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Man’s christian invention

The The most important lesson learned from historical research is contingency. Things don̵

7;t have to be the same as before. For example, the answer to all the most important questions in the history of our civilization is: “What does it mean to be a person?” Since the Enlightenment, many people in the West have given the impression that it is easy to answer this question. Observe human behavior empirically in time and space, and then abstract some universal norms from the data. This is our modern belief: we can read the truth about ourselves in the records of nature just like reading a story in a book.

A groundbreaking example of this is the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, which was written on the high meridian of the Enlightenment by one of the most incandescent people of the Enlightenment:

We believe that these truths are self-evident, all people are equal, and the creator has given them certain inalienable rights, including life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

For Jefferson, and for us who live by his words today, “it is self-evident that” human beings have not been born yet, with saddles on their backs, and there is no group of thrilled and thrilled people ready to ride them. “But most people in most places and most of the time have never thought of such a person. We are all equal, unique personalities, and everyone has unfathomable dignity and inviolable rights. This view is a kind of A rare and relatively narrow view. This world once existed without it (there are still many things in the world today). If we forget the source of this idea and the idea that has lasted for so long, it is easy to reappear.

We can trace the origin of the word “person” to the ancient Greek word committed to, Which means “mask”. It was originally used in the context of the Greek tragedy.Actor wearing committed to The role they played in the drama. But it quickly gained political and social significance, especially in Roman society.Latin words committed to Yes people, The source of our English words. According to Roman usage, a person’s character is a person’s social and legal role in the community. From one person to another, from aristocrats to senators to shopkeepers to servants, this role varies greatly, and it does not accommodate everyone as equally as the current term “person”. People think that different social status are almost different species, and they have nothing in common. Except for their role in the country, no one is considered to have any kind of individual existence.For example, Roman slaves are customarily called Not alone: Literally speaking, “no one” or “no one” because their social function is so mean and like a tool. As we understand now, it doesn’t matter who they actually are at the bottom of the “people”.

The dramatic Greek and Roman political usage of the word have an important point in common. In any case, covering up the unique individual behind or the individual playing the social role assigned to him is at least not considered important.Metropolis John Zizioulas put it this way: “Many writers represent [ancient] The Greeks considered it to be “impersonal” in nature. In the platonic change, all concrete and “individual” ultimately refer to the abstract ideas that constitute its foundation and ultimate defense. “

As they themselves saw, the premise for people in the ancient world to really exist was that they participated in a larger project, whether on the stage or in the city. This was their “ground and final reason”. “. Zizioulas continued:Identity – An important part of the concept of a person, which makes one person different from another, makes him different who is he – [was] Guarantee and if According to the country or some organized whole. For this reason, the historian Larry Siedentop wrote that in the ancient city, “there is no concept of individual rights against the city and its gods.” There is no formal freedom of thought or action. . . . Citizens belong to the city, body and soul. “If the individual has no value at all, it only refers to an organized collective.

The advent of Christianity overthrew this ancient order, which has been more or less unchallenged since the birth of civilization until the morning of the first Resurrection in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. The declaration of the first Christians-God has become human-erased the personality concept that prevailed in the ancient world. If Jesus is the “personality” insisted by the church’s apostle and patriotic father, and he has passed away and has grown to be the representative of the entire race, then we are the one that the society and the nation created. There has been a gap between our identity and our social obligations. For the first time an individual stepped onto the stage of human history. “There are neither Jews nor Greeks, neither slaves nor freedoms, neither men nor women; because you are all in Christ Jesus.” Or, as Siedentop said:

For Paul, believing in Christ enables everyone to equally take on the primary role (“soul equality”), and the traditional social role (whether it is a father, daughter, official, priest or slave) is the primary role compared to the secondary role . For this main character, an indefinite number of social characters may or may not be added as attributes of the theme, but they no longer define the theme. This is the freedom of Paul’s conception of Christ to introduce human identity.

For us, it is almost impossible to truly understand the impact of Easter aftershocks on our civilization for thousands of years. To a large extent, we are all within Christians with a sense of morality and a basic worldview, so that without great imagination, we cannot see this from the vantage point of the former Christian society. We cannot feel the ridicule of criminals, blasphemous lunatics, Not alone, Speaking to a powerful ruler the way Jesus spoke to Pilate at the climax of the Gospel of John. As for the crucifixion itself, the theologian David Bentley Hart is correct when he writes,

Do our best, we will never be able to truly see Christ’s broken, humiliated and doomed mankind, which is self-evidently despicable and absurd. On the contrary, in the true sense, we are destined to see that it covers the mystery of our humanity: the sublime fragility, both tragic and magnificent, and pitiful and wonderful.

Under the grief and victory of one person, the contingency that we think of ourselves and all decent and valuable things in our society has always haunted us. In the past 2000 years, all of us have been living in this shadow. We have forgotten that, in a historically provable way, we Western countries fully attribute our common universal humanity to Jesus of Nazareth and his church. Even the tiniest details in the Easter story, such as the tears of St. Peter’s betrayal of Jesus, mark the complete cessation of the Christian revolution in the past, until we turn a blind eye to today. As Hart pointed out:

What is obvious to us is-Peter’s wounded soul, his devotion to his teacher, his torment with sin, the stereotype of Christ’s imminent death forever and ever eliminating the possibility of seeking forgiveness and betrayal-is largely obvious , Because in a sense, we are the heirs of a culture, emerging from Peter’s tears. For us, this rather small and ordinary narrative detail is undoubtedly a decoration of the story, making it noble, proving its gravity, and expanding the embrace of our common humanity. In this sense, all of us, even unbelievers, are “Christians” of our moral expectations of the world. However, for the illiterate class in the late antiquity, the story of Peter’s cry is more like an aesthetic error. Because Peter, as a countryman, cannot be the object of sympathy for a character, his grief may not have the tragic dignity that makes it worthy of anyone’s attention. . . . This is not only an infringement of good taste. This is an act of rebellion.

With the restatement of Siedentop Inventing the Individual: The Origin of Western LiberalismIn the centuries between the first Resurrection Day and today, people have made long, uneven and imperfect efforts to transform Christians’ belief in universal human dignity into social and political reality. Contrary to what the enemies of Christianity claimed, the Enlightenment was no different from its previous experience, and owed more to the moral infiltration of Christians over the centuries. The scholar Brian Tierney pointed out that by 1300, many rights had been regularly claimed and defended based on Christians’ understanding of personality: “These include property rights, the right to consent to the government, the right to self-defense, pagans, Marriage rights, procedural rights” and take measures to make these rights enforceable under positive law. To a certain extent, we see ourselves as human rights defenders with real responsibility, so we are all cultural products of Easter.

However, as the survey of American religious habits shows, the cultural aftermath of the resurrection of the Son of God seems to be fading in the West for a long time. Just last week, Gallup released a new study that showed that the number of church members in the United States fell below 50% for the first time. Even without reliable data as evidence, it is possible to infer many things from American social and political conditions. We are increasingly looking for a way to get along with each other, which looks more like Christianity replacing pagan culture than anything else. Zizioulas described pagan society as an “impersonal” society, in which individuals are “ultimately accused of abstract ideas that constitute their foundation and ultimate defense.”In today’s America, people are ultimately called abstracts political The idea that constitutes their “foundation and ultimate reason” in the social order.

We increasingly see each other as flat incarnations of abstract collectives, from which we can get our sense of solidity and meaning. We are Republicans, Democrats, anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, support the dead, support the choosers. The unique and unrepeatable people buried under all these labels, the pre-political people handed over to each of us by Jesus on the cross, are being crowded and suffocated. Furthermore, we have no reason to believe that it will survive the cultural abandonment of the belief that led to its birth. However, we do have a comfort: even in the West, this kind of people-oriented primacy is in the pain of death, it will come out of the grave again. Any of our failures, whether personal or political, will not slow down the arrival of this glorious city. Christ reigns here, free from the ravages of time, eternally ancient and eternally reborn.

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