Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (Genesis 20) transports me to tv land in the UK, where on Thursday’s at 10 on the Fx show No Signal, you can enjoy scenes from a reality show Pimp Up My Wife. Yep, we’ve not only got people pimping up cars and houses, now spouses get the complete overhaul as well. An entertainment reporter interviewed DJ Spoony, host of the show, and asked him how far the show would go. Spoony replied, We’re going all the way, very much in the way that if you’re gonna sort of pimp up your car you don’t just sort of wash it and clean the insides, you change the wheels you give it suspension, you might even put a tv in the back, it’s a complete overhaul, yeah. DJ Spoony builds up the suspense as he gets ready to unveil one of the wives who got pimped up: So, we’ve taken what could only be described as a nice but rough old onion, and turned her into a smokin’ hot honey. While we live in a culture where anything goes, this, although posing as a reality show, is not real. It’s a spoof on reality tv, a satire a la the Sacha Baron Cohen variety, complete with interviews of people on the street to get their reactions to the show. One of these interviewees made the mistake of thinking it was Pimp Out Your Wife instead of Pimp Up Your Wife, which would have been a whole different satire and social commentary for DJ Spoony.
Sometimes the Bible reads a whole lot like a reality tv show, and out of context it would be hard to tell if it’s genuine or satire. Today’s Passage is one of those cases. Here is Father Abraham, patriarch of Judaism and Islam, traveling with wife Sarah as they continue their covenant journey. Abraham had enough faith in God to leave his homeland at God’s call, on a journey without a stated destination. He had seen God’s power displayed, from the visiting angels who announced to him that his aged wife would soon bear a child, to the utter destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the turning of his nephew’s wife into a pillar of salt. Pretty strong medicine, for sure. Right on the heels of all he has witnessed, his travels lead him into the desert region of Gerar, where Abimalek ruled and the people didn’t fear God. Abraham’s fear of God and his trust in God’s power suddenly paled in comparison to his fear of these people, and he suddenly got the bright idea to pass wife Sarah off as his sister. Why he thought being married was threatening the story doesn’t say, but he felt she was a liability as his wife. So, with sister wife Sarah in tow, he essentially did what DJ Spoony didn’t do, he pimped her out to Abimalek the king, who saw her and wanted her for his own. Who knows what made her appealing to the king, since a mere two chapters earlier she described herself as old and worn out. But Abraham went along, protecting his skin, if not his wife’s, and we are left for God to once again intervene, giving the King a royal nightmare threatening him and his people if he touched Sarah. Abimalek complied, saved himself and his people, and returned sister wife Sarah back to her rightful husband. Sarah didn’t say a word throughout the whole ordeal (that would not be the case in a modern reality show).
Much is rightfully made of this story from a feminist perspective, about the role and status of women in a patriarchal world where pimping out seemed to be within the code of ethics for men of faith who sometimes lost their faith. Whether you consider yourself a feminist or not, I doubt that this kind of story is what you’re thinking of when you sing Give me that old time religion. It’s not the kind of family James Dobson wants to focus on. The other layer to the story, though, along with all the skewed family values portrayed, is the question of faith. Why didn’t Father Abraham trust the God of the Covenant to protect him? Why didn’t he trust the promise? He had seen evidence of God’s trustworthiness, just as Simon Peter had seen evidence of Jesus’ trustworthiness and yet still denied him three times when things got out of control. We could spend time judging these old-timers, but I suspect none of us are far removed from Abraham and Peter when things seem out of control in our own lives, when we travel through terrain that can be threatening. We are all tempted to take matters into our own hands, failing to trust the ultimate power of love. We’re all tempted to pimp up our faith. Now there’s a show idea for DJ Spoony.
How about you? Where does this Promise Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.