Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All too human

Today's first reading is edited in a way that we get the two extremes. The first half is the story we love of Moses in the basket being found my the maids of Pharaoh's daughter. The second half is Moses committing murder, and then running and hiding.

This second half reminds us once again that the people God traditionally chooses to be leaders are far from perfect. The are all deeply flawed human beings.

One can easily imagine Pharaoh talking to his daughter, "See. This is what those people are like. You take them into your home. You raise them as if they were your own child. Give them everything and they turn on you." Imputing the behavior of one person onto a whole group is how we keep stereotypes alive. As long as we can find one person that behaves in a certain manner, we can use the one or the few to justify the stereotype of an entire group.

Even into my parents generation you heard people talking about human beings as if they were dogs, talking about "good breeding" or "bad blood." Are there aspects of temperament and personality that are genetic? Yes. Even some mental illnesses have a genetic component. But what sets us apart from the other animals are three things: reason, free will, and grace. Animals can be clever but they cannot truly reason.

The combination of reason, free will, and grace allows even identical twins, raised in the same home, to grow up to be unique and often very different people.

That same reason, free will, and grace will transform Moses for the killer hiding in Midian into the man we all remember.