On September 30th, I was watching the news of the tital wave in Samoa from an earthquake. Someone took video footage that was played on the news. On the footage, a guy is saying “please Lord Jesus Christ…give me strength to accept this…please Lord Jesus Christ…” He was referring to the temporary river then going by his building. The invocation of a lord something struck me as odd…and the implications as troubling.
The sheer act of asking an external agent to give one strength makes one a passive recepticle that is itself a state of weakness. The asking outward, in other words, makes one weaker, making it more difficult, not less, to achieve the strength desired. If the entity being summoned does not exist (or can not be known to exist), the added problem of appealing to an imaginary friend would also point to an underlying weakness. Specifically, it seems rather pathological to me–like Jimmy Stewart in Harvey having an imaginary friend that he talks to in spite of never hearing any voice from the other–no real evidence of the bunny’s existance. …an imaginary rabbit. …maybe this is why the easter bunny has has had such traction. It is astounding to me how social legitimacy can make something seem real even though there is no evidence of its independent existence.
That people would reduce themselves to passivity on the premise that an imaginary benefactor exists does not bode well for the human condition or the individuals themselves, particularly as they want to gain strength. Their means, in other words, is inherently counterproductive to the end, and yet the subterfuge of religion can make an entire society blind to the underlying feckless nature of the illusion (and its participants).
For those who would retort: what if there really is a Lord Jesus Christ existing “out there” in a resurrected condition that transcends the bounds of our perception and cognition, I would counter that God as (an) intelligent being could not be expected to set us up to engage in anthropomorphic (i.e., self) idolatry. God as it is understood cannot be sin. Nor do I think it in God’s nature to set us up to be passive and self-ashamed rather than instantiating what strength we are capable of. Moreover, were there there such an entity as an eternal Son of God, it would be at best a cruel joke were “he” to have kept himself from presenting himself to all of us externally (i.e., as a real being)…an “internal voice” being possibly one’s own. As Nietzsche wrote (and was stated at his funeral), “Save us from the redeemer!” That is to say, save us from the illusion perpetrated by weakness under the guise of strength. If such a dynamic is in the nature of truth, perhaps we need to re-conceptualize our notion or content of truth.
Ironically, Jesus’ inner strength in the story of his death–in facing adversity in standing up (with arms out-stretched) for one’s principles is so utterly at odds with “Save us, or give us strength…” The humility ascribed to the figure is so utterly at odds with the presumption of those who claim to follow him and tell the rest of us what we should believe–indeed, the presumption to call on such a being as they have invented for themselves. A Catholic priest once said in his homily: “We have the truth; we know this. We can therefore be thankful.” Translated: “We have defined truth and feel no hindrance in imposing it on others. We can be thankful for what we have decided is truth and not have to consider that we could be wrong.” Such a stance belies the substance of faith, which by definition goes beyond what is known.
To presume knowledge of the truth and go on to impose it on others as if one’s own ability to know truth is somehow superior to other human beings are to take a matter of faith for that of knowledge…and thus to have little faith and much self-love. Self-emptying, in other words, involves riding faith of presumed knowledge and therefore to be agnostic to the essence of things as they really are. Faith is a transcending glance rather than an exposition on the nature of that which transcends the limits of our conception and perception. As Joe Campbell once said, the conception one has of Christ is the final obstruction to the religious experience.
Of course, my reflections here are those of a person limited cognitively and in perception. That is to say, my argument is made by a human being, and therefore cannot be taken as truth. Rather, it evinces a passion for transcending that which may be a misleading and weakening subterfuge. The content of truth itself is beyond the grasp of even faith in human terms. So a reader could justifiably fill his or her cup with my argument, then just as easily pour the quickly-stale liquid out and fill up again somewhere else. I would like to think that there is some accumulation of progress in such a process, but this could just be human hubris too. Perhaps the process itself is useful in human terms if ridding the world of arrogance and conceit is of any value here. We, as humans, may be presuming much too much for ourselves, given how we are hard-wired, and yet in presuming we overlook (or presume away) the sheer possibility of it! Ironically, perhaps in looking internally for strength we might downscale that which we presume to ask for.