Tuesday, September 11, 2007

chapter 10 from my book "martini Jesus"

Chapter 10: Sympathy for Pete People wanted to peg Jesus into a category. Speculation abounded. Is he sympathetic or antagonistic to: the Pharisees [Ultra fundamentalists of their day]; Sadducees [liberal collaborators with the Romans]; Zealots [militant revolutionaries]; Essene's [mystical separatists]; Scribes [conservative traditionalists]; and a host of other splinter groups. People also guess that he is a reincarnation of John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or some other prophet from long ago. There is a whirlwind of controversy as the crowds seek to unravel the mystery of “who is this Jesus guy.” Oprah has a special; 20/20 sends a crew out; Frontline hosts a prime-time “event”. But Jesus refuses to be pigeonholed into an ideology, political party, or perspective. In doing so, his mystique only grows as his popularity starts to surge. Socratic questions; parables; paradoxes…passion, anger, compassion. Every mold that is constructed he shatters, every category is mangled, every presumption exposed-exploited-exploded.

The way Mark writes it in his book; Pete has a hard roller coaster ride with Jesus from Chapter 8 through Chapter 9 of his narrative…1 week in the “Twilight Zone / Outer Limits” with Buddy Christ.
On the way to Caesarea Phillippi, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” And so they throw out some of these ideas. You can almost see Jesus smiling with subtlety…but perhaps with a bit of anxiety. Perhaps he wonders what the disciples think of Him; if they understand yet; if they get it. So he asks “Who do you say I am?” What a question! This is THE question of the ages as people have tried to guess if he was madman, moral teacher, or divine. It is THE question that all serious seekers of truth, philosophy, and religion ask themselves at some time or another. 2,000 years later it is still hanging in the air, in the threads of philosophy, in the silent hopes and dreams of the billions. Peter pipes up 1st. You are the Messiah!” Boom! For Peter the great unfolding of the mystery has taken a crucial turn. Jesus goes from Rabbi to calling himself the mysterious and enigmatic “son-of-man,” to the Old Testament promised one from God. And on the brink of this incredible discovery Jesus tells him to shut up. Why? Isn’t the whole point to herald and shout this to everyone? Here is God or something; here is THE answer; here is the cure to everything. How befuddling, Peter who has signed on to follow Jesus everywhere and anywhere can’t even tell people who he is. If God told you the cure for cancer and then made you promise to not tell anyone…how would you feel? Confused, bewildered? It cannot have been easy. Read on and you will realize it wasn’t. It gets worse, and weirder. The very next thing Jesus does is explain that he will die. Whoa! No way! The messiah doesn’t die…I’ve got expectations, assumptions, and traditions to back me up on this. Peter who has just made this huge paradigm shift to Jesus being Messiah, and then is told to shut-up and keep it to himself is now told the Messiah will die. His fuses blow, and he takes Jesus off to the side. Smoke still coming out of his ears while his file registry goes through de-bugging…loose wires spark and fizzle inside his brain. He then says something like this “Whoa there big guy. You da man! We gave up everything for you, and now you want to destroy our expectations of the Messiah?! I got some Prozac dude, are you ok? Is this a suicide pact, some new teaching methodology, are you testing us…this isn’t a good plan. People will unravel and freak out…don’t talk this way. Don’t drink the kool-aid!” Jesus isn’t kind to Pete on this. He was off to the side privately with Pete, but he turns to face the disciples and shouts, “Get away from me Satan! You are seeing things like a human and not like God!” A verbal slap across Peter’s face in broad daylight before everyone. To add insult to injury he asks the disciples then and there to sign up with him for suicide. “Pick up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me…[to death]”. He then rips into them about cowardice for several more verses. Ouch. I would have been hacked. What happened to the bling, bling? 6 days later he takes Pete, John, and James to a mountain. On the mountain we see a Spielberg-like special effects show that is indescribable. Jesus is “transfigured,” he unzips his human flesh and a blinding angel-like being of shimmering silver, light, and aura is unleashed. Prophets show up, God’s voice [James Earl Jones style] thunders down. Holy cow! They all freak. Wouldn’t you? And then suddenly it is all over, and they wonder what is going on. Then Jesus tells them again to shut up about it. Whatever. Synopsis for poor Pete….”Everybody guesses who Jesus is, I somehow figure it out and win the lottery, and am told to shut up about it. Jesus is then a melancholy suicidal and a heretic who is dismantling the Messiah stereotype…and I carefully correct him in private only to be humiliated publicly and again be told to shut up. We then all get tongue lashed; told we are going to all die, and to suck-it-up and not be cowards. That is just crazy. Finally we go to a mountain where Jesus unzips his flesh and shows us the full wonder of being God…and again I am told to shut up. Welcome to my week from hell…oops…week 1 from hell I don’t even want to talk about the passion week, or the week after that. How in the world did I get drafted into ‘apostleship!’ “Mark wasn’t there for any of this. I wonder what facial expression Pete had when he told him about it. Was it funny in hindsight; mysterious; maddening; shaming…who knows? What I do know is that it must have been a fairly weird and crappy week for Pete. What would you have done? I’m not sure I would have handled it very well. But I would have felt trapped, that’s for sure. You see miraculous stuff, and are caught between the tension of that reality and the apparent death-of-God looming in the distance of destiny, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming train.We have so many expectations and assumptions about truth, God, and life. What happens when almost all of them are mangled by reality. Pete felt that…so did Anne Lamott…Thomas Merton…almost everybody really. A big part of reading Christian biographies is watching people pass through the cliché-o-kingdom and embrace the radical Christ of experience and encounter. I had to go through that furnace a time or 2 and I suspect it will just keep happening. Who is he? And each time I define him he just smiles and winks at me while he morphs into something more. I can’t blame Pete for wanting him to just stay still…how do you worship something that is in motion-experiencing-emoting-and evolving right before your eyes?!

