The Exodus

Frans Francken I. Hans skola: Den rike mannen och Lazarus. NM 429
I have seen your religion, and I hate it.
I have heard your doctrine, and I loathe it.
Take away your empty praise songs,
your vacuous worshiptainment.
Your mouth is full of religious words,
but your proverbs are salted manure.


“The sick deserve to be sick.
The poor deserve to be poor.
The rich deserve to be rich.
The imprisoned deserve to be imprisoned.”
Because you never saw him sick, or poor, or in prison.


“If he had followed police instructions,
if he had minded the company he keeps,
he would not have been killed,”
You say in the hearing
of a man hanging on a cross
between two thieves.


“People who live good lives
do not have pre-existing conditions,” you say,
carving these words over the hospital door:
“Who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”


“It is the church’s job, not the government’s,”
say you fat sheep,
defending your fat shepherds,
shoving and butting with shoulders and horns,
while you foul the water,
and air,
and scatter the hungry sheep.


You watch the melting glaciers and say to the waves of the sea,
“this far shall you come, and no farther,”
as if your will could change the weather,
as if your will could be done in the heavens as it is on this earth,
as if you could drill the sky the way you drill the soil.


In your telling,
in the story of the starving of the five thousand,
there are not twelve baskets collected of left-over food;
In your story, God’s abundance becomes scarcity,
and the crowds devour each other.
“Send them into the villages to buy food,”
and let the Invisible Hand’s miracle of the free market sort them out,
the worthy from the unworthy,
while you eat the two fish and five pieces of bread
volunteered by a child.
These ungrateful poor,
the welfare queens
with their anchor babies,
stop before your disciples’ raised palms;
they hear you say,
“The Master cannot be bothered to bless your children.”


You see Hannah drunk,
and you jail her for fetal endangerment.


Like Haman, you hide behind the skirts of the king;
you make laws and pay bribes
that allow vigilante violence
and private discrimination
against those you hate,
sheltering underneath plausible deniability.
“It’s not a Muslim ban,” you say one day.
“It’s about religious liberty,” you say another.


This Bible you wave, this word you claim,
it is sharper than any two-edged sword.
You wield it poorly; it slices you on the backstroke.
You know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.
You tie up heavy yokes for others
whose burdens you do not bear,
but you will not lift a finger to help them.
To some you say, “Do not marry, but burn.”
You lock them out of the kingdom of God.
You cross sea and land for your missionary work,
and teach others to be as hateful as you.


Your kingdom is not the public park of Zechariah,
where children play in the streets
and old men and women lean on their canes for very age.
It is not the land where every fearless household
has its own vine and fig tree,
their own means of production and shade for their rest.
It is not the land where everyone has a home.
Your kingdom is the one with gates,
where homeless beggars have their sores licked by dogs,
where people who have the audacity to grow old
pay a premium for their insolence.
Like Ahab, you covet all the vines, all the fig trees,
letting your domain stretch as far as your eye can see,
adding house to house and field to field
until, in your gentrified land
there is room for no one but you and yours.
Like Pharaoh, you call those who refuse you “Lazy, lazy.”
You build walls, and walls, and walls, and walls,
and you stuff your ears to the sound of protest songs
that will shake those walls down.


I have seen your christ, and he is my antichrist.
He is the herald of a violent god,
a god of fertility but not fruitfulness,
a god of embryos but not emancipation, pro-birth and anti-life,
a god of war and retribution but not of justice,
a god of order but not of peace,
a god of might but not of mercy,
a god of marriage but not of love,
a god of sex but not of pleasure,
a god of platitudes but not of wisdom,
a god of work but not of sabbath,
a god who demands sacrifice from the poor but luxury and reward for Pharaoh.


Your religion is the religion of pyramids pointed heavenwards,
towers built to reach the heavens.
Supported by their flat base, built by slave labor,
they are stable monuments to wealth and death.
You fill their secret rooms with gold so that
in the afterlife,
you may cross to paradise
on the backs of the oppressed,
and live in forgetful pleasure for eternity.
Your gilded gospel is rusty ruin.


You are why the ancient Hebrews
seldom talked about an afterlife,
weary as they were of working
for Egypt’s dead heaven.
Your idols and your religion
are why those slaves left the yoke of heaven,
the land of binding,
for a wide wilderness,
for a nameless, faceless God
who told them they—even they—
were made in God’s image.
You are why your churches are empty
of those who love and believe in freedom.
You are why the Gentiles blaspheme the name of God.
You are the reason for the Exodus.


And if you pursue, may God throw you into the sea.
And the horse you rode in on.


Amos 5:21-24
Luke 14:34-35
Matthew 25:31-46
Luke 23:33
John 9:1-12
Ezekiel 34
Job 38:11
Matthew 13:14-21
Matthew 19:13-15
1 Samuel 1:12-20
Esther 3:8-11
Hebrews 4:12
Matthew 22:9
Matthew 23:13-26
1 Corinthians 7:9
Zechariah 8:4
Micah 4:4
Isaiah 65:21-25
Luke 16:19-31
1 Kings 21
Isaiah 5:8
Exodus 5:17
Joshua 6
Genesis 11:1-9
Exodus 15:21

191 thoughts on “The Exodus

  1. Thank you. I left modern Christianity because of these reasons exactly- you put to words what I could not.

  2. This brought me to tears. It is what I want to tell my parents, but I don’t think I will ever have the courage.

    • Jennifer, in my opinion honesty is always the way to go.
      But there are exceptions. I’ve been where you are. My parents were lay ministers and all through Jr and sr high school, my plan was to be in the ministry, too. I didn’t come to my senses til later in life even though my parents were still exploring their faith.
      My decision not to fight them, move them, change them or present the justifications I’ve made to understand my reality was done out of love and respect for them and their love of religion. I was thinking more of any conversations we may have when on their death bed, when they are facing the great unknown. I would rather my parents died feeling the vast comfort of a promise of an afterlife, of seeing me again, knowing i felt the same. Knowing the children they raised and the love on which we were raised would continue after they are gone, is a comfort I wanted to be able to give my believing parents as a thank you and tribute for the love, devotion and selflessness they showed me every day of their lives.

