Two television networks showcased Cecil B. DeMille’s epic 3 ½ hour The Ten Commandments this Easter: ABC and Canada’s CBC. The 1956 film had no need for our 21st century Computer Generated Imagery to convince us that the Red Sea was indeed parting, and that the “bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). I wondered if the networks made this choice because there is really no superlative modern narrative of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection? We have Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, but its gore and blood is too hard to take at Easter. The Last Temptation of Christ by Martin Scorsese is too idiosyncratic, and would be something to watch and study at another time in the year. There are plenty of bland and insipid made-for-television versions of Christ’s story, many of which are programmed during Christmas, but for some reason they were not screened this Easter.
Perhaps these channels chose to commemorate Passover rather than Easter, which fell around similar dates this year. Or they’re simply following the ritual of politically correct inclusiveness. Even President Obama has made Passover Seder-at-the-White House a new tradition, hosting it for the second time as President. No other President before him has hosted the Seder at the White House. Obama’s Seder started on a whim, it seems. During his campaign trail, two young Jewish aides were celebrating their Seder in a basement of a Pittsburgh hotel, away from home and family, when Obama joined their festivities.
Obama’s interest in Jewish celebrations may indeed be a liberal’s outreach to cultural diversity - after all, the White House now hosts Ramadan dinners. But, it fits his narcissistic personality, conforming the Seder to any situation he may be experiencing at the time of the holiday. At the first, impromptu, Seder in Pennsylvania when his campaign was steeped in the Reverend Wright controversies and was “in the desert,” as another campaign aide put it, Obama proclaimed “Next year at the White House” as an addition to “Next Year in Jerusalem” commonly said at the end of the dinner. Perhaps, as suggests Judi Kantor from the New York Times, this year’s focus could have been one of the universalist themes that Obama is so fond of: to free Americans from the bondage of capitalist healthcare and to give them the abundance of Obamacare.
The Center for American Progress has another suggestion. In it’s article on Obama’s Seder celebration this year, CAP cleverly used the Bible’s New Revised Standard Version to quote from Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Almost all the other versions use “stranger”, “foreigner” or “sojourner” in lieu of “resident alien,” clearly portraying a temporary dweller and not the long-term inhabitant that “resident alien” implies. The CAP’s advice to President Obama is that he treat Mexican illegal aliens with the same compassion they interpret from the NRS, and pass comprehensive immigration reform. But when we parse the words, it is clear that illegal aliens are not the “resident aliens” implied by CAP, but emboldened Mexicans, foreigners and strangers, who wish to take advantage of the lax rules and borders that makes it possible for them to enter and reside in the country with impunity.
One has to marvel at the President’s Seder chutzpah after his dismal treatment of Prime Minister Netanyahu during his recent visit to the United States. It is one thing to celebrate an ethnic festival, but another to respect the significance that the celebrants give their rituals. The Israelites that Obama commemorates in these Seders were freed from bondage in Egypt, and their descendants later received their Promised Land. Yet, Obama seems intent on removing this sacred land from the Jews, and forcing on them new enemies who are probably far more ruthless than the Egyptians.
Modern Christians are in as much danger as modern Jews. Our liberal neighbors, with their feel-good, made-up Christianity are destroying our religion and our communities. Liberal church leaders support issues ranging from comprehensive immigration reform to same sex marriage. Atheists, who have nonetheless constructed their own religion, now have their prophets. In the April 2010 publication of Vanity Fair, atheist Christopher Hitchens performs an iconoclastic dismantling of the Biblical Ten Commandments and then gives us his own petty ten. Like the Old Testament’s Jews, we have to trust that God will free us from our current tribulations.
In fact, End Time preachers use the exodus as an allegory for our liberation. Our ultimate release is entry into God’s heavenly land. But the Passover and Easter stories are also our personal stories. The journey from bondage to freedom reflects our own mundane ordeals. And we experience death and resurrection with each sin and atonement. Celebrating these holidays each year gives us the hope that we too will inherit our particular Israel.
The liberal, politically correct television stations were right after all. The story of Moses, recounting a people’s freedom from slavery, and culminating with the abiding Ten Commandments, was an apt choice for these holidays. Would that our leaders understand and practice its significance. Not just as at religious celebrations, but throughout the year.