With the recent brouhaha over a certain fictional work (The Davinci Code) there has been speculation about how nice it would have been if Jesus and Mary Magdalene had married, settled down, had some kids, and lived the All-Judean Dream.
Bull. Not “bull” over the historicity of it (which is certainly bull) but “bull” over the desirability of married-with-kids life for Jesus, and him for us.
Christians participate with Jesus Christ in a way that simple genetic inheritance wouldn’t. Through baptism and admission into the Christian church, we don’t become “Jesus’ kids” but actually become, corporately, Christ’s presence on the earth. Jesus Christ said that he would be present in this corporate body the way a soul is present with each human being. Jesus’ direction in the Gospel of John — “you are my friends if you do what I tell you” — reminds us that Christ’s spirit was promised to us, and aids us in living in conformity to his will. This is what is meant by saying “Jesus is Lord.” Not that people like the thought that someone has control over their actions. But we accept (grudgingly or not) that many factors have control over our lives, and some are forces of evil. Unlike a will that promises gain for some and not other’s, Christ’s salvation of the world promises everyone and everything a part of the Kingdom of God. We can’t trust others who would pull around us by the nose, but we can trust Jesus Christ because his love is comprehensive. That’s where those hard-to-hear and exclusive (“nobody comes to the Father but through me”) statements come from.
Thus, as Universalists make witness, Christians don’t belong to a special class of humanity that “gets the perks.” We are simply that potion of humanity that got the call earlier, and have the obligation to spread this call, and the enjoyment of anticipating the produce of God’s will now. The peace that “the world can neither give nor take away” is dear among them.
Of course, other systems of thought promise a similar dynamic, and we have to judge them by their products, too. I can’t think of a modern society that is more mysterious and alien to my own than North Korea’s. Infamously militant and isolated, the state “self-reliance” doctrine depends and depended on a “Great Leader” to catalyze the people into a revolutionary state, followed by its own version of paradise. Indeed, the people were expected to “receive” and “participate in” the Great Leader, the late Kim Il Sung. Christians should know the dynamic, and see it as the ultimate object lesson on how personality-worship, insularity, hostility, and the misuse of authority can (and has) corrupted us. Lent is the time to repent of such things, and repair them.
But I look to the Great Leader’s son, the Dear Leader, with the bad hair and the owl-wide glasses, Kim Jong Il and remember that “greatness” cannot be transmitted through genetics, but it might be inherited through culture. So can wicked malice. To make Christianity a living reality in an increasingly secular society, we have to dig deeper into our inheritance. Doing things the same way probably won’t work. Worn-out rhetoric, liberal or conservative, will look dated and stale. After all, Christianity is not a hereditary monarchy, but has to be reclaimed in and by each generation of believers with the imagination and generosity of spirit unknown in North Korea. Let us be very, very careful about what we accept and what we discard.
P.s. Need a Lenten experience? Try a look at one of the most dystopian and self-parodying websites I’ve ever seen. If only the music links worked!
Korean Friendship Association (“Official Page The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”)