Thursday, September 28, 2006

For Such a Time as This

What is it about scripture, this collection of ancient texts that has the ability to speak to the issues of the day with such pointedness? The lectionary is moving through the book of Esther, and today we are approaching the denouement of the story, which will wrap up entirely on Saturday. In the broadest of strokes: Esther, a Jew, has been married to the king. The king's right hand man, Haman, has an extreme, eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-his-head type hatred of the Jews generally, and Mordecai in particular. He decrees that all the Jews should be rounded up and killed. (Too real, too recent, too possible.). The king seems all too ready to go along.

Mordecai, Esther's surrogate dad, appeals to her to intervene, but she is, understandably, shaking in her shoes. Access to the king, even for his queen, is limited and bound up in arcane ritual. In the reading from Monday, Mordecai is making his appeal to Esther. In response to her hesitation, he says,

For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father's family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this. Esther 4:14

Esther intervenes, at a sumptuos banquet of her devising, confronting the king with her request and with damning information about Haman, and Haman ends up hanging on the scaffold that had been prepared for Mordecai. It is decreed that Esther's bravery will be commemorated in an annual festival. For real fun, find an active vibrant synagogue in your neighborhood and try to get yourself invited to the blow-out that is Purim. From the hamantaschen (little cookies shaped like bracelets) to the dress-up plays, it is fabulous, family-friendly fun.

It is all inspiring, no?

For such a time as this...

Here is what I see and hear at such a time as this:

My government has at its head a man who has achieved an unprecedented power-grab, aided and abetted by courts of his composing, with the results that our civil liberties are all but eviscerated, we are thumbing our nose at globally accepted standards of human decency, we are detaining and torturing people we will never be able to bring to trial precisely because we have detained and tortured them, US citizens are loathed around the world, we are mired in a no-win war (can anyone say "quagmire"???), and our congressmen and women are ineffectual in even saying "wait a minute..."

The world fiddles while true atrocities are taking place in Darfur.

We are in the run-up to an election, and the electorate is unhappy with the status quo, but also disheartened, dispirited and skeptical. How fascinating: gas prices are coming down! And don't you think that They, whomever They are, have achieved their goal when we say "$2.65 a gallon! How wonderful!"? By the way, I would be delighted to pay $5.00, $6.00/ gallon of gasoline if some of that money was a tax dedicated to developing renewable energy sources and more efficient and clean modes of public transportation. But we tax-phobic Americans won't stand for that, so goes the conventional wisdom, and so none of that is happening. Exxon and Mobil and their shareholders are simply getting richer.

We are in the run-up to an election, and the likelihood is that the last two presidential elections were manipulated by vote-stealing and suppression of minorites.

As my friend Yvonne says, "Why have we not taken to the streets?"

If Esther has a message for us, it is, "Speak. Now."

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