Fusion Magazine: The Patron Saint of Hope

How the Story of Moses Shaped America

 

By Bruce Feiler

Is there a more empty word in political rhetoric than hope? A third of American presidents have used the word in an inaugural address. In William Safire’s collection of the “great speeches in history,” Lend Me Your Ears, the language maven gathered more than 200 orations from Cicero to Margaret Thatcher. The word hope appears in 100 of them. In American politics of late, the word has become so overused it’s almost, well, hopeless.

And yet, few ideas have had more power in creating the United States than hope. Few concepts have stitched together the sometimes conflicting tensions among our religious, secular, and entrepreneurial impulses than hope. And few ideas are more central to our future than hope.

Even more surprising: These disparate strands of the American character have often found an expression in a most unlikely source. He is the figure who inspired more Americans than any other. He is the figure who shaped more iconic American symbols of opportunity – from the Statue of Liberty to Superman – than any other. He is the patron saint of hope.

His name is Moses.


America's Prophet


by Bruce Feiler

Five years ago, after spending years retracing the Bible through the deserts of the Middle East and writing such books as Walking the Bible and Abraham, I began spending more time at home. One day, while visiting Plymouth, Massachusetts, with my family, I boarded a replica of the Mayflower. A re-enactor was reading from the Bible. “Exodus 14,” he stated, “[the] Israelites are trapped in front of the Red Sea and Moses declares, ‘The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.’ Our leader read us that passage while we were crossing the Atlantic.” Hmmm, I thought. Moses, on board the Mayflower.

On a trip to my hometown of Savannah, I saw a letter from George Washington in which he credits his success in the Revolution to the “same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors.” Exodus, on Washington’s pen.

On a trip to Philadelphia, I discovered that the quote on the side of the Liberty Bell is from Moses. “PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF. The law of Sinai in the middle of July 4th.

In coming weeks, I found a similar story over and over again. Columbus comparing himself to Moses when he sailed in 1492. George Whitefield quoting Moses as he traveled the colonies in the 1730’s forging the Great Awakening. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, in the summer of 1776, proposing that Moses be on the seal of the United States. Harriet Tubman adopting Moses’ name on the Underground Railroad. Abraham Lincoln being eulogized as Moses’ incarnation. The spikes of light and tablet on the Statue of Liberty being molded in Moses’ honor. Cecil B. De- Mille recasting Moses as a hero for the Cold War. Martin Luther King likening himself to Moses on the night before he was killed. The sheer ubiquity was staggering, and, for me, completely unknown.

For two years, I traveled to touchstones in American history and explored the role of the Bible, the Exodus, and Moses in inspiring generation after generation of Americans. Discovering how much the biblical narrative of the Israelites has colored the vision and informed the values of 20 generations of Americans and their leaders was like discovering an entirely new window into a house I thought I knew. You can’t understand American history, I now believe, without understanding Moses. He is a looking glass into our soul. But why?

The answer comes back to the profound connection between the story of Moses and the idea of hope. As theologian Walter Brueggemann has written, the role of the prophet is “to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing alternative futures to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” That is Moses’ gift and his legacy: He proposes an alternative reality to the one we face at any given moment. He suggests there is something better than the mundane, the enslaved, the second-best, the compromised. He encourages people to be revolutionary. Perhaps Americans’ chief debt to Moses is his message that we should never settle for the status quo, and always aspire to what Thoreau termed the “true America.” In the words of W.E.B. DuBois, “Not America, but what America might be.”

This, I believe, is the chief lesson to take from the story of Moses, and why his 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai have had such a profound effect on the American dream. The years I worked on my book about Moses overlapped with the earliest years of my daughters’ lives, and because of that a moment in the Moses story took on special meaning. The passage comes in Exodus, on the eve of the 10th plague and the first Seder, when Moses says, “When in time your child asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ What will you tell them?” I began to wonder how I would answer that question. What will I tell my children about the meaning of Moses?

