Biblical Violence

Pages 223-228

These pages depict a scene where a man accused of thievery is stoned and then set ablaze. Elvis and Redemption watch from a nearby spot, yet another time where Elvis must sit by and watch the casual violence that pervades his home.

In this book, as with many of the other pieces that we have read this semester, it seems that every sentence is packed with a reference to an outside person, event, or location. It is nearly impossible to keep up with all of these. I read the small chapter once as merely an observation by Elvis, and a second time with the various references in play. The scenes are markedly different.

First Reading: As Elvis and Redemption sit in a restaurant or café of some sort, a man (inexplicably wearing a tire as a necklace) is expelled from a nearby market for being a thief, crying for God. The mob follows him. The man, Jeremiah, responds to the claims by asking a man, Peter, to vouch for him, to verify his story that Peter owed him money. Peter calls him a liar and throws a stone at him, which Elvis describes as “comically biblical, yet purely animal” (225). The man implores that his is not a thief, but is instead a carpenter. The crowd begins hurling stones at him. Elvis asks Redemption why this is happening. Redemption answers with a Bob Marley quotation about the nature of hungry men. Elvis overhears a conversation in which a pair speculates about Jeremiah’s true crime. One claims that he must have molested a child. When Jeremiah awakes, the crowd pours petrol over him and lights the tire on fire. Redemption calls this the necklace of fire, a term which Elvis feels sounds “so sensual it made him shudder” (228). He is then chased into the adjacent timber yard by the prodding of two men holding two long wooden planks.

References:

Jeremiah: Jeremiah was a prophet who suffered greatly as he attempted to spread the word of God. In lamentations he said “I have been hunted like a bird by those who were my enemies without cause; they flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; water closed over my head; I said, `I am lost.’” (Lamentations, 3:49-55)

Peter: Peter was one of Jesus’ apostles and revered saint.

Carpenter: Jesus himself was a carpenter.

Crying for God/molested a child: There are many examples of stoning in the Bible, the reasons for which are very varied but include blasphemy (showing contempt or lack of reverence for God) and sexual molestation.

Bob Marley: Bob Marley was an influential musician as well as Rastafarian, a religion that promoted the idea of Afrocentricsm.

Necklace of fire: Necklacing is a common lynching technic seen mostly in South Africa.

Two long wooden planks: Jesus was crucified on two long wooden planks.

 

Second reading: The people take the side of the established saint over the mistrusted prophet. They stone him for suspected sexual misconduct and blasphemous behavior. Redemption reflects on the nature of the African people and their place in the world. And next to all of the Biblical references is an example of human cruelty, lynching.

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