Sermon — Will Progressives Be The Generation of the Desert or The Generation of Joshua?

I must interrupt my usual analysis for a sermon.

It is appaling to me that we stand on the verge of seeing the stimulus bill go from a reasonable piece of legislation designed to fundamentally alter the economy to enhance sustainability to a return to the usual failed policies and boondoggles. This is not happening because the Obama people are “stupid” or “failing” or because the “special interests” are too powerful. It does not happen because Rush Limbaugh is “too strong.” If it happensm, it will be because the people who listen to Rush Limbaugh are willing to get off their rear ends and pick up phones and make calls to their Senators and to their local newspapers and browbeat them into cowed compliance — and we Progressives will not.

Voting on election day is not nearly as important as being willing to spend five minutes when it counts. We have the tools, we have the moment, we have a good first step before us. But will we trouble ourselves to save it?

The time has come for Progressives to decide. Shall we be the helpless Generation of the Desert, the generation that time and again quailed before the challenge and demanded Moses return them to the land of Egypt and died in the desolate waste without coming to the Promised Land? Or will we be the Generation of Joshua — willing to make war to take the Land flowing with milk and honey the Lord has promised us? This fight for the stimulus bill marks our first test.

This week in Synogogue, we will read from the book of Exodus where God does not take the Children of Israel directly to the promised land “lest the people lose heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.” These are known in Judaism as the “Generation of the Desert.” These men and women had become so damaged and constrained by their slavery in Egypt that they could not act for themselves. At the Red Sea, despite the miracles of Egypt, despite the daily miracle of the pillar of smoke and pillar of fire that guided them through the desert, they panicked in terror at the sight of the Egyptian Army, turned in anger and despair on Moses and demanded: “Did you bring us here because there wre not enough graves in Egypt? Better we should have stayed in Egypt as slaves than come here to die?” Even after the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army, the Generation of the Desert remained helpless — depending on manna, and demanding to return to Egypt at every obstacle.

Not until the Generation of the Desert died in the wildnerness did a new generation arise. This generation, the Generation of Joshua, rose to fight the wars of the Lord and enter proudly into the Promised Land. It was to them that Moses, in his last speech declared the words that every Progressive should take to heart.

It is not in Heaven, that you shall say: “Who shall ascend into Heaven and bring down the Word to us that we may hear it and obey.” Nor is it over the sea, that you shall say: “Who shall go over the sea and bring back the Word that we may hear it and obey.” For the Word is near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for YOU TO DO. (Deut. 30:12-14 )

The Obama people have neither the power to deliver us or betray us. They will listen to us — hopefully with sympathy of purpose and compatible philosophy. But as the spies told the Children of Israel after seeing the Promised land, “It is indeed a land flowing with milk and honey, yet there dwell mighty inhabitants in walled cities, and very great, verily the descendants of giants.” I will answer them as Caleb the son of Jephna did: “Let us go up at once and posses it, for we have the power to overcome them!”

It is for us to chose. Will we be the Generation of the Desert, the timid former slaves of whom God said: “Let me not take them by the short way through the land of the Philistines, lest they repent when they see war?” Or shall we be of the generation of Joshua and come to claim our inheritance? Our choice. Not Obama’s choice, not the Republican’s choice or the shadowy “mainstream media” or the undefined “special interest” or anyone else we might care to blame. If we do not lift a finger, if all we do is sit and whine and complain and moan about how wussy Obama and Reid or Pelosi are and why doesn’t the Deliverer come and save us than we will meet the fate of the Generation of the Desert — and we will deserve it!

We may still lose, no mistake. But “there is a tide in the affairs of men,” some shakey guy said. And also a good deal of inertia, I will add. For many years, we have struggled while our calls for battle fell on deaf ears, drowned out by paens of praise to the Gods of the Marketplace who — their accolytes and industry beneficiaries promised — would bring us all good things if we removed all the bad “regulatory constratins” and “government interventions” in their path. And like the Hobbits of the Shire, we lived so well so long most of us forgot that getting justice and changing attitudes is a long fight measured in years — against a well financed opposition with infinite patience and operating on multiple levels. Small wonder, as years passed and people were prosperous, that the tide flowed with the incumbents and the few reformers and opponents found it hard going indeed.

