At last week’s CNN Townhall meeting regarding gun control, a student from Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida named Cameron Kasky continued to press Senator Marco Rubio about whether or not he would continue to receive funding for his political campaigning from the NRA. The thousands of people in that gathering desperately wanted to hear Rubio speak the truth. Instead, they heard him say repeatedly, “I’m not responsible for the ways that people may or may not want to support my agenda…”
Also last week, Buzzfeed asked Facebook for comment about the terrible conspiracy theories present on their website about the student survivors from this same mass shooting in Parkland FL being paid actors instead of legitimate trauma survivors. The company spokesperson said that while Facebook is aware of this hateful content, it doesn’t have “policies in place that require people to tell the truth.”
I would say that this “fake news epidemic” right along with the NRA’s attempt to equate human freedom with the ability to purchase an assault rifle are two places where extremism in the world is wrecking havoc with the ordinary person’s ability to trust that the world is worthy of our hopefulness.
This is why the theological narrative of Esther in the Bible is such a big deal for us this week as our Jewish sisters and brothers bring the world the celebration of Purim.
Purim reminds us that there is a deep power of God which is especially revealed and unleashed in the world in life-giving ways, when we find the courage to speak truth to power on behalf of others, risking our own comfortable place in the status quo in the process.
Whistle-blowers of all kinds fit this bill: people like former vice-president Al Gore, who has dedicated himself to educating leaders around the world about habitat destruction because of global warming and ways it can be slowed,
the gymnasts who recently came forward to testify against the abuse of Dr. Larry Nassar of MSU,
legislators like US Senator Marco Rubio who was willing to put himself out there to perhaps learn how to become a whistle-blower by being changed by what he experienced at the Townhall in Florida,
and Rev. Dr. William Barber, who is creating the agenda for the Poor People’s Campaign, uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, and the war economy.
The list goes on and on, thanks be to God.
But Queen Esther was one of the first that we know of in the ancient world. She wasn’t reaching out to protect people outside her group, but in the 5th century BCE most people in the world were still strongly tribal. If you notice, God is written about in very tribal language, especially in the older parts of the Bible (think Psalms, for example). Crossing barriers to actually care deeply for the well-being of different groups of people is something that still hadn’t broken into human consciousness too much at that time, which is why we have to be very careful when we read sacred texts like the Bible.
They are all written in the culture of the ancient world, so we need to sort out deep truth from the cultural context of that time in history. This is important work for all of us who wish to keep our religious traditions healthy for the next generation. We need to speak our understanding of Love and Inclusion to those who would threaten the significance of the text by citing verses out of historical and cultural context.
May growing in our fearlessness to face the truth of our lives,
the truth of those who suffer today more than us,
and the gaps of truth in our religious traditions
be something we experience this special season of fasting and praying together, like the people of Esther.