First, the power of story. Exodus 1:8 features this memorable phrase: “A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.” The story begins with forgetting. The rest of the Five Books of Moses becomes an antidote to this state of forgetfulness. God hears the groaning of Israel and “remembers his covenant” (Ex. 2:24). Moses leads the Israelites from Egypt and urges them to “remember this day” (Ex. 13:3). The Israelites are ordered to “remember the Sabbath day” (Ex. 20:8). Moses’ goal is to build a counter-Egypt. He must construct a society that offers an alternative to ignorance and unknowingness. He must devise a community that remembers.

Moses’ success in this regard may be his most underappreciated accomplishment: The Five Books of Moses are a memory device. In slavery, the Israelites made bricks; in freedom, they make stories. As historian Jonathan Sacks put it, “By telling the Israelites to become a nation of educators, Moses turned a group of slaves into a people of eternity.” So my first message to my daughters: Remember. Keep the story, as Moses says in Deuteronomy 30, “in your mouth and in your heart.”

Second, the story is a narrative of hope. “This year we are slaves,” the Passover service says, “but next year ...” History is not set in stone. It is not an immovable pyramid. It can be remade. The pyramid can be flipped. When you despair, when you hurt, when you fear – and especially when you encounter those feelings in others – remember the slaves who first groaned under bondage. In America, the pilgrims, the founders, the enslaved, the ghettoized, and the segregated, all read the Israelites’ story and believed that they, too, might be free. You should read the Israelites’ story, too, and remember this lesson: There is a moral dimension to the universe. Right can prevail over might; justice can triumph over evil. As Princeton Professor Michael Walzer writes, “Anger and hope, not resignation, are the appropriate responses to the Egyptian house of bondage.” You should read the story of Moses and remember to flip a few pyramids yourselves along the way. And as long as it’s not your parents (remember that fifth commandment!), you should question authority. Overturn injustice. Befriend the stranger, for you, yourselves, were strangers once in a land with no hope.

Which leads to my third point: Act. One reason Moses has inspired so many Americans over the centuries is that he evangelizes action; he justifies risk. He gives ordinary people the courage to live with uncertainty. As I found in my own travels in the Sinai desert over the years, no matter how full of hope the Israelites were when they departed Egypt, they were still leaving the most civilized place on Earth for the most barren, based only on the word of a God they’d never actually seen and a leader they barely knew. Moses is the enemy of caution, which is one reason so many visionaries have been inspired by him – Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King. And these people were not born to greatness. They became great by tapping into the anger and hope within themselves. The moral of their lives, like that of Moses, is that each of us must become our own agitator, our own entrepreneur, our own freedom fighter. Our own Moses.

The Bible suggests a similar ending in Deuteronomy 34 when it says that Moses’ successor “was filled with the spirit of wisdom” because Moses had laid his hands on him. Moses’ farewell gesture is also an act of love: He teaches. He may not achieve the Promised Land, but he transfers his wisdom to those who shall. The man becomes a book. Born on the lip of the Nile, he dies on the brink of the Jordan. The boy who was given life by being floated on the water becomes the prophet who yields to death at water’s edge. And in doing so, he leaves the crossing to each of us, who must hear his words and heed his story. Left with only his telling and his wisdom, we must split the sea ourselves now. We must run our own errand into the wilderness.

I will tell my daughters that this is the meaning of the Moses story and why it has reverberated through the American story. America, it has been said, is a synonym for human possibility. I dream for you, girls, the privilege of that possibility. Imagine your own promised land, perform your own liberation, plunge into the waters, persevere through the dryness, and don’t be surprised – or saddened – if you’re stopped just short of your dream. Because the ultimate lesson of Moses’ life is that the dream does not die with the dreamer, the journey does not end on the mountaintop, and the true destination in a narrative of hope is not this year at all.

But next.

Bruce Feiler is the author of five New York Times bestsellers, including  Walking the Bible, Abraham, and The Council of Dads. The article is adapted from  his book America’s Prophet: How the Story of Moses Shaped America, which Glenn Beck called “the best book of narrative history I have ever read... I cannot recommend it highly enough.” For more information, please visit www.brucefeiler.com



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BlazeTV host Mark Levin said his new book, "American Marxism," provides proof that we're not just facing a coming Marxist revolution — it's already here.

Many Americans remain unconvinced, believing recent moves from the far left and the Democratic Party are just passing phases. But this is not a "fad," Levin told Glenn Beck on the radio program Tuesday.