    • Thanks, Jennifer. I have talked to so many families who feel this theological and political divide. I don’t know you or your family, but I can make some guesses. My polemic here is an expression of prophetic imagination—it’s really “preaching to the choir,” a demonstration that resistance is rooted in faith. I think the best way to talk to family who disagree is simply to share stories of our own experience and our friend’s experience, and to demonstrate that our resistance is a faith response to injustice.

      May God bless you & your family with love and understanding.

  3. Yes, yes, yes, from a deeply committed Christian and a church musician since childhood, yes, amen, yes. Let us all shun the false piety of the pharisee and weep with the publican for our sins. Yes, yes, yes

    • Except how is this also not a false piety to say “I am Christianing better than you.”

      This is full of bleeding anger and has not one bit of grace in it. And grace is the essence of Christ.
      Grace says “I see where you have caused hurt and I have compassion for you regardless.”

      There is nothing of Grace in this. Nothing.

  4. Wow, that is powerful! Can I print it out and put it in my Middle School Sunday School classroom? With credit, of course.

  5. That’s quite a performance, there, Dave. Do you actually know anyone like this? Or is it just a figment of your self-righteous imagination?

    • I did not read this as being self-righteous at all. I read it as a very sincere cry from the heart of someone who probably does know people like this and would love to see them repent of their hypocrisy and truly follow Jesus and his commandment to love others.

  6. This is righteous anger. This is truth to power. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. You brought tears to my eyes. These are prophetic words that should call us all to repentance. Powerful. Thank you.

  8. Pingback: Conservative Christians Read This – The Call Blog

  9. May this poem be set to singable music and may it become a prayer. Please find a blessing to finish it with so that those who live the life you critique may have a change of heart and turn towards what G-d wants of them

  10. What scripture do u use as you allow Premeditated Murder of Gods Most precious Creation, The Human Being…….You call it womens rights , by destroying , you believe, the evidence of Fornication……

    • Only across the pulpit is abortion made an issue. Abortions were practiced by the Jewish people and were not taught against, either by the Jews or their God.

      The church alone has issue with much of what is included in this post, not the God they profess to worship.

  11. Thank you, Dave. I have been reading and re-reading this, most times in tears. Your words are filled with a terrible beauty and power. Thank you for making and sharing this.

  12. May I reprint this on my blog (with full attribution, of course)?

  13. This is exactly where i am in my spiritual walk as a man raised in the church.

    • I was also raised in the church and have had experiences that moved scripture from my head to my heart. In “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers; Why is the Gospel of Love dividing America?” Dan Merchant quotes a man named Jonathan, who worked for an institute committed to world peace. “I know very few Christians who have faith in God. Most of the Christians I’ve met have faith in the Bible, and most of them have faith in their own mind’s interpretation of the Bible.” Dan asked what is true faith then? He said, “Jesus explained: to love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might and like unto that love your neighbor as yourself. Then in Matthew 25 He said, “What you do to the least amongst you, you do unto Me.” Now I have yet to see very many people who profess the Christian faith go reach out to the least amongst us. They seem to be aspiring, for the most part, for worldly power. To me,right now, he continued, we’ve got to start defining the values of justice, love and compassion as universal values and challenge every religion to live up to those values. To Christians and to ourselves we have to say, “Are we living up to the compassion God has called us to? It’s time to get beyond the franchises.”

  14. I’m teaching a class tomorrow on the Minor Prophets. I hope you don’t mind if I use this as an example of how the prophetic voice is alive and well. Well done. And thank you.

  15. This is a powerful statement, but not a reason to abandon my faith. Too many times I turn away from ones in need, but the example of faith-filled people gives me hope to be a better Christian. If I were Jewish or Muslim or Hindu
    or. . . it would be the same. It is not the fault of religion but of people behaving badly. Keep us thinking Dave Barnhart.

  16. Hypocrites abound, but a remnant of the truly faithful will always survive. “Will those who are saved be few?”

  17. This goes along so well with the book I just read by Dan Merchant, “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, Why is the Gospel of Love dividing America?” He quotes Gandhi as saying, “Everybody in the world understands what Jesus was teaching, except for Christians.”

  18. Thank you, Pastor Barnhart. Many blessings from a Jewish brother in Chicago.

  19. Don’t be so tough on yourself. We all fall short, though many try. And that’s the important thing. Of course the world will hate us just as it hated Jesus. But we shouldn’t get down on ourselves that much. Just try to do better.

  20. I’ve been thinking about his a lot lately. Thank you. You put this into words better than I ever could. Would love to see an entire book!!

  21. I read the comment from the person accusing you of self righteousness. I had to re-read your piece because I failed to get this view the first time through. In re-reading I found no one’s name attached or singled out for correction. What I found was a wonderfully crafted pair of shoes. And an invitation to try them on. For those who find them a perfect fit, defensiveness seems to be the response. But, no matter; it seems the way of humanity, state a principle and be attacked personally. You have nothing to apologize for, you have spoken the truth. You have placed the words of the prophets into relevance for today’s world. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s interesting that some folks feel it is necessary to out themselves or become apologists for the status quo. I always wonder what they feel they stand to lose.

  22. Prophetic, necessary, piercing- may it reach the hearts of those who need to hear it most.

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