This text is one of the most fruitful lessons for thinking about the political theology of scripture in the whole three-year cycle. It is also one of the most humorous texts in scripture, as the powerless subvert the powerful.
By Andrew Marin
Historians note that on 28 June, 1969 the modern era of the battle over gay rights unofficially began. It was in the early hours of that morning in Greenwich Village in New York City at an underground gay club called Stonewall Inn that a group of LGBT patrons began fighting back against the NYPD, who regularly showed up to receive bribes and shake-down those in the club under the threats of a very public, and irrevocably damaging, “outing.”
The wisdom of the world pretends completeness, offers an answer for every query, a reason for every action. Paradox is anathema: dark and demented. And so the interests of the wealthy and the powerful are secured, the false comfort of worldly wisdom prerequisite for accumulation and domination. That which threatens the supremacy of this wisdom – and so threatens the interests of the wealthy and the powerful – can only be “vile, cruel, and destructive.”
A community which still seeks to value the damaged, lost and, yes, even the depraved enough to want to not only punish wrong doing but seek to reform individuals and redeem communities; to not simply take individuals who are seen as a canker and turn them into sausage meat.
Jacob’s biography is not a blueprint for activism, but perhaps a helpful model for what the church looks like in a world of empires, or at the very least a reminder that power can exist outside of prescribed structures. The story of Jacob empowers the marginalized to secure their own justice while reminding of the importance of confronting empire directly.
Nevertheless, murder is never moral–regardless of whether it is done in the name of religion, politics, the nation, ideology, etc. Any such killing of civilians–by the left or the right, religious persons or atheists–is to be denounced loudly and clearly as morally wrong.
Does this text foster or critique violence? Perhaps the text should be read as anti-political or an alternative politics? Or does it get at the question of our most sacred idol, the family?