Engage: Subversion #2

I am sure you will agree that it is difficult to summarize Brueggemann’s insights in chapter two. Even by his own standards, it took nine sections for him to convey his message about subversion. In this post, and the remaining three this month, we will walk through the details as best we can.

We begin by seeing that a moment of history (the exodus) becomes a template for reordering reality. Israel’s liberation from Egyptian slavery is a sign of God’s never-ending response to evil (hearing our cries) and God’s ongoing efforts to overcome evil with good. A one-time event becomes an all-time experience.

Subversives have a script. Subversion is not a knee-jerk reaction to evil, it is an educated response to it. Brueggemann illustrates it as the book of Exodus becomes the book of Deuteronomy. Exodus is a first-generation description of God’s liberation; Deuteronomy is a subsequent-generation paradigm for it.

Subversion is essentially the adoption of an order that dethrones Pharoah (a symbol of the entitled few) and enthrones neighborliness. The Covenant commenced at Sinai becomes the conduct for the long haul. Sinai initiates the process of removing walls that divide. Brueggemann writes, “that wall of separation is removed by this primal exodus narrative and by the covenantal commandments that are extrapolated from it. The tradition of Deuteronomy intends to resituate the economy of Israel into the fabric of the neighborhood.”

But as Brueggemann points out, God’s intention is resisted as egotism and ethnocentrism conspire to recreate a new “Egypt,” where once again elitism conquers neighborliness. Brueggemann notes that “it is no wonder that the key question of this tradition of commandment, rooted in a memory of emancipation, is the question of the neighbor: Who is my neighbor?”

We will pick up here in next week’s post.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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