Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
The 'America for Jesus' rally, USA, September 2012
Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
— Ezra 10:3
This gathering in Jerusalem of all those who had married outside of the faith has the characteristics of a large, modern-day evangelical Christian meeting, or some other cultish sect, designed to whip attendees up into a frenzy to denounce their sins—and sometimes their families—and give themselves to Jesus. This is exactly what happens in Ezra's meeting. The people are made to experience guilt and shame on both a personal and collective level, and to take the action of abandoning their foreign wives and their own children born of these women. There is nothing holy about this, nothing Godly. Indeed it sounds quite barbaric. What will happen to those women, who probably cannot return to their own tribes now? What will happen to the children, denied food and shelter? The book does not tell us.
God can be evoked to justify any behaviour providing the leader of such a congregation is charismatic enough, as Ezra seems to have been, working the crowd into a frenzy of self-righteousness. Again though, the sentiment (and the fear) behind this action is understandable. The same drivers were at work in Jerusalem then, as they are today in the USA and the UK. It explains white supremacy, and its less terrifying cousin, Brexit. People are afraid that if they lose their cultural identity they lose themselves. Our sense of self (or perhaps it is our sense of God, or God-centredness) is so weak sometimes that we need to keep at bay all those that are perceived as different to ourselves. If we are not pure we are nothing. This thinking rarely serves us well though, creating only cultural isolation and propagating fear. Jesus declaring But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;1 is not about tolerance or just being nice to one another for some hippy ideal; it is about our own spiritual growth, our own closeness to God. It is about surviving in a landscape rife with hatred and fear.
While Ezra and others perpetuate this mess, Jesus later attempts to clean it up, by taking us out of hypnotic frenzy and into our collective and personal observing self. He is put to death for his attempt. Martin Luther King tried it again some two thousand years later. Same result. Seems we're still not ready for such a radical awakening.
1 Matthew 5:44