Saturday, December 20, 2008

Jeremiah 25:30-32

This passage includes a genre of biblical writing frequently referred to as oracles against the nations. In allowing the prophet Jeremiah to simultaneously condemn Israel for its failure to keep the Davidic covenant and the surrounding nations for their idolatrous practices, the biblical writers elevate Yahweh to the status of a god of universal history. This 6th century theological movement towards inclusivism, paired with the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 BCE, represents the emergence of a monotheistic Judaism in its inchoate stages. Interestingly, the experience of exile, documented so vividly in the Exodus narrative, served as the cornerstone of this new religious tradition. What does it mean to worship Yahweh in the diaspora? It is unsurprising that the priestly school, which favored ritualistic performance that could be followed beyond the limits of the Judean Temple, took hold in this era.

For religious practitioners today, the power of this exilic posture should not be lost. Rather, the experience of living as a stranger in a foreign land might very well serve as a useful foundation for the formation of the subject-position. What would it mean to view the self as an Other? How would our interactions with those we label foreign or unknown change, if we were to unsettle the comfort of familiarity that we experience in and around our homes?

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