Viewing the world through gospel
Not all readers of this column are Christians, I know, but the Christian solemnity of Holy Week approaches and I am offering some thoughts of relevance to everyone, Christian or not.
Next Thursday, the institution of the Eucharist at the last Supper will be celebrated. Walter Brueggemann is a theologian and ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. He’s now retired and must be in his nineties, unless Wikipedia somehow missed his death. He was a great proponent of what he called the “prophetic imagination.” By this, he meant a way of viewing the world through the gospel lens in such a way as to subvert the prevailing paradigm. Here in the United States, that paradigm is the incessant reliance on production and consumption at the expense of the soul’s expansion. He once wrote, “The Eucharist has been pre-empted and redefined in dualistic thinking that leaves the status quo of the world untouched so congregations can take the meal without raising questions of violence. The outcome is a ‘colonized imagination’ that is drained of dangerous hopes.” (By “dualistic,” he means that communion is just between Jesus and me.)
On Good Friday, Christianity will celebrate and that is the correct term the Passion and Death by crucifixion of Jesus. Brueggemann was fond of saying that “Jesus was not crucified because he was a nice man.” Rather, Jesus was constantly in the face of the one Brueggemann refers to as “the Pharoah,” the contemporary guardian of the empire, the secular state.
An example that comes to mind is the film documentary director Michael Moore. His fame began to rise with “Bowling for Columbine,” his critique of the American gun culture. Years later, he recounted that he had to hire bodyguards to fend off the rage that complete strangers would send his way, including one day when a man coming out of a cafe threw the hot coffee toward him. Moore’s bodyguard placed himself in the way and got second degree burns on his face. All such things happened because Michael Moore told the truth. The defenders of the castle always view prophets as dangerous and repellent. I will refrain here from mentioning Donald Trump.
Next Saturday night and Sunday, Christianity will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. While some theologians have debated whether this should be taken literally, I continue to believe intuitively in the actual return of Jesus from physical death. Here I have discovered support from a foreign quarter. In his famous book “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Paramahansa Yogananda, the man who brought yoga to the West, says, ” Whatever be the manner of his passing, whether ordinary or phenomenal, a fully God-realized master is able to resurrect his body and to appear in it before the eyes of earth dwellers. Materializing the atoms of a physical body can scarcely strain the powers of one who is united with the Lord Him whose solar systems defy computation!” He goes on to quote the Christian New Testament: “‘I lay down my life that I might take it again,’ Christ proclaimed, ‘No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again.” (The Gospel of John 10. 17-18).
Bill O’Brien’s book, “Wise Guyde: The First Forty-Five Columns” is available on Amazon.com.