Petrie oration 2005: on this rock I will build my ekklesia : counter-cultic springs of multiculturalism?

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What we now mean by 'religion' embraces both worship ('cult') and an alternative life-style ('community'). But the two pull in opposite directions. Worship is typically conservative, securing the established order, while an alternative life-style is potentially innovative, challenging it. The ekklesia Jesus was to build expressed this challenge by rejecting formal worship. They used it only as a metaphor for the new life-style. But once that came to dominate the Roman empire, the metaphor was taken literally, with worship ('cult') now securing the newly established order. Was there any precedent for this? Only very rarely, and never for long, did ancient cults threaten to produce a new community life. Philosophical schools, like the ekklesiai, often criticised cultic worship, but never produced an ongoing community. The Christian innovation lies behind the cultural dynamism of the West. Multiculturalism stretches this paradox by respecting any traditional worship even though the implied life-style may seem to challenge public values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-28
Number of pages26
Journal Buried History: the Journal of the Australian Institute of Archaeology
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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