In my ongoing reading of the book of Ezra this week, I’ve been continuing to reflect on the way in which God’s people experienced persecution at this point in their history. This point being when they were attempting to rebuild their temple after spending decades in exile at the hands of a Babylonian King.
In last week’s post, I reflected on three ways in which the enemies of the Jews attacked, leading to a stalled temple building project for 37 years.
As I continued to read this past week, I was reminded of exactly how this project hijacking occurred.
In an act of political misrepresentation.
I was teaching a lesson earlier this term to my long suffering Year 12s (still at school…) and exploring the concept of representation. I was looking at a particular text and questioning whether we could trust the representation of certain personas. Was the director actually correct to portray the person in this way? Did they create a realistic narrative of their personality and how they changed? And if not, why not?
Those ideas struck me as I read the fourth chapter of Ezra this week. Here’s some of what I wrote in my journal:
They [the antagonists] write a letter and represent God’s people as rebellious and wicked. They say to check the history books. They appeal to the economy and the king’s ego. They lobby...Their letter worked and the Persian King sought his royal interests. They used politics to stop religious worship. They [the Jews] were a minority controlled by others.
Misrepresentation is an act of disempowerment.
It’s jumping in first, before the group – the actual people in the know – have a chance to express their identity, their opinions, their beliefs and what they value. They lose control over expressing those things.
Misrepresentation is writing the script for someone else.
No matter what they say, they’ll be misinterpreted because the misrepresentation has been believed. It’s been accepted as ‘gospel’ if you like. And speaking out against that is time consuming and requires hard work to reform opinions and understanding.
I think Christians are misrepresented a lot within modern Western society.
I think a lot of groups are misrepresented, actually.
When I was an undergraduate, I had a tutor at university who was researching misrepresentations of the LGBTQI community within the media. I think it was for her PhD. It may have just been misrepresentations of lesbians – my memory is foggy – as she was a lesbian and was offended by the stereotypical and wrong representations she saw of herself within the media and within society at large.
It’s very easy to write a narrative to suit ourselves or to achieve a certain aim: political, sociological, religious, racial and so forth.
However, Christians are called to “speak the truth in love” and that includes our representations of others.
Even if we have been misrepresented, we should not misrepresent others. Jesus said that we should do to others as we would have them do to ourselves.
This is not easy to do, as stereotypes and manipulative representations abound. However, with God’s help we will find out about people as groups and individuals and ensure that we don’t make assumptions about them.
Instead, we’ll let them speak for themselves… and if they wish to, build their temple.
Yours in writing the script,