Rev. Peter Friedrichs: Moses & Pharoah
I was speaking to one of the residents of Occupy Philadelphia last week, and he told me that we are living in “Pharaohnic times.” This phrase has stuck with me, and I think it’s deeply insightful. While not enslaved like the Israelites in Egypt, many populating the Occupy encampments around the globe, and those in sympathy with them, feel that they have no control over their lives. They feel trapped by and powerless in a society that keeps them impoverished and systematically oppressed. Those lucky enough to have jobs are working just to get by, with little hope for the future. Many people – those who have lost their homes or their jobs, and those who have never had either – are at real risk for their very survival. There is a pervasive sense of hopelessness, and a perception that no matter how hard they work, Pharaoh – in this case the gaping, ravenous maw of “Wall Street” – will never be satisfied. They are caught in a system whose heart has been hardened.
For years these modern-day Israelites waited for Moses to lead them out of this Egypt and into the land of milk and honey promised to them so many generations before. Four years ago they saw a man emerge from the rushes whom they thought might be their savior. He offered them the thing for which they yearned most deeply: Hope. And then their hope dissolved like so much morning mist, as their Moses encountered the harsh reality of Washington politics. God, apparently, had not invested him with the power to persuade Pharaoh to let his people go.
And so, the people were faced with a choice. Wait for a true savior to emerge, or save themselves. Wait for another Moses to call Pharaoh out, or take matters into their own hands. The cry of the people at Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Philadelphia and Occupy Oakland is the cry of Moses: “Let our people go!” They seek nothing less than the peaceful overthrow of the Pharaohnic system that holds them captive.
As a person of faith, I am called to side with the Israelites. To speak truth to power. To echo and amplify their cry for justice. To encourage them – to offer them courage – as they hold up a mirror to the callous society that enslaves us all with the enticement of easy credit and the illusion of prosperity just beyond our grasp. This ragtag army of activists camping out in public places across the country seeks an audience with Pharaoh, that his hardened heart might be changed. This is what draws me to Occupy week after week. I stand in support of the many Moses’s in our midst.