If you ask me why I would privilege Jesus’s humanity over his deity I would post the link to this blog on your face. Only if personalized stamps were made that quickly. Look, let me out myself and subject that same self to scrutiny. I don’t think Jesus needed to be God for us to have hope…but I also, and I hope more so, this poem doesn’t offer any answers, unless embedded and discovered by the greatest critics, because hey, at least it got their attention (it won’t).
I don’t think Jesus needed to be God. when I read the story of Jesus being blessed with perfume by Mary Magdalene, I’ve always thought, “damn, what is Jesus doing? giving or receiving?” I didn’t mean for that to be sexual, although some feminist critics do find it sexual…apparently feet are phallic.
But, full disclosure, I rather prefer Jesus the son of man to Jesus the son of God. It elevates you! Elevates me. I would like to believe that if you died a horrible martyrs death tomorrow that it would matter not because it recapitulated a symbolic death that occurred at a relatively recent moment in history, but that because that death, and by association yours, was one that has been imitated and made meaningful long before Christ. like when the first star died to make gravity, which made room for gas, which made room for stars, which made room for life, life that will, I hope, make room for eternal life.
I would like to add this: Doubt about Jesus as the messiah is a Christian narrative. it is supported by the gospels. Our hero is Thomas. Or all the disciples. Pagans never cared. The Romans only questioned its legitimacy for the sake of political stability. And the Jews, my personal favorite, simply preferred to defer to a later date. I consider myself of the more Jewish temperament. It’s not that I won’t believe in a messiah, its just that any human offering will not be satisfactory. it has to be wholly other. completely inconceivable. Did the Jews doubt Jesus’s legitimacy? I don’t think so. I think they rejected it. another man, not a king, not good enough. I can understand that. You can believe whatever you want to be believe about Jesus, unless that narrative means you dishonor the sinner beside you. Then there’s a problem. then it is obvious that you have no idea what messiah means.
I’m trying not to be the guy who tells people they are wrong to think what they are thinking. But sometimes our thinking gets us in too deep. trust me. That I know.
This is not a theological blog, although there is no denying it could be read that way, so I won’t try and persuade whoever feels persistent otherwise. Just know I’m not responding to any theological comment, no disagreements. Trust me, we don’t want to go down that road. I’ve noticed in myself, for the purpose of not wanting to be wrong, that I will pretend to be believe anything. Maybe its the pride of the fall. maybe its biology. Maybe its how rightness is a construction of our culture that validates identity. At this point, I don’t care. What I care about is poetry. Poetry of compassion. That singular moment when for just a few seconds the words that you say to yourself erect another world. one in which you and your cousin know each others pain. or you see her, sitting on a fence, telling the demons to go away. or imagine her now, in the hospital, happy to be sucking air through a straw because it turns out she wanted to live, no matter what.
That is poetry of compassion. I don’t pretend to be good at it. But I do stand as witness to its power. after all, I’m still here.
this isn’t even about the poem anymore…
forgive my use of the word “certainly” in the first line. I’m certain of what I said though (all pun intended).
For What You’re Worth
Surely he wasn’t special, certainly no more than you
Or me. As a matter of fact, no more than your cousin,
The schizophrenic, who read Shakespeare and danced ballet,
Who one day, by the river, or while driving her Ford, found
Herself talking to a floating skull squawking in the trees.
No more than your child, or your children’s children.
Certainly no more than your mother, who you never knew,
Who tried to sell you for drug money to a priest
Outside the drug store. Could your life really be
Worth more? The one in which, when lonely,
Sometimes You touch your lower parts? Or discover
In the joy of a single summer breeze, the whole breadth
Of a childhood you never had, daddy you didn’t know,
Teaching you to ride a bicycle without needing to hold on
To the handlebars, the tunnel-rush of flying downhill,
Wind in the sail that helped you steady those two wheels.
Is my life worth that much more because I’m riding
Redemption’s upswing? Rehab going well, or 6 nights a week
I’m able to sleep. Consider the man who’s passed out
On the concrete outside of Harry’s Hardware on 3rd
And Main, or the man with too much B.O. beside you
As you take the 44 into work today. If he died could you stand
To tell him how you really feel? How it makes more sense
For you to spend seventy-thousand dollars for a degree
In art history, when that money, as Judas might say,
Could feed a hundred-and-one families for at least a week,
That Mary’s gift of perfume, wiped on the savior’s feet
Is for a savior only, that our decadence is reserved
For the one who was born into this world
All stable-stink, yet somehow, already, more holy.