“There was once, in a far-away country where few people have ever traveled, a wonderful church. It stood on a high hill in the midst of a great city; and every Sunday, as well as on sacred days like Christmas, thousands of people climbed the hill to its great archways . . . ” — a story written by Raymond MacDonald Alden
If we pull the camera lens way back on the Bible stories, so that all of them fit in one big picture, the way all of Planet Earth finally fit in the lens of a moonwalker’s camera many decades ago; if we pull so far back that the particular stories seem like Italies and Indias did to the spacemen, yet so clearly part of something bigger, what is that bigger thing, bigger than any single story, bigger even than all of them together, yet present and full in every single one of them?
Every year in America, thousands of churches fail because they had nothing to say to the children—the grown children, that is, like Abram and his wife Sarai when Papa Terah made Haran home. Consider. When we won’t cross the rivers always known to us for lands never yet shown to us, money is always the matter.
The blunt fact is that scriptures Old and New pronounce a fulsome God damn not on foreign nations but on the prophets’ own land. Stiff-necked Bible-thumpers prefer Micah mounted in museum glass to the real thing. But if we do not take scissors to our scriptures, then those blunt words of Rev. Jeremiah Wright exactly match the purpose of the prophets: to that land which perverts equity through greed and force the word is, God damn!
To take something—this is a marvel: first, a creature must perceive it, then desire it, then move for it, and only then, take it. Our awe at seeing how animals take what they need is rooted in this most basic narrative of our own nature. It is our own story.
Only Tamar is a true agent in this great drama. Judah merely acts on his fears and desires, like any creature. Only Tamar intends the future of all Judah—and she is a Canaanite.