Lost in Santa Rosa

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I had signed up a few months ago to hear Dominic Crossan speak at the Westar Institute Fall 2008 session in Santa Rosa. I actually was interested at the time in more than just the Dominic Crossan talk, but I wasn't able to convince myself to invest an entire weekend out of town. But I had decided that I could do the 55 mile drive to Santa Rosa on a Friday night for one hour and a half session from an author and scholar who I respected a great deal, especially since it was dirt cheap to sign up for a single session.

Well, the session was this past Friday, and though my interest in all matters Jesus-y has diminished recently, I had paid for it and I had already asked for and received the day off from work because I knew that otherwise I would not be able to make it up there after work during the rush hour. Since I had done so much planning for it, I figured I might as well go. As it turned out, I got involved in other activities that afternoon and did not give myself as much time as I should have to get there. I had not printed out a map from Google or Mapquest or any other internet mapping site, and I did not bring a GPS device with me, so I had to navigate the old fashioned way, which is to say that I wrote down on a piece of paper the directions from the web site, which seemed simple enough--they said to "stay on Hwy 12 (which joins Farmers Lane) to 4th Street." After realizing I was no longer on route 12 and I also wasn't on Farmers Lane either at a certain point, without knowing quite how I had gotten off the freeway, I realized I was lost in Santa Rosa--a city with a population of over 150,000--and not with a lot of time left to spare. My only bow to modern technology was a cell phone that I had with me, so I called the hotel for directions.

When I finally arrived, barely in time, there wasn't enough time for dinner, so I asked the desk clerk where I could find a hotel vending machine. Dinner thus consisted of some cheesy crackers and a couple of Reese's peanut butter cups. That was enough to tide me over for what did turn out to be an interesting and often entertaining visual presentation of computer projected photographs of Roman Imperial inscriptions, coins, archaeological finds, and other artifacts, narrated by Dominic Crossan.

He spoke about a subject that has dominated much of his popular writing lately, namely the nature of Roman imperial theology. The subtext was only alluded to occasionally during the talk, although it came up more explicitly during the Q&A--namely, that the language used to describe Augustus Caesar (Divine, Son of God, Savior of the World, Bringer of Peace, etc.) is exactly the same as the language that early Christians used to describe Jesus. The point, of course, is that this was no coincidence, that in fact the early Christians were using theological language that the people of that time fully recognized and that was pervasive and culturally dominant--but they were applying it to a completely different individual; and by using such language they were challenging the prevailing Imperial theology of that time, and by extension, the authority of the Roman Empire itself. The prevailing theology of the time, as Crossan pointed out, proceded from Religion to War, from War to Victory, from Victory to Peace. Caesar was worshiped as divine because he brought peace to his people--through military conquest. This theology of peace through victory contrasted with Jesus's theology of peace through justice. Thus the early Christians used the identical language of Roman Imperial theology to present a subversively alternative religious and political vision. As he pointed out, telling people of the Roman Empire of that time that an executed Jewish peasant was to be described in the same language as was used to describe the ruler of the "world" at that time would have led many people to roll over with laughter. And yet, as we know, this is precisely what was done.

Crossan is a funny and interesting speaker who exudes Irish charm. It was a bit far away for an evening trip, and the drive back that night was somewhat long, but I enjoyed the experience enough that I might just have to consider attending more events the next time the Westar Institute holds a session in Santa Rosa. It even may have rekindled a tiny bit of my interest in religious exploration. I'm not sure if that is enough to inspire me to want to actually attend a church, though. I mean, let's not go overboard or get ridiculous or anything.

14 comments:

Chris said...

Thanks for the summary, Mystic. :-)

John Shuck said...

I am glad you made it! Yes, thanks for the report. Funny, in all the time I have attended Westar events I have never seen da man in person. You did on your first trip!

JP said...

....ahh, remembering the many nights underage drinking on the beach in Santa Rosa.


Thanks for the trip down memory lane and the report.

Mike L. said...

Dom Crossan rocks! I wish I could have been there (3000 mile drive for me!)

Jan said...

Dom Crossan is great. Glad you went.

victor220 said...

What Did You Shoot Today:)

A place to post you golf scores ups and downs:)
I had a 42 for 9 holes this after noon it was a very beautiful day with a lite breeze at your public golf course. I used my new clubs from www.golforderonline.com Cool.

Cynthia said...

Interesting how though the intent was to be subversive, the adopted language and the culture of the Church became dominant and imperialistic.

Jan said...

WHERE are you?

Cynthia said...

Hey, friend. Tomorrow (Sunday) I'm posting something that I thought might be of interest to you. Come check it out sometime.

Andrew said...

Hey Mystical - Hope all is well and that you are having a great holiday season!

CT said...

Hey Mystical - you still out there ? A shame I've run into your site after you've become a retired blogger.

Mystical Seeker said...

I'm here. I've been away for a long time. I needed a rest from the whole blogging world, which had burned me out. I'm not officially retired, just on sabbatical. :)

CT said...

Well you've done a great job. I dont know how old you are or your educational background but you write well, share interesting personal anecdotes and explain all the issues in a simple-to-read way. (My point being you sound educated and wise beyond your years - unless your 80 or something :-)

Your annoyance at having been fed fundamentalist teaching in your early years must be a common experience. And I really enjoy the way you state it simply - such as your disregard for miracles. I think many of us are too scared to make some conclusions even though the evidence is overwhelming. Since you are still alive (!) I'll work my way through your posts to see what other pearls of wisdom I can find.

In fact I think all religion is like that - searching for the worthwhile bits - and then actually applying them to your life.
Anyway, good luck. I'm sure there is a 'Mystical' community out there looking forward to your future posts...

Mystical Seeker said...

Thank you, CT. I very much appreciate your comments.