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    • #2075
      Forgiving Victim

      3.8 Some results of the anthropological earthquake

      In this session we discuss the implications of Peter’s discovery that he is to call no one unclean, that for God there are no outsiders.

      Receiving a new story

      Share ways in which you have noticed the content, questions or insights from the previous Module showing up in your lives.

      Heaven and hell

      Answer the following questions:

      • Have you ever heard the quip, “Why should I want to go to heaven when all my friends will be in hell?” Discuss what that expression implies about the types of people who go to heaven.
        • Is this the type of heaven where you would like to spend eternity?

      Food for thought

      • Have you ever had the experience of discovering that some hated other was more like you than you had realized? What did it feel like to lose the difference between you? Did you experience, as James discusses, “a massive loss of identity”?
      • What has the word “catholic” meant to you? What meaning of the word does James offer?
      • If the result of the anthropological earthquake is that there are no longer insiders or outsiders, what is the basis for group identity? How do we form community or hold on to a sense of goodness without being over against another?

      Wrap-up question

      What does church look like in practice if the source of honor and forgiveness is the cursed outsider?


    • #46740
      Rich Paxson

      Peter dreamt about clean and unclean food, which helped him to a profound, personal understanding “… that God shows no partiality but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him”. Reading about Peter in Acts 10 helped me recognize and integrate the need for a self given by the Other “other” rather than the social “other’s” identity, which is built on ‘what I am not’.

      Forgiving Victim calls the change from social “other” to Other “other” an anthropological earthquake. I think that for Peter and his followers living out the understanding that “God shows no partiality” is like an ongoing series of psychological aftershocks jarring personal ideas and patterns into line with God’s project in Jesus. These sometimes abrupt adjustments summon me into getting to know Jesus all over again.

      I’ve begun rereading ‘Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time’ written by theologian Marcus Borg, who died in 2015. When I finish Borg’s book, then it’s time to read ‘Word Into Silence’ by John Main, which Sheelah recommended early on in my journey here at Forgiving Victim.

      • #46744

        The self given by the Other “other” is indeed the ‘anthropological earthquake’ that James refers to, Rich. Our “I” becoming a “we” is indeed a shock to our original sense of identity….”What Jesus inaugurated was the possibility of a being together in which there is, in principle, no social “other”, no group, nation, ethnicity, gender or any other identity we create in a binary way, that is not able to be brought into the gathering, the ekklesia, the new people of God”. I am most interested in hearing your reflections upon reading “Word into Silence”.

    • #46742
      Rich Paxson

      Even as God’s love surrounds us, language limits us to temporal and spatial terms to describe heaven and hell. Jesus said to the criminal on the cross next to him: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Just as we all today are criminals, sinners, we all are free to “be with [Jesus] in Paradise … today.”

      Placing the comma in verse forty-three before ‘today’ takes the criminal to Paradise that very day. The original Greek did not use commas. Some authorities argue that the comma in verse forty-three belongs after “today,” not before. Placing a comma after ‘today’ in verse forty-three would shift the sentence’s focus to when Jesus is speaking – ‘today’ – leaving the criminal to join Jesus in Paradise but at some undetermined future time.

      Placing the comma after ‘today’ limits God’s saving grace missing the point of the anthropological earthquake triggered by God’s full presence in Jesus. Awareness of the Kingdom of God became fully available to all in the person of Jesus. God’s project of unconditional salvation personified in Jesus frees each and every person to say “I am,” with God’s help.

      • #46745

        Yes, Rich, the earthquake of the Kingdom is truly ‘the new creation in Christ’. As you say, God the ‘I am’ had a project of unconditional salvation brought about by the Son, which liberated us from the self-centred false self, freeing us to become our true selves, made in the image and likeness of God.

    • #46750
      Rich Paxson

      People-watching absorbed much of my time on Washington’s National Mall one sunny spring afternoon recently. Good weather brought out the crowds. As we strolled the promenades, I tried to see persons interacting, not individuals representing groups defined by nationality or race or physical ability or the manner in which they wore their caps or any of a myriad of other categories.

