Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Maybe we need a theology of staying


As the Noche crew hustles to get ready for their first preview, Marsha and I meet in the chapel for Bible Study while Dion works with the weekly food distribution from our  online farmers’ market, FARMIGO.

Tonight we’re looking at Genesis 12 where there is a famine in the land and Abram decides to go to Egypt to deal with the problem. In Wes Howard-Brooks’ line of analysis, we have another failure of agriculture at work here. And at the first sign of  difficulty, Abram, without ever seeking the guidance or assistance of YHWH, decides to look for help from another empire and abandons the land he had been promised. His journey to Egypt in search of help is a trope that will repeat itself through the Biblical narrative.

Drawing on his Babylonian experience, Abram figures he knows how to deal with empires. Looking at the beauty of his wife, Sarai, he fears that if they think she is his wife, they’ll simply kill him and give her to pharaoh. But if he presents her as his sister, a better bargain can be made. And sure enough, in return for handing her over, he is rewarded with sheep and oxen and camels and male and female slaves. He is in essence, a made man.

God then intervenes, brings plagues down on pharaoh and Egypt (another trope to be repeated.) And pharaoh demands to know why Abram lied to him about Sarai. And Abram never says a mumblin’ word. Instead of the predictable execution, pharaoh simply tells him to take his wife and get out, apparently with all he has gained in the process.

After noting the humor and asking if some of this might have been written just for entertainment values, Marsha questions Howard-Brooks’ perspective that this is a cautionary tale about life under the empire. And points out that Abram leaves richer than before. He got over. By the time we get to Genesis 13, he is very rich indeed, a wealthy and powerful homeless person. He’s got gold and silver, which only comes as a result  of trade.

Things are so successful that the land teeters under the weight of the livestock and entourages of Abram and Lot, his nephew.  They decide which way to go, Lot, deceived by the wealth of the well-watered (IE, irrigated) plains of Sodom goes that way with an ominous comment (…this was before…) foreshadowing what is to come. And there we end. Only we don’t.

We begin to reflect on going vs. staying. I reflect on a friend of mine’s struggles about leaving New York for North Carolina, her home. Marsha reflects on having left Texas, her time as an organizer for the  farm workers and asking why she’s still here. I recall my visit to Cuba and the pastors that stayed with their flocks while their colleagues fled for the US where a white liberal denomination rewarded them with national staff positions while those who remained sustained a remnant community. Maybe we need a theology of staying, she says.


I join my friend Beppe for Noche’s preview of Antigona. Once again I am swept up into the passion of the story and the edginess of Martin’s conception. And once again transfixed by the transcendent power of Soledad’s dancing. When the performance ends, there is an audible moment of silence and then the audience explodes with applause, bravos and ole’s.  Outside, Beppe is speechless. I…I don’t know what to say, he says. Tears streaming down his face. Later, Martin will say he couldn’t ask for a better review.

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