"Whose Side Are You On?"Parts of Genesis make me angry. I'm angered by the vulnerability of women, of children, of slaves at the hands of the patriarchs -- old men who literally hold not only the fortunes, but the very life and death of the "least of these" in their hands. Abraham passing his wife off as his sister not once but twice to save his own skin -- Sarah presumably having to submit sexually to her temporary "master." (And the patriarch's son, according to the text, repeating this strategy in the next generation.) Hagar the concubine being "given" to Abraham, then being thrown out of the community with her son -- who is also Abraham's son -- and left to her fate in the desert. The interpersonal frictions and injustices created by the unjustness of the society, like the enmity that the patriarchal family structure creates between Sarah and Hagar -- the ways in which those oppressed by dysfunctional social systems must become complict in those very systems in order to survive -- disturb me.
But I am also impressed by the resiliancy of "the least of these" -- how they do what they have to do; their toughness and canniness, their subverting the system in which they live.
And through all these stories runs the same subtext: that God is on the side of the underdog. In a society where a woman's honor is invested entirely in her ability to produce male children, God's saving power rescues the barren. In a society where slaves and inconvenient children are expendable, God's saving power rescues a discarded slave and her child by her master. In a society where the eldest son in a family is the Golden Boy, God is on the side of the disinherited younger son. And, in the bigger picture, God is on the side of a rag-tag, rough-around-the-edges band of nomads surrounded by alien and often hostile cultures.
There's an old song that asks "Whose Side Are You On?" In Genesis, when we ask this question of God, the answer is "On the side of 'the least of these.'" And that is good news, in the midst of what reads like a lot of bad news about human nature and human behavior.