Sunday, August 15, 2010

Acts 9 -- Şam'a yolda

A common English idiomatic expression, "a Damascus Road experience," traces back to this chapter. This phrase describes a sudden and inexplicable change in a person's attitudes, allegiances, and actions. Synonyms are conversion,[1] and seeing the light.[2]
Act 9:1,2 Saul ise Rab'bin öğrencilerine karşı hâlâ tehdit ve ölüm soluyordu. Başkâhine gitti, Şam'daki havralara verilmek üzere mektuplar yazmasını istedi. Orada İsa'nın yolunda yürüyen kadın erkek, kimi bulsa tutuklayıp Yeruşalim'e getirmek niyetindeydi.
Act 9:3 Yol alıp Şam'a yaklaştığı sırada, birdenbire gökten gelen bir ışık çevresini aydınlattı.
Act 9:4 Yere yıkılan Saul, bir sesin kendisine, "Saul, Saul, neden bana zulmediyorsun?" dediğini işitti.
Act 9:5 Saul, "Ey Efendim, sen kimsin?" dedi. "Ben senin zulmettiğin İsa'yım" diye yanıt geldi.
Let's look at those highlighted phrases, a question and an answer:

  • Why, for what reason / to me / persecuting are you?
  • I / your / persecuting / Jesus am.
One of the most moving books I've read recently is Esra Özüryek's memoir of a nation's mood, Nostalgia for the Modern. In many parts of the world, the 20th century began with eager anticipation, and ended in nostalgia. Some of us, who grew up in the afterglow of "the golden age of science fiction" still feel cheated, since we don't have our household robots, flying cars, or excursions to the moon. Özüryek, however, describes the role played by Kemal Ataturk in the transformation of the Ottoman Empire into the Turkish Republic, and of the national mood of Utopian optimism that memory has imbued that era with.[3]

One thing Özüryek studied was the iconography of the era. The most common photograph of Ataturk, the one displayed in every classroom and public office, is a floating head looking directly at the viewer. This accurately portrays, she writes, the sense the Ataturk is the "head" of the body politic, the visible face of the Turkish corporate identity. He is the head, the nation is his body. A nationalist poem recited by school children goes Atatürk ölmedi yüreğimde yaşıyor – Atatürk didn’t die, he lives within my heart …).

Of late, however, a diminished Ataturk has become a more popular image. Homes are more likely to feature photos of the whole man, in a group, looking at someone else in the photograph.

Time has not, however, diminished the stature of the One who encountered Saul Şam'a yolda -- on the road to Damascus. Jesus viewed Saul's violent assaults upon Christians as a personal attack upon himself. Like many persecutors since, Saul discovered that he had taken on a bigger Adversary than anticipated.

The God of Christianity can destroy the enemies of His people. Sometimes, He destroys enemies by turning them into friends.


[1] Conversions typically have a supernatural component, a sense that one has been apprehended, and transformed, by a reality beyond oneself.

[2] A political maxim: most politicians see the light when they feel the heat (of voter concern).

[3] The Latin language has a phobia about putting propositions at the end of sentences. Since I'm writing English, not Latin, I'll put prepositions where they belong, rather than mangle my sentence in the interests of snobbery.

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