A world of Ahabs and Naboths
1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a
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â€śThe story of Naboth is old in time but daily in practice,â€ť said Ambrose of Milan. â€śWho of the wealthy does not strive to drive off the poor person from his little acre and turn out the needy from the boundaries of his ancestral field?â€ť
Our world was and is ruled by those who control militaries and cartels, banks and corporationsâ€”the heirs of King Ahabâ€™s insatiable desire and unrestrained power. â€śNot, therefore, was one Ahab born,â€ť proclaimed Ambrose, â€śbut, what is worse, daily is Ahab born and never dies in this world. If one perishes, many others spring up.â€ť
In Planet of Slums, Mike Davis describes a world full of Ahabs and Naboths, where people are displaced from their land as a result of globalized economic forces. Peasant farmers end up as â€ślabor nomads,â€ť immigrants who scavenge cities for some kind of incomeâ€”working in the shadows of the skyscrapers, the fortresses of capital from which living wages seldom trickle down.
According to Rufino DomĂnguez of the Oaxaca region of Mexico, the North American Free Trade Agreement â€śdrove the price of corn so low [in Mexico] that itâ€™s not economically possible to plant a crop anymore. We come to the United States to work because thereâ€™s no alternative.â€ť
People in power knew this would happen and planned for it by militarizing the U.S.-Mexican border. As Doris Meissner, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, said to members of Congress in 1993, â€śResponding to the likely short-to-medium-term impacts of NAFTA will require strengthening our enforcement efforts along the border.â€ť Joseph Nevins includes this quote in his book Dying to Liveâ€”his phrase characterizing the many displaced peoples, labor nomads, who now die in the U.S. desert just north of the Mexican border.
The fear of death drives people from their land. Parents cannot bear the torture of their childrenâ€™s cries of hunger. â€śAlarmed by this fear,â€ť preached Ambrose in his sermon on Nabothâ€™s vineyard,
the human race is now departing from its lands; the poor man, carrying his latest born, wanders forth with his little ones; his wife follows in tears, as if accompanying her husband to his tomb.
Isnâ€™t this also a scene from our border?
When Ambrose retold the story of Ahab and Naboth, he put his listeners in the role of Ahab: the people who amass wealth and territory, regardless of collateral victims like Naboth. â€śThe world has been made for all, and a few of you rich people are trying to keep it for yourselves,â€ť he said. â€śFor not merely the possession of the earth but the very sky, the air and the sea are claimed for the use of the rich few.â€ť
With our wall and our border patrol, our country claims possession of the earth. Are our immigration policies and border control worth the life of the hundreds upon hundreds who die in the desert? Should we have to answer Elijahâ€™s question to Ahab? â€śThus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?â€ť