Tuesday, January 15, 2008

a postmodern rethinking-reimagining-deconstructing of the mythical story of Abraham and Lot

(The problem with doing this is that it's very easy to misunderstand, so here's what's going on. This is a farce, a satire, a mocking. Not a mocking of the historical account of Abraham and Lot, but of the whole postmodern method of re-interpretation, deconstruction, especially as it is applied to the Bible.)

I want us to take a look at Abraham. Abraham and Lot. It's common to think that Abraham is the hero of the story, and Lot as being the one in the wrong. After all, Abraham is one of the big 'good guys' in the story of the Bible, up there with Moses and David. Lot, he doesn't have the best of reputation.

But let's look at this again, shall we. Let's see the story from a different angle, let's rethink it, reimagine it, and maybe we'll see things differently.

For example, let's take a look at Abraham and Lot, on the mountain, Abraham having given Lot the choice of which way to go--Lot chooses one place, Abraham will go the other. We are told the Lot saw a place that looked nice, but that it was a mistake for him to have done so, because it is that place which had the two cities, Sodom and Gamorrah.

But did Lot make a mistake? Wasn't it, rather, maybe Abraham's mistake? After all, Abraham was the leader of his family. Let's not make much of the evils of patriachy for now. Abraham was a product of his times, and his story is a story of his time. We do see things better, we would not accept such a familial state, but that is us.

Should Abraham have abdicated his responsibility to choose? If we assume that he was so wise as we want to think he was, should he not have chosen instead? Could this whole disaster have been averted, if Abraham had chosen? If Abraham had been the real man of faith that so many have thought of him to have been?

But instead, Lot is given the choice, he has the responsibility. And Lot chooses to live near the cities, then later in the cities.

You've probably heard many sermons, read some devotionals, all of them saying Lot made this huge, horrible, disastrous mistake, first in living so close to those cities, then in actually living in them, among the people, even becoming a man of some importance in the city.

But look at it this way, please. Reimagine the story. The story tells us that those cities, Sodom and Gamorrah, were sinful evil places. Of course, we think somewhat differently now. We know that this is a story of a harsh, judgmental, vindictive God, a primitive version of God, a God for a primitive culture. We must not judge too harshly ourselves, but we are not bound to believe that God is really like that.

God is love, He is light. God cared so much for those people, God isn't some kind of cosmic policeman, waiting to throw down fire and brimstone on a city full of innocent people. And even if they were sinful, so what? Aren't we all? We have no right to judge them! How can we say that God judged them? That would not be justice, it would be injustice? Can we accuse God, even this tempermental and primitive God, of injustice?

NO, no, we cannot. But why is this story in the Bible? Surely it didn't really happen? But it is in the Bible, we must take it seriously, even if we cannot take it literally.

So, what is it saying to us?

In my reimagining of the story, the story of Lot is not one of him being wrong, but of him being right. He was right to choose those awful cities, not just because they were awful, but because that was where Jesus would have been--not out in the mountains or deserts, away from the cities like Abraham so selfishly let himself be pushed.

What am I saying? That we should question, not Lot, but Abraham? What if Abraham had born his responsibilities, and not pushed them off on Lot? What if Abraham had looked out over those valleys, and seen, not a couple of cities which were filled with sin, but a couple of cities filled with people--really, live, people, with children in the streets, people with hopes and dreams. People who were loved by God, people who needed to know about him.

And what does Abraham do? Abraham turns away from them. Abraham let's them die. He doesn't engage them, he doesn't try to understand their culture, he doesn't try to live among them.

He just goes off into the desert, where he thinks he'll find God, and pretty much tells those cities to go to hell. He did not realize that he would have found God, not in the heat of the desert, but in the face of the poor of Sodom.

And thinking this, can we see Lot in a new way now, can we reimagine him, rethink what we thought about him before? Because we should. Yes, we can see Lot as a failure, but if he failed, it is because he tried. His mission may have been a failure, but at the least, he loved those people, he tried to live among them, he tried to bring righteousness, which is justice. After all, even the New Testament called Lot 'righteous'.

So you can see, when we reimagine the story, it isn't Abraham who is the hero. It's not even really the vengeful wrathful primitive version of God that is the hero. If the story has a hero, it is really Lot, who at the least tried.

And what about for us now? What can we gain from this myth?

There was a man who came up with an idea for a set of story, about people whom he claimed would be 'left behind' when something called the rapture occurred. Rapture-guy, as I'll call him, has sold a lot of books, tons of books, and all for what--to spread an Americanized escapist concept of the end times, which tells us that God is still just like the primitive vengeful wrathful throwing-fire-from-heaven God of Abraham's time.

Can you see how they are like Abraham? They think God is "out there", and will come to rescue them from the world someday. They think this world is evil, wicked, sinful, and that God must be wrathful with it, and only needs to get them out of the way in order to blow the whole thing up.

Listen to me--God is not like that! No belief system can box in God! God loves you, no matter what you believe! God doesn't care what creed you say you follow, or what you bow down to, or what you think of the afterlife, or even if you say you believe in Jesus or not. God cares about justice on the earth now.

These people, these who believe in a rapture, they're just like Abraham, shoveling off their responsibilities to love and interact and to reach out to the cultures around them, and all the while they think this is God leading them. It's not!

These people say that the world will end badly, with God pouring out bowls of wrath and angels flying around crying down "Woes!!" on the people of the earth. Friends, you have to understand, God isn't like that! This earth is God's creation, He called it 'good' back in Genesis, and while yes we don't believe that God literally created the world in six days, we still know that God thinks it good. He loves his creation, he wants to restore it, he isn't going to reign down fire from heaven on it!

Rapture-guy, you're not helping anyone. You're embarrassing me, your embarrassing us, please, just stop! No one wants to hear about God being angry at them, because He's not! No one wants to hear about how your right-wing God hates commies and gays and anyone else who just happens to disagree with you! Can't you see, those will be the people going into the Kingdom before you, because the first will be last, and the last first! They aren't the ones needing to repent, you are!

We shouldn't be like Abraham, looking for some god-in-the-sky, but we should be among those places which those people like Abraham call wicked and sinful. We should be among those wicked and sinful people, not to 'convert' them, not to 'persuade' them to our beliefs and viewpoints, not to judge them, not even really to 'evangelize' as those like rapture-guy think we should. We can't say that we are any more right or righteous then those sinners and wicked people are. We can't go among them with a superior attitude thinking we have all the answers. If there is truth, it may be that those supposed sinners and wicked people can actually teach us, that they are superior to us.

(again, I want to restate that this is a satire, and in no way should be seen as a reflection of my own beliefs)

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