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Obama inspired by Exodus. Me? Not so much. How about you?

vastleft's picture

Obama's "Ich bin ein Christian" brochure emphasizes (in the "Called to Bring Change" section) the Biblical tale of Exodus, suggesting that he was called to lead Americans like Moses was called to lead the Chosen People.

Have you fucking read Exodus?

Outside of a handful (a lot fewer than ten) of common-sense commandments, it's a tale of endless gratuitous cruelty and arbitrariness at the hands of a jealous God.

In fact, it's practically a recipe book for the Bush administration: mindlessly kicking the shit out of Arabs -- even the children — and mucking about in the wilderness while building a huge, rickety temple to the power elite.

And, true to form for the Religious Right, whom the pamphlet was plainly meant to impress, it's the gold standard of animal-cruelty pr0n.

But that's right. In the new world order, we're supposed to admire the idea of the idea, as opposed to the idea itself. If only we could be the party of ideas! Since we can't, we can change our frames until the other guy's ideas are just fine with us, and then we call all look at the world through pony-colored glasses! I don't know about you, but I do so love ponies!

Let's say that somehow, you still find Exodus to be a peachy-keen, inspirational story and Obama an inspiring character.

Tell me, then, who made him holier than the Blues Brothers — the second-coming of YHWH's righthand man? I thought that was Mike Huckabee's job.

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Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

"mindlessly kicking the shit out of Arabs"

Ancient Egyptians aren't Arabs - the Arabs won't move into Egypt until the 600s CE.

That said, if one imagines Pharoah as W*, the Egyptians as the GOP, and the Hebrews as the rest of us, it does pretty well encapsulate my dirty, naughty dreams of what I would like to do the bastards (yeah, I realize I can't, but I damn well want to at this point). No analogy uses all the details, so this is more about the narrative of throwing off power, rather than the blow-by-blow of what is, admittedly, a pretty messed up story - now, if Obama starts talking about splitting the Mississippi, we need to really up his meds, but as long as it is just a standard Exodus-as-freedom thing, he's simply tapping into Western cultural tropes (he starts mentioning frogs, we just tazer him and call in the white-coat boys). Now, if you want "recreating freaky Biblical crap down to the details, go read 17th century English polemics - that stuff is F-ed up; my personal theory is that after that, the Enlightenment took off as much because people were just happy to read stuff that didn't require wood alcohol consumption to appreciate as because of the ideas themselves.

And by "mucking about in the wilderness while building a huge, rickety temple to the power elite", are you discussing the Tabernacle, or the stuff they were building in Egypt - because if it is the latter, that's an indictment of Pharoah/W, not the Hebrews.

* traditionally the ones in power are envisioned as Pharoah

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Must have been quite a tent to hold 600,000 people (or more, if the womenfolk and boys were allowed to attend).

I don't gnow much about the gnostics, but I hear they thought YHWH was the villian of the story. So far, I think they might be onto something.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

the few times I attended service at a black church the lesson was taken from Exodus. The Israelites escape from slavery resonated with American blacks. Many black spirituals use Exodus as a metaphor.

Really, I don't see what he is doing is any different than Carter's use of his faith in 1976.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Translated that means I am a ham and bacon sandwich with mayo.

Would make more sense than the brochure, but that is just me.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I do know that he's come to be horrified about the merger of church and state:

http://www.amazon.com/Our-Endangered-Val...

Now, traditional or not, the story of Exodus is plainly dreadful in most respects, and disturbingly reminiscent of the irrational bloodletting that has characterized the current administration's faith-based presidentin'. We surely don't need another zealot who thinks he's on a mission from God.

And such arrogance and dishonesty (or delusion, take your pick) to print up flyers that insist that you have been selected for such a mission!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

VL, somehow this project of yours escaped me; I am impressed. Big undertaking but worthwhile, an amazing work regardless of truthiness. I will stop by from time to time and see what you pull from it, the layers go on and on as some of your commenters have shown. Everyone takes away something different, so much richness, so much mystery. The King James is the right choice for the language alone, the translators worked very hard on that aspect. The Beatitudes, for instance, don't sing in any other version.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

See ya 'round the Bible Study!

