So, yesterday’s sermon at College Park Baptist Church was based on the story of Esther. I hear a lot of people who say this is their favorite one in the bible. And, really, who can blame them? The tale of Esther is great storytelling and has everything you could ever want: intrigue, revenge, misogyny, sex, violence. Oh yeah, there’s some courage, a little love and a smattering of devotion in there, too. You may be scratching your head and wondering “What the hell is he going on about, now?” So, let’s unpack this not-so-vaguely disturbing story, shall we?
Early on, a drunken King Ahasuerus orders his queen to dance naked in front of his guests. When Vashti (obviously one of those damn feminists) refuses, he gets pissed. One of his counselors says this affront must be punished because if the word got out that Vashti had refused an order from the king, all the other women would get uppity and there would be “no end of put-downs and arguments.” God knows, we can’t have women thinking for themselves, so the king had Vashti banished (and possibly executed), sending a message to the women in the kingdom to know their place and stay the hell in it.
Of course, that meant there was an opening in Ahasuerus’ harem and he began looking for a replacement. That’s where Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, come into the picture. Every time I hear the name “Mordecai”, I can’t help but think of a character on the totally surreal cartoon “Regular Show”. That Mordecai, a blue jay who works as a groundskeeper at a park with his best friend Rigby (a racoon), is a slacker whose attempts to goof off invariably lead to crazy, weird misadventures. But, he stands head and shoulders over the Mordecai of the Bible. I mean, seriously, we’re talking about a dude who forced a young girl he had adopted after her parents died (who may have been only 14 years old) into prostitution. Why? It doesn’t really say, but later events show he may have done so for political advantage. What a sterling fellow. Whatever the reason, the king takes Esther into his harem and she quickly becomes his favorite. Well, of course, she did. What dirty old man worth his salt wouldn’t favor a pretty, unspoiled teen age girl?
Later on, Mordecai pisses off the king’s chief advisor, Haman, by not bowing to him because, as a Jew, he only bowed to God. Haman, being a text-book villain, decides to get back at Mordecai for his disrespect by getting the king to authorize wiping out all the Jews in the kingdom. When Morty found out about this, he decides to use his strategically placed asset in the king’s household (i.e. Esther) to stop the plot. When she balks, he throws a guilt trip on her, saying “Don’t think for one minute that, unlike all the other Jews, you’ll come out of this alive simply because you are in the palace. In fact, if you don’t speak up at this very important time, relief and rescue will appear for the Jews from another place, but you and your family will die. But who knows? Maybe it was for a moment like this that you came to be part of the royal family.” Seriously? “Perhaps you became queen for such a time as this”??? Hell, a situation is probably what he had in mind when he gave her to the king in the first place. I hear people talk about how courageous Mordecai was, but I think he was one manipulative mother-fucker.