Welcoming the defeat of Christianity

Scan the globe. Violence rules, its forms are legion. There may yet be hope, but it is only in universal reconciliation, which, if you’re of a realist bent, may mean there is no hope. But if you’re of a more whimsical mind (which I know does not necessarily preclude realists) that is, if you’re of an imaginative and open mind and you think that the elementary equation of two plus two is not necessarily four, then perhaps you too entertain the possibility of the impossible: universal reconciliation, what some might name paradise, utopia, or the Kingdom of God.

For what else is the birth of Christ but the ushering in of the impossible? The possibility of the impossible. Of course to think this, I suppose, the story must be believed in some way, even in a Borgian way, a mythy way.

But while the story has all the elements of a myth—signs in the sky, a lowly birth, the hunt, the escape, the rise to notoriety, the deadly envy of the establishment, the lynching and some kind of a return—it is unique in that it is told from the viewpoint of the victim. And so it lifts the dress of myth, for myth always conceals as much as it reveals because it’s told from the viewpoint of the victimizers.

But what we have here is the undoing of myth, that is, a story told from the side of an innocent victim. And the resurrection, the return of the victim, however you view that, is the opposite of every action movie you’ve ever seen. It is not pay-back but the ultimate sign of forgiveness.

That we Christians have recoiled from the staggering part of the story, half believing, half scandalized, and so retrenched to an archaic sacrificial form of religion and redemptive violence is both an indication of our weak hearts and the power of violence, envy, resentment. That we still scapegoat humanism, atheism, liberalism, Islamism etc. is a sign of our failure. That our scapegoating remains hidden from us tells us we have yet to adopt the story. And it will stay hidden until we relinquish (repent) our belief that others are corrupt in some notable way that we aren’t.

Scapegoating does not make for peace. The way we behave with each other is the way our countries behave and we are far too generous in describing our behaviour. We’ve just gone through a monumental tragedy, the stars have come out to tell us not to blame Hollywood, the media, the manufacturers of recreational violence. They are right. And they are wrong. They are a mirror. And they perpetuate and instigate. For we are mimetic creatures. And yet we love to swallow the lie of originality and individual desire while hanging on to the image of community as organism.

That we sign on to Western oppression and the militarization of our country, never understanding that the manufacture of weapons from assault rifles to drones, whether or not they are ever used, is an assault on peace.

We have failed to see our own deadly envy, our violence, our rage for security over trust, and we’ve simply reconstructed another model of a victorious apocalyptic God, a wrathful God who comes back to deal with all those who didn’t believe him the first time. And so with our loving-but-necessarily-wrathful god we go on justifying a defensive posture that has the potential to destroy our world many times over.

And so for Christianity to succeed, it must predict and consummate it’s own defeat.

We say we long for the Kingdom of God. But the the Kingdom of God, by definition, is nonviolent. Why would we long for that while we go on depending on the kingdom of violence?

11 Comments

  1. “That our scapegoating remains hidden from us tells us we have yet to adopt the story. And it will stay hidden until we relinquish (repent) our belief that others are corrupt in some special way that we aren’t.”

    Agreed, we are all sinful (corrupt). Sin means we can not be in the presence of the Father. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Yet Jesus also provides us hope and a way to be reconciled to God, for he also says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This is the best summary of Jesus’s offer of universal reconciliation that I know about.

  2. “. . . we go on justifying a ‘defensive’ posture” but invest billion$ in offensive military hardware, thereby parading our own insecurity.

  3. Thank you for your comment Ian. But I think you may have chosen to miss my point. Or perhaps you’ve made my point, as these too familiar verses allow us to stay sequestered within a comfortable ‘personal relationship’ and avoid the radical calling of peace and nonviolence.

  4. Say some more, Steve. How does Christianity consummate its own defeat?

    Tomorrow, I will speak about the angels coming to shepherds with the announcement of the birth of the baby Jesus. I will conclude with a reading of passages from Revelation 5 and 7 where there is the Lamb who was slain, now at the center of the throne, who becomes the Shepherd and wipes every tear from our eyes. I find wonderful comfort in those words. Images of Lamb and Shepherd are of course non-militaristic.

    In contrast, someone sent around again a piece by Andy Rooney (apocryphal I suspect) in which he fulminates about people trying to stop us from saying Merry Christmas publicly, and says he’s sick and tired of Christians always turning the other cheek! He’s left Christ-likeness behind, I said to the friend who sent it.

  5. For myself, Advent and Christmas are always a time of reflecting on these types of themes. I am reminded of the way God models (and modeled) for us a total inversion of our natural instincts. Instead of using might, God uses weakness, frailty, humility, and vulnerability to reinvent our lives and change the course of history. These things are often hidden, unappreciated, and even despised. I’m still trying to learn these lessons….

  6. Thanks Sam, I will say more. For now ‘Christ-likeness’ can in fact be shorthand for the idea of Christianity consummating its own defeat. As for your sermon summary, I like it very much. Thanks again.

  7. In 2006, 17 year-old Shawn McKenzie stabbed a 23-year old man to death in Ottawa. He was convicted and and handed a life sentence. Recently, the same Shawn McKenzie was himself stabbed to death by another inmate.
    http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/stabbed+killed+passenger+Ottawa+suffers+same+fate+prison/8701798/story.html

    It seems silly and obvious to conclude that Shawn McKenzie met the end which he deserved. But God did permit Shawn McKenzie to commit that murder and be murdered. I can only conclude that God reserves the right to be a loving-but-necessarily-wrathful God in this age. Sorry.

  8. Thanks Ian, however the God you reveal in this sad story is not a loving-but-necessarily-wrathful God, but simply wrath-relishing God.

    The legal term for refusing to prevent a crime when it’s in your power to so, is, tacit approval. Therefore the death sentence for Shawn McKenzie, carried out by God through his prison executioners, was in response to the divinely per-approved killing of Michael Oatway. God not only approves of an eye for an eye, but initiates taking of the first eye, so as to mete out his own wrath by taking the second eye.

    I’m sorry Ian, with respect, there are so many things wrong with your conclusion about this tragedy. But I’m happy you brought it to my attention, because I was truly warmed and awed by the response of Cathy Oatway, Michael’s mother. I have no idea of her faith, but she exemplifies an (incarnational) Christ-like attitude. Please go back and read her reaction to the news of Shawn’s death. This is the response of the God revealed in Christ, who, if we recall Matthew’s gospel, calls us beyond an eye for an eye.

    I know the sacrificial, OT, reading of scripture, and so the view of God as loving/wrathful, is still prevalent. But to my light we must read through the lens of the gospel, which has revealed, the suffering servant of Isaiah, the incarnate son of man, who says if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. This means there is no wrath in God. Anything less is already resorting to a kind of Arianism.

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