Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bible Study - The God of Exodus

"From the start, Exodus involves a series of bloodbaths - outbreaks of state-sponsored and divinely ordained carnage directed principally at children. It is a story of liberation in which whole populations are oppressed, enslaved, tormented, nearly wiped out. The victims, with the exception of the soldiers drowned in the Red Sea, are almost entirely civilians."

Exodus by Francine Prose in Killing the Buddha by Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet

As a good Roman Catholic boy I heard and read the old Testament during the first reading of the Mass, and heard and read the Epistles during the second reading, and then heard the Gospel from the New Testament in the third reading. In the liturgy of the Catholic Mass this is known as the Liturgy of the Word. At age 64,I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have never read the whole Bible cover to cover. I have to tell you that so far I am shocked and chagrined. This God of the Old Testament is not a nice guy at all. He kills children and afflicts people with terrible suffering out of vindictiveness. No wonder we have the problems in the world that we do with people being brainwashed into thinking that this is who God is.

Exodus is worse that any sadistic and brutal film that Mel Gibson could dream up. What kind of God wantonly kills innocent people and children?

Of course the story of Exodus is played out every year in the celebration of Passover. It is a very dysfunctional story that sanctions genocide, oppression, and cruelty of all sorts.

As I said about Genesis, this is not a book for kids. It is too violent, gratuitously violent. And frankly, I don't like this God any more than I like Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin, and the leaders of the United States who have engaged in wholesale exploitation and killing of civilian populations.

No wonder, humanity has not transformed itself when this kind of religious myth is what informs its consciousness and world view.

Exodus does have its appeal as the arch typical conflict between the oppressor and the oppressed which leads to struggle and "freedom". The cost of "freedom" though is framed as being death, destruction, mayhem, rationalized and justified as teaching the oppressor a lesson. What the lesson is, is simply that might makes right, and you fuck with me and I'll fuck with you until you finally give up fucking with me or we kill each other in the process. It seems that the need to be right exceeds any sense of compassion, mercy, justice, or good sense.

As a template for human activity, Exodus has provided a most dysfunctional script. The behavior of the God described and the people manipulated by that deity is not anything positive to be emulated in this day and age, and yet you see this drama continued to be acted out, encouraged, sanctioned, and justified by religious and political leaders every day of the week.

God's splitting of humanity into His special people and the rest of us schleps has led, over the last 2500 years, to a narcissistic sense of entitlement which has caused enmity between peoples leading to disastrous results up to and including the holocaust in which 6 million people were killed.

This God of Exodus is certainly not a Unitarian Universalist. He does not believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. In fact He plays favorites and torments and kills people.

This God of Exodus does not practice justice, compassion and equity in human relations. He seems to be a willful God who wants His way and if he doesn't get it He makes people miserable until they are coerced into compliance.

This God of Exodus does not believe in the free and responsible search for truth and meaning but rather in very autocratic and patriarchal terms essentially says "My way or the highway." "Don't dare believe anything other than what I tell you to believe or I will kill you."

This God of Exodus does not believe in democratic process or the right of conscience. He is a jealous God who is calling the shots and demands obedience or else people are eliminated.

This God of Exodus has no respect for the interdependent web of existence but manipulates Nature to serve His purposes in coercing human beings.

Some people believe this book of the Bible is the revealed and sacred word of God. It is this belief which has led to such dysfunctional and destructive behavior in the world.

Karen Armstrong has written her book, The History Of God, in which she traces the history of the human anthropomorphizing of God. It would be nice if humanity moved beyond this particular projection. This God of Exodus does not serve humanity well. When and how will we ever grow beyond it? Unitarian Universalism points the way with its principles.

When John Buehrens, former UUA president, would ask atheists what God it was that they don't believe in, I would hope that they would answer, at least in part, the God of Exodus.

This is article #6 in a series on Bible Study.

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