Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Moses and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Exodus Experience is paradigmatic for the North American experience of 19th through 21st centuries: Emancipating millions of slaves at once creates the danger of social chaos, unless or until these former slaves, who never made meaningful decisions for themselves, and who never developed leadership skills, are given a social vision and a way to organize themselves. The task of Moses was not merely to bring the Hebrews out of slavery and give them a few laws, but rather to help them create a society. Did the former slaves, and the children and grandchildren of former slaves, find a stable and beneficial social structure after being freed in the American Civil War?

It is no accident that Moses and the Exodus formed a focal point in the preaching of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in American in the twentieth century; they understood that after gaining their freedom, they also needed a "Moses experience" or a "Sinai experience" to give them a sense of direction, a social structure, a moral compass. To exactly what extent this ever happened is debatable.