In an age when so many have raised inclusivity to the status of a Commandment, I have been pondering how Jesus might have better incorporated this priority into his teachings, priorities, and disciples.
We ought to remember that inclusivity need not mean everyone—in fact, it never has—just those whose views and behaviors correspond to the dominant culture.
Also, when inclusivity is the priority, introspective change and repentance and the like aren’t needed—unless one’s perspectives conflict with the orthodoxies of the age.
Because inclusivity is now a starting point for many religious congregations and religious leaders, perhaps Jesus could have better acknowledged how Roman thinking and culture dominated his world. He could have conducted his ministry with the understanding that the Romans would dominate the world for the foreseeable future, and so could have adopted much of the Roman perspective in his own teaching.
After all, if one paid their taxes and didn’t antagonize the lord Caesar, there was great tolerance in the empire for all types of behaviors, beliefs, and gods.
Take marriage and sexual relations. The Romans were little concerned with fidelity in marriage, and little worried about any kind of sex for that matter. Jesus could have appealed to a broad spectrum of peoples and races by toning down the idea that the sexual act actually has profound meaning.
Sure, many of his fellow Jews would have been peeved by this broadminded approach, but they were small in number in relation to the bigger picture. Besides, they probably needed to be shook from their traditional ways of thinking about such matters, right?
Speaking of traditional, there was a glaring problem with the Jewish Scriptures—they were not inclusive enough. Filled with prophets who could be harsh, many stories of kings and social influencers that didn’t end well, and frequent calls for drastic repentance. And lots of judgment!
Jesus might have commenced his mission by ignoring the Jewish Scriptures, or by relegating them to one of many influential perspectives of the times—Greek, Roman, Persian; paganism, stoicism, hedonism, Zoroastrianism.
This might have produced a “big tent” theology that appealed to vast throngs of people right out of the gate.
The matter of the poor, lepers, the crippled, could have also been approached differently. Teaching that each of his disciples and the Christian community must be brothers or sisters to the poor and weak has always had limited range and impact. Just ask today’s sociologists and economists. The Roman empire, with all its power and resources, would have been a far more effective agent for alleviating poverty and sickness if its priorities could be patiently shifted.
Thus, Jesus might have encouraged his disciples to pursue careers in the Roman government, work within the system already in place, as Joseph did with Pharaoh. He need not have reminded them that Joseph didn’t embark on this mission intentionally. Or as skilled Scytho-Mede administrators did during the hegemony of the Persian empire, even if they performed those services out of self-interest.
What’s important is the result. Why not work for change within a proven system with tremendous reach?
Needless to say, Jesus would have had to recruit the best and brightest to be his disciples if their mission included Roman administration. And with Jesus’s skill set, charisma, and a less confrontational public profile, this could have been accomplished. If the Jews were too troublesome, Jesus could have moved his immediate base of operations to Greece or Rome and have found more capable disciple candidates.
As for that cross thing, why would people who want to be accepted as they are and who had little or no desire to change be interested in something as terrifying as that? Taking up and carrying one’s cross is something that doesn’t sound very appealing, and is needly troubling and even divisive.
My closing thought is because Jesus didn’t take advantage of this fresh inclusivity perspective, perhaps today’s Church leaders could tweak things a bit.
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