While laying on the table at the Chiropractor, 6th visit in the past 3 weeks, I was thinking how we have ethnically, culturally and humanly cleansed the gospels. I know you’re thinking, here we go again some more crazy off the wall musing by me. Hear me out.
We’ve created these sterile images, of some of the most profound and shocking stories in the gospels.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the idea a “ Disabled God.” Yes, mind boggling.
We’ve read the story of Jesus death in the Bible likely numerous times, maybe even seen Mel Gibson’s “ the Passion of Christ.” Gibson may have twisted and contorted the story to portray his theological mindset, but, the reality of Jesus suffering, and death was likely as horrifying as it was viewed in the movie.
It’s after his death, that captures my imagination...when Jesus appears to the disciples. we have this default image of Jesus looking like he normally did, as “white, flowing blond hair, nicely cropped goatee...and a hospital clean robe...hole in hands.”
But the reality, he was beaten to a pulp, sledge hammered with nails driven into limbs and severe abdominal would to the side. I work in an emergency department at a local hospital...we would classify this as a trauma victim. This hobbling, bruised, covered in blood victim would have been what appeared before his followers.
At the resurrection, this band of confused misfits understood the humanity of Jesus for who he really was. It’s only through this lens they could understand and come to terms with Jesus life on earth.
In this resuscitated Jesus, they saw not the sacrificial lamb who was tortured and slaughtered to appease his crazy father whose only concern was sin...but a disabled God with impaired hands and feet, and a gaping abdominal wound.
It was only in this profound image could they understand...and see the true image of God. It is profoundly disturbing to think of a handicapped, disabled God.
I look back to the many years I did go to church...there were very few handicapped people in the midst of these communities. Why...was it the perceived image they presented...where healing prayer didn’t work. It disturbs me.
Also, a perfectly healed and whole God maybe relieves us of responsibility. Jesus lived in the midst of this disabled world. Sure there are stories of those he healed but there must be thousands more he didn’t...merely passed by. His life makes us acutely aware...he was drawn to their suffering. He suffered as one...to show the real “ Imagio Dei “...the image God.
What you do for the least of these...you do for me. Profoundly, it does kind of sound like a disabled God who needs our help.
The next time you see a handicapped person...pause, and think this is profoundly the most beautiful and redemptive image of God...a disabled God. But, more than that... how does this image move you to live your life.
Yes...I to am shocked by what I wrote, but. I really need to wrestle with this image.
Poetry, parables are acts of imagination that offer and purpose "alternative worlds" because they are open, door ways to infinite possibilities. Can imagination be indeed a legitimate way of knowing?
Numbness does not hurt like torture, but in a profound insidious way, numbness robs us of our humanity, and makes us infinitely smaller. It is taking an eraser and removing the God-image in those who do not fit. Has our imagination been claimed by false lenses of perception and idolatrous theology that we protect and defend as absolute “truth?”
Are spiritual nomads, navigating a changing landscape and taking seriously, the shaping of their own field of perception and language of understanding? When we become so at home in a belief system, do we become oblivious to the points of contact in our neighborhoods, in culture, in technology, and art...do we drift and drown in an ocean of irrelevance?
The dominant partisan religious culture, now and in every time, is grossly uncritical, cannot tolerate serious and fundamental criticism, and will go to great lengths to stop it.
Jesus dismantled the religion of static triumphalism by exposing their gods and showing God was profoundly more mysterious than their “truth.” Jesus dismantles the religion of oppression and exploitation by countering it with the profound mysterious reality of “truth” being God’s infinite love.
When we leave our theology unexamined and unquestioned, we end up being slaves to it. When believe in our theology at what ever the cost...do we end up suffocating the redemptive imagination of Jesus?
William Blake called imagination, " the body of God ".
( Eve in the Garden of Eden )
The Garden of Love
I laid me down upon a bank, Where Love lay sleeping; I heard among the rushes dank Weeping, weeping.
