The Two Pharaohs

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“Creative Commons The Temple to Ramesses II at Abu Simbel (XII)” by Institute for the Study of the Ancient World is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Exodus 16:2-3     The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.” (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg have popularized the concept of empire — Pharaoh in the Hebrew scriptures; Rome in the world of Yeshua and the early Church. Empire is the collective political, social, economic, and religious culture that controls our current individualistic consumer culture. The Hebrew scriptures are filled with the prophetic critique of empire and the call to live into Israel’s unique narrative of covenant. The church was formed out of Israel’s covenantal narrative as articulated and expanded by Yeshua — a narrative that promotes neighborliness, equitable distribution of resources, and inclusion of all people.

So, if the church is formed on the basis of an alternative narrative, why are so many of its members (and the church itself as an institution) so embedded in and dependent upon the dominant cultural narrative of consumerism?

Wise words from Ward Mailliard (taken from An Other Kingdom; Block, Brueggemann, and McKnight, 2016; page 89):

We always have a chance to end empire.
          What holds us back?

The inducements of Pharaoh without,
          and, alas, the pharaoh within,
                    constantly canonizing comfort, scarcity, the known way

On this tri-partate altar we sacrifice
          health, joy, family, sacredness, mystery
                                       and even this precious moment.

Busy is our virus of choice,
          an excuse…     safe.
The hungry ghost consumes,
          never satisfied and fearful, 
                                       pharaoh is reborn.

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