Friday, January 06, 2012

The Mission and the Dispersion

I had a thought upon reading this:

Classical Diasporas of the Third Kind: The Hidden History of Christian Dispersion by Robert F. Gorman

Modern theorists of diasporas have identified two competing classical models or archetypes. The first centres on the classical Jewish paradigm of diaspora, which William Safran believes should be the normative standard for classifying diasporas. Robin Cohen has challenged the Jewish paradigm as the sole archetype by focusing on the ancient Greek experience of dispersion, rooted in commercial and colonial expansion as much as in persecution and involuntary exile. These classical diasporas of the first and second kind are revisited in this analysis. But these archetypes do not exhaust the types of dispersion found in the ancient world. Indeed, the burgeoning study of modern diasporas fails to see a ‘third kind’ of classical diaspora, rooted in the experience of the early and persecuted Christian Church, which offered an integrative understanding of the human good rather than a separatist one overemphasizing one's ethnic culture. This new response, termed in this study the ‘Classical Diaspora of the Third Kind’, enabled the growth of Christian civilization throughout 2,000 years of history, a period of largely ‘hidden’ diasporic experience. This article sheds light on how the early Christian experience with dispersion meets various criteria set out by Safran and Cohen, and how it also substantially transformed the ethnic and political dimensions of Greek and Jewish diasporic experience through its pilgrim thesis and its ‘spiritualizing’ of the diasporic phenomenon, providing modern students of diaspora a fresh way to appreciate various historical examples of dispersion and to understand various aspects of contemporary diasporas.

The thought?

Well, there is an approach which in Hebrew is termed תעודת ישראל and in English, The Mission of Israel, or perhaps the Diaspora of the Jewish Spirit, and Yehezkiel Kaufman gave it philosophical and historical basis whereby the nationalist element of Judaism is to be minimalized and, for the modern era, ignored, as in here:

...he suggests that what preserved Israel's uniqueness through the ages was solely its religion. Among the basic themes of this work is that it is the tension between "universalism" and "nationalism" that comprises the foundational problem of Judaism. This tension reaches back to the earliest eras of Judaism in which a universalistic conception of God was juxtaposed with the local socio-political issues of a small tribal people, even after that people had been exiled from its homeland. YHVH is the ruler of the entire universe, but he reveals Himself and His commandments only to Israel. It is this same tension which Kaufmann traces to the more modern phenomenon of exile and ghettoization. Among Kaufmann's contentious positions were his belief that Zionism could not provide the ultimate solution to the Jewish problem.

An angle is provided here:

...[by Ezekiel's] emphasis on God’s global intention Ezekiel means to combat what might have been a parochial mentality generated by ghetto existence? While this prophet is called to direct and sustain the spiritual life of the people of God, he is nevertheless a prophet who understands that for his people as well as for the world God has an overriding intention. Ezekiel insists that God’s work is directed toward the end that Israel, but also (yes, especially!) the nations, might “know that I am Yahweh.”

As an academic puts it more specifically:

This special Jewish mission was made possible by the Jews’ unique homelessness – a Diasporic existence as a realized ideal of a community that is not a collective. Diasporic life is ultimately a kind of life in which the yahid (individual, not found in liberal terminology) is afforded, as an ecstatic way of moral life, an existence that allows a universalistic moral responsibility and intellectual commitment to overcome any dogma and content with the world of "facts" and to reject the promises of mere power, glory, and pleasure.

And yes, I see that he suggests that

The Zionist negation of Diaspora is a turn away from Jewish moral destiny.

which, of course, a position I do not accept.

In other words, Israel being dipersed among the nations was a blessing, was a positive development which then was justified even against the idea of the future 'return to Zion'.  As at the beginning of the Reform movement:

The early Reformers, believing that assimilation of Jews into European culture was not a negative phenomenon, held that Judaism was not a people but was a religion. This was because holding Judaism as a culture and people prevented Reform Jews from being modern citizens in their home nation. Focusing on Judaism as a religion allowed them to fully participate in the culture around them without the trappings of isolation familiar to the ghetto mentality. Zionism was denounced to quash accusations of dual loyalty against Reform Jews and was considered an unnecessary movement. This is no longer part of Reform Judaism, and today, Jewish culture and Zionism is a primary component of Reform Judaism.

So, were Christians being Jewish in their behavior as noted or, as strange as it may seem, or rather more logical, are Teudat Yisrael promoters actually 'Christian'?


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