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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

For Chris Bundy

I’m posting this with reservations, because I despise above all things else a proselyte. However, the other night, my friend Chris Bundy called me a “man of faith.” This is not unlike describing Mortimer Snerd as a “man of science.” Still, it set me to thinking and struggling to formulate my ideas, none of which I claim have any originality.

I’m writing a story called Bread of Heaven, the title of which compels me to haul Jesus into it sooner or later. Writing this morning, I allowed a character a long-winded monologue, and was pleased with the result. If it shows up in the finished manuscript, of course, I'll mince it to pieces with a few buckets of salutary nonsense mixed in; I have an aesthetic against characters saying anything important without deflating it. Meantime, promising I’m not out to save you, I present it as it now stands.

“Well.” Pepys shifted in his chair as he considered this. “Maybe it works like this. Jesus got crucified, an innocent man who only preached forgiveness and healed sick people. I know you’ll say that’s nothing special; the Romans crucified lots of people. They were bullies, and that’s how bullies stay in power, scaring the hell out of weaklings. But the thing is that at the moment of Jesus’ crucifixion, he said ‘forgive them.’

“One way of seeing a thing like that is it’s just another example of bullies being bullies and weaklings getting what weaklings get. You feel sorry for Jesus, but what he says is kind of irrelevant. It’s contemptible. He ought to be calling for an uprising. If you think that way, maybe you hope mankind is still evolving and over the ages the world is getting fairer and kinder. And I hope so, too. Maybe life won’t be about which set of bullies are in power; maybe bullies will be nicer; weaklings will be safeguarded; maybe no more bullies or weaklings at all. Maybe one day things like crucifixions – and after all, when’s the last time you saw someone being crucified? – won’t happen anymore. Maybe the world will be a better place. Of course, I’m never sure what good that’s supposed to do Anne Frank, on her way to the gas chamber, thinking about a world where maybe one day there wouldn’t be any more Nazis. Still.

“Or Plan B. You decide that Jesus was right – and deciding it, you make it so. Forget the resurrection, the second coming, and everything else. It was loving his enemies, that was the victory over death. He didn’t just beat death, he beat the world. He wouldn’t be a bully and he wasn’t a weakling. He was meek, but that’s different. Forgiving his enemies from the cross, his power was that he loved them and they couldn’t stop him loving them. We can do that, too, if we're strong enough to choose it.

“You don’t have to choose it. You can stay in the world of bully against bully and work and hope for a better tomorrow and all that stuff. And that’s good. Go for it; work and hope. Really, do. But don’t hold your breath. Or if you want to be saved from that world, if you want to redeem the nonsensical struggle of history, you can decide, even while you keep on working and hoping, that ultimately the outcome’s not important, whether the bullies win or the weaklings do, it’s love, and from the moment you choose love, you've won already .”

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