A short post for today, I think.
As I continued reading Deuteronomy I was struck by two things.
The first is the continued sorting of things. So many of the laws are so very binary in nature. Things are this or they are that. They are clean or unclean. Good or bad. While I can see the value in these distinctions when one is in a scenario where obedience is key — which a harsh, difficult-to-survive environment is — it still seems so very rigid.
The other thing is the theme of choice. Very often monotheism paints itself as self-evident. There is only one God, and that everything else is fake. But that isn’t what’s said here, not really. The existence of other gods is acknowledged but it’s made clear that they are not the gods of Israel. That there is a choice for God’s people. It makes sense, in a way; if you work with different deities it’s easy to find that no matter how much you bat your eyelashes at them, if you are not theirs, they will not have you and will not show you favor. And yours will find you. Even if they aren’t what you expect.
Jumping forward a bit, it strikes me as I read these laws, these divisions, how radical Jesus really was. Living in a time when Christianity is the mainstream, establishment religion, it’s really hard to think of it as radical. Like any religion practiced by the dominant culture, leaders and public figures twist and seek to use it to their own ends — and in this case they have succeeded quite admirably.
But looking at Christ’s teachings in the context of this system, I see how radical they really were. That they blew these distinctions and frameworks and divisions out of the water and opened up this whole messy world made up of shades of grey. Living in uncertainty is an incredibly radical (and uncomfortable) act and it seems to me that we often forget that. Because it’s tempting to look back at these divisions and find ways to pull them forward again; it gives the illusion of certainty and being right. But that’s all it is, an illusion.
At any rate, it’s an interesting experience to look at the sorting and division; to try to see where it would have provided safety and also where it would have created pain.