Kierkegaard’s Xmas (book excerpt)

Kierkegaard“O Lord Jesus Christ, I long to live in your presence, to see your human form and to watch you walking on earth. I do not want to see you through the darkened glass of tradition, nor through the eyes of today’s values and prejudices. I want to see you as you were, as you are, and as you always will be. I want to see you as an offense to human pride, as a man of humility, walking amongst the lowliest of humanity, and yet as the savior and redeemer of the human race.”

~Soren Kierkegaard

(Note: Written in 2000 you might think this piece dated. It is no more dated than Kierkegaard’s Attack on Christendom which I highly recommend about now.)

Let me give you an example of what Kierkegaard is suggesting.

For the last 25 years I have heard Christians say, “Two thousand years ago..blah blah blah…” And, of course, they were rounding up or down time-wise.

But today is December 25, in the Year of our Lord 2000.

It is the ONE and only day we can say, “Two Thousand years ago TODAY, God…”

Yes, 2,000 years ago, today, the Creator of the Universe decided to crash the Human Party, which had turned damned ugly. If you listen, those who were there, they claim that God Himself, came bumping and birthing out of a young girl’s womb and spilled into the riot that is this world.

But it is right here that the folk Kierkegaard is talking about start to shout, “But Jesus wasn’t born in December! That was the way Christians appropriated the pagan holiday..blah blah blah…”

Or, gasbag scholars (with tenure) will go on and on about how Jesus was “more likely born 4 years prior to the date that was used in the formation of our current calendar” (thus Jesus was probably born in the spring of 4 B.C. …yea, yea…he was born four years before he was born.)

But when they go this route they are missing the whole point.

What about what happened when Jesus was born somewhere between the spring of 4 BC and our “traditional” (read “darkened glass”) date?

Kierkegaard says elsewhere that even if no historical records had survived about Jesus, he would still be the most important and central figure of human history.

Why?

Because he was God, and he willfully and deliberately dove into our mire for love’s sake. (Could it be that reality is more real than history?)

I mean, c’mon, what kind of God allows himself to become a human baby?

It’s either the most asinine notion

or the most beautiful thing

you’ve every heard your whole life.

The coming of Jesus, as God into our riot, is the radical opposite of religion–all of it, “Christian” or otherwise.

So, what do many churches do with this incredible miracle, this challenge to the whole way we view ourselves, our human history and our ultimate destiny and meaning?

They make a “religious service” out of it. And this is done in the most visual, audience, and entertainment-oriented culture in human history (“Damn Jim, I got 168 new channels on my new satellite dish…it’s unreal”) the Church with all its radical vision and devotion to Jesus does what?

The “Christmas services” many churches prepare serve to transform the naked amniotic reality of Jesus’ birth into an ethereal place of simple, rustic, “Country Home” beauty. In creating a visual and entertainment-oriented service, we are invited to sit and passively watch just like we do Family Guy or last week’s episode of NCIS.

If, as Kierkegaard suggests, we should see Jesus for what he was, is, and will always be, then that would apply to his birth in Bethlehem.

So let’s strip away the “darkened glass of tradition and the current cultural prejudices” and ask, what should be up on the church stage for these Christmas productions?

The answer is obvious. Go visit a barn.

dung2Go visit an American barn which is, by the way, a half a world away from a Bethlehem barn, and ask that simple question again: what should our Christmas productions look and feel like if we are to see Jesus for who he was, is and always will be?

To start with, how about manure, and lots of it?

There must be a great deal of it and stench.

Then we must add slop for the animals and dirty water troughs on the sides of the church stage to maintain any accuracy at all.

In other words, the whole church should reek of dank poverty, or, at the very least, to make a legitimate cultural bridge, reflect a modern American barn (which has turds and piss and is cold and is a good, but dirty, business).

And instead of whitewashing the event into something about us, and our sentiments at Christmastime, how about talking about the real deal and asking good questions like “Why did God choose to come this way?” “What does it mean that there was no room available for God when he came? What does it mean that he was placed in a feeding trough after birth? (that’s what a “manger” is). What does it means that instead of lying quietly in a sweet designer/manger bed, the baby Jesus was screeching his head off like every other baby..EXACTLY like every other baby…laying inside a hard and putrid feeding trough and surrounded by the dank smell of animal dung?

This is what would be needed.

But no.

We have this clean and completely nonfunctional “manger”, and then a big production which is all about us and our artistic gifts, then a short message relating the beautifully decorated Christmas tree to show how Christ needs to be in our homes. And on it goes.

It’s a show. We are the audience, God is an idea, and the performers are worried about how they will perform in the show, not about the glory of God or his incomprehensible love.

Kierkegaard said elsewhere, that our worshipers/audience are really supposed to be the performers, and that the audience is not us at all, it is God.

Wow!

Imagine if more modern American churches took that seriously! (And if you know of any, please email me the information and WE will go!)

And we’re not talking performing to “appease” God. We’re talking performing for the sheer enjoyment of God and his glory and out of gratitude that this God has such love and such a passion to be known that he would do this radical thing (and we are not even talking about the exit yet, just the intro).

