Earlier today, I pulled my bible from the shelf and dusted it off, intending to use it as a reference for the Golden Calf episode in Exodus, for reasons everyone can certainly grasp. Indeed, as I write this, America’s Golden Calf is holding forth in Orlando, Florida.
Well, that was my goal but since the Ten Commandments and the Golden Calf are inextricably linked, I searched for the Ten Commandments without success. After some irritating minutes of bible skimming, I resorted, as always, to Wikipedia.
This whole insignificant ramble of mine is tangential to the key point — how the Golden Calf came about and what happened to the rowdy mob which, unable to suspend their need for instant gratification, needed something to worship while their actual leader was up on a mountain busy with a hammer and chisel.
But it must be mentioned because I’ve just discovered there are not ten commandments; there are a load of ’em, a multi-item not to do list. And even more startling, god went on to deliver of himself specific laws about interior decorating (“Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them”) and complicated cooking tips.
The foundation upon which I’ve stood my entire life has just been shattered.
Indeed, I did not read any part of the bible until I was 30 or so, working at Paramount Pictures. (Why I possess a bible is an unanswerable question. God didn’t give it to me, that’s for sure.) British producer John Heyman had come in with a proposal to do the bible as a TV series. Don’t remember whether it was both books or one book or the Pentateuch (he was Jewish).
I was intrigued by Heyman’s sweeping vision and one of my jobs was to be intrigued by film and TV proposals. So I grabbed my bible to see what was what.
I got no further than the Cain and Abel incident when I was struck by a lightning bolt. I ran into my boss’s office and said, “The Old Testament god was a total shit!” Moreover — since, aside from the bible, what I was reading at the time was a lot of psychopathology — I gave him my diagnosis: god’s irrational behavior showed him to be a schizophrenigenic* father.
What I’m getting to is: all I know about Exodus I learned from Cecil B. DeMille. (Can’t remember why my ophthamologist and I were discussing the bible last week but he informed me there was not a repulsive green mucky cloud descending from the sky and rolling through the streets killing first-born sons, and I moaned, “But I love that cloud!”)
See what I meant when I said this was a tangent?
Back to the Golden Calf. Which of course is a multi-cultural reference to that sleazy Trump idol wheeled out at the CPAC gathering in Orlando, Florida. As witty pundits were mocking this thing, and CPAC visitors were taking pictures of it (one photo showed a guy bowing to it), I was thinking, “What? Don’t Trumpists know anything about the bible?” I mean, if I know what happened with the Golden Calf romp, shouldn’t people who brandish religion as their raison d’etre, no matter what idol they worship, know how the entire business wound up?
Somewhat relatedly, today I read a smart lawyer reminding Trumpists how the rats followed the Pied Piper to their doom. But he left out what happened after the rats were gone: the town council decided not to pay the Piper the previously agreed fee of a thousand guilders and the Piper led all the town’s children away. They were never seen again.
Why are so many people stuck in truncated versions of mythological lessons?
Now, the Golden Calf. Before I get to the movie version, let’s pick up the seminal one:
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
Don’t you love “Up” and “wot”? This is where tweet language came from.
Then Aaron collected all the gold earrings and made the calf. So…
And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
You know what “play” means, right? The movie version makes it clear. The people orgy.
But here comes Moses, the words of god ringing in his ears…
“Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves…they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it…Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation.”
That last part doesn’t compute. He’s going to “consume” the people and “make of thee a great nation”? Moses will be made a “great nation” all by himself?
And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.
So not only did the idol-worshiping people have some big stones thrown at them, they had to swallow all their jewelry. Maybe Trump cultists should read their bible. Or, if they want something shorter, they could read Robert Browning’s “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” Their choice.
This is so much more than I meant to write and I never got to William Tyndale.
*Forgive me, lord, for some previous sinning. I’d taken up R.D. Laing at the time. Since then, I’ve converted to genetic theories.