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

the love of that narrative in the black community goes back to slave days. it's a winner for any politician, assuming they can get the feel right and communicate thusly to a black churchgoing audience. MLK was often cast in the light of 'the Black Moses' and obama is just picking up on the longing for a return to those heroic days.

as a narrative, i understand its appeal. but as a text? yikes! so full of holes, ahistorical bullshit, and real problems of logic. in one of my biblical archaeology classes we spent a lot "tracing out the path" of the exodus. suffice it to say, if they went where they said they went in exodus, they weren't in any wilderness on this planet.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Confusing literalism and metaphor in the Bible is a constant problem, what with the creeping mistranslations, selective editing and throwing out great huge chunks of text that didn’t fit the movement’s political needs at a particular time. Not to mention the LSD hallucinations.

The “wilderness” wasn’t like some endless physical desert, but rather a wilderness of the soul, the spiritual land where those who follow false gods or have no faith at all are condemned to wander aimlessly. Only when the whole tribe embraced the One True God were they able to make their way out of the wilderness and across the dividing line of the River Jordan to reach the Promised Land. Any other tribes opposing that plan were, of course, defying the will of God and thus less than worthy and deserving only of death or enslavement.

Such truth as there is in the narrative can be found in the probability that the Israelites left Egypt with very little and it likely did take a long time of wandering about for them to get organized and build up armament enough to kick some other tribe’s asses and steal their land. The one-god religion was doubtless an aid from an organizational aspect, polytheism seldom triumphed after monotheism became joined to a functional government by Constantine; Hinduism is the only example that leaps to my mind.

It is as metaphor that the Pentateuch story is embraced within Black Evangelical Christianity, there being neither a literal wilderness nor a physically separate Promised Land. Martin Luther King’s great oratorical gift was to take the metaphor and adapt it effectively to practical problems and goals. Obama is only the latest in a long line to try and apply these principles to political action, but transforming words to real progress is no easier now than it was for Moses and he was at it for 40 years – give or take.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

the bibble story for young children, also known as 'exodus,' is rather clear. "they went here." "then they went here." "then nice things happened." "then they were bad."

the question of whether or not a person believes that narrative to be factually and historically correct doesn't matter. nor does it matter if one is merely trying to read, digest, and understand "the Bible." it's a question of the "logic" of narrative. i use quotes because literary and mythical narrative don't employ logic like elsewhere, but still have one.

even with a 'biblical logic,' the exodus story is hard to swallow. i have better and other battles to fight tonight, so i won't resuss that entire class, and how i learned this. but the most conservative, pro-bible, i love jeebus scholars taught me this. if they have 'moved on' from exodus literalism, so can i. happily.

peace, sweetheart.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

My approach to Bible study is to look at both the literal AND metaphorical aspects of the narrative. What it means, does it make sense, what are the implicit values.

Whether one takes it as literally true or as some sort of parable, the story is seriously fucked up in a lot of ways. The ones that occur to me are in the linked chapter summary.

Therein, I summarize the summary thusly:

When you're teaching your children how to be good people, remember the valuable lessons you have learned here, such as be nice to strangers and your parents, don't kill, steal from, or cheat anyone (except Egyptians), stone to death anyone who works on the Sabbath, slaughter thousands of your brethren if they make an unauthorized sculpture, ritually sacrifice countless animals, and traipse about the wilderness with two million others, dragging a massive, garish temple hither and yon.

And that's in addition to the sick story of God continually brainwashing Pharaoh so he's incapable of letting the chosen people go -- and then justifying the visiting of plagues and slaughter of every firstborn on the Egyptians because of that refusal.

That story is probably worse if it's meant to be a parable than if it were literally true.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

to fight over. Crushed, I am, to be on the “to be rebuked later” list but if you must, you must. Correct me at your leisure, I’ll be around.

Take care of yourself, m'kay?