Friday, September 30, 2005

Jacob have I loved...

As for me, as I read the story of Jacob and Esau...just about every time I’ve ever heard this story, what has always hit me at a real gut level is Esau’s plaintive cry: “Bless me, also, my father!…Is there no blessing for me?” I hear that, and I hurt for Esau. I hear that, and I’m troubled by the actions of Rebekah and Jacob—disturbed that “God’s chosen” could act in such a way, could by deceit wrench away that which was rightfully Esau’s.

But this time around, as I’ve struggled with this story, I’ve realized that part of the reason that I’m seeing the story this way, that I’m feeling the story this way is that I’m approaching this story from the position of privilege. I am a heterosexual middle class European American, and though I’ve had my struggles with inequality as a woman, I’ve nevertheless greatly profited from a system that has given me food on the table, clothes in the closet, a good education, a chance to pursue any one of a multitude of vocations.

As a European American, I’ve benefited greatly from white privilege, which according to Peggy Macintosh is “invisible systems conferring dominance on my group,” so that, for example, I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my race, or if a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race, or I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color, or I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

But it’s not just that: there are all kinds of privileges that have been inferred upon me as well simply because I am an American.

It’s no wonder, then, that I approach this story from a position of privilege, from the privileged one’s perspective, that I enter into this story as though I were in Esau’s shoes. I have assumed that the blessing was “rightfully” Esau’s and on the basis of that assumption, have condemned Jacob and Rebekah for their actions.

Why have I assumed that the blessing was rightfully Esau’s? Well, because that was the way that it was done in that culture, and in many cultures since: the oldest son received double or all of the inheritance upon the father’s death, and Esau was the oldest son. Okay, that’s the way it was done. But still, why have I assumed that the blessing was rightfully Esau’s? Because I’ve been willing to let the powerful define what is rightful in this story. Because I have confused “the way things are always done” and what it is right.
By Pastor Cindy, who isn't often confused


At 10/16/05, 3:26 PM, Blogger hipchickmamma said...

an interesting examination of jacob and essau. i never considered how my point of priviledge played into how i read the story...i could never understand why or how there could be just one blessing...lots of things to struggle with and chew on...thanks!

At 1/7/10, 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!


Post a Comment

<< Home