“Ice Axes for Frozen Seas” Excerpt 2

Ice_Axes_for_Frozen_SeasFrom Ice Axes for Frozen Seas: A Biblical Theology of Provocation by Walter Brueggemann. Copyright © 2014 by Baylor University Press. Reprinted by arrangement with Baylor University Press. All rights reserved.

Imagine the paradigm entrusted to us, at work in revolutionary ferment. And then imagine a flattened, denying, despairing world in which the exodus grandparents have been silenced. Imagine a world without this text, as much of the world craves to be. Do some forgetting. Reduce the power of this paradigm and think what we have then.

Forget and you will have a closed absolutism with no bold midwives who defy Pharaoh, but only clerks who obey everyone.

Forget and you will have a world of no burning bush, no holy intrusion, no summons to freedom, no resolve from heaven to work newness on the earth.

Forget and you will have conformist docility, without the righteous indignation of freedom fighters who refuse the exploitative violence of the slave masters.

Forget and you will have a narcotized anxiety not capable of doubting or wondering or challenging, not bold enough to ask God’s name in order to evoke miracles, but simply a robotic security that goes along with idols who give nothing and who effect nothing and who preclude all challenges of dialogic exchange.

Forget and you will get a society that regards impossible brick quotas as normal and not problematic, glad to be enslaved, fixed on production without meaning or possibility, getting ahead in the brickyard on the way to no joy, living for that which does not satisfy.

Forget and you will have a settled community incapable of conflict, unready for contest, unaware of the alternative, unwilling to risk going against Pharaoh, reducing dangerous holiness to consumerism, shelving the holy God into the woodwork of imperial arrangements, with no Passover in sight, no offer of blessing, only satiation.

Forget and you will be unable to imagine the discomfort of the empire, incapable of laughing at power, unwilling to voice mocking derision of a failed world that has all the trappings of legitimacy, but in fact one that weeps in the night over lost sons and lost cattle and lost futures, unable to imagine the empire on its sad knees.

Forget and the notion of “departure” fades, and we embrace a “realized eschatology” that imagines that this is as good as it will get:

no departure to justice,

no departure to freedom,

no departure to neighborliness,

no departure to Sabbath.

Only complicity in a world without vitality.

Forget and there will never cross our lips any real singing, any vigorous hallelujah, any assertion of new rule. Our recipe for the future becomes a mute despair with no promises that could possibly be kept.

Forget and we end conformist, lost, dominated . . . eventually numbed and dead. There are many ways to forget:

new age spirituality with no demanding energy;

historical criticism with everything adjusted to reasonableness;

dogmatism with all the answers known ahead of time;

privatism that has no energy for the common good;

nostalgia for some imagined past without contemporary realism.

The news from the grandparents is that it need not be so. This exodus text, in sum, proposes an alternative world. It is the alternative work of holy purpose dispatched into public reality in transformative ways. I am aware, as are you, that all I have done is walk with you through the text. What else?! What else except imaginative revelation, revelation that points at the truth of our life in the world? I have lined it out as a positive revolutionary possibility. I have lined it out briefly as must be done when the grandparents are silenced. The narrative is paradigmatic because the deep themes of faith are all voiced here with a summoning edge.

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