Wednesday, December 16, 2009

From Jesus to Christ; Nopenhagen

Hola, amigos.
Not too much going on here.
I really have no idea what I did last night. I got home slightly later than usual, and I know I did a little time on the ol' elliptical machine, but after that... I guess I pretty much just squandered the rest of the night away.
Oh yeah. I watched most of a Frontline episode called From Jesus to Christ. It was about the life of Jesus, approaching his life and work from more of a historical account than a strictly religious one, and about the early days of the Christian religion and some of the early, formative steps that Christianity went through before becoming the religion that we see today (in its many different forms).
It was an interesting documentary. Right from the get go (as early christian leaders like Paul worked to establish the chrisitan church) it sounds like there were substantial differences in doctrine and practice among various groups and congregations that had sprung up. Keeping in mind that all of the earliest Christians had been Jews (Jesus and his disciples considered themselves Jews and were firmly embedded in Jewish practice and tradition, after all), one of the earliest questions for the new practitioners of Christianity involved whether or not a person had to become a Jew, with all of the rites and practices that went along with it, before becoming a Christian. For a period of time, then, there was a bit of controversy about whether Christianity would really become a religion in its own right, or whether it would remain a sort of version of Judaism. Also addressed were questions about when the messiah would return to Earth. Apparently the earliest Christians believed that Jesus would return to earth and signal the return of the kingdom of heaven within the lifetime of the church's founding members. The earliest Christians were somewhat alarmed when some of their members began to pass away, and Jesus still had not yet returned (which required some reassurance and clarification on the part of Paul and other early church leaders).
Anyway, it was a really interesting documentary. Hearing more about the political and social realities of the time period really sort of put some of the old classic Bible stories into a more real, human context. I'm not sure how devoutly religious people would respond to the program. While it certainly wasn't sacrilegious or anything, the documentary really looked at the events from the Bible from a solidly historical perspective. While the theologians and historians in the documentary don't really contradict religious scripture, I'm not sure that a lot of Christians would be comfortable with the idea that Jesus was probably considered to be an insignificant cult leader and minor political irritant by the Romans. Still, it makes sense. Many other religious figures and self declared messiahs had come before Jesus, many of whom also claimed religious and social authority (which the Romans saw as a threat to the rule of law and their own political authority), and many of these people were summarily arrested, imprisoned, and executed- a significant number of them suffering crucifixion in the same way that Jesus did. At the time when Pontius Pilate had Jesus executed, it's unlikely that he saw Jesus as anything more than another in a long line of religious fanatics turned political dissidents (Jesus's own political dissident status evidenced by, among other things, the mocking Roman label of "King of the Jews"). The documentary even went on to explain that Pilate, Roman governor of Judea, had gone to Jerusalem (he typically tended to reside in towns that had Roman, pagan temples and altars) to essentially provide security and crowd control during the chaos and crowds involved with Passover holiday. Point being, Passover was already sort of nuts, and Pilate, who was already known for being ruthless, was probably not really in the mood to put up with troublemakers during this particular point in time. It's just kind of weird to know that this sort of event, the sort of thing that Pilate had probably been involved in many times before while ruthlessly trying to maintain peace and security in his occupied territory, would later come to help define one of the most widespread, powerful religions that the world has ever known.
Anyway, kind of a strange post for me, I know, but I found it all very interesting.

What else? It sounds like there really hasn't been any substantial progress made in Copenhagen in terms of getting the countries of the world to agree to any sort of new restrictions on carbon emissions. The poorer countries can't seem to get the sort of funding that might help them make substantive changes, and the wealthier, industrialized nations (the U.S. and China, most specifically) won't submit to emissions reductions for fear of harming their own economies.
I'm just starting to feel a sort of resignation on this whole thing. I feel like all I can do (aside from supporting some environmental groups and driving low emissions vehicles) is hope that the people on the right actually turn out to be correct about all of this stuff, and that the problem ends up being much less severe than the scientific community continues to expect. I don't really expect the conservatives to be right on this, but I just feel kind of stuck. In general, the countries of the world have occasionally been able to band together in order to confront a sudden crisis, war, or disaster, but it seems like we've only been able to mobilize when things really come to a head (say, after the Nazis have occupied Europe or after a tsunami has wiped out cities on coastlines in the Indian Ocean). Global warming is more of a slow building problem, though, so it's going to be hard to have that single moment of realization that seems necessary to mobilize the world community, and global warming seems to be the sort of thing that's much better dealt with through way of prevention than through repair (I'm not sure if we even can mount recovery/repair efforts for something like climate change). The whole inability of the international community to come together and make changes, even in the face of a likely catastrophe, is just very depressing. If you believe the vast majority of scientific analysis (as I do), then our inability to act together as a global community at this point seems like a triumph of greed over self preservation. So... very... lame...

Grrrrr. Now I'm annoyed. I'm signing off.
Hope you guys are doing okay.

1 comment:

Ryan S. said...

I think about those aliens from the end of the movie "AI: Artificial Intelligence" a lot. At some point, someone, either our descendants or otherwise, is going to look at what what we built, what we knew and when we knew it, and they're going to be amazed.