Saturday, November 6, 2010
The Agora - Then and Now (by Judy)
I have always loved the concept of the “agora” in ancient times. Long before I started reading the Bible, I learned that people met in the agora of their town - that it was a place where the community gathered, where commodities were bought and sold in arcades and shops, where children played, housewives shared gossip, politicians gave speeches, ideas were exchanged, and life ebbed and flowed.
Then when I began studying the New Testament, I learned that people first heard in the agoras about a man who performed miracles of healing, who taught wisdom through parables, who cleansed them of their sins, and spoke about his Father in heaven. Later his followers made their way to the agora where they talked about their resurrected Christ and debated matters of their faith with skeptics. One of my favorite stories about Paul takes place at the agora in Athens were he reasoned with the Stoics and Epicurians, acknowledged their statue to an unknown God, and then spoke with passion and compassion about his God.
These thoughts are with me today because last week I was in New York. One day I met my sister-in-law at a favorite restaurant from childhood, the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. As I entered that magnificent building, built in 1913 in the Beaux Arts style, I looked around and wondered. There is a huge marble staircase, long glass windows letting in amazing light, and an azure ceiling adorned with constellations. But the building paled in comparison with the people – some rushing to catch trains, some waiting to meet friends, some dining in fabulous eateries or shopping in a wondrous food market, others, many others standing around and talking – a modern day agora for sure.
How I pray that we always have our agoras – that we refuse to let the media dictate what we believe from afar. May we always exchange ideas in public, sharing, proclaiming, exclaiming, reclaiming logic, reason, freedom of speech and thought. May we stand tall against the talking heads of radio, TV, print news and the internet with their own agendas. May we remember that even our God in Isaiah said, "Come now, let us reason together."