      I noticed how a mother kept track of her two little ones, not how the style of their clothing differed from mine. I watched as the older gentleman maintained his slow but unsteady pace in the jostling crowd. I tried not to look at the distinctive nature of his headgear. Finally, I paid little attention to the kind man’s skin color as he smiled and let me butt in the lunch line to stand with my wife.

      I focused on actions I could relate to, behaviors with which I could connect, rather than seeking surface differences to reinforce my identity over against ‘those others.’ James writes that we are inducted by the social “other” into life as a function of the purity code’s maintenance and growth. Living a role in a purity code blinds us to God’s message that all persons are acceptable to and loved equally by God.

      God reveals God’s love through our actions as we let go of identities based on ‘us vs. them.’ God loves all persons to the same degree that God loves me. Within God’s love, the other person is fully my equal. The seeds of relationship, perhaps even friendship, lie within that sure knowledge.

      Daniel Auteuil starred in Patrice Leconte’s French film “My Best Friend.” Auteuil’s character needed help to learn what it means to be a friend. Three words summed up his mentor’s advice: first, smile; second, be sincere; and third, be social reaching out to others. Genuine friendship, smiling and social, is the opposite of identity formed and maintained over against the perceived threat of ‘others.’

      Michel de Montaigne wrote his essay “Of Friendship” about his relationship with Etienne de La Boetie. Montaigne describes Boetie as another self, but also as the union of two souls. Montaigne’s description of friendship was a condition opposite from random encounters on the National Mall. And yet, accidents of friendship continually bridge the distances separating individuals of all “sorts and conditions.” Bonds of friendship emerge within the equality of God’s love through openness to the other person’s state, by a sincere smile, in recognizing that each real encounter is pregnant with another self, with a union of souls.

      During my spring stroll that day I did not visit St. John’s Episcopal Church located near the north end of the National Mall. And yet, I was ‘in church’ that day. Church buildings and liturgies like symbols are ways of remembering God’s true church, which lies mostly outside the doors of sacred structures. God’s true church came into being on the National Mall for me that day. Church can also happen among shoppers in their local grocery store. God’s church comes into being whenever we cease seeking personal identity in opposition to ‘those others’ whom ‘we are not.’ We are ‘in church’ whenever we allow God’s loving presence to move us in the direction of embrace, and not exclusion.

    • #46760

      It seems to me Rich that what you are expressing here is the conversion ‘process’. By process I mean the slow, gradual awakening to ‘the other’, the turning around of all the things into which we were en-culturated. As James expresses it….’What Jesus inaugurated was the possibility of a being together in which there is, in principle, no social “other”, no group, nation, ethnicity, gender or any other identity we create in a binary way, that is not able to be brought into the gathering, the ekklesia, the new people of God.’

      However I was not quite able to understand the meaning of your phrase “James writes that we are inducted by the social “other” into life as a function of the purity code’s maintenance and growth. Living a role IN A PURITY CODE BINDS US TO GOD’S MESSAGE THAT ALL PERSONS ARE ACCEPTABLE TO …….. Would you explain to me what you meant here?

    • #46761
      Rich Paxson

      Sheelah, what I wrote refers to James’s use of the phrase “function of a purity code” in section six of Essay 7 in the “Forgiving Victim” book I’m reading the ebook version and I find that the pagination varies with the monitor I use. The quote below is somewhere on pages 326-328 in the hardbound copy of the book. James refers in this part of the essay to Peter’s trip to Caesarea after his dream about clean and unclean food in Acts 10. James writes:

      “So here is Peter, who has been living as a function of a purity code, imagining it to be good, indeed his imagination of the good utterly suffused by it. Suddenly he finds himself taken to a place where he’s going to have to step across a huge boundary, go into the wrong sort of person’s house, eat the wrong kind of food with them, and start to recognize that what it is to be good is entirely unrelated to all the things that gave it shape, taste and bearings before.”

      The point I was trying to make in my reflection was my realization that living as a function of the ‘purity code’ into which I was socialized through my family of origin BLINDED me in daily practice to the reality of God’s love for all persons. I think you read my word “B L I N D S” in the reflection as “B I N D S,” which would produce the opposite meaning than the one I intended and the meaning I inferred from the essay.

      • #46762

        Reading it like that Rich makes perfect sense. I misunderstood your intent!!

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