So, if the audience are really meant to be the performers, who then are the people on stage?

They are the “conductors,” says Kierkegaard, as is the preacher.

God is the audience on such a day, not us. (And heck, let’s just keep doing it all year long. It’s a Theocentric (“God-centered”) universe, so why not keep acting accordingly?)

How are we supposed to feel when the greatest event in human history, and one which is deeply personal for each of us mortals, is so utterly lost and covered up with layers of denial that the very crash of God breaking into human history is made into something like the sound of a digital watch alarm going off under a pile of thick blankets?

Well, it’s about 9:30 PST on Christmas, year 2000. Philosophically, an interesting historical night, right?

But I’ve been tending four kids all day long, alone, because my wife is racked with a severe flu and is bedridden.

And in the meantime, our toilets are all clogged up (it started Christmas eve) and so the bathrooms are plunged hourly.

This, in very obvious ways, hourly bilges up all kinds of flu-invested crap, vomit and piss. This Christmas, our normal “Country Home” existence stinks just a little like a barn.

It’s a perfect Gospel night. Just like 2,000 years ago, give or take, when God…

You Don’t Have to be a Theologian

I’m Trinitarian, and no I can’t explain the Trinity. No one can.

Can you explain how consciousness works to your dog? Yeah? Well God had the same problem when it came to explaining His nature to us and the disparity was a lot larger let me tell you.

So, no whining about the Trinity.

Do you have to believe it to be a Christian?

No way. Shut up! (Molly always says that to me…makes me laugh).

The various New Testament writers? They didn’t touch it. They talked cleverly about Jesus being God, and quietly about the Spirit being God, and more loudly about the Father being God. Then they reaffirmed there was only One God. Hear O’ Israel! (and all of that ruck-ass).

And not a single word of explanation.

They wanted us to experience God in Christ, not talk a lot of nonsense about it. Now, bring up the Trinity in a chat room and watch them GO!

Me? Not so much.  Here’s a good book by my friend, and mentor, Darrell Johnson called Experiencing the Trinity. I highly recommend it and anything else written by him.

Cup of jo (jesus outed): Uuuuurning it…

ironmanI was playing superheroes with son Thomas, who was 4 at the time,  and I had some really good ones on my side: Dr. Doom, Kang, Baron Zemo, the Hobgoblin…vintage Secret Wars action figures. Even the Doc Ock  had all his tentacles. My son had Captain America, Spidey, Daredevil and Ironman, and at one point he stood up and protested “Hey I earned you!”

What do you mean?” I asked. “Like you beat my guy and now you own him or something?”

“No! I earned you!”

“So what now, you just think you won the whole match and you own it. Is that what you mean by “earning?” That you have earned it like a prize?!”

“No!” the usually soft-spoken tike said more loudly. Then looking at me like I was thick-headed pole he said “Urrrned! Like… (and he stretched his arm out straight like Ironman’s to demonstrate) “Uuuuuuuurrrrrrnnnnnn!”

I got it. (Then started laughing).

But we don’t. Since at least 62 A.D., the two main enemies of Jesus’ message of grace have been the same two: Legalism or Gnosticism of one virulent strain or another. One tries to earn God’s favor via personal righteousness; the other spiritual control via a superior “gnosis” or knowledge.

It’s like a screwed up factory default so ingrained in us we cannot even see it. When we get scared or angry we snap back to the defaults. It’s costly.

Two facts: we all die; and we want resurrection. The latter is on God’s terms, which is grace. So you can try and “earn” it all day long (and probably do) but maybe the real question is ” is God just “Uuuuuurning you” in the meantime?

Possible foreward

You will note that some of these “pieces” have been around awhile and wonder what is up with that? First, it was purely personal. I was a recluse due to a mental condition which was utterly unknown to me for two decades. So I would write a book and finish it, then just start on another one.

Until I was re-diagnosed and got the correct meds I just kept writing (I have a lot of books). Now I am freed up to publish, do readings, a book tour…you name it. No problem. More finished books on the way too!

bookcovernov2013g

Second, these “Jesus” issues have not gotten any better; in fact they have gotten worse in all cases. An essay like “The Haunt of Jackals” was interesting in 1993. In 2013 I’d up it to crucial and so will you after you read it.

Why the book?  I have a simple saying: “I have been to the Center and it is not US.”

There you have it. In fact, if you want my advice? Read the poem All About Us first, then No Assembly Required (which broke my heart to write). Then go ahead and move on the funny stuff like  Jesus Outed  and Al Michael’s is God etc…

I put  The Circular Argument   at the end. It is,  frankly, a devastating argument for a Christocentric world-view. The fact that this is not a given in the Church is beyond comprehension.  It is analogous to the fact that we live in a Christocentric universe but the spellchecker on my computer does not recognize that as a “real word”.

The Church-at-large does not recognize that as a daily reality. hey are the Center and Jesus will help them. He is very gracious and loving to His Bride and often will. But the core problem with the Church is one of centrality and perception.