"This isn't progressivism, or social activism, or democratic socialism. This is Marxism. Now, it may not be Marxism in every particular. But it's an Americanized form of Marxism," Levin explained.

"You need to pay attention to what's taking place ... You've seen it with your own two eyes. You saw the riots all summer long. You saw Black Lives Matter, which is headed by an openly proud Marxist. You see Antifa, which is a Marxist anarchist organization. You see the media, that you have been watching and reading, endorse every single one of these movements," he added.

"People have been brainwashed, or ... haven't been paying attention. They view this as a passing fad," Levin went on to say. "It's not. We all need to wake up to this. And if we have little differences, moderate Democrats, Libertarians and so forth, you better put them aside right now. Because we have a common enemy. I say enemy, not opponent. Not adversary. Enemy. And we need to be focused on defeating that enemy, rather than fighting among ourselves."

Watch the video clip below to hear Mark Levin explain how our individual freedoms are in serious jeopardy:

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Electric vehicles are the wave of the future. They are so much better for the environment. At least that's what we have been told, but is this correct?

On his TV special, Glenn Beck explained how electric vehicles (EVs) might not actually be the environmental solution we've been led to believe. In fact, they may not be a solution at all.

Glenn shared a recent article from LiveScience that reported:

A 2014 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the entire life cycle of an EV's emissions, from mining the metals required for the batteries to producing the electricity needed to power them, and then compared this with the average emissions of a gas-powered vehicle. The team found that when electric vehicles are charged with coal-powered electricity, they're actually worse for the environment than conventional gasoline cars.

He next shared an article from The Greenage, which stated:

The Union of Concerned Scientists has calculated that manufacturing a mid-sized EV with an 84-mile range results in about 15 percent more emissions than manufacturing an equivalent gasoline vehicle. For larger, longer-range EVs that travel more than 250 miles per charge, the manufacturing emissions can be as much as 68 percent higher.

Noting how electric vehicles and other fossil-fuel alternatives require the use of mined minerals like lithium, cobalt, zinc, copper, and nickel, among others, Glenn quoted an International Energy Agency report that warned reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement "would mean a quadrupling of mineral requirements for clean energy technologies by 2040. An even faster transition, to hit net-zero globally by 2050, would require six times more mineral inputs in 2040 than today."

"Can [you] predict which country is the world leader in processing the minerals needed for these batteries? Right, China," Glenn stated. "The average EV requires over 200 kilograms of minerals. The average gas vehicle requires 40 kilograms of minerals, mostly copper. A single EV has 22 pounds of lithium in it ... yet another way that the green reset of American energy is putting us all at the mercy of Communist China."

"Oh, and remember during the Obama administration when the world was gonna end' over fracking?" Glenn asked. "Well, the Institute for Energy Research now says, and I quote, 'Mining and processing of lithium, however, turns out to be far more environmentally harmful than what turned out to be the unfounded issues with fracking.'"

Watch the video clip from Wednesday night's episode of "Glenn TV" below for more details:

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SAVE $10 WITH PROMO CODE GLENN.

We've heard a lot about the 1776 Commission over the past several months. From the mainstream media, you've heard lies and slander: It was a racist panel put together by President Trump to peddle a whitewashed version of American history.

In reality, the 1776 Commission was established by President Trump in the fall of 2020 with the purpose of promoting "patriotic education." Not to mandate it, not to propose legislation – simply to PROMOTE it. The media and academia lost their minds over this now controversial idea that we should teach young Americans to appreciate the nation they've inherited. And predictably, just hours after Biden took the oath of office, he signed an executive order to dissolve the 1776 Commission, calling the commission's report "offensive and counterfactual."

Glenn Beck presents the 1776 Commission's report in its entirety, because unlike the media and President Biden who want to hide it from you, Glenn wants you to seek the truth and celebrate Independence Day with pride.

Watch a preview below or catch the FULL, 5-part presentation of the 1776 Report on BlazeTV.com or Glenn Beck's YouTube channel.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

I am an Irishman and in 2006, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend Independence Day in America. It was a magical experience I will never forget and one I am desperate to repeat.

