Yesterday was Passover and every year at this time I am struck by the story in Exodus that so matter-of-factly tells of God deciding to kill the firstborn of every family of both people and animals in order to change a ruler’s mind. It sure sounds harsh. For our home it would’ve meant Leah would die, and maybe even one or more of our pets—we have no idea if any of them were the firstborn in their litter. So would my brother, my uncle, a so many cousins, I don’t want to even think about it. For the Hebrews it was especially troublesome, seeing as animals were their version of money and a a packed fridge.
Now, I do understand the circumstances. We have a land where there is a particular race that has been enslaved and treated harshly, not given all the freedoms and luxuries of the rest of the people of that land, especially those who claimed that land to be their own. And when that oppressed group wants liberation, their oppressor doesn’t want to give in. Sometimes there seems to be a relent, but then the oppressor would have a change of mind and renegue on the deal. (Depressing to think that we live thousands of years later and yet this is actually hitting close to home.)
And I understand that God’s plan was to give them all deliverance and lead them to the promised land, a theme I find redeeming and full of hope. I love it. And to pay the oppressors with a certain degree of cruelty is something I can run with as a movie fan (i.e. a fan of good storytelling). Who doesn’t enjoy hearing of a villain(s) getting what they’ve got coming to ‘em? The frogs, the gnats, the darkness, the boils, all sound like God is playing hardball and for good reason. The antagonists are stubborn, unfeeling, irrational, and unfair. Give them a dose of their own medicine!
But killing the firstborn? There wasn’t even a clause that said he wouldn’t do this if they were of a young age. So a young couple who have a 5-year-old little girl who loves giving hugs to her daddy? She dies! A baby boy who is keeps family members entertained with cooing and gurgling? He does too. The struggling family who doesn’t have as much cattle as the average household may just lose a good portion of what they do have.
And why take this out on all the Egyptians? The story Exodus seems to show that the Egyptians aren’t too cold themselves. They help the Hebrews pack up and give them all kinds of food and supplies for the big journey. Granted, they did this partly out of fear of the Hebrew God, but it was still a good gesture. It wasn’t entirely their fault was it? It was Pharaoh What’s-his-face who was being a deucebag, not them. And why not tell him he will die instead of his firstborn AND everyone else’s?
I wouldn’t say I’ve got an explanation for this, especially since it is obviously still an idea I wrestle with today. But I will say this: it was more Pharaoh’s fault than God’s. God hits him with nine freaking plagues that terrorize the entire country and he still wouldn’t let the people have their freedom. I like to think that I would have given in after plague #1. One look at that bloody river would 1) freak me out in the way The Shining‘s elevator scene does, and 2) make me concerned enough for my nation’s resources to say, “Ok, you got me. Go ahead and go.” But that’s too easy for me to say. I’m as human as Pharaoh. I’m as susceptible to evil as he was. With that amount of power where everyone in your world sees you as a god? With a deeply held tradition that has taught you that you actually are one? With advisors who say the Hebrews may be more of a threat free than enslaved? Yes, I could be just like him.
So, either way, I can be grateful. I may not like the method of persuasion in the story, but I’m not God. I am thankful for deliverance, even when it involves dark, ugly circumstances.
Congratulations Steel Magnolias. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actor: Fred Astaire as Don Hewes in Easter Parade. I haven’t seen that movie, but man that guy can dance.
Best Quote: “Fred, I think you and I got off on the wrong foot. You said some things, I flooded some things. Let’s start over, okay?.” — Russell Brand as E.B. in Hop.
And in memory of James Dean, here is the top 10 smoldering actor performances:
- Zachary Levi as Flynn Rider in Tangled (2010)
- Pierce Brosnan as Stu in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
- Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack in Titanic (1997)
- Brad Pitt as Tristan Ludlow in Legends of the Fall (1995)
- Rupert Everett as Prince Charming in Shrek 2 (2004)
- Maxwell Caulfield as Michael in Grease 2 (1982)
- Channing Tatum as Magic Mike in Magic Mike (2012)
- John Stamos as himself in real life (1963-)
- James Dean as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
- Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in Zoolander (2001)