Skip to main content

Living life in the diaspora

A diaspora is a scattered people. The word has been commonly used of the Jewish people who for centuries have been a minority group in nations around the world. In most European countries, the USA, Australia and even New Zealand, Jews live and work, often participating as full citizens of their host nations. The explosion over the last century of global migration has meant that Jews are no longer unique in being a diaspora. Now Europeans, Africans, Asians, Indians, and Pacific Islanders are found throughout world in nations in which they are resident aliens. However much a first generation migrant to a new country tries to assimilate and adapt, she will always be aware of difference. There will be cultural and social norms in their new country that just dont come naturally; stories, beliefs and attitudes that are integral to the host nation but that are foreign to her, and vice versa.

But with each generation those distinctives must be held tightly or the host culture will eventually absorb its immigrants. Many migrant communities hold tightly to their identity and often get criticised for failing to adjust to their new country. In cities throughout the world you will find communities of ethnic minorities that are attempting to maintain their ethnic identity without any change at all. Who can blame them? If they dont they will be completely absorbed in a couple of generations and they will have lost their identity. The middle ground between absorbtion and stuborn refusal to change is a hard place to live. Identity is easy to maintain when you refuse to accommodate yourself to your new country. As soon as you start to make accommodations for your host's culture you are constantly having to draw lines around which parts of your ethnic identity need to be maintained and which can be adjusted to context.

Living in this middle ground, as a distinctive minority who yet engage their host culture, is the task of the church. When we fail to draw those lines well we end up with the crusades, or the inquisition, or George Bush jnr. These failures are the result of absorbtion, a failure to maintain our distinctive identity. But where accommodation is not made at all the church becomes an exclusive ghetto unable to fulfill her mission to bring God's peace, reconciliation, and love to the world.

The task of the church is to maintain our identity and connect with the country in which we are resident aliens. The task of theology is to draw lines in some places and enable accommodation in others. This is done by reading the Bible carefully and respectfully, aware that it, and we, are in a strange land.

Comments

  1. It is a fine balance. The book The Reformers and Their Stepchildren examined this as well. The untold story of the Reformation is the constant action/reaction between the reformers and the "stepchildren", each side moving to more extremes in order to distance itself from the other.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

That one time Jesus got the Bible wrong

It's so typical isn't it? You are preaching all day long, training your disciples, sparring with the Pharisees, encouraging the poor and down trodden, healing the sick and casting out demons, all day, day after day, and even when you go up a mountain to get a rest the crowds hunt you down and follow you up, and then the one time you get a bit muddled up with some of the details of a biblical text . . . that is the one they write down in the first gospel - verbatim. At least Matthew and Luke had the good sense to do some editing. But Mark, he always had his eye on giving the public the "historical Jesus" whoever that is supposed to be . . . warts and all. Thanks a lot Mark!

Some think I made the mistake on purpose, just to show the Pharisees up.

For some there is no mistake worth mentioning, only a slightly ambiguous turn of phrase.

Others think I am doing something tricky with Abiathar's name, getting him to figuratively stand in for the priesthood.

It really has…

Thor Ragnarok and Parihaka: Postcolonial Apocalypse

Thor: Ragnarok is a riot of colour, sound, violence, humour, sci-fi and fantasy. As a piece of entertainment it is the best Marvel has produced so far. As in many of Taika Waititi's films the plot often seems secondary to the humour and a number of quirky moments seemed only to serve for a quick giggle. I left the theatre overwhelmed by the sensory experience, but ultimately unimpressed by any deeper meaning.

It wasn't until the second morning after my trip to the movies that I woke to the realisation that the movie could function as a profound postcolonial metaphor (I do some of my best thinking while alseep, also it can take me a while for the penny to drop). Unfortunately a quick google showed me that I was neither the first, nor the second to have this thought.

[Spoiler Alert!]

It's easy to miss with all the other stuff going on but Thor undergoes a postcolonial awakening during the film as he slowly realises that his beloved Asgard and its dominion of the nine realms …

Dale Martin does Mark

Dale Martin is an important and frequently controversial NT scholar. Those of us who can't make it to Yale to hear him teach can access some of his lectures, in fact his entire introduction to the NT course, through the magic of the internet.

Here he is holding forth on Mark . . .