According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Importance of "Gentle Commerce" for the Pacification (Decline of Violence) in the World posted a recent article supporting the idea that commercial exchange and craft specialization provokes humanity to "work, live, and co-exist" with one another more peaceably than if no economic exchange existed and instead, major populations competed fiercely with one another for the same resources, provisions, and technology.

Interestingly enough, the movie "Divergent" depicts a stratified society divided up within a small, localized region (the ex-Chicago area) measured not economically but sociologically into five groups: the protectors, the servers, the farmers, the law keepers, and inventors. But in any Utopian vision of the world there can, and will be, differences and division that may not be enough to hold a society together.

However, through trade and commerce with the Soviet Union, China, SE Asia, the Mid-East, and Africa, both Europe and the Americas have created conditions for communication,  a forum for the exchange of ideas and ideology, and a good measure of population movement between specialities and regional resources. Even so is global technology also contributing to the necessity amongst humanity to live peaceably with one another against the larger urges to retain fundamental regional beliefs and ignorance.

No country is impervious to discrimination and cultural warfare. We see this with the clash between Western culture and Eastern religions; between tribal identities and familial affiliations; between adaptive democracies and resisting autocracies; between economic fascism and market economics. In fact, wherever a population with large identities meets with another population with similar patriotisms, devotions, or nationalisms, there can always exist a struggle between acceptance, tolerance, and workability vs. dissolution, intolerance, and the refusal to cooperate with one another.

Here in America we see this on a church level as regional denominational bodies and independent church fellowships struggle to recognize each other's right of a pervasive biblical view. Conservatives disallow liberalism while liberals debunk conservatism; hate speech and segregating violence is deemed right-and-just in some faith organizations while the civil liberties of all citizenry are more broadly recognized in others; church creeds and constitutions are constructed to delimit the rights of congregants while in other fellowships they are freely embraced by right of biblical principle.

What the 21st century has brought to mankind is the ability to speak to one another in a deeper, more expansive language of social construction than at any other time in human history. And yet, the struggle of the human spirit to accept change, adapt to population movement, and allow cultural reception is just as large now as it was centuries earlier with America's Southwest native tribal federations (as shown in the article below).

Into these differences of the human mind and heart has come Jesus Christ to invoke God's love and grace against the religious and civil intolerances of the human heart unwilling to adjust, to see, to hear, learn, or listen, to any other diatribes or debates other than its own regional mindsets and resistance.

But to the degree that Jesus was successful in enlarging the human heart of a willing disciple to willfully change and adapt, to that degree was the gospel enlarged and a spirit of peace and cooperation has been able to take root.

But when Jesus' gospel was rejected He was crucified, his disciples persecuted and scattered, and the gospel of God became yet another gospel spoken from the roots of a false tongue and deceiving witness by nay-sayers and opponents, false prophets and would-be followers.

It is into these turbulent times God's church, and the people of this world, must submit to loving one another or reap the whirlwind of their own destruction and demise. To seek to relax religious and ideological principles enough to be able to see the other who is different from ourselves seeking refuge and help rather than wishing to compete or combat. America's border wars must be refashioned so that the innocent may find safety, education, trade, and very existence itself. And America's debate with the Muslim man or woman must become no debate at all for those wishing peace and harmony while holding on to their own faith structures.

America is in a global position of leadership, and leadership by its very definition is that of serving the other, recognizing the other, and helping the other different from ourselves. In this service must be the willingness to be pervasively tolerant and not simply enforcing intolerance by guns and bullets, sharp tongues, and intolerant ideology. Let us learn to beat our weaponry into plowshares and begin the harder task of uniting all men and women. To write civil laws that are equal and just. And to speak a gospel of peace and harmony against a gospel that would divide and dehumanize one's fellow neighbor. This is what it means to "bring in the Kingdom of God" by both the human spirit and the Spirit of God until He comes. Amen

R.E. Slater
August 4, 2014

Washington State University archaeologist Tim Kohler has documented a 40-year period of violence
among the ancient pueblo people of southwest Colorado. Credit: Washington State University

Researchers see violent era in ancient Southwest

It's a given that, in numbers terms, the 20th Century was the most violent in history, with civil war, purges and two World Wars killing as many as 200 million people.

