21 January 2009
religious self-identity . . .
Shia. Sunni. Sufi. Wahabi. All within Islam, no?
Can we condense the essence of our religious identity into a minimum denominator? Is there such a simple prerequisite? C.S Lewis attempted to do this sort of distillation. He called the resultant concentrate “mere” Christianity. Do other religious traditions have analogues to this approach? What is it about a Hassidic Jew that a Reform Jew can recognize and accept as genuinely Jewish despite any number of sectarian disagreements they may have with each other?
It’s a difficult enough question to ask from our mass-information and near-universal literacy perspectives, blessed as we are with access to modern conveniences. But the tragic dearth of relevant historical or archeological materials relating to Jewish practices in the first century C.E. makes this problem especially troublesome if we are to ask what made one a Jew (semantic anachronisms aside) during the centuries immediately preceding and following the First Jewish Revolt (66–70 C.E.).
This is one of the problems I have been meditating on lately.