Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas to the Gods of Non-Sacrifice

Hwy 168 near Aspendel, Inyo County, California, December 23rd.

I like the original better than the sequel: Socrates better than Plato, Kirk and Spock's Star Trek better than The Next Generation's, the historical Jesus better than Paul. It's hard to say Merry Christmas, St. Paul! If Jesus was love and experience, Paul was the Law. Paul was "force till right is ready." Well that last part was Matthew Arnold, but it was also Paul. It's a good day to remember that TV's anti-Arnold was Capt. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, who knew that the use of the Federation's military threat was ultimately a clownish gesture that would backfire in the end. He had to get his own clowning and goofy admiration for unknown cultures into the mix before he turned it bad, and his lounge-music overtures to the queens of unfamiliar planets were part of that. Jesus was more Kirk than Paul, since Paul, as the scholar of the ancient world Charles Freeman put it, focused on "insiders and outsiders, the saved and unsaved." For Jesus there really was no such thing as an outsider, which of course is why he may have thought of himself as the overturning of the Old Testament law rather than its continuation or fulfillment. In contrast to Paul, Jesus saw the world as a place where you couldn't fix anything or even live your life if you were, for example, always contrasting yourself to someone like Paul. For Jesus, the world was essentially an undamned place.

Being undamned, the world would allow Jesus to barge around in it with his raucous gang of followers teaching transformation and higher things. The historical Jesus was the overturning of the doctrine of Original Sin, though it didn't last long - thanks to the spirit of P . . . well we don't need to harp on that. Jesus taught here and there in Galilee after his baptism, and finally blew into Jerusalem, the richest and most important planet in his galaxy, where he didn't care enough about insiders and outsiders to maintain the political balance of power. He ignored the Prime Directive, he took on the ruling priests and the Roman governor, and he said some important things. He conveyed to his followers the sense that this world belonged to them and not to the men who ran it. From this world, from themselves, from some greater clarity in themselves than anything they could see in the political structure, they would build a new kingdom. He wound up pulling his greatest stunt ever in Jerusalem's main temple, for he overturned the tables of the moneylenders. It was this challenge to the money power that got him crucified.

Whoever Jesus was, he was the person who said that "the Temple should never have existed at all." Whoever God was, he was that whose spirit was not incarnated in the Temple. Whoever the souls were, they were those who did not use the world for the changing of money. Whatever the spirit was, it was work and experience and love for the world that would stay uneconomic. Whatever the new religion was, it was a vision of a world without sacrifice.

So raised among Jews and Catholics and separated by two college degrees from a hundred generations of workers of the earth, my hopes on Christmas are these:

May we, the economic majority, cease our worship of the Golden Calf
May we, the meek of Scripture, cease our reverence for the strong
May we, the poor and the middle, stop the naming of outsiders
May we, the confused and the patient, build an economy without sacrifice.

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