Then again, I contemplate all the oppression that is committed under the sun. Take for instance the tears of the oppressed. No one to comfort them! The power their oppressors wield. No one to comfort them…
The tears of the oppressed ring through history, both Biblical history and what is known as secular history, post the European Enlightenment. The oppressed cry out to the most unsettled and unsettling Character in history. The God who is made explicit throughout the Old Testament, who chooses explication over obscurantism. This insight of God being the most unsettling Character in history is not mine but belongs to that disturbing Old Testament exegete Walter Brueggemann. Brueggemann’s readings in the Old Testament are works of post-modern genius, resisting the lure of the inhuman/post-human and the sub-human.
This God of the Old Testament, who never forgets the oppressed and forever remembers the oppressors and never forgets the oppressors; YHWH demands that we resist oppression. Brueggemann’s readings of the Exodus event is one of the strategies that we should embrace to subvert the cultural logic of late capitalism. The tears of the oppressed are counted and noted by YHWH for evermore. There is no escape. Each cry of a widow, each shriek of an orphan in fear of her abuser is marked by YHWH. The Bible is the ultimate resource for revolution; the ultimate manifesto to change this world order where the powerful seem to wield untrammelled power in a mesh of unending desire. But all is not lost. Because even when societies and machines fail to keep track of the tears of the child going hungry tonight, this unsettling God of the Old Testament sees and hangs from the Cross in shame. This is why we need to read Brueggemann on the Old Testament. We already know that human history is a history of superfluous violence. It is a history which puts us to shame; our resources are scarce and there are too many mouths to feed. But YHWH will provide; YHWH will be a fire at night and a cloud in the morning. YHWH takes care of sparrows; we will be just fine. We will have running water and green grass to lay ourselves down. No more shall a German Nazi officer throw a Jewish baby into a gutter. Louis Begley made the Holocaust happen. Oh God promise me that my child’s child will not be thrown into the gutter invented by Begley. I don’t like Begley. He unsettles like YOU oh Lord.
Yet history has no place for the oppressed. The poor stink and are diseased. They do not have anyone at all to comfort them. We hate the poor for being poor. As the Egyptians hated the Jews in Exodus. Nobody buys the poor free medical insurance; none wants to teach the poor, they want to intern with the poor through places like the UN and sundry other capital-fattened corporations.
I do not like the poor — they are lazy drug addicts, hookers who would bleed me raw were I not careful. I am politic and cautious. Therefore, I do not want to read Brueggemann; the Old Testament gives me the heebijeebies. Therefore, I choose to be a literary savant. And experience this God of the poor through the chilled screen of my laptop. I want to earn more money, I want to save more; I have a fetish for commodities and naturally, I hate Marx. Because I know a spectre haunts the world. People are going to die from the heat, from the cold, or from flooding. But I oh Lord have decided to be a scholar who theorizes on ending poverty. I choose to crucify the Christian Brothers for paedophilia; the Jesuits for avarice and sundry others for the moats in their eyes. I am pure and read Graham Greene as pastime. The air-conditioner sanitises me. I oh Lord, choose the sarx over the pneuma. For the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.
Ecclesiastes has frightened me; I don’t want to read the Bible nomore. Though I am all for acquiring new language skills — Hebrew, Aramaic and the various Greeks. I must resettle myself. The Bible leads to Marx, Gramsci and Althusser. I will study those prophets through Twitter Feeds and Wikis and never read them ever. I hear T.S. Eliot laughing with Madame Sosostris.
I am sure I will have the flowing waters and the green grass; let others not have them please oh Lord. Resources are scarce. For YHWH’s sakes.