I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt. Do not worship other gods besides me.
Religious devotion requires a personal story of us. My story of worship/love for God begins with my upbringing in a racially prejudiced, bigotry charged culture, as seen through a little boy's eyes, with conflicting testimonies in his own home.
The stereo-typical way my religious upbringing informs me also tilts me away from affectionate predisposition to faith claims other than my own. That is to say, I am biased in favor to Yahweh–Elohim-The Lord of Hosts.
You can also quickly discern I consider religion to be testimonial because it is confessional in nature. I have to use the first person singular personal pronoun in religious discussion before I can use the plural "we" and after the "we" loses all its substance, I still have to use the "I" word.
That is to say, God must have meant everyone, all the covenant people, when God said "You" but God told Moses first. Moses was to confess monotheism, rigid monotheism and then testify of that monotheism to the Hebrew people. Religion, monotheistic religion, from the beginning, is confessional (receptive-responsive) and testimonial (responsive-expressive).
Confessional-Testimonial religion, individually accepted, personally expressed, corporately adopted, begets or is begotten by prejudice. I am asked to be prejudiced in favor, sole and complete favor, with no exceptions, in behalf of the God who worked a few thousand years ago to help a perpetual underclass escape a kind of progressive servitude under a long lost regime in a Middle-Eastern country that no longer accepts the kind of worship/faith system it practiced in the 14th century before the common era.
Prejudiced I am, in favor of Yahweh. I would not commit injustice in God's name, as I understand active injustice, but religionists of another nature or of no religion at all would charge me with terroristic thoughts, if not actions, for my proclamation of my avowed prejudice. In fact I recognize my unwillingness to commit acts of injustice is more the product of my American, cultural upbringing, with regional biases corrected by secular media and the Civil Rights Movement of my youth and my late mother's counsel than from my religious profession.
You might be more comfortable if I used the word "preference" in place of "prejudice" but no one who is asked, thoughtfully, to make a faith statement in the Christ who supports the First Commandment in His own testimony to a religious lawyer, could possibly understand my stance as benign preference. It is prejudice, pure and simple. The prejudice I feel in honor of my faith system automatically pits me against all other faith systems and I ask you to join me. If this is not prejudice it looks very much like it.
Let me explain.
The word "prejudice" is an old French word, taken from the Latin praejudicium and so meaning "prior judgment." It is a compound word with a prefix like our pre- and then a word to fulfill the modifier. It means to make a decision prior to or in place of the facts in evidence. Prejudice flies in the face of reality. In point of fact, prejudice can make a widow out of hope and orphans out of dreamers.
The Old French word prejudicium, most often construed as "injustice" came to us in the Year of Our Lord 1290 C. E. and dwells with us in all its permutations down to this day. Go look for the injustices we express in one word in English today; racism does not appear as an expression until the 20th century, a full century after the supposed abolition of the English Slave Trade and American slavery. We know more about prejudice as injustice today and must, accordingly, practice it with greater stealth.
So, we have had prejudice with us for some centuries, at least seven, as an expressible form and its presence helps us discover other inner repulsions unburdened by basis in fact. The word comes to us from France, Old French, as I say, and first appears in accepted use about the year 1290. What is going on in France in 1290 C.E., that would cause a word like "prejudice" to suddenly come into vogue?
The Jews were coming. The Jews who left Normandy in the early twelfth century for England were now banned in England. In the year of our Lord, 1290 of the Common Era, the Jews of England were banned from the island nation buy edict of King Edward IX. They would have to come home.
When the Jews got home to Normandy they discovered they were not welcome there either. They were proscribed from certain acts and industries. They were assigned to wear the rouelle, so anyone could tell a Jew. Everyone in Normandy apparently knew what everyone else in England knew. Jews needed a marking so they could not infect the unsuspecting.
I am not suggesting for one moment the word prejudice emerged as a protective word for a persecuted people in France in 1290 C.E., but rather the opposite. Prejudice against a body of persons accused of their own prejudice (of acting in their own sinister interests) is the more likely etymological rise of the word. Injustice practiced against Jews is not considered injustice in the 13th century. It is self-defense.
Understand that prejudice as injustice does not even begin to gain a hearing until the Renaissance/Reformation and then only dimly. African-slavery became the focus for the Jacobins who somehow saw the light through the hazy fog of personal interest.
