Exodus the Movie, God, and the Power of Stories

Let me say right off the top that this post isn’t so much about the movie Exodus as it is about God… and story. Still, I should probably warn, “spoiler alert.” But the two biggies below that might preempt one’s enjoyment of the drama hardly qualify as spoilers, and they bear immediately on the whole point of this. One is that God is depicted in the movie as a little boy (a ragamuffin, frequently creepy boy — Stephen King by way of Dickens). The other is of course how the movie ends, but that’s been common currency for centuries, based as it is on a pretty popular book, The Bible, and recalled every spring the world over in the festival of Passover. (Exodus Cliff notes: ten “plagues” and a miraculous sea-split later, God has liberated the Hebrews under the leadership of Moses from their slavery in Egypt in order to serve God. This last part, the serve God part, does sometimes get overlooked.) Exodus the movie

Bullying in the Bible?

This is the first I’ve heard: the rising problem of bullying linked to the biblical Goliath. But it must be true, I read in my birth-town paper. Or at least I read that an expert on the topic made such a connection in his Duluth, MN presentation. Walter Roberts, who’s worked for years with kids as teacher and counselor, wrote a couple of books and word has it that in one he draws on the biblical story of David and Goliath. I’m assuming that Goliath’s the bully but don’t know for sure. Duluth, it’s such a sleepy pretty old city on the tip of Lake Superior, that I’m often surprised by its progressive, activist side. Anyway, you can still get in on Roberts’ talk, if you want, and ask him about Goliath for me. It’s tomorrow night at the fancy Radisson — $18… which includes dinner. I love Duluth.

The Whole “Blood Libel” Thing

That Sarah sure does have a way with words. Palin’s latest, not an “oops” moment but actually something she posted online, upped the righteous hackles of a lot of people and left others going, “huh?” So, what is it? In short: “blood libel” is an accusation originally and historically used as a means of inciting hatred against Jews. (Reminder: Palin has worked hard to be sure that no one doubts her evangelical Christian identity.) It has evolved to include anyone falsely accused, which is how Palin appears to have intended it when she claimed to be the victim of a blood libel following allegations that her rhetoric and politics contributed to Loughner’s twisted decision to shoot in Tucson.

Book of Eli — My God

Did you know that “Eli” means “my God,” in Hebrew? Yup. In one form, anyway. So, even if you’d missed all the previews, reviews, and commentary in between on the movie “The Book of Eli,” you still might guess that the book in question is the Bible. The English translation King James Version, to be precise. I’m no film critic, so I’ll leave that to the pros. But I can say that the movie gives viewers some interesting Bible things to think about, like: Is Washington’s character somehow protected supernaturally in his quest to bring the Bible west — protected by God, or by the Bible itself? If he is, what does that make of God, of the Bible? And: the KJV is undeniably a valuable literary artifact, even if one doesn’t believe in it at all. So it would make sense to include in that post-apocalyptic library on the west coast. But does the movie suggest that that particular version is The (one and only) Bible? And do you think that a person knows the Bible if he or she has memorized a particular version? [Me? I think yes… and no…] Then of course there’s all the violence. Our Bible-toting hero is no turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy. Timeless question: when should one and when should one not be such a radical pacifist? Finally, how about the evil megalomaniac, certain that if he had that book, his power to control and manipulate toward his own twisted aims would be complete? Does he know the Bible so well? Questions to contemplate, debate…. 

A Graphic Genesis

Anyone’s who’s read through the book of Genesis, from The Beginning to its portentous end in Egypt, knows that it’s pretty darn graphic — horny gods mate with human women, men try to rape angels, there’s fratricide and the near murder of a boy by his father (commanded by God, no less), a daughter-in-law rights wrongs by seducing her errant father-in-law, and brothers massacre an entire town of freshly circumcised adults. And that’s just some of what goes on. Well, now R. Crumb has rendered the story as a bona fide graphic novel. Here’s a sample. I’d love to hear what you think!

Cozbi, the murdered Midianite… and a woman, at that

Translating the book of Numbers, I came across a curious story that I’ve never paid much attention to before (Num 25:1-18). The setting is the infamous sin at Peor — of Israelites hooking up with Midianite women and taking part in their religious practices. One gets the impression that the Israelites were bored out of their minds, waiting and waiting to enter the Promised Land. The men wandered off and found some excitement among the Midians. Perhaps they fell in love. Whatever the case, they accepted invitations to church events with the Midianites, and as far as the story is concerned, things went south from there. That is, God was furious for this religious infidelity (worshiping foreign gods) and determined that the Israelite leaders should be publicly impaled for it. Embedded in the episode is another dramatic bloodletting whereby a priest of single-minded Yahwistic devotion bursts into the tent of a man caught, we are led to believe, in flagrante having sex with a Midianite woman. After all the priest successfully stabs drives a spear through the both of them in one thrust. Ok, lots about this story is striking; but for our purposes here: Both the man and the woman are named. She (Cozbi) is actually named twice, and in both cases, the narrator explains that she’s the daughter of a leader within the community. Why do you think that is? Was it a set-up? Love? Is there more to the story that we no longer have? Is it simply that “as the leader goes, so go the people,” therefore, be careful what your leaders do? Something else, again?

Guns and the Bible

Check it out — a gun in your left hand, Bible in your right. This is an ad by gun maker Henry Repeating Arms. Across the image of a guy wearing a holster with a gun on the left and a Bible on the right runs a quote from the company president, Anthony Imperato, “There is nothing wrong with clinging to your guns and religion.” Yay? Nay? What do you think?

Hijacking Religion

On this September 11, I’m reminded of how easy it is for extremists to hijack their own religion. Just a couple of days ago, a man claiming to be a Protestant minister hijacked an airplane in Mexico in order get the attention needed to tell the Mexican president a message he believed to have come directly from God. He was carrying a Bible. Inchoherent at times, even as he spouted biblical verses, Jose Flores showed clear signs of mental imbalance. When it comes to religion, committed practitioners sometimes do and say what others deem insane. Where’s the line?