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.

“Jesus outed” excerpt: Jesus Nativity at Tussauds

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Historically, Jesus’ crib was in fact literally a “feeding trough” in an old cold barn, warmed only by the family, and later, some shepherds. Oh, and there was also probably a lot of livestock, so there was also the warmth and smell of their methane creating defecations (the beginnings of “Global Barn Warming”).

So as I contemplated these events, it had never dawned upon me that I would have my own Jesus crib stolen.

As an Internet researcher and journalist, my curiosity drove me to do some digging; so I searched for news of other crèche-related events…Omigod! Here is just how pervasive the global crèche crisis had become that year. In London,  at Madame Tussauds wax museum, the “Joseph” (David) and his wife “Mary” (Victoria, otherwise known as the “Posh” Spice Girl) wax figures were attacked by a man offended by their attempts to look after the baby Jesus in his crib. It was rumored that the attacker tried to abscond with one of the waxened Holy Family in order to start a small mail order candle business, but he has not yet been apprehended.

Fortunately, Real Madrid star defender Walter Samuel, who just happened to be touring the museum at the time, was able to successfully deflect all of the following attempts to score on the Holy Beckhams.

“It was just second-nature,” Samuel said later.

In harmony with the star thematic renditions of the Tussaud exhibit, the baby Jesus was a simple wax rendition of “Mini-Me”.

*******

As I continued to search I found all manner of bizarre world-wide crèche events.

In Naples, 32 chefs decided to construct a huge nativity scene entirely out of chocolate. It took them 4500 hours to construct the 7,250 pound nativity scene. The baby Jesus was made of white chocolate despite his likely brown-skinned Middle Eastern ethnicity. This crib also sported celebrity figures that watched over the delectable chocolate Jesus. That year the babe in the manger was surrounded by chocolate renditions of Dubya and Osama bin Laden.

I have questions about all of this.

First, after the Beckham incident in London I really fear for the baby Jesus. I mean some fanatic is gonna get past the guards and eat him (no doubt citing a literal biblical reference in his defense later). And if not, what do they do after Christmas is over? Do they melt the King of Kings down and make smaller white chocolate Jesus bars? (I do not have any problem with them melting down Dubya or Bin Laden…it would have solved a lot of the world’s problems at the time.)

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But what’s with the three wise men being in the scene at all? If you read the historical texts they come days later to a different house with their gifts. WTF (farce)?

I guess it ups the price of the collectible scenes to have more figurines.

But if so, why not go all the way and add other significant figures to the story? Why not have a King Herod figure lurking in the background? Where is the Innkeeper and his family? It’s not his fault that all the rooms were taken! It was “Census” time for God’s sake! At least he found some safe space for them to have the birthing! He probably didn’t even charge them full rate. He deserves to get in doesn’t he?

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?

“jesus outed in megachurch” (book excerpt)

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[We come into our excerpted story part way where Jesus is talking to a guy in his head way up in the third tier trying to convince him to help rescue him. He’s been locked up in a utility closet on tier two.]

…..”Are you here?”

“Of course I am here,” came the reply in my head.

“That you really…in my head?”

“Well I’m a bit indisposed right now, but who else would it be?”

“Well, you know what they say…”

“What, that you are crazy? Hehe”

“No, the other thingy…bad guy.”

“Oh he cannot hear your thoughts, he’s just good at guessing….kinda like Dr. Phil.”

“Okay, so I am not crazy?”

“No, but only if you believe me and not your ex-wives.”

“I’m gonna go with you on this one.”

“Where are you right now…aren’t you supposed to be down front and center?”

“Well that was the plan, but they did it to me again,” said the voice.

“Did what?”

“I’m in the closet.”

“In the what?”

“On deck two, near section 101 …I’m locked in the closet.”

“Yer joking,” I said, semi-aloud…

“What?” asked Bob.

“Er, nothing. Hey I gotta ..you know…I’ll be back. Save my seat.”

