An Admirable Life-37-Scarcity as Religious Prod

   The Axial Age, from about 900 BC to about 200 BC witnessed the greatest development of religious/spiritual thought in human history. Every generation since the Axial Age benefitted from its great insights. None surpassed it for pervasive impact world-wide.

   Out of the urges of the Axial Age humankind developed a kind of uncanny sixth sense as to when it would enter a period of scarcity, wherein other-centeredness would become absolutely necessary for human survival, let alone human happiness.

   The rise of various religious movements (the Axial Age was spiritual and ancient; religion is corporate and modern) since the Axial Age somehow predicts coming movements from rapacious market economies to more localized, subsistence cultures. Buddha reformed Hinduism from a series of ecstatic trances to the simple teaching that a blessed life is one lived for others. Confucious determined to teach consumer-driven China it should not treat anyone in a way it would not like to be treated. Jesus insisted that man would find greater blessing (alms) giving than in receipt of goods.

   Set aside any religious inclinations you have for this instant (yes, I know, it is not possible) and see this lesson of history. Each of the Teachers I just mentioned (I follow Jesus) anticipated serious, sweeping economic changes across the (known) world and included this major change, the coming of scarcity in His teaching.

   What I think I understand about the modern (and post-modern) enmity toward Jesus, the Christ, is His anticipation of scarcity was historic, as was that of the others, but Jesus historical prediction was not primarily utilitarian or pragmatic. His teachings were of a kind of inner sensuality by which humankind discerned True God. He was the True Shepherd (Ro'eh) and His sheep heard His voice Therefore, He teaches a kind of muscular spirituality, with the love of God evident in heart (seat of intellect), with soul (allness) and with one's Me-odekah (muchness, our Very Very).

       Unlike the Buddha and Confucious, Jesus saw the coming destruction of his capitol city as a prod toward God, not simply as evidence that Heaven did not much concern itself with the muddled actions of mankind. China was destroying itself in the Period of the Warring States. Hindic India reabsorbed the reform Buddhists into the fold in less than two generations. Their common insistence on some form of the Golden Rule notwithstanding, Jesus excels in recognizing the end of rich, religious diversity (the lead up to His period saw the rise of Pharisees, Zealots, Sadduccees, Essenes, et al) as a prod toward God.

   Christianity survived the Roman purges and eventually conquered the Roman Empire because it did not need a corporate Temple to thrive. The coming period of global scarcity (too many people, too little stuff) may make Christianity a great winner again.

   For humankind will not continue to turn away from God-thoughts in times of scarcity. In fact, little else will make sense of life in the days just to come.

   A pagan, it is said, once approached the great rabbi Hillel. The pagan told Hillel he would convert to Judaism on the spot if Hillel could recite all the Torah while standing on one leg. The pagan understood religion to be an act of competitive endurance.

   Hillel, so the story goes, promptly stood on one leg (we are not told which one) and said, "What is hateful to yourself do not do to other men. The rest is commentary. Go and study it."

   A historic study would show that Jesus taught the same ethical rule as primary but He insisted on stating it positively, as in "Do only to others what you would have them do to/for you." His is an active Tzedaqah (righteousness) showing real-time Teshuda (repentance). He could teach this on either leg, or while reclining at dinner.

   Jesus takes an ancient universal teaching, assumes the poverty to come because of human violence and greed in a market economy, and acts out a more stringent, empathetic version, capped off by His personal sacrifice on the Cross. 



Opinions expressed here are mine alone.





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