Rather than referring to the thousands of mostly Hondurans now journeying across Mexico as a “caravan,” with all the fears and dangers this can stir up, the public discourse can shift significantly if this is referred to instead as an “exodus” of people fleeing from oppression and violence. It is similar to the Exodus described in the Bible, as well as the many stories and waves of immigration throughout Scripture. Exodus politics are at work whenever those in power take advantage of and exploit the powerless, as US policies have been doing for decades in Central America.
This is consistent with the many ways the story of the Exodus has empowered many people throughout history, such as African-Americans and Central Americans seeking freedom and liberation. “Exodus can be read…as the story of the revolutionary struggle of an oppressed people who search for their liberation, and as the story of the formation of a new society based on other principles…than the generalized slavery of Egypt and Canaan.” [J. Pixley in Global Biblical Commentary, p. 28]
Those desperately fleeing from extreme poverty and violence in this exodus today may seek a better life in a “promised land” but what awaits them is far from that! There are powerful forces of resistance, militarization and even criminalization that await them, and if they are even able to reach the US, no promise of a better life assured. But this does not deter them, nor did hurdles turn back the ancient Israelites. Instead, as one exclaimed on behalf of many, “only God gives us the strength to go on, and to hope.”
In the original Exodus story, the Pharaoh was so fearful of the oppressed people growing in number and power that he ordered the midwives Shiprah and Puah to kill all their male babies (Exodus 1). However, they deceived and went against the Pharaoh’s order and instead, respected God. How might people of faith along with others today be like these midwives and resist, even block what the current “pharaoh” is intending? What policies might be developed on the basis of compassionate justice rather than the perpetuation of fear and more violence?
The Rev. Dr. Karen Bloomquist is a Lutheran pastor and theologian living in Oakland CA, who seeks to connect faith perspectives with what is occurring politically today (firstname.lastname@example.org).