Everything about the day was magical. I can remember every little detail: seeing the pure joy on people's faces when they saw family members, not seen since Christmas; enjoying burgers and hot dogs being grilled to perfection in the mid-afternoon; jumping on a boat and witnessing an awe-inspiring fireworks display with the feel of a cold beverage in my hand; coming ashore and sitting around an open fire, toasting marshmallows.

As fun as these activities were, they are NOT what made the day magical.

The day was and is made magical remembering WHAT Americans are celebrating: being thankful for the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence and the idea of America which improved EVERY aspect of our world.

I would be honored if you would allow me to share five pivotal points from the Declaration, explaining how they started America on the path to becoming an exceptional nation, and how you can learn from the founders' example today.

1 The Layout

Take a look around society today, and you will notice a prevalent theme. The majority of people are angry, upset, and frustrated. They love to highlight the parts of society they view as a problem and tear it down. This requires zero talent. Even newborn babies with no verbal skills and very little knowledge of the outside world will let you know when they are unhappy by crying for a clean diaper, food or attention.

History is filled with people complaining and starting wars because they feel they have been wronged and sought a future "free from their oppressor".

Thomas Jefferson and your founders were different. Before mentioning any issues with the King (they waited 1338 words), they first explained their vision and how America would be different from other nations. They boldly declared that all men were created equal and have a God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This principle of explaining what you are for has a long track record in American society and has long lead to effective change.

This principle of explaining what you are for has a long track record in American society and has long lead to effective change. This includes famous speeches by John F. Kennedy declaring, "We will go to the moon by the end of this decade," or the great Martin Luther King Jr. telling everyone how he "had a dream."

LESSON: Tell the world what you stand for -- not what you stand against!

2 Role of Government

I have spent over seven years with The Blaze, promoting your founding principles and explaining how America is unique and different to every other nation in the world. Every principle, policy, plan and idea can be traced back to one core principle: How we view government and its role in society.

On the surface of history, it is very easy to believe that our world is very different and would provide many different answers to this simple question.

Just look at our world today and you see many different power structures. England retains a monarch. European countries, like mine, are democracies. Iran is a theocratic-controlled country. Russia is an oligarchy. Inside those countries, you will notice differences in ideologies between communism, socialism, fascism, liberalism and even conservatism.

YES, they all look very different. However, if you look deeper into those countries, you will notice they all view government the exact same.

Government is a central agency that possesses the power to be the moral arbiters of society, the ability to be the great equalizer and most importantly they are the provider of rights.

Does this mean every government uses this power every day?

NO.

Clearly, there are governments around the world who are more open to freedom and view government as the last resort. However, every country believes government always has that power and there are situations when government must take control for the "greater good".

If you doubt this, look at the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Even countries that love to talk about freedom and identify as freedom-loving, removed their citizens' rights in the name of public safety. You witnessed everything from governments shutting down businesses, banning you from traveling more than three miles from your home, limiting the number of people you could have to visit your own house and enforcing you to wear a mask.

How could they do this? Because government is the power structure of all these countries and providers of rights. Any government that has the power to confer can also rescind them under the right circumstances.

Your founders were very clear that they did not share the world vision of an all-powerful government.

The idea of America is different. Your founders were very clear that they did not share the world vision of an all-powerful government. You can see this by reviewing the structure of the Constitution, but that foundation was started in the Declaration of Independence when they spoke about the Law of Nature and Nature's God, which highlights ALL rights come from God. You are born with these rights and it is the government's sole responsibility to ensure these rights are never taken away.

3 RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Take a step back and look at the public discourse today. You will notice the majority of people love to talk about their rights. My friends on the right love to talk about their right to free speech and guns. My friends on the left love to talk about their right to healthcare and abortions. When was the last time you saw anyone online talk about their duty and responsibilities? It's not a very popular topic.

Your founders were not dumb men.

Their genius was understanding the laws of nature and basic first principles. They researched world history -- from the great empires of the past to senates that were supposed to last forever, examining why they failed. While there are countless reasons for each, understanding one concept is critical. When freedom becomes all about rights and forgets about responsibilities, it creates a vacuum. Historically, the government always fills that vacuum. This creates a prime opportunity for a tyrant to come to power and solve a public need and always ends the same way - gaining more power and stripping you of your individual rights.