I walked out across the deeply carpeted expanse and ducked into the men’s room. I splashed water on my face and thought about leaving straight away. But I was intrigued by then. And you know what they say about the cat…

I sat down in a stall and put my face in my hands.

“You back?” came the voice. “I thought you had deserted me.”

“I was thinking about it. Sorry.”

“Naw..I’m use to it. Happens all the time.”

“But I thought you were the ‘Hound of heaven’.”

“Where do you get that?”

“I dunno. Jonathan Edwards?”

“Oh he was such a tight-ass.” said the voice. “Look I may be a Lion and I may be a Lamb, but I ain’t a Dog. Your’e the one with the Doghouse, not me.”

“Oh so you know about that?”

“Sigh… Look I am on level 2, near section 101, I could really use some help here.”

“Okay, I’m on my way.”

*******

As I hurried down I could hear Pastor White wrapping up his melodic sermon on people’s potential, partnerships and, I dunno….I think there were three other “p’s” in there somewhere. I reached the second floor when I asked (inside my head) “Okay, why do you need my help if you are who you say you are?”

“It’s complicated, yet really simple.”

“Are you always so enigmatic?”

“What do you think?”

“Yeah… okay, I’ll give you that one.”

“I’m almost there.” I said shaking my head. “And you are in the closet.”

“Yes, they locked me in here.”

I reached what I thought was the door. When I grabbed and turned it just led to a long hall and the sign said something about security for a “studio”.

Suddenly I almost started laughing out loud. Because I am a smartass, I held my wrist up to my mouth the way Secret Service do and in my head said “Sorry, no-go. I hit the studio. Are you East/West from this location?” Then I added a “Qisssshh!” static-like noise in my head (which is not that easy…try it).

“Very funny. I am due West about 20 steps.”

When I got to the grey door it was locked.

“It’s locked,” I said exasperated, “Now what..I mean who locks a cleaning closet?”

“I suppose it depends on what is inside,” said the voice.

“Good point. Look I need some help..I mean the service is almost over and this place will be flooded.”

“I said I’d never do that again,” he said.

“Very funny. You gonna sit in the closet and make divine jokes all day long or help me here?”

“You have to pray” came the voice.

“I just did” I said.

“Very good. Clever boy.”

As he heard that he could see a few people releasing from the service…people who had to setup the 48 ministry tables down in the three rotundas.

“But you need to…you know…”

“Oh yeah..okay,” I said frantic. “Father help me with this door so I can get to your son and I ask it in His name and for His glory. Amen” I said under my breath.

“How was that?”

“A little stiff, but thanks. He likes it that way. It gets His attention. And it’s actually good for you on 3,438 different levels of reality which I’ll explain to you after you die.”

“That gonna be anytime soon? I know your track record, people don’t stick around very long. It’s like being the black cop buddy in a major movie.”

“Could you just work the door please?”

I grabbed the door and it swung right open.

I started to make a joke in my head about him being “the door” but stopped dead in my tracks.
There he was in the semi-dark, bound, gagged and slumped in the corner.

He had rich chocolate skin and deep inset eyes. Not handsome, but neither is Jean Reno and he draws you right in too.

His mouth was gagged, and he was roped up pretty good. I professional job worthy of the Jesus Seminar.

“I heard that” came the voice in my head. “Clever…Can you get this stuff off of me?”

“Oh, sorry ,” I said aloud. “Here let me help you.”

I undid the gag first and wiped his sweating forehead with it. Then I untied him.

“Are you okay to get up?”

“I manage on occasion” he smiled.

It was kind of a moment for me. I have to say that. The smile. The closest smile to that I have ever seen to that was smiles on my children’s faces at various utterly innocent moments, yet here in a grown man.

Now he is not very tall, and I am. When J.B. Philips wrote his famous book Your God is Too Small I think he missed it by a foot or two. He’s about the size of LaBeau in Hogan’s Heroes, but impressive nonetheless. He could definitely have taken Napoleon except for the non-violence thing.

Anyway, after he got the blood, or whatever runs through a resurrected body going through his veins, he said, “It’s time to go.”

