Monday, October 20, 2008

The Snark, oh the Snark

This last week or so I've been confronted with the need for change. My sense of humor has been getting the best of myself and my friends, starting a slow process of alienation from them. I'd best explain...

Humor for me is a way of being. It is in my blood: my dad and his dad trading barbs, my dad and myself trading barbs, etc. It is our way of communicating. However, I'm noticing that it is also our way of keeping real human interaction to a minimum. When you snark someone, if they are not on the same wavelength as you (as no one really is), then it is going to push them away. I'm thankful enough that one of my friends told me to stop; another friend has drawn away, and I don't blame him.

Humor, in that way, is a means to power. If you tear someone down, even if it is "all in good fun", you position yourself in authority. You are better than them, even in a jocular sense. It is fitting to me, I guess, that this would be the form of power I struggle with. I've spent so much of my life avoided and forswearing power. I was warned by my collegiate advisor to be careful how I led; not to not lead, but to be wary of my own ability to sway people--an ability that at the time I didn't even know I had. Now, years later, I do know that I have that power and not just because I inhabit offices of authority as a business owner or professor. I've had friends tell me that they hang on every word I say, that they've changed their opinions because of mine. I've always been a tad bit confused about that, though, since I rarely actually set out to change anyone's opinion. In all my aversion to power, however, I developed a way to lead. Instead of working out some godly way to lead my family, my friends, my employees, and my students, I've turned to a sick sort of dark and malicious humor to assert dominance. It isn't a question of whether to exercise authority or not, but how authority is going to be exercised. I'm not, by nature and by gifting, a follower, but I've been so uncomfortable with leading that I don't know exactly how to do it rightly and justly.

And so, I set off down a long road of discipleship, always keeping in mind that passage in Matthew: "the Gentiles lord it over their subjects, but it shall not be so among you, whoever wants to be greatest shall become the servant of all." The pagans lord it over through malignant humor and I'm not called to be a pagan. Funny how my means of human connection do the exact opposite. Funnier still how I long ever more piquantly for connection with every barb I trade.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The End of the Exile

Now that Tom Wright has brought the concept of the exile to the mainstream conversation, there are some questions to be asked. That the "end of exile" is an important piece of salvation in Christ I take for granted. I recommend either Wright's The New Testament and the People of God or Brant Pitre's Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile for starters.

The basic thrust is this: the end of the Babylonian (and in Pitre's arguement the Assyrian) exile is necessary for the Messianic "new age" to arrive. That is to say, one of the major promises made to Israel/Judah in the latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.) is the return of these groups to "the land". Recently, while reading David Klingenhoffer's Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, I noticed that this reason for rejection came up often. It is, however, not a problem much dealt with in Christian theology: we tend to look at "return from exile" passages as
Rapture passages.

The problem arises, of course, because the return of either group, did not happen within Jesus' lifetime or Paul's. In fact, Paul, in his missionary journeys, seems to hedge more towards the one Abrahamic family of Jew and Gentile, even to leaving the synangogues (and the Jews therefore) when they responded in disbelief. However, this is balanced with his statements in Romans 9-11, where he speaks of the bringing in of the Gentiles (then followed by the Jews? depends on who you ask) as the "salvation of all Israel".

I think that Jesus, though, does talk about this. Compare Matthew 24:31 with Deuteronomy 30:1-5. The destruction of Jerusalem is tied directly to the return from exile; paradoxical, yet fitting as Jesus has cast Jerusalem into the role of Babylon and Assyria. However, it does still leave the question of how will God return the exiles, especially since "land" and "temple" have been redefined by the Messiah's appearance.

I'm beginning to think that "angels" as Matthew 24 has it is not the best translation. Better to go with "messangers"--Jesus sends out the messengers to gather the exiles unto himself; Paul speaks of the heralding of Christians bringing about the salvation of "all Israel". The exile has begun to end with Jesus; his people bring it to a definitive conclusion by their faithful work through his Spirit. Certainly gives a different look to evangelism.