Exile, marginalization and the promised land

I love it when conversations converge, such as when I’m reading something on a certain topic and then someone else provides unsolicited input on that same topic. It’s even cooler when input from three different sources converge on a topic. It could be seen, depending on your worldview, as design – the concept that your thoughts are being guided by some known or unknown intelligence. Or, it could just be the random pattern generated by thousands of conversations coincidentally coming together. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Anyway, I’ve been reading Bruce Feiler’s Where God was Born, which is an excellent, excellent book exploring the ancient & religious history of the Middle East, especially the area that was Babylon, and which is now Iraq. Feiler is Jewish, and makes some interesting points about Israel in exile, specifically how exile was good for Israel; Israel actually thrived in Babylon, and as the Bible makes clear, Israel’s fortune depended on the fortune of Babylon. (Jeremiah 29:7 – “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.“)

Then, last Sunday I walked into a conversation about Ephesians 6, where Paul writes concerning how the Christian should live “in exile” (For our struggle is not against flesh and blood …), and how that applies to the current “Christian conservative” movement and their political strong-arm tactics.

The 3rd coincidental conversation came Monday on a friend’s blog, where he writes On Why Atheists are So Angry:

What we are angry about is the idea that we have to buy into Christianity to be real Americans. That in most social situations we have to shy away from revealing that we are godless. That we were born 500 years too soon to experience a Societal Enlightenment in which reason will have finally won out over religion. That we are told to sit down and shut up because we aren’t important enough to have our voices in the discourse over comparative religion classes. That we are called fools for not believing in God. That we have to pretend to some religion in order to run for public office.

My comment on the blog included:

Perhaps the moral of all this is that no one likes to be marginalized. … It is the nature of people that the majority tends to marginalize the non-majority as much as possible, which in my opinion is always a fatal defect.

Even though we have Jeremiah and the rest of the Old Testament to teach us how to live in exile, even though we have Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings about how to live “in the world but not of the world,” Christians still don’t know how to live in exile. We don’t accept the reality that God’s people thrive and prosper in exile. We don’t like it, we don’t want it, and we devise theologies and bumper sticker slogans (“I’m a King’s Kid!”) to prove it.

What is also becoming more apparent is that exile has taught many Christians nothing about living in the Promised Land, either. For, we tend to do exactly what we don’t like others to do to us: we quickly marginalize all minority viewpoints, we flaunt our majority rule all over them, enslave them, and make martyrs of them, the exact opposite of what Jesus clearly taught (this is in all 3 synoptic Gospels):

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28

All of this, of course, begs the question: Are we ready yet for the Promised Land, or do we (Jim Dobson, are you reading this?) need another good dose of exile?

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