But that tide is turning and the Shire is rousing. There is an interest and an energy directed at the management of policy not seen in far too long. It is for the most part still unformed — more an allergic reaction to the last 30 years of free market triumphalism than an organized movement. But it is a real current looking for direction, and it lies with us whether we shall ride it and shape it or whether we shall allow others to put rocks and shoals in its path.

And don’t tell me not to bother because “people” are too stupid to understand this or because the incumbents control the mass media and have huge advertising budgets. My brother the educator likes to say: “Parents are not keeping their ‘good’ children at home. The ones they send to the classroom are the ones they have, so you better figure out how to teach them.” The conservative movement did not build its power overnight. Nor does it’s power come from “special interests” and the flow of money. We are watching that power at work because when the conservative punditry says “call and tell them to kill the stimulus bill” hundreds of thousands of Ditto Heads and loyal troops actually care enough to get out of their chairs, pick up their phones, and call. they care enough to call the editors of daily papers and the local television crews and tear them a new one for their “biased Liberal media coverage.” That is the source of conservative power, and we are more than a match for it — if we will but take up the struggle.

For our worst enemy is not the talk radio punditry, “special interests,” or the compliant mainstream media that shills for them. It is not weak-kneed Democratic leaders who fold under pressure. It is ourselves, unable to grasp that the world is changing and the moment for action and organization has come. Like the Children of Israel taken from Egypt, we may lack the essential character to be a free people even when the Almighty hands it to us on a silver platter. Go read your Bible and you will find that no sooner had God split the Red Sea and drowned the Egyptians that the Children of Israel were bitching and moaning: “We’re thirsty! What are we going to eat? We want meeeeaaaaattttt!!!! Why the heck did you bring us out of slavery to die in this miserable desert anyway? Waaaahhhhhh!!! We wannna go back to Eeeeeeeegyyyyypt!!!!!” When the spies returned from the Holy Land, they reported “it is indeed a land flowing with milk and honey — but the inhabitants are giants. AS GRASSHOPPERS WE FELT OURSELVES TO BE, AND SO WE MUST HAVE APPEARED TO THEM.”

I give now the answer of Kalaiv son of Yephuneh. “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)

How? Didn’t we just beat these guys? Didn’t we just mobilize millions of people to send a resounding “NO MORE! NO MORE FAILED POLICIES! NO MORE DOING THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!” But unlike Democrats, who expect to lose and therefore stay beaten, the conservatives expect to win and therefore will keep coming back until they are thoroughly beaten.

So here’s what we do. We leverage our strengths just as we did before. Let’s start the “We Are The change We’re Waiting For Meme” on every social network and blog you have.

Copy this call to arms:
We are not helpless. We will not wait for Obama or Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi or anyone else to save the stimulus bill from the conservative noise machine and the business as usual culture. We will fight back, and show them that America wants real change. Click here to get the phone number for your Sentors and Representative. Call and tell them: “Stop the failed policies of the last eight years! Government spending creates jobs, tax cuts don’t! Pass the stimulus bill without any more presents to big business. No more tax cuts or other tax ‘incentives’.”

Time for us to decide if we will be the Generation of the Desert or if we will be the Generation of Joshua. Will we die in the wilderness, or dare to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land?

Stay tuned . . . .


  1. Excellent post. Even those of us who live in states with two Democratic senators – I’m in Illinois – need to contact them, if only to stiffen their sometimes hard to find spines.

  2. I wish I had a second senator to contact… the votes are still being counted in MN.

  3. Harold, while you may covet the role of Joshua, leading troops into battle against small businesspeople like myself, I can guarantee that no matter how long you hold up your hands the Internet will not stand still.

Comments are closed