Last week, I attended part 2 of ‘The Bible in Tomorrow’s World’ module at Durham University. One of the themes that Bishop Tom Wright spoke on is Paul’s use of his Roman citizenship in Acts (one can likely get this from his recent Acts for Everyone). This appears to be his favourite image of how discipleship is lived out in our world.
During class, I got the opportunity to ask him about this. I mentioned a tele programme on Channel 4 (I think) called ‘The Real Jesus’, which creates the rehashed Jesus from the ‘Jesus Seminar’ as the one whom James and his family would have known. The programme claims that Paul’s Roman citizenship was evidence to the Jerusalem church that Pauline Christianity was interested in cozying up to the Roman authorities.
The second part of my question came in how did he compare this dual citizenship with the role that Christians play in that of Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, which is ‘resident aliens’. I should have made my question this one, because I think he got lost in the first part, but his answer still helps. What he emphasises about Paul’s Roman citizenship is that Paul was using the system to subvert it. For instance, after his beating, he demanded an apology and got it. He used the appeal process to get to Rome and preach the gospel to power.
He didn’t have much to say about the resident aliens. So a few thoughts: Bishop Tom appears more comfortable with Christendom than others do. He wants to stress working within the system, and wants to point to Britain’s Christian heritage. Hauerwas and Willimon stress our outsider status and more often than not point out the disimilarities between America’s supposed Christian past and the Christian story as it is.
I guess I see the contradiction when I compare the situations between me and Bishop Tom: He is a British citizen, an Anglican bishop (the established church), and sits in the House of Lords. I am a resident alien, a non-conformist Methodist, and barely have a basic understanding of the political system.
So do you have any thoughts on how these two images play out?