By: Scott Spreier
Blame it on bad Baptist upbringing, but every time I read the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, my mind goes straight to the movie The Ten Commandments.
If my memory serves me, our small rural church motored en masse 20-some miles to the nearest theater to see that rare of Hollywood epics deemed a “must-see” by our conservative congregation. We watched it, I recall, on a Wednesday evening, the second most sacred day of the week — one usually reserved for prayer meetings and Jell-O-rich church suppers.
A 9-year-old, I found the movie a weirdly awesome yet terrifying tale, what with a muscular, manly Moses, a malevolent skinhead of a king, sultry Egyptian princesses and an ultra-vindictive God with an arsenal of shape-shifting, sea-splitting, death-dealing weapons that would make the least of today’s superpowers jealous.
Flash-forward 67 years, and reading the Scripture this week, I discovered a much more relevant, woke version of this epic.
First, it’s a story of scapegoating and victimization, the timeless tale of vilifying the “other” — those who threaten the cultural status quo and frighten those in power. Sadly, one doesn’t have to read the ancient holy books or watch old movies to witness such behavior today. We only have to journey a few hundred miles to our southern border to see the same story — the same fear, hatred and violence, the same scapegoating fueled by those in power who fear nothing more than losing that power.
Second, I’ve come to see the real heroes of Exodus not as the manly menfolk — the Yul Brynners and Charlton Hestons — but the women, the lowly midwives who ignored the king’s edict and risked their lives to save those of the newborn Israelite boys. Talk about courage in the face of power, fear and hatred.
In rereading the story of the exodus, I realize that, although it’s taken most of a lifetime, I’ve turned my back on the angry, hateful, vengeful and, yes, scapegoating god of myth. I’ve come to believe in a benevolent, loving deity, one a bit less manly and far more feminine, who works with us and not against us.
As we prepare to worship today, let us put aside the perceptions of ancient myths and old movies. Let us ponder the magnificence of our creator. Let us ponder the power and trust, the courage she instills in us and the faith he has in us — even the least among us — to make our world a better place.