Monday, April 2, 2007

Restoration Movement on Speed, Baby!

I've been spending a lot of time this year studying early Christianity. I wasn't really intentional, but it just happened. Last semester I took a class on Early Christian Literature, and read a lot of Church Fathers on a lot of different subjects. It was good class. Not my favorite, but a good class.

This semester, I'm in a class, quite by accident as it was the only 300 level RS class that would fit into my schedule with the title, The Redeemed Body. We've been looking, in far greater depth than the class at the ways early Christianity viewed the body, particularly through the lenses of martyrdom and asceticism. Great class in a number of ways. Particularly now that we're done reading about horrible, terrible ways to die and have moved on to ascetics. (After two semesters of this I have monks coming out of my ears and am contemplating running away a becoming a nun.)

It seems to be that in early Christianity (pre-Constantine) the body was often a tool for protesting the dominant society and the material world. Social constructions, such as the family, the city, or even gender, were deconstructed and even mocked through practices of martyrdom and asceticism. Perpetua breaks off all ties with her family in order to become a martyr -- even abandoning her infant sin. Thecla cross-dresses, along with a host of other women. Eunuchs become a symbol, a physical manifestations of the rejection a binary gender scheme. The original state of humankind, as created in God's image, and the state to which humans are returned to in the coming kingdom of God is an ungendered state. Male and female ascetics developed relationships with one another that were outside of the structure of socially approved relationships. Friendships based on mutual respect and affection. Concerns that we would now label social justice broke down socio-economic hierachy as ascetics from the upper-classes vowed themselves to poverty and worked with their own hands.

And of course, I think to myself, maybe this is what we need today. A radical, anti-societal Christianity to counter those who want to believe that Jesus came to reinforce social hierarchy. **cough, Focus on the Family, cough** Lets restore early Christianity, in all of its beautiful chaos!

Because I'm basically a Restoration Movement thinker at heart: Screw creeds and church hierarchies! I just want early Christianity and not the fourth century, sanitanized, domesticated, legalized Christianity of Biblical literacy.

Edit: Yeah, so that last word should be literalism. So, I might ought to type these suckers in a word processor with a spell check.

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