among whom he did not live. (i.e., Moses might have been born Egyptian and sympathized with the Israelites.)

    - Purely from the story - hard to prove or disprove historically: Moses sees an overseer beating an Israelite slave, and he kills him. He sees two Israelites fighting, and he intervenes. Their reaction is basically, who died and made you king?

    - Once again, from the story: Moses gets bad things to happen to Egypt until Egypt lets the Israelites go

    - Agreed upon by most scholars and appears in the story: The Israelites leave Egypt, and Egypt makes some effort to kill them on the way out. The Stele of Merneptah at least establishes Egyptian claim that "Israel is laid waste." While this does not establish the story, it does conclude Egyptian awareness of Israel as a peoplehood unit.

    So - take together everything you know from the history, and all those pieces of the story that seem to have no particular relevance to establishing the authorities who would benefit from those pieces being true... if you were to guess, would you think that Moses was popular in his day?

    Would you think that his concept of God was anywhere close to universally accepted by the Israelites?

    I don't. I think that the Israelites may have had a common ancestor story (descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and down through Joseph.) I think our stories about monotheism being the only religious data were not the "universal truth" among the Israelites -- they were the stories that survived. It is even possible that a whole layer of editorial went into squaring these stories with what turned out to be the majority view.

    All that to say, from within the tradition, of course it looks like rebellion against God to make a golden calf.

    On the ground? Maybe Edgar G. Robinson and a bunch of other people always had a fondness for the Bull-El, for example, another semitic deity. Maybe there was this crazy posh fellow who was marching their butts around the wilderness with no apparent plan, preaching that a whole generation had to die before they proceeded. Oh and by the way, you don't get tasty food anymore. (According to the bible, manna rather than fleshpots, which I assume means ancient brisket or bbq or something. If you're not a literalist the story may trace back to some sort of hard tack or other travel food, which universally tastes like crap compared to a nice brisket).

    So maybe the Golden Calf episode was just an example of the people worshipping who they were used to worshipping. Maybe they didn't believe in the monotheistic deity, but the crazy guy who believed in God got them out. So, hey, you don't ask any questions. It was not a democracy. It was an event.

    The winners write the story. From Moses' point of view/the monotheistic point of view, the masses were backsliding into bad habits.

    I think historically, they might have just been expressing the beliefs they'd had all their lives.

    The story of Exodus makes it clear that they really should have ascribed all the events leading to their freedom to the God of Moses... but at least some of them may still have been saying... "Who died and made you king?"

    That's why it would be cool to totally understand the everyday language and idiom, and to be a fly on the wall during these events.

    The history is captivating to my brain. The moral that infuses the stories is compelling a totally different way.

    Along with the great phrase "who died and made you king?" deriving from Exodus (2:14 - it's a great plot device there, and so catchy the writers of the greek bible threw it into Acts), we get the principle of good treatment of "the stranger among you" (i.e., the resident alien) from the narrative.

    We get the first abhorrence in the Western canon for the state of slavery; we get the first, first-person narrative of a slave people gaining freedom. We also regrettably get the "except for..." clause in Leviticus, which justified slavery. To me, it reads as an incongruous edit. But what do I know? All we know is that it was used to justify slavery, certainly for American/European slavers, and almost certainly for ancient Jewish slaveholders.

    Overall, we get a celebration of freedom, and a God who wants the slave people to be free. We get the picture of a kinship group forged into a people by its laws and a common belief. We have preserved an early example of a "purge" in modern political terms. I don't think of that as a moral lesson. I think of that as a fascinating political reality that went along with the "new order" under Mosaic rule. Similar concerns repeat throughout the Exodus, tribal confederacy, and monarchic periods: Worship is always short of what's required. Bad worship is considered responsible for all bad things happening, ex post facto.

    Of course, there's the beauty of the story of Job way later. Eventually someone says, hey what happens if someone believes and does everything he's supposed to, and knows it, and is a just and upright man?

    What happens when something effed up happens to that guy?

    That's a whole different kettle of brisket. But the interesting part is that they are asking a completely different question when the story of Job is composed.

    Anyway happy Sunday.

    PFnV
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2014

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