Exodus or Exile?

Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on

Two of the dominant themes of the Old Testament are Exodus and Exile. The Exodus dominates the first part of the Old Testament as the Israelites found themselves in slavery in Egypt. Their cries and groans were heard by the Lord who prepared Moses to liberate them from Pharaoh and to lead them to the Promised Land where they could prosper and live in freedom.

The second part of the Old Testament deals with Exile as the Lord finally tires of the rebellion and disobedience of the Israelites and allows them to suffer defeat at the hands of their enemies. Conquering armies of that day would exile or export the youngest, best and brightest, strongest and smartest of a defeated people, attempting to integrate them into their own culture. This allowed them to benefit from the best of other cultures, thus improving their own way of life. For example, Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were exiled to Babylon, serving and advising in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar.

I wonder if the themes of Exodus and Exile offer insight into life in Oklahoma.

As a student at the University of Oklahoma in the mid-1980s, I remember the Exodus of graduates to the Plano and North Dallas areas. The birth and explosion of high tech industries and companies like Texas Instruments offered the Promised Land of high tech jobs, salaries, and benefits. Young adults and families flocked to North Texas as Oklahoma struggled to recover from the economic downturn of that period.

Today, something similar is happening in Oklahoma. In recent months two young families left our church and state. One family with three children left because his job working with troubled teenagers was dissolved when state funding cuts took place. Another young couple left to take a significantly higher salary for a beginning teacher when state efforts to increase teacher pay repeatedly failed.

As I have reflected on the plight of these two families and wondered how many more stories there are like these in the churches and communities of our state, the word Exile, not Exodus comes to mind. These families are not leaving Oklahoma because they want to, rather, because they believe they have to. As a result, many of the youngest, best and brightest, strongest and smartest educators, mental health workers, social workers and others are leaving Oklahoma to offer their expertise, contribution and influence to the people of Texas, Arkansas, and numerous communities outside of Oklahoma.

This is not the recipe for a bright future for Oklahoma. It is time for the Exile to come to an end. It is time for Oklahoma to say yes to our youngest, best and brightest, strongest and smartest educators, mental health and social workers. We need these professionals in Oklahoma. Not only do they only invest, educate, nurture and redeem the youngest and most vulnerable in our state, they contribute and influence our communities at every level.

I am thankful for the public educators, mental health and social workers who remain. Their sacrifices are not taken for granted. And, while they might not all be the youngest, they are some of the best and brightest.

Join me in praying for our Governor, legislators and educators over these next days. I pray for solutions that will avert the promised teacher strike. I am sure the layers and complexities around these issues are difficult, but it is time to find a solution. It is time to lay aside party politics and develop solutions that unify our state and support our public educators, mental health and social workers. It is time to do what is best for our children and vulnerable adults. It is time to do what is best for Oklahoma.

 Dr. Wade Smith