Then I went to the heath and the wild, To the thistles and thorns of the waste; And they told me how they were beguiled, Driven out, and compelled to the chaste.
I went to the Garden of Love, And saw what I never had seen; A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut And 'Thou shalt not,' writ over the door; So I turned to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves, And tombstones where flowers should be; And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys and desires.
by William Blake
( Mary in the garden of the tomb )
William Blake called imagination, " the body of God ", or even more profoundly, " the existence of humanity." As I begin to pull on this strand of imagination the images I placed at the beginning and end of William Blakes poem, " The Garden of Love ", will begin to make sense.
I continue to struggle with the restlessness of the question, " Could we have gotten Jesus wrong?"
Did Jesus come to start a new religion? Did he come to renovate and restore an old religion? Or could it be something profoundly more intimate...something found in that imaginative reality between the body of God, and the existence of humanity. If Jesus is infact the God-man, that profound simple relationship in the Garden of Eden would have filled his redemptive imagination. The resurrection is the mind blowing profound mysterious reality of a new creation.
Adam and Eve wander the garden in the cool of the night, the cosmic darky mirky ocean filled with glittering surf fills the ceiling of creation. By day they walk in the beauty of the garden, shafts of light cut through the vegetation, reflecting and refracting green and gold. With God in the midst of everything, it is conversations of intimacy...as beloved friends.
There is no rituals, no doctrine, no theology...just one command, " Don't eat of the tree of knowledge." They are tempted...and they eat. This is what Augustine mused as the " orginal sin." I wonder if we still aren't sinning then?
It could be this was infact the original lure of religion...our pirsuit of God. We could become God-like by climbing the ladder of religion. We've made Eve the scape goat from the very beginning, and women have never really recovered from the acusation, " If it hadn't been for Eve." But, isn't it we've made religion's greatest purpose... to know God...have we made religion more about knowledge than anything else.
The Old Testament seems nothing more than humanity's wreckless pursuit of religion. We delude ourselves in thinking religion was God's idea. We wanted laws, rules and commandments to keep...and when we failed we wanted ammendments to the laws. This was so far from the intimacy in the garden of Eden. But we were hoplessly hooked...it was always just one more chance and we'll get it right. We never did...and we never will.
If anything it must be crystal clear, there is NOT a whole lot of religion in the gospels. If anything a journey through the gospels is Jesus bulldozing every obstacle religion places in people's path. If it's anything, it is the perveyors of religion selling God as their commodity. Or access to God by way of their elaborate maps, a hopeless maze that kept people lost in religion.
And in the misdt of the religious business, it's Jesus meeting the woman at the well. Weary, tired and thirsty, and tired of maps, she asks, "How?" Is it in some temple, is it on some mountain? I'm imagine Jesus filled with love, smiling and saying, " God doesn't care about where or how...it is all about a spirit of truth."
As many times as I have read the gospels...I never come away with an image of a religious Jesus. I come away with my imagination ignited of a God who doesn't occupy a church, but a God who walks in the midst of his creation...as a friend. There are no barriers, no rituals, no confession of beliefs are needed to abide with this profound mysyerious God, who Jesus called, " Love."
In the Garden of Eden, I think of Eve who's sin maybe wasn't so much sin...but more humanity's confusion over knowledge, rather than relationship. A thought just came to me, " Can we really know God as knowledge?" Can we really know Love as knowledge?" I don't think we can, and maybe that is the tension Eve found herself in.
In the Garden of the tomb where Jesus lay, I think of Mary Magdalene, a woman, a prostitute, the least credible person to witness the resurrection...and she waits...or maybe more pofoundly, she abides. The resurrection really is the profound reality of the Garden of Love, of Love burtsing forth in full blossom.
I think Blakes poem is prophetic and should speak to us today. Have we made "Christianity" a religion that is solely consumed about itself, its self preservation. I wonder if we couldn't read Blake's imagination and see some truth.
