Kennington Avenue

Thursday, April 17th, 2014


I am a Pastor who happens to be African-American. I grew up in a Nation that was never quite sure if my people were fully human. When the African slaves were brought to this land in chains they met a Christianity that tried to convinced them that God was on the side of the slave-holders. The Africans would eventually reject this brand of Christianity. They would latch on to the story of the Exodus. It was their story. They found comfort in this God who was interested in their liberation-their freedom.  Exodus 14 is interesting. It reveals something about the oppressors as well as the oppressed. In this chapter the Israelites have begun the journey to freedom but Pharaoh realizes what he has done by setting them free. These slaves have been the source of Egypt’s greatness. They built a civilization and Pharaoh is not about to let them get away that easily so he sends an army after them to recapture and bring them back. The oppressor never relinquishes power or control easily. Freeing the Israelites was not in the Pharaoh’s best interest. They had a good thing going for 431 years. But I want to highlight the attitude of the oppressed, an attitude that is shaped from years of living as a captive and where your humanity or lack thereof is defined by the people who own you.

The text says: “As they saw the Egyptians on their heels they cried out to Moses, what have you done to us? Have you brought us out to the desert to die? At least in Egypt we had a roof over our head and food to eat.? This response reflects a deeper slavery-far greater than being bound by chains. It would suggest that the oppressor has accomplished what oppression is meant to accomplish at the outset and that is to enslave the mind-to convince the slave that he/she really is a slave and is meant to be a slave. Total liberation is not just about breaking physical shackles but freeing the mind.

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About the author

Ken Wheeler is a retired pastor. He most recently served at Cross Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Milwaukee, where he is now the director of the Bread of Healing Empowerment Ministry. For 18 years he was as an assistant to the bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA.