Monday, July 22, 2019


Most of the Old Testament, in the form we know today, was written during the Babylonian exile, compiled from oral tradition and written texts since lost to us; some books, after the return from exile. The kinds of questions they wrestle with are, how did we find ourselves here? (and, how did we not see this coming?) and, how do we rebuild community, society? what values matter to us? These questions are, largely, explored through story and folklore, with a good measure of epic poetry and song thrown in for good measure.

The New Testament is written in the context of the Pax Romana—the bloated, hyperbolic, mercurial Roman Empire. The four Gospels tell the story of Jesus, the one appointed by God to establish (re-establish?) the rule and reign of God (the ‘kingdom of God’ or ‘kingdom of heaven’) on earth, and to judge the nations. The Revelation to John depicts the triumph of the kingdom of heaven over the Roman Empire (this Apocalypse is grounded in history, the new Jerusalem representing the Church—which will, eventually, fall into the trap of becoming the new Rome). Between this opening and closing, the various letters of Paul and others to churches and individuals wrestle with how to live as counter-cultural communities that do not directly take on the power of the Empire but will ultimately overturn it. These communities, these lived experiences, are slow and painful, composed of men and women shaped by competing claims.

A question I am being asked more and more often is, what are we supposed to do about the state and direction of the society in which we find ourselves? [In nations led by men (mostly men) who are so emboldened as to not even bother themselves with deceitful half-truths any longer, but proudly declare lies of staggering magnitude, and dismiss all evidence to the contrary as fake.]

It seems to me that what we might do—or at least, what I might be able to help people do—is wrestle with a library of ancient books that ask the very same questions we are asking today.

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