re: slavery, freedom, & redemption/salvation
"Salvation" defined in comparative-religion terms:
The definition under the "Calvinism" section in the above article is probably what most americans and/or protestants would think of, so please note the existence of other definitions, including the "Universalist" definition.
Dr. Orlando Patterson (Sociology, Harvard) wrote a book about how the concept of "salvation" in western (christian) civilization was tied into the greek concept of freedom (from slavery).
In Baha'i terms, slavery is (in the context of this topic) being enslaved to evil, self, sin, ignorance, etc.
Generally speaking, "salvation" = "redemption".
Patterson's theory departs in some very interesting (and probably controversial) ways from the conventional approach in Christianity.
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Jesus did not emphasize freedom -- spiritual freedom -- he emphasized the need for righteousness, for repentance -- preparedness for the coming end, and the need for fellowship with each other and a new vision of people's relationship with God, a much more intimate one. And those were the things which he emphasized. If anything -- if you want to extract from his teaching a social value, a non-religious value, it was more of an emphasis on equality, and as I indicated, there's a clear suspicion of the wealthy and of the elite, especially the urban elites. This was very much a movement of country hicks, which we say today. He was from a very rustic part. They were not the poorest group, but they were mainly artisans -- country artisans, really.
LAMB: Where Jesus was from?
PATTERSON: Yes, his group. His father was a carpenter -- his father would have been from this group. I mean, poor rural folk don't -- not necessarily the poorest, but very much a sort of rural semi-literate group. This was a very Jewish movement, because it emerged at a time when Palestine was in ferment and it was a colony of Rome. And there's a lot of -- well, today we'd call it nationalist movement, so to speak, and decolonization movements. Some of them -- those are just purely political. Some of them were purely religious in the sense that they say, "Well, you know, let's forget about politics. I mean, what you really need to do is to prepare yourself for the end of the world in which the whole thing will come to an end. And so what you really need to prepare yourself for is just to see that your your spiritual state is in order, not your physical state." But in the process of proclaiming, there is definitely a pass towards the poor, homeless. Just look at the people he associated with. Publicans were condemned, the prostitutes and beggars and so on. And so implicit in his teaching was more an egalitarianism and the emphasis on fellowship insofar as it had a social content, as what it was -- which was not one which emphasized freedom.
LAMB: When you research Jesus, are you surprised at all at how Christianity's developed over the years?
PATTERSON: I was surprised to discover the extent to which there is such a drastic shift. Now professional historians of religion have known this before. As I compile [audio loss] I go to the specialists, I read the textbook. I depend heavily on the specialists. And so the insiders -- let us put it that way -- would have known this before. But it still struck me as quite extraordinary, the extent to which Paul and the early Church, the group that triumphed, really turned the early ideas around, in the sense that the focus really shifted towards this idea of spiritual liberation, and using very powerfully this idea of -- the slavery into freedom metaphor.
And that's the significance of -- and that's my part -- that's my special contribution to this, because my argument was Jesus did not grow up and preach in a slave society. Palestine -- there were a few slaves, but it wasn't a large-scale slave society. Whereas the Church, which made Jesus its object, emerged in a large-scale slave society. And I think that's the significant factor, explaining why the focus shifted from the early more millenarian emphasis on fellowship, equality, preparedness for the just life and for the life to come, and intimacy, both with each other and with God -- shifted from that towards an emphasis upon the idea of freedom -- spiritual freedom, and the idea of slavery -- sin as a kind of slavery. God never -- Jesus never used that metaphor.
He did once -- there's a famous reference to a slave in one of the parables, but it's significant that he just merely took slavery for granted that way in which he said, you know, "You should serve God, not expecting any return, but as a good slave would." And that's his only reference to it. But the idea of emphasizing slavery as a great evil which becomes symbolic of one's spiritual condition, in which you're a slave to sin, to carnal desires, to all the wickednesses of the flesh, and that what happens inside is the equivalent of an emancipation in that the person who bought you out of that condition of spiritual slavery was Jesus with his death -- a life for a life, so to speak, a sort of physical life for the social death that is slavery, and spiritual death that is sin. And that metaphor -- that preoccupation emerged in Rome and it was completely different from Jesus' preoccupation.
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