The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Jesus gagged and tethered

with 12 comments

I fell into a lovely but warm debate at Clipmarks over the weekend.

An Episcopal priest, Raymond J. Lawrence, wrote a rather daring piece for Counterpunch, wondering “aloud” if the fuss over the “keep Christ in Christmas” issue was really worth the air consumed. I thought he had some fresh insights, so I clipped a couple of excerpts, and posted them in Clipmarks.

Whoa, strong feelings! After a number of comments came hurtling back, I added that it seemed like yet another case of we Christians fighting Armageddons over things that just aren’t essential – or even terribly historical – elements of our faith:

Surely we who want to live out the example of Jesus have matters that are more clearly Biblical passions of Christ – like people who are poor and ill, for instance – to defend.

The best was yet to come. An outstanding Clipmarks contributor, Debbyski, added this great comment:

Precisely Masbury! In her recent book about the working poor in America, Barbara Ehrenreich writes about going to a tent revival in Portland Maine. The preacher’s theme was “Jesus on the Cross” and the importance of believing in him in order to go to heaven. As she listened to him and looked around the mostly impoverished audience she thought:

“It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon On The Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for the hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth.

She concludes:

I get up to leave, timing my exit for when the preacher’s metronomic head movements have him looking the other way and walk out to search for my car, half expecting to find Jesus out there in the dark, gagged and tethered to a tent pole.

Ohhhhh, yeah. Way to go, Debbyski!

I do think Ehrenreich (whom I greatly admire) mis-perceived one thing: Sounds to me like the gag didn’t work.

Tags: , , , , , Monte Asbury

Written by Monte

December 17, 2007 at 11:51 pm

Posted in Jesus, Poverty, Religion

12 Responses

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  1. lol

    Yes, I guess so. (I’m really an anarchist at heart, so breaking rules is sort of a natural reflex, I’m afraid, if they’re rules that make no sense to me.) I just hope that I’ll be able to find at least a few like minds where we’re headed (they don’t even need to be anarchists…simply free thinkers!). It’d be nice for our kids to see us socialize a bit more. Right now they feel like aliens on their own planet, the poor dears. Just a few more weeks.


    January 6, 2008 at 3:45 pm

  2. Thanks so much, Monte. That means a lot to me, esp. still stuck here as I am in this place that makes me feel like some sort of pariah.

    Monte Says: Uh-huh. I’m afraid you engage reality too much to fit in to the join-us-for-tea crowd. That’s breaking the rules.


    January 2, 2008 at 3:47 pm

  3. HP: Your comment made me laugh – and then grow quiet. It is a moving compliment, and I am grateful.
    And you know what? I don’t call you friend just because Jesus would. I call you friend because you are, and because I treasure your sensitivity and honesty and kindness. How could I not?
    Much respect,


    January 2, 2008 at 12:14 pm

  4. Monte, I don’t know why you bother…you’re going to Hell for calling me friend, anyway, you know. (Nevermind the fact that Jesus did the same kind of thing.)


    January 2, 2008 at 1:38 am

  5. JimB, I certainly am a believer in Mark 8, and not at all ashamed of it, nor of the critical importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    But does Jesus’ life mean nothing? After all, he “is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being… (Heb. 1:3), and “He is the image of the invisible God…” and “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell … ” (Col 1:15,19). If I want to know what God wants of humans, wouldn’t observing Jesus’ life be sensible, too?

    So tell me, if you want me to speak the message of Jesus: In how many instances of Jesus’ public preaching, as documented in Scripture, does he take the theme “you must be born again”? Please, count ’em. And then, how many instances are there of Jesus speaking or acting on behalf of the poor? Walk through, say, Luke’s gospel.

    Is it really a “problem” with “Christ and his message” when a preacher tries to be faithful to Christian themes in the proportion demonstrated by Christ in the Bible?

    Is Christ an inadequate example for our Christianity?


    December 28, 2007 at 2:33 pm

  6. “Christ crucified rules and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth.”

    …but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (I Corinth. 1:23-25)

    For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world [or fill his belly] and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:35-38)

    Your problem is not with the fundamentalist, but with Christ and His message – He’s not saying what you want Him to say.

    Jim B.

    December 28, 2007 at 12:36 am

  7. Probably so, about Clipmarks. But I’ll take them where I can get them, I guess.
    And yes, isn’t the incarnation story incredibly purposeful about poverty? Lawrence at Disclosing New Worlds has a most remarkable summary of the story from Matthew’s gospel that points out how M. tells the story in a dark way for illuminating the hopelessness – and thus the hope – of it.


    December 27, 2007 at 2:37 pm

  8. Clipmarks seem to be an off place to have discussions — much better to have them on blogs where the clips are posted.

    Perhaps I should also point out that only the Armenians celebrate Christmas on 6 January.

    But the poverty thing is right on, and that’s whart struck me about our Christmas services this year.


    December 26, 2007 at 12:25 pm

  9. You’re right, as usual, HP. Fighting over secularism stealing the season, since the Christians stole it from pagans in the first place, seems a little silly.
    Clipmarks can be fun. There are some intriguing newsbits there. A few cranks, too, of course, but also some pretty thoughtful people. I recommend the Classic view (you’ll see the button) – I think it skims a little faster.


    December 24, 2007 at 2:49 am

  10. If the Bible story has any truth in it, then Christ was born in the spring, anyway. Everyone knows that the date of Dec. 25th was set by the Pope to overlay the pagans’ celebration of Saturnalia, to appease them with a winter celebration and help gain converts.

    If there were lambs at the time of his birth (which there are in the stories), then he wasn’t born in the middle of winter, and the astronomical alignment of the “star” took place in April.

    Honestly, the Solstice is the reason for the season, and that’s why so many of the customs are pagan in origin (like the tree).

    Monte, I’m just might have to head over to clipmarks (I’ve never been) to see if I can derail that atheist’s arguments (I love a challenge) and make him see just how fundmentalist he’s being.


    December 23, 2007 at 4:29 pm

  11. Oh I love Christmas. We celebrate the longest Xmas season in the world (from the day after Thanksgiving to mid January). Here the discussion is what and what is not “foreign” to our amalgam of Xmas traditions, such as old St. Nick and the like.


    December 18, 2007 at 4:24 pm

  12. I concur. The central tenet(s) of Christianity are the teachings, life and death of Christ. The Gospels make little reference to the actual birth of Jesus. And it may not even be historically accurate anyway. In fact the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates it on January 6th, not December 24/25.

    Monte Says: Rafael, excellent comment. I think Christmas is a good thing, generally, I just don’t see any reason to fight over it. Not many see what you see:

    The central tenet(s) of Christianity are the teachings, life and death of Christ.

    But I think a resurgence of that view is underway, and that gives me much hope. Thanks!


    December 18, 2007 at 2:05 am

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