2015-11-08 – No one who has ever heard the biblical story of Joseph can forget it. A brother who is sold into slavery rises through his own faith and perseverance to lead a nation. A story of sweet and earned revenge. A story that inspired and inspires presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson and his evangelical followers. If you’ve been amused by recent news outlining Carson’s views about the Egyptian pyramids, stop laughing. The real story, according to Carson, is about the fulfillment of Joseph’s dream to rule.
A recent book by Jonathan Sacks, a recent Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, coincidentally takes up this same story to reach a very different conclusion.
The book is Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. As the title indicates, it deals with the problem of fundamentalist violence in the world, offering a surprising and hopeful analysis based on a close reading of the biblical book of Genesis, the book where the story of Joseph is found . . . and a lot more.
Most folks in the secular world think of the book of Genesis as the creation story. In fact, that is only one chapter out of 26. The rest details the struggles of the patriarchs and matriarchs to come to grips with the human condition. Rabbi Sacks’ main focus is the problem of sibling rivalry, why one brother can’t get along with another. That’s where Joseph comes in. But his struggle is one of many in the book.
Rabbi Sacks talks about the brothers Isaac and Ishmael, the brothers Jacob and Esau, and finally Joseph and his brothers. In each case, Rabbi Sacks finds that the brothers overcome potentially deadly sibling rival to achieve some sort of reconciliation. Dr. Carson, Joseph achieves reconciliation with his brothers, not dominion over them. Read your Bible!
According to Sacks, the three great monotheistic religions are caught up in a kind of sibling rivalry. In this rivalry, they abandon core tenets of their faiths, adopting an us-versus-them mindset that leads to violence and terror. If only the world could get back to the lessons of the book of Genesis!
Easier said than done.
But according to Sacks, the book of Genesis gives the map. I encourage you all to read his book to see what that map is like.