I was midway through college before I read Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” It was my first introduction to the concept of systemic evil. One people do not put another people down by simply putting them in chains. They instead, drop a veil over the faculty that enables people to see each other clearly. Early in his book, Ellison describes a statue depicting the white founder of this college for people of color, lifting the veil of ignorance off of the face of a slave. Ellison winks. Who knows which way the veil is going on that bronze statue? It may be the intention of the college and its surrounding segregated system to tie the veil down more firmly. Thanks to Ellison, I’ve begun to see deceptive systems everywhere.
As we consider the story of Moses and the veil (Exodus 34:29-35), we might make the mistake of believing that Moses covered his face to keep people from being blinded by his spiritual brilliance. It was a considerate thing to do, since if you hang around with God on Mount Sinai for a while, you might make the people around you feel uncomfortable. Paul winks. He says that it was helpful for Moses to wear a veil to keep people from knowing when his just-been-with-God glory had worn off.
Ziporrah, Moses’ wife, probably wasn’t fooled by the veil either. She had a list of a hundred faults that being with God hadn’t repaired in her husband. Moses might have rationalize his hypocrisy by saying it made people respect the Ten Commandments more. It’s always this way with religious systems. We don our clergy robes and play with veils because we think it will make people respect God more. Instead it has the effect of keeping people ignorant of the content of God’s revelations and more beholden to the experts of the law. I wink.