Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I think this is an terrific article by one of the people I consider to be among the brightest contemporary american thinkers. Thanks to John Barach for the link.

I was especially interested in Peter's comments on charity. This is something I had begun to learn and am still trying to grasp in studies of the ancient world. The notion of "love" or "charity" was, I think, entirely different than our current ones. The ancient world, and many parts of the non-western world today I believe, are characterized by an amazingly tenacious group loyalty. This apparently existed to the extent that people always thought of themselves in terms of the group they belonged to--their parents, ancestors, tribe, village, and possibly profession. Of course the dark flip side of this is a rather strident xenophobia. Anyone from outside you family is a possible enemy. If they are from outside the nation, take out the "possibly".

In this context the satements of Jesus in the gospels seem all the more striking. Jesus proposed that these ties, ties which constituted people's basic notions of who they were (ancestors, laws, traditions, families), were to be considered done away with, no longer of primary importance, and that he would be their new family, their new law, and their new nation.

No comments: