Seditious Households: How Holy Kisses, Tables, and House(hold) Church Habits Subverted Oppression and Slavery (Part 1)
In Ibram X. Kendi’s stellar volume on the history of racist ideas in America, Stamped From the Beginning, he argues for Aristotle’s influence on colonial Puritan politicians and preachers. And without hesitation, Kendi moves quickly back to early Christianity, linking the apostle Paul to the Aristotelian thread of “superior” demographics, the “three-tiered of hierarchy slave relations—heavenly master (top), earthy master (middle), enslaved (bottom).” Kendi, then, quotes Paul from Colossians 3:22: Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Is this, however, a fair characterization of Paul’s view on slavery? Still, why didn’t Paul just simply condemn slavery outright? Moreover, why didn’t Jesus and the NT writers directly address the cultural and social oppression of women, children, and slaves? Yet, perhaps they had. Imagine, still, just maybe they had something more noble in mind?
Arguably, it was the presence of Christianity in the Roman Empire that turned socially accepted tiers of human hierarchies and practices up-side-down, albeit slowly penetrating the social fabric of the Greco-Roman world through the formation of a household platform (literally) that inaugurated a social mapping revolution. Some cast early Christianity as a protest movement against an oppressive, imperial empire, yet the apostolic and early church lacked any power or leverage for such social and cultural revolution. New Testament writers did not seek to overthrow authority structures wherein the gathered-church inhabited. Nonetheless, the household gathered-church, along with their table-fellowship (i.e., the common meal/the Lord’s Supper) and other early gathered-church practices (i.e., household baptism and kiss), was the platform for making known God’s cosmic reconciliation.
In this paper, I suggest it was the narrative of the gospel as it intruded upon the Gentile world in the midst of the local, household gathered-church that changed everything--that more noble idea. It is my thesis that the gospel let loose (applied and socially forming) among household gathered-churches changed existing social mapping, worked out through the habitus taught and implied (i.e., trajectory application) by NT teaching. My concern is to hear how relevant narrative choices in Acts speak to the household gathered-church and how its habitus resulted in new social-mapping (forms and habits) consistent with the gospel and the meaning of the cross.
This is a thread consisting of parts of a a recent paper presented at the 2017 Evangelical Theological Society's annual meeting in Providence, RI. The goal is to develop an anthology of essays (by various authors) on the subject, Christian Responses to Tyranny.
Part 1 | Part 2a | Part 2b | Part 2c | Part 3 | Part 3a | Part 3b | Part 4a | Part 4b | Part 5
For the entire thread (remember to scroll backwards for previous posts) << Gathered-church >>
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.