Your founders feared this vacuum and warned against it TWICE in the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. They spoke about your right to alter and abolish your government, instituting new safeguards. Then they spoke about your right, and duty, to throw off the government and provide new guards.

LESSON: Freedom without responsibility will always lead to tyranny.

4 RACIST FOUNDERS

As an outsider, nothing annoys me more than the constant attacks on your founders and their brilliance. Were they perfect? NOPE. Should they be worshipped like Idols? NOPE. Are there things we can improve upon? Yes. For example, it's 2021; why does the post office need to be included in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution?

Despite their flaws, they provided America with a great platform on which to build. If America is to survive and prosper, the IGNORANT attacks that America's founders were old racist white men with wooden teeth must stop. Why? Because it is a LIE!!!

I could write at length about this issue alone, but I will provide two simple facts.

Firstly, please close your eyes and imagine an actual racist (no, not your typical Donald Trump supporter). Imagine how they look, how they sound, what words they use and everything down to what aftershave they wear. Got that vision? Good. Now try imagining that vile, disgusting racist say the following:

ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!

Did your vision say those words? Do you think people like David Duke would say them, let alone sign their name to a statement declaring this as a self-evident principle for the world to see?

Answer: NO!

The second fact requires you to have a reading of history before America. Thomas Jefferson could have very easily left these five powerful words out entirely or just use the accepted language of the day from the Magma Carta which stated:

"All FREE men are created equal."

If Jefferson and the founders were racist, why did they improve on the language of the day and declare this truth as self-evident?

If ...the founders were racist, why did they improve on the language of the day and declare this truth as self-evident?

5 FORGOTTEN FOUNDERS

If you look at culture and politics today, you will notice a common theme where everyone just wants to win, regardless of the cost. Society tells us winning is everything, and there is no room for failure. Is this true? Can society progress really progress without failure and sacrificing everything they have for the greater good?

American history is so vast and deep that it can be straightforward to focus on the great and famous leaders who survived like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Franklin.

This particular weekend, I would like to briefly highlight three patriots who took the ultimate risk by signing the Declaration of Independence. They lost everything, and are sadly forgotten by many who teach history.

JOHN HART: John was a widowed farmer in New Jersey with 12 kids. He was rich, well-known in society, and employed many. When he signed the Declaration, troops attacked his farm with orders to execute him in Hopewell. He fled and eventually died in hiding.

FRANCES LEWIS: Frank was involved in international business and made a fortune on the mercantile exchange. Like John, he was rich, powerful and employed many. When he signed, he returned to find armed troops at his home, taking possession of it. They arrested his wife, starved and mistreated her and although she was later released, she soon passed away due to the horrific treatment.

RICHARD STOCKTON: Richard was a wealthy lawyer who studied at Princeton. He served on the New Jersey Supreme Court and had the respect of his peers. After signing, he was locked up, starved, tortured, and robbed of his possessions. His treatment was so bad that his final days were spent living on the charity of friends.

These brave men could have chosen a much easier road in life. They could have ignored the calls for Independence, paid any additional taxes to the King and still lived a great life. They had everything you would deem desirable in society -- money, earthly possessions, name recognition, and respect.

...these men... risked everything they had so everyone could have a brighter and freer tomorrow.

When they signed the Declaration of Independence, the only thing they could gain was an opportunity for absolute freedom. This ideal was so powerful that these men, and countless others, risked everything they had so everyone could have a brighter and freer tomorrow.

LESSON: Pursuing a higher aspiration is more important than winning.

Personal Request:

It is popular for Americans to say "Happy 4th" or "Happy 4th of July."

PLEASE STOP SAYING IT!

After reading this, realize how important and significant your founders to America and the world. It is disrespectful to them, their memory, their sacrifice, and everything they fought for. After all, would you go up to a Christian and say "Happy 25th?"

NOPE.

May I wish you and your exceptional nation a very HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

If you enjoyed this column, I released a special on The Blaze this week where I did a deep dive into the Declaration of Independence with KrisAnne Hall. You can listen for free on Apple or Spotify or The Blaze.