[Editor’s Note: We are incredibly excited to introduce “Exile and the Prophetic,” a new daily feature from noted theologian Marc H. Ellis. Ellis has been a leading thinker on Israel/Palestine and his work challenging the Jewish community ”in an age where Empire Judaism seems triumphant” has never been as vital as it is today. To read the entire series visit the archive page here.]
Marc H. Ellis
I write from Cape Canaveral, in a small but serviceable apartment two blocks from the ocean. In some ways I am living in an idyllic setting, but the reasons for my arrival here are less than ideal. You see I have entered a new phase of a long exile after running into Ken Starr – yes that Ken Starr – who lo and behold became president of my university a couple of years ago. It’s a book length drama, perhaps even a movie but that’s for another time. Suffice it to say that all the dramatic components are present; deceit, hypocrisy, false accusations and even a paid witness or two! As I said, high drama.
But then again, though now far removed from the education industry, at least that part which increasingly carries a narrow Bible College mentality, I have survived to testify further. Which goes to show that even the attempt by some to recover a White Christian America has its limits if we continue on the journey. So onward I go.
It may be a coincidence that my new exile arrives during the twenty-fifth anniversary year of the publication of my Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation. In that book I outlined what I still hold to be true – that the central facing us as Jews is justice for and reconciliation with the Palestinian people. Without both we as Jews are nowhere, at least ethically speaking. Of course, on the empire front we are everywhere, a vision I have seen come true in my own lifetime. But where does empire lead us? That is the question I asked twenty-five years ago. I am still asking it today. But the situation is much graver. As Jews, darkness surrounds us. We have entered an abyss.
There is also hope. I have witnessed that too in struggles I have participated in and the struggles that Jews of the new generation are waging. Years ago a Palestinian told me that the Jewish prophetic would never die. He was – is – right. The prophetic is our indigenous. It is exploding right before our eyes.
The prophetic is also in exile. As old as our scriptures. Yet it is important to think through what both the prophetic and exile mean for Jews today. That is for Jews of Conscience who seek to practice Jewish in an age where Empire Judaism seems triumphant.