I wonder if Jesus in the profound mysterious redemptive imagination he lived and spoke...if he didn't envision a new creation like the Garden of Eden...where it wasn't so much religion, but more life. Or as William Blake called it, " the body or God...and the existence of humanity ", as one...God again walking in the midst of his creation. Man and God, walking and talking as friends.
( Hopefully after reading my musing...you'll get the imagination in my food art )
Yesterday I had this thought in my mind tumbling around like laundry stuck in the spin cycle. I just couldn't seem to open the door and get it out. It was this thought ; the " fatality " of truth. It 's truth that is in the quality or state of causing death or destruction, or truth that is in the condition of being destined for disaster.
A lot of so called religious truth is like that, truth that has been carved out in stone, that has become indelible that we some how determine is eternal. Or we are inspired by spirituality, or by some infinite consciousness to write what we determine is code for the OS of life. Our religious tribe determines it as the truth for "all" to obey. We use it as a weapon to confront others, and the deepest concern, we use it to construct an illusion of our own little world.
If anything, this kind of truth is lifeless. And this is the truth that Jesus seems to confront so often in the Gospels. So often we see Jesus in a heated conversation with the religious folk of his day saying, "You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!"
It is Jesus confronting the " fatality " of religious truth.
We keep forgetting above all that Jesus was the profound revelation of God...but he was also the deepest mysterious revelation of what it is to be abundantly human. He took the religious truth in the context of his culture, society and in the corridor of human history challenged it with his "living" truth.
Left to their own devices and passions, religious folk have a hard time seeing beyond their fences into the world. While the issue of slavery and its grotesque inhumanity seem obvious to us now, it was not so obvious to slave owners then who argued—from scripture, no less—that slavery was a part of God’s plan. . Rather than being “fatal " to religious truth, it seems to me that these changes have argued for a more true following of Jesus' "living" truth for us than past understandings of the faith have allowed. Faith is a dynamic and ever-changing process, not some fixed body of truth that exists outside our world and our understanding. The "fatality" of religious truth may seem to be fixed and unchanging, but our comprehension of that truth will always be challenged in the midst of an ever changing human landscape. Over time, hopefully, we will continue to wrestle with the "fatality" of religious truth.
We must learn to read between the lines of religious truth, maybe the empty space between lines is pause to reflect to wrestle deeply with its understanding in the midst of our cultural diversity, our pluralistic landscape...and in the footsteps of where we are down the corridor of history.
Probably the most deadly and destructive "fatal" truth of our day continues to be...that Jesus doesn't accept the LGBT community. The "fatality" or religious truth may seem support that. I would challenge that assumption with the profound redemptive imagination of Jesus' "living" truth. I think Jesus would challenge any truth that marginalizes, isolates...and destroys the human experience of any life. I imagine Jesus in our midst today, in the midst of our stone throwing, our dehumanizing assault, saying, " You have heard what the law says, but, this is what I say..."
Jesus has given us the example of what it is to be profoundly human by confronting the "fatality" of religious truth...with "living" truth...life giving truth as he lived.
And Ironically having coffee this evening, I'm reading Acts 15...it's what I'm sure was a chaotic angry debate in Jerusalem. It was the decision to let the Gentiles ( the people that still had that wobbly bit on their weenies ) become Christians. You talk about the " fatality " of religious truth...as long as folks could remember God only accepted people who had been "nipped." I can only imagine how wild this scene must have been. And then, out of the conversation Peter says something profound, bringing a hush over the crowd...
"And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him."
“So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too?"
Absolutely, stunning redemptive imagination...the "living" truth of Jesus transforming the "fatality" of religious truth.
Who says the LGBT community can't have the Spirit of God? Who says they can't live their lives as Jesus did? But, the most important, why are we so intent on trying to "out-god God"?
We can continue to grasp the "fatality" of our religious truths...the weather beaten etched in stone truth, the " wobbly bits ' of truth and continue dehumanize people made in God's image...and reduce the abundant life of humanity to a mere trickle. Or we can redeem life profoundly with Jesus living truth by say, " the law, our theology says, our doctrines say...but this is what we say."