To re-phrase Chaucer,
“When April with her sweet showers,
the drought of March has parched to the root,…
Then do folk get expelled…”
Yes, this April marks two expulsions, in a manner of speaking. Passover (beginning the night of April 19) is not really an expulsion like the bad ones when Jews were kicked out of Spain, Portugal, and other countries. It’s really about liberation, which came about when Pharaoh, having had it up to here with the plagues, essentially said, “Get out of here already!” His expelling us was God’s way of freeing us—a good expulsion.
The day before Passover, April 18, marks the release of Ben Stein’s film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, one of the latest in a series of advocacy films. Ben is talking about the expulsion that comes when proponents of Intelligent Design are “persecuted” in academic settings and denied the right of free inquiry, expelled from the academic establishment. In this case, expulsion is the opposite of freedom—a bad expulsion. (Check out the film’s web site, by the way, it is really quite funny and thought-provoking.)
There’s a third “expulsion” worth mentioning at this time of year. Jews who declare that they believe in Jesus are routinely “expelled” from among the Jewish people. I put “expelled” in quotes because there is really no authority that can expel or excommunicate Jews from the Jewish people. For every rabbi who might have excommunicated someone for something, one can find another rabbi who doesn’t agree with the first rabbi. Jewishness comes from God via parents, and one’s people are one’s people by virtue of a common history, culture, and destiny. A Jew can no more be expelled from the Jewish people than someone can be expelled from the human race because they believe the Creator is a frog from Neptune…or because they believe in Intelligent Design. But there are still some who would like to see such an expulsion, and good riddance to those pesky Jews for Jesus.
People can be expelled from countries, and they can be expelled from academia. This is a good time of year to contemplate what freedom means: freedom from slavery, freedom of inquiry, freedom of religion. I don’t know what your seder will be like this year, but at mine I am thinking of celebrating not only our redemption from Pharaoh, but the possibilities of redemption from suppression of thought of all kinds. Will anyone join me? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.