Moses was first made important for me. It was a passive process. During religious education in my early childhood I began to hear the stories of Moses’ greatness as a representative for God. Eventually, when I chose to think about Moses on my own, I was very surprised by what I found: The Moses described in the Bible and the Quran is not remotely similar to the Moses depicted in movies. Noticing the vastness of these differences ignited a curiosity that would not be easily extinguished.
I started talking to professors and going to the deep recesses of university libraries in search of answers to a litany of questions: How did the story of Moses become so different over the centuries? Why was it changed, and who altered his legacy? What have been the consequences of overlooking and misunderstanding his story?
Exploring the life and legacy of Moses led me to some unexpected places. The Hebrew Bible is the only original source for the stories of his life. Decidedly, Moses is a religious hero. Yet the religious communities who descend from him, my own included, only discuss the greatest hits of his life. Many features of the story of Moses never see the light of day in public. When the fullness of his actions and achievements are seen and considered, one is forced to confront that what he actually did requires deliberation.
How we understand Moses isn’t benign. Around the globe, the legacy of Moses is being used every single day to privilege some ways of being and to delegitimize other ways of being. His stories are being used to make some people feel included in their communities and they are being used to exclude people from these same communities. The narratives of his life are being used to justify hospitality and kindness, and they are being used to justify hostility and violence.
While celebrated as the giver of God's Laws, the overlooked truth is that Moses is not the founder of what became Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The religions that descend from Moses all began as celebrations of the God of Abraham. When Abraham was tending his flocks and herds, life was very different. The pastoral rhythms of his spiritual life were so beautiful that he was singled out to be blessed by God. The religion he practiced, and which was celebrated by his Israelite descendants, was vastly different than what we have been led to believe.
It is possible to recover the legacy of blessing that flows from Abraham, but it requires some work. Abraham was a man who experienced a freedom of religion that has been almost impossible since Moses arrived on the scene. Since the time of Moses, laws and commandments have coerced us to live in the tight confines of religion that contains threats of punishment. It is our right to reclaim, and experience, actual freedom of religion.
Moses and the Death of Heresy is a story of recovery. I hope that you will join me in the process by reading the book I have written. I hope that when you are done, your heart will feel more liberated than when you began.