This is an ongoing series of meditations on faith, in response to readings from the articles that preface The Oxford Study Bible.
I will trust the reader to dig up the context if the meaning is unclear.
We're not the only ones who've dealt with globalization. The growth of "large, multi-national urban centers around the Mediterranean basin" at the dawn of Christianity made it so that "cultural, economic, and religious exchange could flourish" (page 7). This, with the "new mobility" made possible by the common tongue of Koine Greek, the "relative stability" of Greek and Roman rule, and the new sophistication in math, science and astronomy spelled PROGRESS in capital letters.
It's remarkable, then, the depth of angst that the people of this time and place apparently felt. According to their cosmology, the Oxford said, God's address had never before been so far away. The earth was at the center of the universe now, but it was also the target for evil.
Against this backdrop, Paul wrote that nothing could separate us from the love of God. It occurs to me that those assurances were probably a response to the anxiety shaken loose by progress's march. I find it poignant that the thrust toward international stability and globalization had a dark side, brought with it a latent fear. I guess we grow afraid when the world expands and makes us smaller by contrast.
The expansion of empiricism in our own time has surely heightened my angst: God's address is now so far away that I don't even know if God exists, in the sense in which I once thought of God.
There is too, though, a feeling of walls falling back in on us. Modernism promised we could be citizens of anywhere we pleased — Mars, if necessary — but we are blood of the earth's blood and flesh of its flesh, our resources are not infinite, our world is not ever-growing. Perhaps, in the midst of our collapse, we will find that God does not live beyond the edges of an unknowable universe, but in the cardboard box that keeps out the rain.