I rarely look to Ezra as my go-to for scriptural passages, but today is an exception. I hope that many readers are aware of the egregious misuse by Trump supporters of Ezra/Nehemiah and the story of King Cyrus ordering the rebuilding of Jerusalem. While I usually delight in dismantling bad theology, their misappropriation of it is so over-the-top that it surely speaks for itself. But in case you are not in the know, here are some links to articles which expose this misuse in detail: Vox, The New York Times.
Reading John Harris’ piece in Politico this morning, I was struck by his choice to think deep into the future - when we will have returned from our current virus-induced exile - and to consider how this moment in our history is shaping the younger generation now. Harris writes, “Trumpism as an idea is about promoting and protecting American sovereignty and singularity. In some contexts, even Trump foes might agree it’s an attractive concept: Well might we wish to seal our borders from the virus. But the only way this would be effective would be if the United States had years ago opted to adjourn from the modern interconnected global economy.”
In other words: the idea of individualism as the root truth of our existence is patently false. We are not each able to “make it on our own.” What happens to one of us happens to all of us. This pandemic will continue to pound that message home to us as the coming weeks and months unfold. It will take a massive collective effort to combat. And when we return from our exile, one resurrection outcome may well be that it signals the end of more than half a century of a movement by ardent “individualists” to actively dismantle and deny any sense of community (and government) responsibility for the welfare of all people.
The loving heart of the passage from Ezra today is not the part about Cyrus declaring permission to rebuild. It is not the part about top-down management. The loving heart is “let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, beside freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.”
This passage tells us of people coming together - of offerings given in love and solidarity to rebuild the beloved community. Because the reality is - it is only through community that we are able to exist and to thrive.
As the climate crisis continues, as the earth herself cries out for us to stop the nonsense and pay attention to her, we must increasingly lean into an understanding of global responsibility for the entire community. We cannot take our own safely for granted; in the coming years, we will need each other more and more. It’s time to share expertise, to share resources, to cooperate - to realize more fully that what happens to one of us happens to all of us.
We are all in this together.