Sunday, September 26, 2010

Acts 21 -- when in Rome ...

An old cliche goes, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." It's generally a good idea to conform to local norms. A political maxim holds that members of Congress should "Go along to get along." Vote for your fellow congress critters' raids on the public treasury, and they will help you dip into the pork barrel[1] as well.

Yet, is it always wise to cooperate? You're sitting in a park on a lovely summer night with new friends -- and you value friendship. Then, the bong comes around. Toke? Don't toke? The cop pulls you over, and politely asks, "Mind if I take a look in your car?" Cooperate? Resist? The customs agent asks if the trip you just completed was for "business or pleasure." Answer? Tell him it's none of his business? As this article points out, a cooperative attitude can cost you, big-time, far more than you gain in the short run.

Paul faced that quandary. He shows up in Jerusalem with a hefty chunk of change, collected at great personal effort and expense from gentile churches. He shows up with stirring testimonies of what God has done throughout the known world to bring people into allegiance with the risen King, Jesus. And the leaders of the church say -- "Well, thanks. That's all very nice. But what really matters is ... " And before you know it, Paul gets railroaded into a hare-brained scheme to placate his implacable foes.
Act 21:18 Ertesi gün Pavlus'la birlikte Yakup'u görmeye gittik. İhtiyarların* hepsi orada toplanmıştı.
Act 21:19 Pavlus, onların hal hatırını sorduktan sonra, hizmetinin aracılığıyla Tanrı'nın öteki uluslar arasında yaptıklarını teker teker anlattı.
Act 21:20 Bunları işitince Tanrı'yı yücelttiler. Pavlus'a, "Görüyorsun kardeş, Yahudiler arasında binlerce imanlı var ve hepsi Kutsal Yasa'nın candan savunucusudur" dediler.
Act 21:21 "Ne var ki, duyduklarına göre sen öteki uluslar arasında yaşayan bütün Yahudiler'e, çocuklarını sünnet etmemelerini, törelerimize uymamalarını söylüyor, Musa'nın Yasası'na sırt çevirmeleri gerektiğini öğretiyormuşsun.
Act 21:22 Şimdi ne yapmalı? Senin buraya geldiğini mutlaka duyacaklar.
Act 21:23 Bunun için sana dediğimizi yap. Aramızda adak adamış dört kişi var.
Act 21:24 Bunları yanına al, kendileriyle birlikte arınma törenine katıl. Başlarını tıraş edebilmeleri için kurban masraflarını sen öde. Böylelikle herkes, seninle ilgili duyduklarının asılsız olduğunu, senin de Kutsal Yasa'ya uygun olarak yaşadığını anlasın.
Act 21:25 Öteki uluslardan olan imanlılara gelince, biz onlara, putlara sunulan kurbanların etinden, kandan, boğularak öldürülen hayvanlardan ve fuhuştan sakınmalarını öngören kararımızı yazmıştık."
The 1951 book Christ and Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr considered several perspectives on the relationship between the eternal King of the Ages, and the everyday contemporary culture. Possibilities he described included:
  • Christ Against Culture
  • Christ Of Culture
  • Christ Above Culture
  • Christ and Culture in Paradox
  • Christ the Transformer of Culture
This is not a new conundrum. People who had actually spent years in the presence of Jesus, like Jacob, still blundered. Their attempts to appease the passionate devotees of Jewish cultural norms failed, of course, and only brought disaster upon the head of the guy who'd just showed up to do them good.


[1] The Pork Barrel,[2] in American political idioms, is taxpayer money directed to specific projects in the legislator's home district. This game can continue until the currency is destroyed. As Rudyard Kipling's famous poem, The Gods of the Copybook Headings explains,
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selective Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: 'If you don't work you die.'

The the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four---
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man---
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:---
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
[2] In the days before refrigeration, meat could be preserved through various techniques that resisted the activity of decomposing bacteria. If you had time, you could hang the meat in a smoke house until it was thoroughly dessicated, or "cured." If you were in a hurry, you could cut up the pig, and pack the pieces in a barrel. Each piece had to be surrounded by salt, top, bottom, and all sides.

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