Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An Excruciating Life

"[The Revelation of John's] theology of the cross cannot sustain a utopian political vision," Loren L. Johns, The Lamb Christology.

I've always wondered why I'm drawn to dystopian literature.  And, until recently, it never occurred to me that's why I've always liked the Revelation.  It's dystopian to the core.  The seer's vision is both disturbing and strangely comforting, deconstructive and constructive, violent and peaceful, beautiful and gory.  In other words, John's Revelation is refreshingly honest about the power of the cross of Jesus Christ.  Lost on outsiders, the slaughtered Lamb is power to those of us who long for a better world.  Indeed, when we cry out to God, "Why are you letting this happen?," such lamentation proves that we are believers.  For Jesus himself offered the excruciating cry, "My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?"

Excruciating, from the latin crux, the word for "cross."  Excruciating pain and sorrow bear witness to life experience "from the cross," i.e., excruciating.  This is not some sadistic ploy--pain for the sake of painful pleasure.  This is no martyr complex--a pious staging for the faithful.  No, the cross is the eternal witness that things are not the way they are supposed to be, while at the same time--ironically--it is the very answer to how things are supposed to be.  The cross proves what's wrong and right with the world all at the same time.  And, only when one sees the world from the cross of Jesus Christ--an excruciating life--will we be able to set aside any foolish notion of utopia.  In fact, I'm beginning to think the very idea of "utopia" is the devil's lie:  bow down to me and I will give you everything you want.

No thank you.  I'll take the dystopia of a crucified world, for therein lies my only honest hope.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Swearing to God

Symbols are powerful things.  It becomes ever more apparent when someone suggests removing a symbol (or replacing it with another).  As soon as that happens, we begin the process of rethinking what may have become a presumption, a given, a taken-for-granted gesture that has lost its meaning (or at least a misplaced meaning).

I read an article yesterday that questioned whether the President of the U.S. should be sworn into office by placing his (or her?  maybe one day) hand on the Christian Bible.  Since we are a nation that believes in the separation of church and state--that is, we have no state-sponsored religion--then why do we require this symbolic gesture?  In light of the subject of the presidential oath, the article suggested that the President should place his hand on the U.S. constitution since that is what he is swearing to "uphold, defend, protect."

I think that is a good idea.  Here's why.

Let's not pretend that the President is swearing an oath to God by placing his hand on the Bible.  If he were, he would be in a heap of trouble.  For it says in the book that he's supposed to love his enemies, turn the other cheek, and give sole allegiance to Jesus Christ.  That automatically compromises our American leader.  Imagine what would happen if he actually kept such an oath?  How could the U.S. protect our national interests by loving our enemies?  Instead, we kill our enemies to protect our rights, our freedom, our way of life.  By swearing an oath to God by placing his hand on the Word of God, the President would automatically place the priority of the Bible over the U.S. consitution.  And, I suspect, the great majority of U.S. citizens wouldn't like that one bit.

Now, I get the objection by those who say such a move (substituting the constitution in place of the Bible) is another sign of the creeping secularization of our country.  But, like most symbols, it takes time for the gesture to catch up with the reality.  We are already (and have been for quite some time) a secular nation.  Is there any doubt that American ideals trump the way of Jesus in our government, among our citizenry, in our every-day lives?

So, I say, let's make it official.  I don't want our President to pretend like he's swearing an oath to God.  In fact, he's swearing an oath to us.  And, we believe we are the ones to decide whether he's kept his promise.