My Paranoia

EXODUS 1:6-22

6Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation. 7But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

8Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. 12But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, 14and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

15The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,16“When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” 17But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” 19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

The legendary Exodus story begins with people in power being outnumbered and overpowered by foreigners and others. Sound familiar? It’s hard to understand how so many miss the fact that the United States is so quickly becoming Egypt, and Babylonia, and Rome, and every other empire.

Paranoia, sadly, is not limited to those in power. Anyone who invests time, energy, and resources into imagining a disastrous future is guilty of allowing their paranoia to take over their lives. Anyone who is willing to point the finger externally as the cause of their problems and willing to work overtime to eliminate that external threat is letting their paranoia have the better of them. Anyone who is so convinced that the world is conspiring against them that they focus all of their energy on unearthing said conspiracy and eliminating the conspirators has fallen into the trap of paranoia.

But at its heart, paranoia is laziness. It seeks to fix externally what most likely is an internal situation. Instead of working to understand why the Israelites were more prolific, the empire sought to eliminate their offspring. Instead of trying to forge a society where both people groups could live cooperatively, they put their energy into creating and maintaining a caste system that made the Hebrews less than. Instead of building a future forged in hope, they created one based off of their fears.

I confess that I am oftentimes far more motivated by terrors of an imagined future that the hopes of s prosperous one. Or even the pleasures of the present moment. I pray that I will not arm myself against the rest of humanity in order to protect my imaginary security.

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