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First Down Moses underlies negative

Xavier Lebec | Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why is there a statue of Moses by the library?

“First Down Moses” might seem like he’s engaged in a benign football celebration. Only unlike most football players, who merely tackle their opponents and leave it at that, Moses has the disembodied head of his enemy underfoot. While I don’t lose too much sleep over the fate of golden calves, the statue naturally brings up some questions about Christianity’s, and even Notre Dame’s, attitude towards other religions.

In case you don’t know the whole story, the golden calf was a makeshift idol created by the “children of Israel” when they felt abandoned by their God. When Moses returned from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, he was understandably frustrated by how quickly his people had given up on God and lashed out by destroying the golden calf. This is where the story ends for most people as far as they understand it.

Already this gesture has serious implications for the attitudes of the Judeo-Christian religions towards other religions, but this is only the beginning of the collective wrath of God and Moses. God commands Moses to murder thousands of his own people (despite just giving the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”) and Moses and his followers unquestioningly oblige. Moses tells his most loyal followers “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor'” (Exodus 32:27). This mass murder is punishment for the “great sin these people have committed” that “they have made themselves gods of gold.” (Exodus 32:31).

Whether or not the story is literally true does not matter as much as the fact that people accept its message as sacred. Why do we cast in iron the likeness of a man who supposedly slewed thousands in the name of God? Isn’t this the same sort of religious extremism and terrorism witnessed only a few years ago here in America, right down to the shared death toll of 3,000? And isn’t the underlying motivation for each act – “divine” inspiration from the “true” God to kill worshippers of the “false” God – the exact same as well? Would we build a statue commemorating atrocities similar to those of Sept. 11 if they were committed in the name of our own God? Apparently, we already have.

Xavier Lebec


St. Edward’s Hall

March 26