Friday, February 23, 2007

Samson: super hero or terrorist?

Samson is a pretty strange charater. Right now I'm working on a paper dealing with Milton's version of Samson's life in his poem "Samson Agonistes" (meaning Samson the "contender" in reference to his last appearance at the Philistian dinner party), and to be honest, I've never given Samson enough thought. Who was this guy? He is called one of the "judges" of Israel, but seems very unlike Gideon or other judges who actually call Israel to repentance. He is separated by God as a Nazarite, but even more so with his strength - he is the Nazarite qua Nazarite; yet abstinence from drink and haircuts seem to be the only things that he abstains from. And exactly how he managed to tie firebrands to foxes or kill armed soldiers with a donkey's jawbone or lift those doors is just beyond me... and rightfully so, they were beyond Samson as well.

An interesting aside:
There is a huge (renewed) interest in our generation regarding superheros, but the basic premise of most of these stories, (like X-men, or the new TV series Heroes) is that super powers only will exist as the next phase of evolution. As a kid I loved the thought of any type of superpower, flying, stretching, bending the space/time continuum, super strength, but the evolutionistic nonsense of mutations and survival of the fittest, despite giving it (admirably in my opinion) a serious (and not patronizing) look, was also a serious turn off for anyone who doens't dig Darwin. Perhaps Samson is one glimpse into real Super (natural?) powers. If someone like Samson truly existed, kids everywhere who are turned off (like I was) by the faulty worldview propping up cool ideas like X-men can now renew their hope that telekinesis, teleportation, or invisibility are real possibilities. Maybe we can re-read the section in Hebrews 11 dealing with Samson as a Super-hero of the faith?

Another thing that I've never thought about and I've come across it in a really intriguing article by a Feisal Mohamed, is the issue of whether or not Samson is a terrorist. He connects Samson's self-destructive act in the name of Divine will as a move similar to the Plane crashes of 9/11. I liked his article, he really understood Milton's approach to Samson and unlike others, he refuses to believe that Milton rejects Samson as a fanatic. I don't think Milton would reject Samson. But I also don't think we need to reject Milton for not rejecting Samson. The study seems to take Samson out of the Old Testament context where God's will is manifested to Israel who is separate from the surrounding nations, in much the same way it is manifested to Samson, who is separated to another degree (re: Nazarite qua Nazarite qua Israeli). Anyways, Samson's actions are a part of a different era in human history - an era where God wipes out the world with a flood, chastises Israel for allowing pagan woman and children to live, and violently establishes separation from the World in the entrance to Canaan. Again, Milton is aware of this, the poem on Samson is coupled with Paradise Regained, which is an account of Christ's temptations by the Devil in the Wilderness. An interesting choice to show how the Paradise Adam and Eve Lost is regained. Anyways, Milton depicts Christ as catching glimpses of his future ministry and uncertatin as to what his Father wills for this Kingdom - will it be established through Militarism like the Israel of Old or not? In fact, Satan tempts Christ with the power of earthly empire. Yet the kingdom of the New Testament is a kingdom established in the hearts and minds of believers united in praise of God in the church. This is the kingdom he came to start: the Church, not a renewed empire.

Still, the question remains, how do we come to grips with some of the horrific actions done in God's name in the Old Testament?

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