Our concern is not how to worship in the catacombs, but how to remain human in the skyscrapers.” ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

From a historical standpoint, I’m beginning to question the claim that exile or diaspora is normative for developing Christian ethics and Theo-politics. Cartwright’s and Och’s essays in The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited have a raised a lot of questions about the precision of Yoder’s historical narrative. For instance, why displace the link between the prophetic and priestly vocations of Israel; how neatly can we disentangle the complex web of Jewish Theological claims about the land, unity, election, covenant and God’s promise of redemption from exile; what about the canonical shaping of the Hebrew Bible that ends with Chronicles? And what about the concluding chapters of Jeremiah and Isaiah?

Attempts to answer these questions tend to verge on the edge of sloganeering and at best offer “monologic” readings of history. Even thinkers very sympathetic to Yoder recognize a modernist logic operating within his historical scholarship. As Ochs states, “Yoder appears to reason or argue in a way that may still reflect some of the logic of modernity, in particular, the logic that divides the world of thought and of belief into radically opposing positions – one purely good and one purely not” (6). Cartwright agrees, stating that “‘Polyphony’ would not be a word that aptly describes Yoder’s hermeneutic” (215).

This isn’t to say that I necessarily disagree with the political consequences of diaspora ethics. It is to say that I think there are better places to turn in order to develop such a politics and which remain more faithful to the Church’s history.

St. Augustine’s two cities narrative comes to mind. As a Theo-political grammar, it upsets and so relatives the Constantinian model of absorption.* The two cities paradigm doesn’t need to brush aside 1,200-1,300 years of history in order to develop a radical politics. Indeed, there might be a legitimate mode of faithful discipleship that is associated with the temple, land and the Davidic monarchy.

Overall, I’m looking forward to continuing this line of questioning as I’m not really sure where it will take me.

*Chad Pecknold, Christianity and Politics, 47, 148.

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