First, I’m a sinner.
Second, the Bible is dangerous. No, the Bible isn’t dangerous; men, at least some of them, are dangerous. Miss Maudie sums it up best: “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of — oh, of your father.” (I smile here imagining Scout’s frown in response to this counterfactual comparison.)
Third, a natural incongruity exists between social media and faith, between incessant stimuli and profound silence. Unfortunately, for every single poignant depiction of faith on the internet, there’s a legion of hucksters and false prophets bringing open shame to the Almighty, seemingly unchallenged. I suppose this begs important questions about my intentions here. Am I just another charlatan riding on the Lord’s long coattails? Am I just another fool deluded by his imagination? This all shouldn’t deflect from the hopelessly saccharine quality of my art, of course, to which I’ll readily admit. Yet irony and flippancy seem hardly appropriate today, either.
I believe my responsibility is to honor God. Especially today. So if the work here fails to resonate, that’s entirely on me. I’ll own that. If you feel some measure of hope, then all glory goes to God.
Back to the point. Scripture is rife with plagues. Old and New Testament. The Ancient Egyptians experienced their fair share, notably in the time of Moses, when Pharaoh released the Hebrew population from captivity after bearing witness to an apocalyptic plague causing the sudden deaths of the nation’s firstborn sons (cattle included). This was a devastating attack on Egypt’s future, and this was a stunning disgrace for the royal cult. Only forewarned Jews who had marked their door with the blood of a sacrificed lamb escaped the calamity. Frequently omitted from sanitized versions of the exodus narrative, however, is the Almighty’s decision to “harden Pharaoh’s heart” before the ten plagues [Exodus 7], apparently prolonging Jewish captivity and Egyptian suffering to progressively reveal, through ever-increasing wonders, God’s existence. Sitting comfortably at a computer 3500 years later, I’m struck by two questions: Is God a showboat?, and is Pharaoh a victim?
Concerning the latter question, Pharaoh presumed his godhood. Remember his outrageously inhumane decree to have every Hebrew newborn boy drowned in the Nile as a form of population control. Pharaoh, like the children he ordered annihilated, had no say when God’s reckoning finally arrived. Quite the blow to Pharaoh’s ego. There’s a darker lesson here about family lineage, too. As far as I can surmise, the Egyptian firstborns had no direct part to play in the atrocities committed earlier, and their deaths appear entirely unjustified. However, Pharaoh could not have had succeeded in his mass-slaughter — just one of many horrifying episodes sustaining a cruel and decadent Egyptian system of oppression — by working alone. A recurring theme in the Bible is just how often the sins of the parents fall upon their children. As Joseph Wittreich dryly noted, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”