“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15
When a snippet of a quote pops up in response to a query to the bathroom mirror, such as “What Now?” when pondering the election of Donald J. Trump, proceed with caution, but proceed nevertheless.
So, “As for me – a white, progressive Christian woman – and my house – friends, partners, loved ones – we will serve the Lord” – and who or what is that?
As anyone raised in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition should know, “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls come a-tumblin’ down.” It’s a glorious magical triumphal anthem celebrating the successful invasion and conversion of the Promised Land by the newly-liberated Hebrew refugees from Egypt. It’s also a song of liberation sung by early 19th century black slaves, who took the white master’s religion literally and used it against the system. What no one seems to notice – whether in liberal mainstream Christian churches, or fundamentalist traditions – is that Canaan was violently invaded, and whoever resisted was annihilated unless they agreed to follow Israel’s God. In fact, Israel’s God (Yahweh) deliberately “hardened the hearts” of the inhabitants of the land so that they would violently resist the invaders, and thereby justify their murder. This causes a couple of things to happen: 1) the invading Hebrews have violated the sixth commandment; 2) the murders have stirred up the righteous demand for an “avenger of blood” to come after the killers; 3) which thereby raises the necessity for “Cities of Refuge” – sanctuary cities – where those who killed anyone “without intent” could be safe from the avengers of blood until there could be a trial by the community.
It’s a convoluted story, not by any means to be imagined as metaphor for the consequences of a Trump presidency, unless we take Trump at his word regarding his intention to overturn constitutional principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Among those are: freedom of press and religion (Amendment I); personal security (Amendment IV); Fifth Amendment protections; birthright, naturalized citizenship, due process of law (Amendment XIV); and voting rights (Amendment XV, XIX, XXIV, XXVI).
Three non-violent counters to the violent overthrow of the people are found in the Joshua story. First, a disgruntled outcast (a prostitute) who lived on the outer edges of the walls allowed the vanguard to come in and spy out the land. She was later liberated, and saved from the violent destruction that ensued once the invasion began. Second, the religious leaders of the invading force attacked the walls of Jericho with loud demonstrations, demanding that the City open its gates. After seven days of marching and blowing trumpets, the walls came down. Third, the religious leaders established what we might call “sanctuary cities.” People accused of murder could live safely, protected from avengers of blood, who would like nothing better than to escalate the eye-for-an-eye, tit-for-tat tribal blood feud. Once the dust settled, fair trials could be held, and presumably reparations and reconciliation could be negotiated.
The story suggests that Israel’s God was not 100% on the side of violence. The Canaanites were given a choice: accept our God and live. Which God? The Levite’s Yahweh who – like the sun which shines on the just and the unjust – is a god of non-violent distributive justice-compassion who brings down walls with marching and trumpets, and insists on sanctuary and fair trials? Or the Deuteronomist God who intervenes with lethal violence against everyone who does not belong to his tribe?
We have a choice now between violent protest and non-violent resistance; between exclusive division and radical inclusiveness. Which side are you on?