Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Usurpers (Mat. 23)

Replacing a reigning social paradigm is hard work. The status quo has an inertia that keeps it going long after it's lost its bearings. One thing you can do, of course, is accuse the current caretakers of having betrayed their legacy. In the early part of the Turkish war of independence (Kurtuluş Savaşı -- war of salvation), Kemal Atatürk often referred to the "captive Caliph," and asserted that the reigning political and religious head of the Ottoman Empire was the victim of unscrupulous aides, who compelled him to act contrary to the interests of his people. This reminds me of what I read this morning in Mat. 23:
Bundan sonraİsa halka ve öğrencilerine şöyle seslendi, "Din bilginleri ver Ferisiler Musa'nın kürsüsünde otururlar. Bu nedenle size söylediklerinin tümünü yapın ve yerine getirin, ama onların yaptıklarını yapmayın. Çünkü söyledikleri şeyleri kendileri yapmazlar.
And now, a few more words.
  • kürsü -- pulpit, professorship, chair. What I'd like to have when I finish my dissertation!
  • din bilgin -- religious teacher
  • yapmak -- to make or do. yapın -- do this! yapmazlar-- they do not do.
When you offer a new interpretation of accepted truths, your biggest adversaries will be the folks who are vested in the status quo. They will not welcome your fresh and fervant insights with alacrity, since you are also, perhaps unknowingly, asserting that they dropped the ball. Missed the point. Lost the scent.

Most people, most of the time, go with the status quo, and the established leaders. A remnant, however, will hear and heed. Isaiah's Job, as Albert J. Nock explained, is to explain "the way of the Lord more perfectly," day by day, essay by essay. Some will hear. "The gospel is like a joke told to a circle of men. And one man smiles." (Ivan Illych) And, when the house of cards comes tumbling down, those who have a better idea will be ready to lead.

A focus of my scholarly and personal interest for the last four decades has been supplanting civilizations, usurping paradigms. Few in first-century Israel heard and heeded the message of Jesus. Today, however, a billion or more of us around the world call Him Lord.

No comments: