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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Christianity was Young Once

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

“The oldest surviving document delineating regulations for church life… usually goes by the title The Didache…. After establishing ethical expectations for the community, The Didache then prescribes the proper performance of Christian rituals, establishes rules for the community organization and discipline, and concludes with apocalyptic prophecies” (Oxford Study Bible, page 119).

I find this compelling. Today, Christianity is a tradition two thousand years old, with all the inertia, the generational ancestry of practice, that one could need. Today, I consider ways to transform or even recreate my tradition, and balk in the doorway because one person does not have the weight to create that kind of inertia: the kind it would take to affect the direction of such a force.

But once, Christianity was young. Once, they wrote a document defining what it looked like, because it was new and had no inertia, no ancestry, no established practice.

I suppose we have permission to do so again. I suppose what will last is what resonates, and continues to resonate, with those who encounter it.

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Gotta Sink an Anchor

January 29, 2011 2 comments

“In these first centuries of the common era both Judaism and Christianity gave shape to and defined the authority of collections of writings that formed their respective Bibles or canons of sacred writings” (Oxford Study Bible, page 47).

Is this true? I had no idea that Judaism waited so long to canonize its scriptures. It’s strange to think of Christians and Jews on a parallel track to found themselves, to make a way not to forget themselves in a shifting world. It was a time when you could no longer trust culture. Too much was changing; you couldn’t trust yourself to pass the traditions to your children, and you couldn’t trust them either. It was time to textualize: this book, this will tell us what is true and what we are. What a sad time.

And yet, part of what they were doing I hold in common: “engaging the past in search of identity for the present and direction for the future” (ibid.).

My Faith Must Be of This Land

January 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I paused from my study to read back over these entries, trying to make sense of something that eludes me. It has to do with this subject of lineage and place and how they affect religion.

I think I understand how we got here: how the history of ancient Israel came to be so important to us contemporary American descendants of European pagans. It’s a strange story, but logical enough when you lay it out.

We Americans are just as strange, ourselves. We’re not Europeans (though we each have a nation or two across the Atlantic to claim for a heritage), and we’re not natives (though we were born here). We’re the starling among birds, the rock dove, the non-native blackberry that has become Read more…

Expansion Angst

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

“The growth of large, multi-national urban centers around the Mediterranean basin” at the dawn of Christianity made it so that “cultural, economic, and religious exchange could flourish” (Oxford Study Bible, page 7). This, with the “new mobility” made possible by the common tongue of Koine Greek, and the “relative stability” of Greek and Roman rule, and the new sophistication in math, science and astronomy spelled PROGRESS in capital letters.

Why then the depth of angst that these people seemed to suffer?

According to their cosmology, God’s address had never before been so far away. As well as being at the center of the universe, the earth was now also Read more…

Mixed Lineage

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

The Oxford Study Bible, page 6: “both [the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament] relate the continuing story of God’s involvement with the Jewish people and the surrounding Gentile world.”

What does this have to do with me? Why are these the scriptures on which I’ve built my life? I’m not Jewish, and since the word “Gentile” only has meaning from a Jewish worldview, I’m not Gentile either.

I suppose there is both form and content at play here, Read more…