In the Same Boat

The Bible, as we have seen in the story of Esau and Jacob (see the post It’s Good to See You, Bro), subverts our expectations. Along this line, as we have said, there are no heroes in the Bible. All our forefathers failed in some manner, with their failures necessitating, if you will, God’s graciousness to bail them out.

While there are many “sacred” idols that are subverted, none is more troubling for us than the Scriptural message that the oppressor and the oppressed are in the same boat.

Accustomed as we are to theology (or theologies), we can miss entirely one of the major concerns of the Bible — power and its abuse. Who has power? How is it wielded? How is authority abused? How is this abuse perpetuated across generations?

So we have religious authority that conspires to sentence the innocent Jesus death, with the religious authorities colluding with the oppressors. We have a proprietor king (David) sending the brave husband (Uriah the Hittite) of the woman he impregnated to a death in a war for which he took no personal responsibility. Worse, Uriah is a foreigner, so wouldn’t that be okay, then?

You see how people can justify all sorts of abuse and oppression. We do it all the time.

So where does the “they’re in the same predicament” come from?

Again I saw all the oppressions that are practised under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them. 

This is from Ecclesiastes 4: 1. Notice the concern of the authors with the oppressed. We can agree with this — often, the oppressed have no one to comfort them.

But the real surprise is how the oppressors are viewed — as people under the control and abuse of power, who themselves need to be comforted. The authors of Scripture remind them and us, that oppressors must have learned their control from somewhere. They are living out, as oppressors, a cycle of violence taught to them and likely expected of them.

Can they be freed from this cycle? Yes. What does this look like? Well, we will look at two examples in a future post.

Sufficient for now is to state that human history has shown what happens when the oppressed take up arms against their oppressors. Not only are rivers of blood shed, but should the oppressed succeed in overthrowing their oppressors, they eventually become the new oppressors. The same story continues.

The cycle never ends until both the oppressor and the oppressed can look into one another’s eyes, and walk together. The oppressors, to be freed from the power that rules over them, and for the oppressed to no longer fear their oppressor.

How is this possible? Stay tuned.


2 thoughts on “In the Same Boat

  1. Pingback: Who Reveals Whom? | The Literary Liturgist

  2. Pingback: Circling Back to the Text | The Literary Liturgist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s