opinions about life, work, and spirituality

Faith and Complacency

July 5th, 2006

The other day I was teaching a lesson to teens about Moses and the Egyptians. In a few words, the story is about how God rescues the Israelites from the formidable oppression and terrible slavery of the Egyptians through a shy, stammering, awkward Jew (who goes on to be God’s mouthpiece!). I had some older teens in the class, which is unusual as I usually teach pre-teens. They took to defending the Egyptians, and asked why, if God cares for everyone, he didn’t chose to rescue and care for the Egyptians as well. I explained that the Egyptians were oppressing the Israelites through slavery, torture, and general ill treatment. Yes, God cared for the Egyptians, but they needed to be disciplined. I tried to use some teen boys as an example. If Jeff were beating up on George, I’d still care about Jeff, but my primary concern would be to save George from peril, which might include some harsh actions towards Jeff. Futhermore, if I really did care about Jeff, I would discipline him.

They didn’t like that example. They continued their train of thought by noting that it was Pharoah and only Pharoah who should have been punished, because the Egyptian people were simply following orders and living the life they’d been taught to live. How were they to know that what they were doing was wrong? This got me really riled up. Conformity and ignorance is no excuse for oppression and wrong doing. The Egyptian people had brains and hearts. Certainly there is truth in the fact that slavery was a very well maintained cultural reality and the abolition of slavery would have been unthinkable. However, ill treatment of their slaves was a choice, and the Bible clearly shows the Egyptians treated their slaves viciously. “The Egyptians came to loathe the sight of them. So they treated their Israelite slaves with ruthless severity, and made life bitter for them with cruel servitude…” (Ex. 1:12-13) This kind of sadism may have been mandated by their leader, but each individual had a choice as to whether or not he or she would conform to the ethos of oppression. They could think for themselves.

This began a long rant about how as people of faith, we can’t be complacent and simply follow popular culture’s mandates about lifestyle. We need to think deeply about how we live and if it really reflects God’s richness. Being an artistic type and involved in theatre, I’ve been labelled worldly before. I think this has to do with the fact that I embrace a great deal in our culture, and for good reason. There is much that is good: tolerance, burgeoning equality, democracy, feminism, environmentalism, artistic expression, scientific and other types of discoveries, technological advancement (though I would argue that only some advancement is positive, some advancement has negative effects), etc, etc.

I’m aware, however, that there are many aspects of our culture which don’t reflect God’s wishes for humanity: individualism, materialism, complacency, hyper-busyness, suburbia, poor city planning, marginalization, obsession with television and celebrity, image focus, etc, etc. This blog will hopefully be an outlet for thinking a little more critically about the way I live my life and about our cultural ethos.

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