The books of Luke, Acts, and 1 Peter dominate the readings this month; Peter and Paul are key players. Passages from Acts replace those from the Hebrew Bible so that the only Hebrew content is the Psalms. This leaves us seemingly cut off from the prophetic tradition and the reality of Jesus and his companions as Jews. It also brings into sharp focus the struggles of the early church in the years after the crucifixion.
As Christianity spread from Palestine into other parts of the Roman Empire, the various communities swung between resistance and assimilation. In their quest to survive this hostile environment, they sought both to establish an identity and to present Christianity as nonthreatening to Roman authority and decorum. In this bid for survival, those who were least valued in the Roman patriarchal household—women and slaves—were in some sense abandoned. Unfortunately, the later church, and even modern churches, have read this compromise as a mandate.
In a talk on prophetic religion, Junaid Ahmad, a progressive Muslim, reflected on his many invitations to speak to other faith groups, with the implication that he is to show why Islam is not threatening. He counters with the challenge, “Why is your faith not a threat? In the face of a dehumanizing global economy that is an affront to the divine, why have you abandoned the prophetic call of your tradition?” Is “nonthreatening” the best people of faith can do?
Laurel A. Dykstra is a scripture and justice educator in Vancouver, British Columbia. www.laureldykstra.com
Heads, Hearts, and Bellies
Acts 2:14, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35