“Wait,” I said. “Don’t you mind that they locked you in a closet gagged and tied up?”

“Happens all the time. During the Inquisition…boy…I would have loved a closet with the clean scent of pine”.

“But what about all these people?”

“Oh I meet them all the time.”

“What here? In tier 3, section 307?”

“Every once and awhile. I met you today didn’t I? And you were in seat 34 in 303 next to Bob.”

“Is his wife really sick?”

“No, she left him six months ago. He gives away his seat every week to a different person. No one knows. You should call him next week.”

“I should?” I asked. “He’ll just get me in Amway.”

“No, he won’t. Take him for a beer and ask him about his life. Tell him your own struggles. He’ll cry and tell all. Be me to him. Be his friend.”

“Okay. I guess I can do that.”

“You did use to be a pastor…”

“Ha! yeah…how did I do?”

“You don’t wanna know.”

“NO really…”

“Look I’m a merciful God…don’t push it.”
 

*******

The service was letting out. I led him out and shut the cleaning room door.

“Where now?” I asked. “Your agenda.”

“I don’t know what do you want to do?” he asked looking up.

“What is this?… like being 10 years old in the Summer with nothing to do kinda-thingy? I mean I just got into my first service in three years and then you start talking in my head and then I find you tied up in a broom closet. It’s a bit much.”

“Okay…okay,” he said shaking his head. “Boy you had some pretty lame ideas when you were ten.”

“Yeah, well some things never change.” I said quietly whispering. “Look do you want to get out of here? I’d like to talk a bit more if you do not mind.”

“Sure,” he said. “Hey one cool thing was when you and Paul Standing made that model airplane and ran it down the wire on fire. That wasn’t lame at all.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Look, duck in here under my coat.”

The throngs came pouring out in thick waves as I hid the Son of Man under my big coat.

We had two floors to traverse and then make for the exit.

We got some looks. I mean the medium income of most of these folks is around $83,000 a year. I walking around with a scruffy looking Jewish guy in a robe under my coat.

One usher stopped me. “Can I help you?” he asked warily.

“I’m just taking this sweet man to the homeless ministry,” I said.

“I wasn’t aware that we had one?” he asked suspicious.

“Oh yeah…It’s great,” I feigned. “Pastor White’s wife chairs it,” I lied.

“You don’t have to do that Mac” he whispered from my armpit. “Things are better in the light of day. Besides. what are they gonna do, kick us out?”

“What if they tie you up again?”

“Oh they will do that again later.”

“What a life you have,” I said.

“Yeah, but it’s all there really is. Life.”

We got more furtive looks as we made our way through the crowd. One man stopped us to explain about various ministries, one of which was to help those with homosexual issues deal with them in a healthy fashion.

“I’ve just come out of the closet” the Son of Man said directly to the man.

He sputtered a bit.

“Yeah,” I said, giving him a quick wink, “and I really love this guy.”

We moved on.

“That was wicked,” I said.

“Not at all,” he said.

From there we made our way into the sanctuary because it was almost vacant except for the choir/band-thingy whatever.

They were practicing for the next three services.

We sat down in the thick padded movie theater chairs and were quiet for a while as they sang “His love endures  forever…”

“So, does your love endure forever?” I asked as the band sang.

“Sure does.”

“Then why do so many bad things happen to people?”

“Who does those things…I mean generally?” he asked plainly.

“Us.”

“You all have so much more freedom than you know.”

“Doesn’t feel that way,” I said sadly.

“That’s because you impinge on each other’s freedom instead of choosing love.”

I sat silent.

“You know you could have left me in that closet, but you chose to come,” he said.

“Well, there is less choice when God is speaking to you.”

“You would be surprised. Ears to hear, eyes to see.”

“Okay, I admit, I did come here to see and hear you today.”

“Disappointed?”

“No. No, it’s actually kinda fun.”

He grinned and so did I.

“Let’s go” he said.

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see, trust me.”

********

But wait! There’s more! Buy the book! Coming Soon.

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!

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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.