Esau the Evangelical
Starting at the end of the biblical account of Esau and moving backward, we read the condemnation of the writer of Hebrews on poor Esau: “See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal” (Hebrews 12:16).
Remember Esau, the son of Isaac, the twin brother of Jacob? Well, Esau, by God, was an evangelical. This may seem like a harsh charge, but the evangelicals, especially the chiefs of the tribe, have sold their birthright for a mess of secular political power. Having taken charge of the church they are now determined to take the nation as well. I can make this rather odd claim because in America evangelical now is a political term that deals only in raw power and oppression. The evangelicals, like Esau, have made a deal with the Empire.
Well, Esau sold his birthright for a pot of stew. A thin gruel. A chicken soup with no chicken. You can’t be more of an evangelical than Esau. He is the patron saint of this dubious, tragic group of Christians. Look at American evangelicals selling their birthright in order to sit at the table of power with white supremacists, the KKK, the NRA, the anti-anti-anti everything people, the racists, and the haters. God had promised to bear them on eagles’ wings and bring them to himself. He said to them, “You shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation,” but the pot of stew was too tempting. Since the advent of the Moral Majority, the evangelicals, especially the chiefs among them, have been trudging, hat in hand, to the seat of the powers and principalities and they have bowed the knee to Pharaoh – the symbol of the world of power. As Walter Brueggemann reminds us, “Pharaoh is clearly a metaphor. He embodies and represents raw, absolute, worldly power. He is a stand-in for the whole of the empire.
Evangelicals, having deserted the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have given allegiance to Pharaoh because ruthless, dominating, authoritarian power is the elixir of their bellies. They pant for it and pray for it. They intend to rule the country with the iron fist of moralism. And what will they have when they win their ill-gained victories? A bowl of thin stew with the bitter taste of Egyptian slavery as aftertaste. They will have gained the world and lost their souls, birthright, and blessings.
Later biblical observers of the story of Esau pour out devastating judgment on Esau. The prophet Jeremiah leaves nothing to chance: “But as for me, I have stripped Esau bare, I have uncovered his hiding places, and he is not able to conceal himself” (Jeremiah 49:10).Then Obadiah chimes in: How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures searched out! (Obadiah 1:6). On that day, says the Lord, I will destroy the wise out of Edom, and understanding out of Mount Esau (Obadiah 1:8).