The Bridget

Number 6 Published by Chris Tover May 15, 2005

The Bridget is an e-journal of opinion. Mine!
And I am not afraid of controversy.

About Bridget

This e-journal is dedicated to the memory of my mother. To her family and friends she left a legacy of moral, social, and political activism.

Featured Essay:

What Everyone Knows

Johnny had just joined the National Guard. Now he was marching in the Fourth of July parade in his hometown. His mother watched the parade with some of her friends. As Johnny's company passed by, someone said, "Look, Johnny is not in step." His mother answered, "Oh no, Johnny is the best soldier in the whole parade. He is the only one who is marching in step."

Everyone knows that Moses freed the Israelites from slavery. Everyone knows that Moses was God's prophet and lawgiver. Everyone knows that Israel was forged into a nation by the revelation at Mount Sinai. Everyone knows that those who resisted Moses' authority were sinners who deserved to die. Everyone knows that the Exodus was God's promise that He would redeem his people from the most dire of circumstances. Everyone knows that the annual celebration of Passover commemorates the freedom gained by the ancient Israelites. Everyone knows that the example of Moses became a symbol of liberation, most notably for the slaves in the American South.

That is what everyone knows. Everyone but me.

If the Passover brought freedom to the Israelites, then why did forty thousand of them have to be killed? In the episode of the Golden Calf, about three thousand were put to death by the sword [Exod. 32:27-28]. In the so-called rebellion of Korah, some fifteen thousand were killed over a two-day span. [Num. 16:1-50] At Baal-peor, a joint celebration with the Midianites went horribly wrong. Some twenty four thousand were slain [Num. 25]. In addition, an unspecified number of people were slain by fire [Num 11:1], by diseased quail [Num 11:31-34], and by poisonous snakes [Num. 21:6]

The death toll from these events, according to the Torah, was in excess of forty thousand. Can you imagine the effect of forty thousand deaths would have been? The numbers in Numbers may have been exaggerated. But even if the death toll was only four thousand, it is still horrific. Compare this to the three thousand killed on September 11 and the traumatic effect it had on the American people. I do not believe in God. But even if I did, I would not be able to imagine how a good and loving god could murder so many people. What kind of freedom kills so many?

At Mount Sinai, the people were told, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." [Exod. 20:3 KJV] Imagine what this meant to people who were accustomed to worshipping many different gods. They worshipped Mesopotamian gods such as Ishtar and Marduk, Egyptian gods such as Isis and Osiris, and Canaanite gods such as El, Asherah, and Baal [Joshua 24]. Can you imagine what this meant to these people?

Try to imagine what would happen if our government closed every church, every synagogue, every mosque, and every temple except for one single denomination. How would you feel if you were forced to worship at a strange church? Would you resist? Would you dare to resist if thousands of Americans were massacred for illegal worship? What kind of freedom would that be? Not the free exercise of religion.

I have yet to see any biblical commentary put in a good word for Korah. The incident is always seen as a sinful rebellion by conspirators seeking to destroy the authority of Moses and seeking privileges for themselves. No one tries to understand the issue presented by Korah and his associates. The phrase, 'rebellion of Korah', has a connotation of violence. But there is no suggestion of violence coming from Korah and his associates. Korah and the elders were engaged in a peaceful protest. He may have thought that this dispute would be settled by a council of elders. But he and his associates were tricked into a place where they could be killed.

It wasn't Korah who was violent. All the violence came from Moses and his god. Fifteen thousand were murdered. The worst thing that Korah did was to speak out against the radical innovations imposed under Moses' activism. Then it was called sin. Today we call it freedom of speech.

The word 'freedom' has two meanings. First, for a nation it means being free of foreign domination. In this sense, freedom means independence. Second, for individuals it means being able to make choices. It is this sense of freedom that is used in the Bill of Rights. All to often, people do not distinguish between the two meanings of 'freedom'. The result is confusion.

In the Exodus, the Israelites achieved independence, but not liberty. They traded the tyranny of Pharaoh for the tyranny of Moses. They traded life in Egypt for death in the wilderness. But everyone knows that this is not true. That is, everyone but me.

Why am I am the only one who is in step?

Copyright Information:

KJV designates quotations from the King James Version. Copyright information not available.

This issue of The Bridget is copyright © 2005 by Chris Tover. All rights reserved. Readers may make nonsalable copies for personal use, for use in discussion groups, to circulate among friends, forward this e-journal to friends, provided that the entire issue is reproduced and no commercial use is made. Short quotations may be published in salable or commercial media and in school reports and papers provided the quotation is appropriately cited. However, the articles in this e-journal must not be republished in a salable or commercial medium without the written permission of the copyright holder. Any person who reproduces The Bridget is responsible for ensuring compliance with any copyrights of included quotations.

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posted by Chris Tover at Saturday, May 14, 2005 12:00 PM     Comments:

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