I took some serious heat from one of my friends for my recent Passover article. I also had someone leave a very intelligent comment about it. So herein is where I address both of them and put to rest any thoughts that might center around South Park. Let me address the comment first. Here it is in full:
It’s always interesting to me to step into the moccasins of another person and view life from a perspective different from my own. Religious holidays of any faith possess attributes that most likely package a people’s wonder and sense of inclusion in a universe outside of the mundane. I don’t know your religious or cultural heritage, and thus am unfamiliar with how (or if) you celebrate specific holidays other than my own. My own? I enjoy interacting with the world through a Jewish lens. Judaism is my religion of birth and choice, and the richness of its traditions binds me to a disparate group of people bridging time and geographic location. I would respectfully invite you to visit a blog entry I posted that may let you peek beneath the proverbial Jewish “tent” to give you a taste of Passover’s attraction as one of many people’s favorite holidays. (I have enjoyed sharing my tradition with people of many backgrounds, religions and ethnicities at my own Seder table over the years.). More than your brush with supermarket displays, and other questions you’ve presented, consider the following…the story of the Exodus is one of the longest running tales passed from generation to generation by a people who have withstood millennia of persecution and expulsion from Egypt to Spain, to Hitler’s Final Solution. Yet, this people – these twelve tribes – have survived against all odds, not only existing today, but making contributions to the worlds of science, art, literature, philosophy and humanity. History? Metaphor? Religion? Choose whichever, but know that over anything it is a TRADITION of a people. Happy Easter, Passover, and/or any other tradition that brings YOU joy.
I dispute the notion that religion can be a part of anyone’s birth, but ignoring that, I can understand the point the author is making. I think it boils down to “almost all group traditions look silly or odd to those outside that group,” which is clearly true. Just imagine what someone who knows nothing about football, or sports in general, would think about the Superbowl, or what someone who isn’t a Mason would think of the Mason’s initiation rites. Or to bring it a little closer to home for me, what someone who has no interest in Doctor Who would think of the annual Gallifrey geek-fest.
I can understand that, and I can appreciate the long, unbroken train of tradition that goes back thousands of years and has survived a great deal of difficulty over the centuries. But that said, I still don’t get the whole point of celebrating something that we basically know never happened. The Jews weren’t slaves in Egypt. The Exodus didn’t occur. The great plagues never happened. There wasn’t anyone wandering 40 years in the desert. We know these things are part of Jewish mythology but not something that happened in actual history. To me that makes them something not really worth celebrating. To me it would be like celebrating George Washington’s Cherry Tree Day, a commemoration of the day he told the truth about chopping down a tree.
But, hey, like with anything that’s basically harmless to the larger world, if it makes you happy, do it. I would never tell someone who is Jewish not to celebrate Passover or that they shouldn’t. They can if they want. And I can find it baffling, confusing and a bit silly.
Now onto the comments from my friend. I won’t reprint them here, but basically they boiled down to him finding me smug and ignorant. I don’t detect either of those, but smugness is subjective, so ok, I can’t really refute that. But ignorant? No. Not at all.
In Exodus the following events happen:
God tells Moses to go tell Pharaoh to free the Jews from slavery or else God will punish Pharaoh. Please note that God doesn’t want them to be freed; he just wants them to serve him instead of Pharaoh and promises all sorts of nastiness if this doesn’t happen. (Exodus 8:1 – 8:4)
After the plague of frogs, which is horribly mean to the frogs, Pharaoh decides to let the Jews leave. Then, in what is possibly one of the most unfair moves in the Bible, God forces Pharaoh to change his mind and then punishes him for doing so. Let that sink in for a bit. This is like your boss telling you to get a project done by a certain time, and then changing your passwords so you can’t access the files you need to get it done, then firing you for failing to do your job. This isn’t logical and I don’t see it as anything to celebrate. If anything, this indicates that God is a petty, evil, vindictive bastard and not worthy of worship.
Several more plagues happen and several more times Pharaoh is willing to give in, but God won’t allow this and punishes him for not giving in. In time, we get to the final plague and the various first born children are killed. Killed by God and the reason he gives for this and all his other punishments is that it’s designed to make himself look more mighty. God’s own reason for this is to make everyone amazed at how impressed he is. I didn’t make this up, and I’m certainly not ignorant on the subject. God himself says this is why he does what he does.
You can call out my article on Passover for many things, but I know what I’m talking about. I’ve read Exodus and blogged about these events. So smug I may be, but ignorant I certainly am not.
Finally, South Park, which back last week broadcast an episode called “Jewpacabra“. It was very funny, which is quite unusual for the show. In that episode, Cartman makes all the exact same observations I made. It’s worth noting that I didn’t see the episode until just a day or two ago, so it was after I wrote my article. Nice bit of dovetailing, though.
Ultimately, believe what you want to. But understand that the Passover story, like basically everything involving religion, has no basis in history and lacks even the tiniest bit of evidence. In the special case of the Passover story, it’s also worth understanding that God, throughout it, acts like an evil monster who lacks even the tiniest bit of sanity. This is not a being to be loved and worshiped; it is a being to be run away from very, very fast.