Behind all that, Judeo-Christian heritage folks have The God who says He is The God and no other gods get a billing above Him or beside Him or even beneath Him. We are to accept this command as a command, without the possibility of acquiring, let alone possessing, adequate information into the Person of our God, without the possibility of touching on the massive available information about other Faith-Systems. And we are to ask others to join us.
This is prejudice. Little wonder our prejudice often turns into injustice.
We may end up looking a bit arrogant here. We are not arrogant, just obedient but you can understand how a common person, mildly sentient, would be a bit put off when confronted with a gospel presentation. We answer too many questions with "I don't know," or with a simplistic repetition of the party line.
We are prejudiced in favor of Our Guy. We simply do not have all the information or even enough information to convince anyone who is not prone to make a life changing decision on the basis of the non-verifiable. Let us grant our prejudice but ban injustice.
I am predisposed for My Guy (God, the One I identified earlier). I am prejudiced for Yahweh.
I do not have to commit injustice in the name of Yahweh. I can insist injustice perpetrated in the name of the Christ does not actually advance the Kingdom of Christ or the Cause of Christ.
In fact, because I must worship Yahweh-God only if at all, I am doomed to practice His example of the Faith. In part, that means I must accept God as a perpetrator of evil if I am passive toward evil or as He who actively resists evil. I learned skepticism toward absolute statements of ethical monogamy but I have to hold to this one, e.g., the only way to answer the dilemma of suffering in this world is to see God's people
actively resistant to evil, be it personal, institutional or religious.
Tomorrow I want to deal with the First Commandment as ethical rather than simply religious. I hope you can wade through it all and get back to read.
A Minor Headache and So a Major Delay
I did not get to the ethics lecture I intended yesterday because of a minor headache. This one was about a six, for those of us who number our headaches and was soon headed off. I took great comfort in the Scripture during the afternoon and evening.
Here we go, one day late.
The "I" in one's religion weds the "We," for "I" must live with "Them," and to live with "Them" in some kind of fellowship means "I" and "They" arrive at some kind of "We." The "We" apparently experiences some kind of brief interruption at Judgment Time, for "I" am reckoned according to "my" petty rebellions, not the errors of the "whole." Yet, then, after the personal accounting, "I" meld back into the "We," wherein we shout Hosanna to the King of Kings.
No one thing inevitably follows another with the trite cleanliness one might suppose. That is, nothing is inevitable until it occurs and then I might not see it or understand its implications. However, the "I" morphs into the "We" of religious community often enough to be called reliable, at the very least.
Apparently, God thinks it worthwhile to save out as many as will follow. God does not rescue Moses from Egypt in the Exodus passage. Moses is already out of Egypt, married, safe, employed and as happy as the palace raised can be in an important outdoor profession. God actually calls Moses and sends him back into grave danger, the One to rescue the Many, but not all.
That is, in order to rescue the Many, God must first overcome the avuncular objections of the One. The One who establishes the We by his rescue of the Many must first hear and then heed the Call.
People love to get together but no one wants to live in the lobby of a hotel. After awhile everyone wants to go to their own room.Moses goes off to be with God a lot, the better to put up with People. The People never make Moses glow.
Moses needs a persistent cleansing. So does any "I" who is set to live among the "They" as a Covenant "We." The success (or progress) of the "We" seems to depend on the willingness of the individual "I's" to access rescue and adopt leadership.
That is, God expected all of the Redeemed to say so.
I am of that generation of Southern/Southwestern Americans raised to be impolite to persons of color. We no longer had slaves (I am not quite that old) but there were other measures to keep people in their place. Impoliteness was one. We were raised to be rude to "coloreds," to be separate physically when we could but apart emotionally at all times.
That is, except for my mother.You have to understand, the late Dorothy Lee Clark Davis was born in the tiny hamlet of Joshua, Texas in the Year of Our Lord 1922. She managed to finish the 11th grade in school, which was the highest grade public education offered at that time. Modest, shy, tall and rather lovely (I have seen the old pictures) Dorothy had one husband, a thorough-racist and two sons.
She could not overweal my Yankee, racist Father. As for her two sons, racist language was forbidden. We got fairly regular lectures about how people are just people and dark-skinned people are people, not lower beings.
She strictly forbade rude behavior to ethnic minorities. This was in Texas in the 1950's. She was a contrarian, swimming against the cultural stream, with the pure-hearted altruism recumbent in the religious. She just applied her altruism to various banned ethnicities.
The "I" to become the "We" must first decide who will be "They" and who will be "Us."
Thou shalt not have, the Book says, "any gods besides Me."