by Ray J Gentry IV
Well, that didn’t take long. Two and a half months after being freed from the empire that had been oppressing them, the Israelites are ready to go back. The struggle they experience with Empire is that, despite their subjugation, the struggle to be free from empire is often so overwhelming that whatever security the Egyptians provided seemed welcome compared to the struggle of following God through the wilderness.
The response provided by Moses through Aaron is for the Israelites to "Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining." But even some of the Israelites seeing the promise of God fulfilled through the food provided struggled to trust. We are told that some gathered more than they needed while those who gathered less all ended up having exactly what they needed.
Were it true in our world that all had what they needed regardless if they tried to stockpile more underestimated (or were unable to gather according to) their need. But our dependance on our Empires is simply this: that we believe power and security for ourselves at the expense of those around us are the way the world has to work, despite God’s promise and plea that there is enough for my neighbor and myself.
Empire pits God’s children against each other. Empire encourages the accumulation of power - power that is ultimately weaponized to oppress others so that it can stay intact with those holding it…
Sorry y’all, this is where I’ve kind of lost it. The events in Las Vegas as well as the suffering in Puerto Rico are really derailing my ability to continue this train of thought. So let’s just go with it.
Our country’s inability to handle a natural disaster impacting millions of United States citizens demonstrates our fear that, despite being a country of immense wealth and resources, there isn’t enough to go around. Instead of pouring every available resource into meeting the needs of those suffering, we half-ass it. That is how Empire responds; those people are not powerful enough or wealthy enough or worthy enough. That is not how God calls us to respond to suffering.
Nearly 60 people are dead at the hand of one man. Nearly 530 people were injured. ONE MAN in Las Vegas was able to irreparably damage the lives of thousands of people. At what point do we start talking about how our fear of others and desire to procure security for ourselves means that we’re willing to guarantee that tragedy will continue to visit our country? That is Empire. You do what makes you feel safe, consequences for others be damned. And for the record, I’m not calling for specific legislation. Let’s just have an actual conversation.
This doesn’t even touch upon what Empire looks like when we start talking about the treatment of Native Americans. Or African Americans. But this text provides an opportunity to challenge ourselves and our congregations to think about one important question: When God’s walk into the wilderness away from Empire gets tough, how does our desire for comfort and security cause us to start disregarding the well-being of others?