Archive for November 27th, 2007

Mai Yamani

Abdullah understands that his wobbly regime will only be able to withstand the radical gales that are now blowing if it can forge the type of stability-seeking alliance that Metternich built

The recent meeting in the Vatican of the “Custodian of The Holy Places,” King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and Pope Benedict XVI was a seminal event, particularly as it comes at a time when radical Muslims are decrying the role of “crusaders” in Middle East politics. It was also the clearest sign yet of a rising “Holy Alliance” among the world’s conservative leaders. For the key audience for this meeting of Muslim king and Roman Catholic Pontiff did not consist of their followers, but another conservative leader, President George W Bush. …

Moreover, Abdullah understands that his wobbly regime will only be able to withstand the radical gales that are now blowing if it can forge the type of stability-seeking alliance that Metternich built. The King, like Metternich and the Austrian Kaisers, understands de Tocqueville’s dictum that the most dangerous moment for a regime is when it starts to reform. Having begun, ever so carefully, to politically open his country, the King knows that he needs regional peace and a lowering of Islamic holy rage.

The problem is that Abdullah cannot rely on his domestic conservative allies to give him the time that the Kingdom needs. The Wahhabi religious establishment, the Saudi state’s hidden co-rulers, could very well obstruct Abdullah’s attempts at regional religious reconciliation. Members of the religious police remain adamant that the country’s Christian guests must continue to live according to strict Wahhabi rules of behavior. While the Wahhabis could yet be bribed again with oil money, the sect’s power-hungry judges eagerly await the next beheading, stoning, or lashing in Riyadh’s public square.

Thus, uniting the forces of status quo conservatism, even if some of those conservatives are Christian, is the only viable diplomatic strategy open to Saudi Arabia. For conservative rulers usually fall when they fail to grasp their own vulnerability, especially when the revolutionary challenge is cloaked in conservative garb. After all, few political systems can defend against those, like Saudi Arabia’s Islamic radicals, who claim that they can preserve the system and its religious values more effectively than the current rulers.

Only an alliance of conservative leaders and powers (including a retreat by America from diplomatic radicalism), Abdullah believes, can restore some stability to the Middle East.

Mai Yamani is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution

To read in full:

Daily times

I had thought that perhaps Abdullah was seeing the Pope based primarily for a religious visit. Apparently if this article is correct much more of a political gambit. In which case Pope Benedict XVI request for the opening of Saudi Arabia to the building of Christian Churches, human rights, evangelizing, etc. – is likely fruitless.


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This book was originally published in German in 1989. The English translation 1st edition 2003, published by Fortress Press, Minneapolis; is what I will quote from.
Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries
Lampe summarizes that the first Christians came from the Roman synagogues. He uses a term I was not familiar with “sebomenos” which he defines as “a pagan favoring Jewish monotheism, who is not yet a proselyte”. This would make sense and with the backdrop of the epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, his(St.Paul) appeals to freedom from the law and no need to be circumcised were strong recruiting points for these pagans.

Lampe does an excellent job of bring together local tradition, relationships of burial places, and the Tituli churches of Rome.

He also does a social-historical theme of 1st Clement, the Shepherd of hermas, St. Justin, Marcion, and Valentinian which any history buff I think would enjoy.

Foreword by Robert Jewett xiii 2nd paragraph

  • Lampe’s thesis is that Christianity in Rome flourished in several of the poorest and most densely populated districts of Rome. The earliest as well as subsequent history of Roman house churches through the end of the second century indicates social”fractionation” between many small cells that lacked central coordination. This social pattern matches the profile of the separated synagogues in Rome.

Introduction pg. 1

I look first at the beginnings of Christianity in the city down to the separation from the synagogue (Part 1). I next attempt a topographical overview: In which quarters of the city did the Christians live? Who were their neighbors there? What strata of society predominated there (Part 2)? The next parts are diachronic. Part 3 examines the general information provided by the sources. Where are the relevant social-historical materials that give general information about Rome’s urban Christianity to be found? To what extent do the sources themselves generalize? part 4 deals with individuals whose names we know(prosopography). How can the general and the specific in Parts 3 and 4 be related to each other? …In Part 5, I offer an overview of urban Roman Christianity as a whole in light of these findings, adding a particular view.

pg. 2

  • My interest is twofold. I want to learn about the daily lives of the urban Roman Christians of the first two centuries, the realities of their social lives. To meet these people in their “situation” is a goal of our research in itself, independent of the question of how this situation relates to their theology, to their expressions of faith. Second, it must nonetheless be asked where – if at all – interrelations between situation and theology can be discovered. My ultimate goal is to contribute at least one element to a multidimensional interpretation of texts and faith expressions of early Christianity. This is the only way to exclude superficial interpretation or, occasionally, are suggested by purely inner-theological, history-of-tradition analyses of texts.
  • The only real issue I had with his work was part 5.

    His thesis on Chapter 41, pg. 397 :

    • The fractionation in Rome favored a collegial presbyterial system of governance and prevented for a long time, until the second half of the second century, the development of a monarchical episcopacy in the city. Victor was the first who, after faint-herated attempts by Eleutherus, Soter, and Anicetus energetically stepped forward as monarchical bishop and (at times, only because he was incited from the outside) attempted to place the different groups in the city under his supervision or, where that was not possible, to draw a line by means of excommunication. Before the second half of the second century there was in Rome no monarchical episcopacy for the circles mutually bound in fellowship. .

    Lampe seems to have accepted the traditional dating of 1st Clement as 96 A.D.. He has an extensive Bibliography but T.J.
    Herron’s work “The Dating of the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians: The theological basis of the majoral view” (Rome: Disseratio ad Doctorum in Facultate Theologiae Pontificiae Unversitatis Gregorianae, 1988) was not included, [likely because Lampe finished his work in 1989]. He does site Edmundson, but not John A. T Robinson; all of whom support an early dating of 1st Clement to 70 A.D.

    Lampe does not offer up anything new, however what he does do is provide a much better lens with which to understand the book of Romans and the social life of the earliest Roman Christians.

    I was going to include a discussion point on this aspect of 1st Clement, but I’ve found someone has already started a web page on it Clement Dialogue

    Anyone else who has read his work I’d be interested in their take as well.

    From Paul to Valentinus

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