The new language of the householdpolis of

By refusing to shelter in the protection of private devotion, Christian worship could not but challenge and finally overcome this separation of political life and private existence (Wannenwetsch 1997). This overcoming of separation would become true for both forms in which that separation was inherited from antiquity: its exclusivist separation of free male and wealthy citizens from the debased and unpolitical members of the household; and its inclusivist separation of the life of the citizen into two distinct spheres or "lives," the political life (bios poli-tikos) and the theoretical or contemplative life (bios theoretikos). If Paul admonishes the congregation to live their present lives as citizens worthy of the Gospel (Phil 1: 27), the verb politeuomai suggests one overriding existence or bios for the Christian which interlocks the political and contemplative lives, citizenship and worship. As it is expressed in Eph. 2: 19: "You are no longer strangers, but members of God's household and co-citizens of the saints."

In strong contrast to the radical distinction by which the Greco-Roman world had separated these spheres, the "new humanity" (Eph. 4: 13) of the church of Jews and gentiles significantly employs both the language of the household and that of the polis, establishing a kind of "political household" or "household polis."

For the ancient world it was taken for granted that man received "besides his private life a sort of second life, his bios politikos. Therefore every citizen belonged to two orders of existence marked by a sharp distinction in his life between what is his own (idion) and what is communal (koinon)" (Arendt 1958: 24). It was precisely these two Greek keywords, representing the contrast between two orders of being, that we find being taken up in the New Testament in a completely different way: "The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own [idion], but they had everything in common [koina]" (Acts 4: 32).

As a corporate action, worship includes in full participation all the representatives of the debased household: women, slaves, children, artisans, and so on -a reconciliation of hitherto unreconciled groups and realms of social life. In Gal. 3: 26ff. Paul lists in pairs the deepest antagonisms of the religious, civil, and sexual life that are to be overcome in the new community of the church. Yet Paul is not implying the negation of all differences (women do not cease being women, nor men being men), except one crucial difference: the political division. These differences, each in its own right representing the public/private antinomy, do not count any more when it comes to the citizenship of God's city.

In this way a new concept of political identity crystallized - an identity maintained and safeguarded not through exclusivity and exclusion but through full participation of all those who were once "noncitizens," strangers and resident aliens (paroikoi). Yet this Christian concept of citizenship was not based on the idea of "rights," defining or widening the boundaries of a social entity by expanding access; rather, it is focused on actual participation in political action: Each citizen is conceived as having a ministry in the church's central public event. "When you come together," Paul declares with the Christian worship assembly in view, "each one has something: a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification" (1 Cor. 14: 26). The New Testament ekklesia certainly had its special office-holders, but their ministries, even over against the congregation, are always viewed as serving the ministries of "the multitude of believers," and do not marginalize these ministries, let alone replace them.

As Aristotle had emphasized, there cannot be a political animal, a zoon poli-tikon, without office holding. In this way the practice of leitourgia as the work of all the people (the church preferring this term for their worship activity rather than orgia, another Greek term for religious activity that was used in a more private sense and especially for mystery cults) can be said to have marked the establishment of a new form of public sphere.

Self Help Affirmations

Self Help Affirmations

The big book of affirmations from personal development authors. An affirmation is something you say to yourself. Everybody uses them on purpose or accidentally. You get up in the morning, leap out of bed and proclaim,

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment