Apologies for the long gap in posting, which has been a function of lack of internet access rather than lack of time or (heaven forfend!) thoughts ... :)
John Dominic Crossan, author of The Historic Jesus, visited ESR this weekend and was a riveting speaker. He placed Roman ideology side by side against early Christian ideology. The Roman ideological (or theological) paradigm was war leading to victory leading to peace leading to (distributive) justice. In other words crushing the enemy established peace and in a peaceful world society could be ordered in a just way so that people's economic needs were met. Jesus and his followers claimed that to achieve peace and justice, one had to start with non-violence. Non-violence leads to economic justice, which in turn leads to peace. Needless to say, we know which paradigm still dominates today.
Caesar Augustus was worshipped as human and a divine, a God and a son of God because he unified the Roman Empire and brought peace through victory. Jesus, Crossan says, who brought peace through non-violence, was worshipped in the same terms because those were a construct a first century audience in the Roman world would have understood. Further, people in those days would not have challenged Jesus' resurrection--"wonders happened all the time"'--but would have asked, " what does it mean for me? What will it do for me?"
Crossan's most important point--and one he pounded on (and one I happen to strongly agree with)--is that history matters. Jesus arrived in a moment of opportunity, where, because of historical circumstances, his ministry was allowed to flourish for several years. Twenty years earlier or later, Crossan said, and he would have been crushed instantly. That brought mind to the Quakers and their emergence at another "window" of opportunity--the era of relative religious freedom during Cromwell's reign. Twenty years earlier or later and they would have been flattened by a state apparatus designed to keep people in conformity with the dominant ideology. (I might conceptualize this a little differently but that's for another post.)
I remember several times hearing people say, "If George Fox had been born in China, he would have been a Buddhist." OK ... yes, one's faith expression is obviously influenced by one's society. But the point is, George Fox wasn't born in China, Spain or the Ottoman Empire but England. History matters. I remember Tich Nat Hanh writing that if Buddha had lived in the Roman Empire, he, like Jesus, would have been crucified. Well, perhaps ... but the point is, he wasn't. If he had been, I imagine Buddhism would be much different today.
So I wonder: what would Quakerism look like if we were more willing to embrace the possibility of miracle and more rigorous in insisting that history matters? What miracles do we miss? What realities do we distort?