And like a moth in the moonlight or the porch light, I am both mesmerized and hypnotized by Jesus…while…being terrified and desperately addicted. I love him but don’t begin to understand him…not really…not ever. Is that enough? It is for me, but what about you? He would ask you: “Who do you say I am?” And as ever, believer or not…he waits for your response.


Amy said...

I just want to share the love that is philosophy. Sometimes, I can't escape the fact that it seems like such a fruitless pursuit and then there are times I do escape that fact and I am happy being left with nothing. I've been thinking about this for a couple weeks and don't want to selfishly keep it to myself. If you are not in the mood to pay attention, then turn away now.

Suppose that I know that P...

P: I've eaten less than a pound of salmon.

so, by way of EP (the equivalence principal, which just means that two propositions are logically equivalent...they both make sense), I should also be able to know Q.

Q: I've eaten less than 14 lbs. of salmon.

My reason (r) for P is a visual experience of having eaten what appeared to be less than a pound of salmon. I saw myself do it. I was there. P and Q are supposed to be lightweight propositions (belief sbased on perception...what I experience). But who's to say that I didn't eat 14 or more lbs. of salmon, thereby causing me to hallucinate, one of my hallucinations being that I only ate less than a pound of salmon? Which means that my reason (my visual experience of having only eaten less than a pound) is not a conclusive reason for Q (or P for that matter) and so the argument that closure (*closure is the idea that if you know P and you know that P entails Q, then you know Q. Apparently, it's not really true.), while it doesn't hold for heavyweight props (beliefs that can't be based on or demonstrated by perception...like I am NOT a bodiless brain in a vat!!), but still holds for lightweight props, is false because apparently closure doesn't hold for some lightweight props either.

So, the conclusion seems to be that we may very well be bodiless brains in vats that have just eaten (or been simulated to have eaten) more than 14 lbs. of salmon. And though there are ways to talk one's way out of it, I'm strangely okay with it as is. I like salmon.

Amy Leslie


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