But on a per-capita basis, Washington State University archaeologist Tim Kohler has documented a particularly bloody period more than eight centuries ago on what is now American soil. Between 1140 and 1180, in the central Mesa Verde of southwest Colorado, four relatively peaceful centuries of pueblo living devolved into several decades of violence.

Writing in the journal American Antiquity, Kohler and his colleagues at WSU and at the University of Colorado-Boulder document how nearly nine out of ten sets of human remains from that period had trauma from blows to either their heads or parts of their arms.

"If we're identifying that much trauma, many were dying a violent death," said Kohler, whose study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Yet at the same time, in the northern Rio Grande region of what is now New Mexico, people had far less violence while experiencing similar growth and, ostensibly, population pressures. Viewed together, said Kohler, the two areas offer a view into what motivates violence in some societies but not others. The study also offers more clues to the mysterious depopulation of the northern Southwest, from a population of about 40,000 people in the mid-1200s to none 30 years later.

From the days they first arrived in the Southwest in the 1800s, anthropologists and archaeologists have for the most part downplayed evidence of violent conflict among the early farmers in the region. A minority raised the specter of violence but lacked a good measure for it.

"Archaeologists with one or two exceptions have not tried to develop an objective metric of levels of violence through time," said Kohler. "They've looked at a mix of various things like burned structures, defensive site locations and so forth, but it's very difficult to distill an estimate of levels of violence from such things. We've concentrated on one thing, and that is trauma, especially to the head and portions of the arms. That's allowed us to look at levels of violence through time in a comparative way."

Meanwhile, Kohler and his colleagues are examining the role of factors like maize production, changes to the climate, and growing population in changing levels of violence. A paper of his published in June in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the Southwest had a baby boom between 500 and 1300 that likely exceeded any population spurt on earth today.

Both the central Mesa Verde and northern Rio Grande experienced population booms, said Kohler, but surprisingly, the central Mesa Verde got more violent while the northern Rio Grande grew less so.

Kohler offers a few explanations.

Social structures among people in the northern Rio Grande changed so that they identified less with their kin and more with the larger pueblo and specific organizations that span many pueblos, such as medicine societies. The Rio Grande also had more commercial exchanges where craft specialists provided people both in the pueblo, and outsiders, specific things they needed, such as obsidian arrow points.

But in the central Mesa Verde, there was less specialization.

"When you don't have specialization in societies, there's a sense in which everybody is a competitor because everybody is doing the same thing," said Kohler. But with specialization, people are more dependent on each other and more reluctant to do harm.

Kohler and his colleagues also cite Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker's thinking in his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

"Pinker thought that what he called 'gentle commerce' was very important in the pacification of the world over the last 5,000 years," said Kohler. "That seems to work pretty well in our record as well."

The episode of conflict in Southwest Colorado seems to have begun when people in the Chaco culture, halfway between central Mesa Verde and northern Rio Grande, attempted to spread into Southwest Colorado.

"They were resisted," Kohler said, "but resistance was futile."

From 1080 to 1130, the Chaco-influenced people in Southwest Colorado did well. In the mid-1100s, there was a severe drought and the core of Chaco culture fell apart. Much of the area around Chaco lost population, and in 1160, violence in the central Mesa Verde peaked. Slightly more than a century later, everyone left that area, too.

"In the Mesa Verde there could be a haves-versus-have-nots dynamic towards the very end," said Kohler. "The people who stayed the longest were probably the people who were located in the very best spots. But those pueblos too were likely losing population. And it might have been the older folks who stuck around, who weren't so anxious to move as the young folks who thought, 'We could make a better living elsewhere.'" Older, or with too few people to marshal a good defense, the remaining people in the Mesa Verde pueblos were particularly vulnerable to raids.

At least two of the last-surviving large pueblos in the central Mesa Verde were attacked as the region was being abandoned. Some of their inhabitants probably made it out alive, but, says Kohler, "Many did not."

Explore further: Scientists chart an ancient baby boom—in southwestern Native Americans from 500 to 1300 AD

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